Under reform policy, Chinese living conditions have greatly improved, and since 1979 the country has experienced an average annual growth of close to 10 percent. However, the distribution of income has been partly uneven. In terms of political and civil rights, progress has been small, but freedom of choice has increased in a number of areas of social life, and the private sphere of citizens has been expanded.
In 2000, China signed a cooperation agreement with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In 2001, China ratified the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, subject to professional rights. In 2005, China was ranked 85th out of a total of 177 countries on the UN Annual Living Conditions Survey.
From a very low level, crime showed a marked increase in the 1990s, despite the authorities’ hard line with occasional “hard-hitting” campaigns and extensive use of the death penalty. Amnesty International estimates the number of executed in the “normal year” to be around 5000, even after the turn of the millennium. A new Criminal Procedure Act that gives the defendant more rights came into force in 1997. From 2011, the number of offenses that could result in the death penalty was reduced from 68 to 55, but it is uncertain whether this in itself has reduced the total number of executions per year.
Corruption was officially identified as the main problem of the reform process. A sensational case was Beijing’s vice mayor Wang Baos, as the spring of 1995 allegedly committed suicide after the embezzlement of approximately 230 million. A former Vice President of the People’s Congress, Cheng Kejie, was executed in 2000 for receiving bribes.
Every year, hundreds are punished with death for financial crimes. As a means of further combating corruption, stricter legislation and regulations were introduced in 2004 for officials with business interests. The effectiveness of anti-corruption policy has been debated since China does not have sufficiently well-established legislation in this area. In addition, the population does not have access to the work done by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which is the Communist Party’s body for anti-corruption work.
The lack of free press and independent NGOs also makes it difficult to identify the extent of corruption and the degree to which the guilty are being prosecuted. Despite the fact that some politicians and officials are being prosecuted with large media outlets, internal reports from the Communist Party show that corruption has increased yearly in the first decade of the 2000s.
Since the end of 1990 several welfare reforms have been sought. This is in areas such as health care and health insurance, employment, pensions and welfare schemes for births. In 2007, a welfare system was established to help the rural population out of poverty. Many of these reforms have major challenges related to public funding, and not least food prices in large parts of the country have risen faster than wages.
Since the economic reforms began, the average standard of living has increased considerably, but the disparity between the different regions and between cities and countries has also increased. By 2011, social inequality had increased so much that it was at a level that poverty researchers consider to be potentially destabilizing. Access to health services, schools and pension schemes has developed very differently for rural and urban populations. Many of the reasons for this are added to the hukou system, which restricts the free flow of migrant workers from the countryside to the cities.
In 2014, a law on national minimum wages was passed. This minimum wage should vary according to local conditions and wages, which means that the minimum wage is more than twice as high in major cities as Guangdong and Shanghai as in poorer rural areas. The goal is that during 2014-2015, the minimum wage will be at least 40 percent of the local average wage in all regions of China.
Health and family planning
Respiratory disease SARS originated in China, and the country was also hit hardest in the world with 348 dead and 5,327 infected during the 2003 epidemic..
This was also the case with the AIDS problem, which was kept hidden for a long time. Particularly hard hit is the Henan Province, where hundreds of thousands were infected by the HIV virus in the mid-1990s due to junk, mobile blood banks. In 2005, UN experts estimated that around 1.5 million Chinese people were carrying the HIV virus and that AIDS had cost more than 100,000 people.
On January 6, 2005, Chinese citizen number 1300 million was born. The one-child policy, introduced in 1979, has been somewhat moderate since the 1990s. In some regions, peasant families have had to retry if the firstborn is a girl. Minorities have also been largely exempted from the one-child policy. Chinese statistics after the turn of the millennium have shown great bias in the gender distribution: Nearly 120 boys are born for every 100 girls. In 2015, Chinese authorities abandoned the one-child policy, following protracted criticism that addressed both the human rights perspective and the danger of a very sharp aging in China in the years to come. The problem of an ever-increasing class of pensioners in relation to the workforce is one of the main reasons for this. See population policy and China’s population.