Consistently high house prices in China have long been a difficult problem for the country, leaving the government powerless and the people complaining. Jin Yanshi, professor at Peking University’s HSBC School of Business, recently put forward an unusual theory that caused a public outcry: “High house prices are for the good of the poor”.
He elaborated on his theory by saying: “High house prices increase government revenue, which makes it possible for the government to build more houses for the poor.” His statement was widely met with astonishment by the general public and fierce condemnation from the Internet community.
Some netizens responded by saying Jin was speaking on behalf of groups who benefit at the expense of the poor and his statement amounted to outright discrimination against the poor. Netizens expressed deep regret that China has so-called economic experts such as this.
The poor shouldn’t dream of buying a house
Jin was interviewed by the mainland media Information Times at a forum in Guangzhou last Saturday. According to Jin, in order to build a more reasonable housing system:
“High-end houses should be sold at sky-high prices. Then the government will make more money and be able to build subsidised homes for the poor.”
He used an example of luxurious Shanghai real estate, suggesting those houses should be sold at 500,000 yuen ($US44,000) per square metre. One third of the profit could then be used to build houses for the poor. He went on to say:
“The poor should not attempt to buy houses at all. If they are allowed to buy property, the city will be reduced to a slum. If the house pricing is lowered, the city will lose any opportunity to develop and even the poor won’t want to come. High house prices are not meant to help the rich make a fortune, but to help the poor have a place to live. That is the key.”
Jin, 58, is an independent economist in China. He was credited as being “the Chinese disciple of Soros” and “the living dictionary of the Nasdaq Stock Market.” However, his latest statement met with widespread ridicule. The official media commented that, according to Jin’s theory:
“Higher meat pricing helps the poor eat meat, higher electricity pricing helps the poor use electric lights and inflation is also for the good of poor people.”
Some media refuted Jin’s theory by asking:
“If high house pricing is not for the rich to make a fortune, why are the majority of the richest people in Mainland China from the real estate business? If the government would really build subsidised homes for the poor (if it had the money), why has not a single municipal or provincial government dared to publicise information on subsidised housing?”
Netizens say: “The nation’s sorrow”
Some netizens noted sarcastically: “What a refreshing theory!” Some pointed out: “The poor cannot afford houses precisely because the government and real estate market make secret deals under the table, resulting in the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer.”
Some say many scholars have been reduced to spokespeople for certain interest groups and that is the nation’s sorrow.