Miserly couple show life not fair

Updated: 2015-04-03 11:31

By Li Yang in Beijing(China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

An Internet post detailing the ascetic lives of a couple in their early 40s in Shanghai who claim to survive on 20,000 yuan ($3,230) a year is stirring debate in China about the pros and cons of their experiment in frugality.

The two college grads bought three homes that are now worth about $1 million in total, even though they paid just a fraction of this. Both used to work for foreign enterprises.

They do not socialize with friends or relatives and have no kids as they consider both exercises a waste of time and money. They eat like vegetarians and splash out on a buffet dinner once a month.

Most of their time is spent watching films online or doing exercises on the sidewalks near where they live.

Having paid into their pension accounts for the last 15 years, they will be entitled to receive the first payments when they hit retirement age - 55 for women and 60 for men.

The post seems to have been written by the husband, who strongly defends their way of life in the face of criticism that they are both "escapists".

But this couple's way of life cannot easily be copied.

In China, public resources and funds are unevenly distributed between cities and villages and between coastal and rural areas. The couple are fortunate, living in Shanghai, to enjoy access to one of the most generous public service system in the country in terms of medical care, education and pensions.

The city's reliable social security system, as well as the widespread availability of reasonably priced commodities, gives them an unfair advantage.

Cities should be centers of innovation not asylums for escapists. If more Chinese retired in their late 30s, the Chinese economy would have no future.

It seems as though the couple enjoy the benefits of China's earlier planned economy as well as the dividends of its current market economy.

Their three homes were purchased before China's real-estate boom, when housing prices were much lower, thus giving them a solid economic foundation.

Fast-rising rents since 2008 have created many millionaires in China in the last few years, as well as tens of millions of young people who have exhausted their parents' life savings and who now work slavishly to repay their mortgages.

The migrant workers and college graduates who rent basements and suburban slums by the month have even been dubbed "tribes of ants".

More entrenched channels should be established for the poor so they can receive better training and the education they need to climb up the social ladder.

China is in a crucial period of economic and social transition. The government needs to pay more attention to public opinion when formulating public policy.