BEIJING — For much of last year, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, waged a fierce campaign to rein in private capital and narrow social inequalities. Regulators cracked down on tech giants and wealthy celebrities. Beijing demanded that tycoons give back to society. And the Communist Party promised that a new era of “common prosperity” was on the horizon.
北京——去年大部分时间,中国最高领导人习近平都在展开一场限制私人资本、缩小社会不平等的激烈运动。监管机构严厉打击科技巨头和富裕名人。中国政府要求企业大亨回报社会。中共承诺,一个“共同富裕”的新时代就要到来。
Now, the Communist Party is putting its campaign on the back burner. In doing so, Beijing is tacitly acknowledging that Mr. Xi’s push to redistribute wealth has unnerved the private sector — a pillar of growth and job creation — at a time when China’s economic outlook is increasingly clouded.
如今,中共正把这场运动搁置起来。这表明,中国政府默认在中国经济前景暗淡的时候,习近平推动重新分配财富的做法已让中国经济增长和创造就业的支柱——民营部门丧失了信心。
To Beijing, ensuring the economy is stable and growing is paramount this year, an all too important one for Mr. Xi. As he prepares to claim a third five-year term later in the year, he has sought to portray China as more prosperous, powerful and stable under his rule. Officials have scrambled in recent months to try to reverse a slowdown in growth, made worse by surging global oil prices, uncertainty over the war in Ukraine and lockdowns in China to contain an unrelenting surge of coronavirus cases.
对中国政府来说,确保经济稳定并有所增长是今年的重中之重,今年对习近平来说尤为重要。随着习近平为在今年晚些时候获得第三个五年任期做准备,他寻求将中国描述为在他的统治下更繁荣、更强大、更稳定。近几个月来,官员们一直忙于扭转经济增长放缓的局面。全球油价飙升、乌克兰战争的不确定性,以及中国为遏制新冠病毒感染病例的持续激增而采取的封控措施,已让局面变得更糟。
“Common prosperity is still here, but the growth situation is quite challenging,” said Huang Yiping, deputy dean of the influential National School of Development at Peking University, in an interview. “The top priority is really to stabilize growth.”
“共同富裕的目标没有改变,但经济增长的形势相当具有挑战性,”北京大学国家发展研究院副院长黄益平在接受采访时说。“首要任务的确是稳定增长。”
随着经济增长放缓,中共领导层已在去年12月开始发出信号,表示正在给严格控制极端财富的运动降温。
随着经济增长放缓,中共领导层已在去年12月开始发出信号,表示正在给严格控制极端财富的运动降温。 Xie Huanchi/Xinhua, via Associated Press
The delay is more of a tactical retreat than a wholesale abandonment of Mr. Xi’s plans, which the party continues to describe as a long-term goal. Mr. Xi’s “common prosperity” campaign is a pledge to shrink the country’s wide wealth gap and build up a middle class that can drive domestic consumption and reduce the country’s reliance on debt-fueled growth. It also serves political aims: to shore up public support for Mr. Xi’s leadership and champion the Chinese political system of centralized control as superior to the West.
推迟实现共同富裕的目标更多是一种战术变化,而不是彻底放弃习近平的计划,中共继续将其描述为一个长远目标。习近平的“共同富裕”运动是承诺缩小中国的贫富差距,形成一个可推动国内消费的中产阶级,减少经济增长靠债务推动的依赖。这项运动也有政治目的:加强公众对习近平领导地位的支持,同时鼓吹中国自上而下的政治体制比西方制度优越
Regulators had targeted what they called the “disorderly expansion of capital.” They cracked down on a variety of businesses seen as widening the gap between the haves and have-nots, including after-school tutoring, internet financial products and online shopping. The moves abruptly wiped more than $1 trillion off the value of Chinese companies and forced many firms to lay off workers or even file for bankruptcy. The campaign also spooked investors and entrepreneurs by asserting the party’s power over society and raising questions about the role of private businesses in the country’s future.
监管机构打击的目标是他们所谓的“资本无序扩张”。他们打击了各种被视为扩大了贫富差距的行业,包括课外辅导、网上金融产品和网上购物。这些做法已导致中国企业超过一万亿美元的市值瞬间蒸发,许多企业裁员,甚至申请破产。这场运动还因为强调中共对社会的控制,让投资者和企业家担惊受怕,让人们对民营企业在中国未来的角色表示怀疑。
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The party’s leadership began signaling in December, as the economy was slowing, that it was cooling on the campaign. When the Politburo met that month to decide on economic priorities for 2022, it did not use the phrase “common prosperity” in its official summary; instead, it emphasized “stability as the top priority.”
随着经济放缓,中共领导层在去年12月开始发出信号,表示正在给这项运动降温。中共中央政治局在当月召开会议,决定2022年的经济工作重点后,官方的会议总结中没有提及“共同富裕”,而是强调“稳字当头”。
Beijing also sought to reassure international investors it was still open for business, with Mr. Xi himself declaring that China welcomed all types of capital and that his campaign was not a push for egalitarianism.
