For decades the aim in China has been the pursuit of growth, building the world’s second-largest economy from a relative backwater on the international stage. Now, the promise from Beijing is to enlarge the economic pie and divide it well. President Xi Jinping announced plans this month to spread “common prosperity” in what is one of the world’s most unequal major economies, signalling a shift from his predecessors’ pursuit of growth and heralding a tough crackdown on wealthy elites – including China’s burgeoning group of technology billionaires.
Yet the shift comes at a delicate moment. Signs of pressure are emerging in the Chinese economy as it embarks on Xi’s mission, fuelled by the coronavirus Delta variant and raw material shortages. Figures published on Wednesday show factory output went into reverse in August, slumping to an 18-month low, while the main survey of the services sector showed it took an even greater hit and contracted for the first time since last March.