We should have known something was up when the State Council failed to issue the master urbanization plan to end all urbanization plans in the first half of 2013. Then, in October, when state designers again neglected to put the plan forward at the promised time, we could have guessed something was amiss. The plan is finally out with details on the destinies of the about 650 million people who still live in the countryside. And it’s clear now that the delay was due to the great effort diverted to another plan: The online shoppers protection plan, also issued this week.
This new law stipulates that China’s hordes of online consumers have a seven-day window to return items that they buy. Why put the urbanization plan on hold just to make sure shoppers get a good deal? That’s simple. The central government listens to numbers only. There are about 260 million migrants roaming the cities without proper health care or other benefits. That’s like the population of Brazil or Indonesia loose in your backyard. However, there are nearly 600 million internet users in China. That’s like the population of 10 Italies peeing in your swimming pool. Many of those people buy things online. So the ultimate dilemma for the government was: Who should we appease first? The online shoppers or the migrants?
CER thinks the officials made a good choice and that China has room to push forward to become the global champion of shoppers’ rights. Headway is already being made.
Who would have thought that the anti-graft probe launched last week in 11 provinces was aimed at cracking down on officials who were marketing fake Korean makeup online? Meanwhile, the liberalization of the yuan is actually being pushed along by shoppers who want to spend more money at luxury brands in Europe. The trading band on the currency was widened last week but it will still take some time before Chinese can haul all their cash to Louis Vuitton shops in Paris. President Xi Jinping even plans to lobby for the cause of Chinese shoppers in Europe next week, while avoiding the temptation to buy a Swiss watch.
Goals such as establishing the national housing registry or reducing pollution in Beijing can be put aside for now. In the 1960s, leaders had a responsibility for making sure the people were well fed. Now, to maintain stability and legitimacy, the Communist Party needs to guarantee that the masses are well shopped.