中国政府也寻求安抚国际投资者,让他们认为中国仍敞开大门做生意,就连习近平本人也宣称,中国欢迎各种各样的资本,实现共同富裕不是搞平均主义。
“We will first make the pie bigger, and then divide it properly through reasonable institutional arrangements,” he said in a video speech to business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in late January. “As a rising tide lifts all boats, everyone will get a fair share from development.”
“而是要先把‘蛋糕’做大,然后通过合理的制度安排把‘蛋糕’分好,”习近平今年1月下旬在瑞士达沃斯世界经济论坛上发表视频演讲时对商界领袖说。“水涨船高、各得其所,让发展成果更多更公平惠及全体人民。”
习近平在世界经济论坛上说,中国欢迎各种各样的资本,他的“共同富裕”运动不是搞平均主义。
习近平在世界经济论坛上说,中国欢迎各种各样的资本,他的“共同富裕”运动不是搞平均主义。 Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
But investors at home and abroad have continued to be rattled by Beijing’s crackdown on the private sector. Confidence in China’s economy withered as China imposed strict lockdowns to curb Covid-19 outbreaks and as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raised commodity prices.
但国内外的投资者们仍对中国政府打击私营部门的做法感到不安。随着中国为遏制新冠病毒采取严格的封控措施,以及俄罗斯入侵乌克兰导致大宗商品价格上涨,人们对中国经济的信心已经萎缩。
A steep sell-off of shares in Shanghai over the past months — with the market falling 17 percent from mid-December to mid-March — prompted a rare intervention from Vice Premier Liu He, Mr. Xi’s right-hand man on economic policy.
过去几个月里,上海股市大跌,股指从去年12月中旬到今年3月中旬已下跌了17%,促使习近平在经济政策方面的得力助手刘鹤副总理罕见地出面干预。
Mr. Liu pledged that Beijing would support the economy and limit the unpredictability that had roiled markets. Any new government policy that might have a significant effect on share prices and other activity in financial markets would first have to be cleared by Mr. Liu’s financial management team, according to a statement released by the official Xinhua news agency.
刘鹤承诺,政府将支持经济发展,限制给市场造成混乱的不可预测性。据官方通讯社新华社报道,政府出台任何可能对股价和金融市场的其他活动产生重大影响的新政策,都必须首先得到刘鹤领导的国务院金融委的批准。
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Mr. Liu may have been suggesting that last year’s crackdowns were a form of overzealousness on the part of officials who were moving too quickly to carry out Mr. Xi’s long-term goals, a point that some economists have made.
刘鹤也许是在暗示,去年的打击行动过头了,是官员们过于热情地贯彻习近平的长远目标的表现——这是一些经济学家所指出的。
“Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government system runs like a sports car — the gas pedal and the brake pedal act extra fast,” said Li Daokui, the director of the influential Center for China in the World Economy at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “When he wants to implement a policy, even a long-term policy, the car instantly accelerates, and that might not be what is intended.”
“在国家主席习近平领导下,中国政府系统的运作就像是一辆跑车——踩油门和踩刹车的速度都特别快,”清华大学中国与世界经济研究中心主任李稻葵说。“他要实施一项政策、即使是一项长期政策时,跑车立即加速,但这可能不是他的本意。”
Mr. Li noted, for example, how officials raced to respond to Mr. Xi’s announcement in September 2020 that China would reduce its net emissions of carbon dioxide to zero by 2060. Local governments limited coal investment and production and set restrictions on the use of fossil fuels, without first figuring out alternative energy sources to keep activity humming. Those moves caused rolling blackouts across the country last year and briefly paralyzed many factories in September as coal-fired power plants did not generate enough electricity.
李稻葵举例说,2020年9月,习近平宣布中国将在2060年实现二氧化碳零净排放之后,官员们迅速响应。地方政府限制了煤炭的投资和生产,并对化石燃料的使用加以限制,但没有在为保持经济活力寻找替代能源上下功夫。由于没有足够的燃煤电厂来发电,地方政府的做法曾在去年导致全国各地轮流停电,并使许多工厂在去年9月短暂瘫痪。
去年秋季,由于电力供应跟不上需求,中国东部地区采取了轮流停电的措施。
去年秋季,由于电力供应跟不上需求,中国东部地区采取了轮流停电的措施。 Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Mr. Xi himself denounced last month any premature move to abandon coal, using a culinary analogy to describe how officials had to lay the groundwork before making major changes.
习近平本人已在上个月批评了过早放弃煤的做法,他用一了个吃饭的比喻,来阐述官员们在做出重大变化之前应该如何打好基础。
“You can’t throw away the eating utensils in your hands before you have new eating utensils in your hands — that’s not OK,” he said at a meeting of China’s Communist Party-controlled national legislature.
“不能把手里吃饭的家伙先扔了,结果新的吃饭家伙还没拿到手,这不行,”习近平在中共控制的全国人民代表大会上说。
There are signs that Beijing is reversing its policies in other sectors to prop up the economy. China’s premier, Li Keqiang, for example, called last Thursday for officials to provide more support for internet companies and help them add jobs.
有迹象表明,为了提振经济,中国政府正在改变自己在其他领域的政策。例如,中国总理李克强上周四呼吁官员为互联网公司提供更多的支持,帮助它们增加就业。
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The government tried to rein in the real estate market after Mr. Xi said several years ago that “housing is for shelter, not speculation.” But those efforts have led to a widespread malaise — as well as debt defaults at huge developers like Evergrande. That has hurt construction and related industries that make up as much as a quarter of China’s economy.
习近平几年前说,“房子是用来住的,不是用来炒的。”他说了这句话后,政府试图抑制房地产市场,但这些努力已引发了大范围的问题,以及恒大等大型开发商的债务违约,并给中国经济占比高达四分之一的建筑业及相关行业造成损害。
The government has in recent weeks been easing its tight restrictions on home purchases. The city of Zhengzhou in central China dropped a limit on the purchase of homes by people who already own one. Hengyang, a city in southern China, introduced a subsidy of nearly $5,000 to help technicians and undergraduate students buy their first homes. Over 65 cities have moved to lower minimum down payments and mortgage interest rates, or otherwise loosen policies, according to Zhuge Housing Search, an online real estate brokerage and data service in the country.
政府已在最近几周放松对购房的严格限制。郑州取消了对已经有房的人再次买房的限制。衡阳为帮助技术人员和大学本科生购买第一套住房,推出了一个5万元的补贴政策。据中国在线房地产经纪商和数据服务公司诸葛找房的数据,逾65个城市采取了降低最低首付和抵押贷款利率的做法,或其他方式的放松政策。
Beijing has also put off plans to expand a trial of a property tax that has been a focus of the drive to redistribute wealth. The party has long debated introducing a national property tax, which economists say could help the government raise money without holding land auctions, as well as penalize speculators who buy homes and leave them unoccupied.
中国政府还推迟了扩大房地产税试点城市的计划,征收房地产税一直是财富再分配工作的重点。中共讨论在全国征收房地产税已有很长时间。经济学家说,征收房地产税不仅可以帮助地方政府不靠拍卖土地得到财政收入,还可以惩罚那些买房不住的投机者。
恒大在太原的一个开发项目。由于未向许多承包商支付欠款,该公司在中国各地的项目已经停工。
恒大在太原的一个开发项目。由于未向许多承包商支付欠款,该公司在中国各地的项目已经停工。 Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times
In October, Mr. Xi urged officials to “actively and steadily advance the work of property tax legislation and reform” as part of plans to “reasonably regulate excessive incomes.” But last month, the finance ministry said the conditions this year were not suitable for expanding the pilot property tax plan, a pronouncement seen as an effort to spur home buying.
去年10月,习近平曾敦促官员“积极稳妥推进房地产税立法和改革”,作为“合理调节过高收入”的一部分。但财政部已在上月表示,今年不具备扩大房地产税改革试点城市的条件,该声明被认为是刺激购房的一种努力。
The party’s overriding priority of delivering growth this year is also forcing it to set aside difficult changes that could address deep-rooted problems with its economic model. China has long pushed to wean its economy off its dependence on borrowing for infrastructure projects that loaded the country with trillions of dollars in debt.
中共在今年的首要任务是实现经济增长,这也迫使它搁置了可能解决经济模式中更深层次问题的艰难改革。长期以来,中国一直在努力摆脱经济对基础设施项目贷款的依赖,这些项目已让中国背上了相当于数万亿美元的巨额债务
This year, China is set to pursue its biggest binge of construction projects since the global financial crisis of 2008. At the time, the national government unleashed a wave of spending on construction to keep the economic engine chugging, but local governments and state-run companies borrowed heavily to help finance the building of highways, bridges and the Beijing-to-Shanghai high-speed rail line.
中国已准备在今年掀起自2008年全球金融危机以来规模最大的建设热潮。全球金融危机期间,中国政府为保持经济引擎的运转,对建设项目投入了大量资金,地方政府和国有企业都大笔举债,为高速公路、桥梁,以及京沪高铁等建设项目提供资金。
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China is building more high-speed rail lines this year, as well as eight national computing hubs and 10 data center clusters.
中国今年计划修建更多条高铁线路,以及八个国家计算中心和十个数据中心集群。
“This year will be like a rerun of 2008 and 2009, in terms of trying to promote infrastructure,” Mr. Li at Tsinghua predicted.
“在努力推进基础设施建设项目上,今年会像是2008年和2009年的重演,”清华大学的李稻葵预测。