Chinese honor guards stand in formation during the lowering of the national flag in front of Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on Monday, one day before the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Seventy years ago, Mao Zedong appeared on a balcony overlooking Tiananmen Square and conjured a new country into being. On Tuesday, Xi Jinping, arguably the strongest leader since Mao, appeared on that same balcony to reaffirm his vision of modern China. That vision includes what Xi has repeatedly referred to as the "Chinese Dream," one pillar of which is the idea that all Chinese should have access to the shared prosperity of the nation. Hundreds of millions of citizens have climbed out of poverty in the past few decades, but a chasm of inequality has opened up in the country at the same time. Researchers place China within the ranks of the 20 least equal nations in the world. And as the nation marks 70 years of communist rule, many Chinese people are reflecting on their own stories of struggle and mobility. "At the start of China’s post-Mao period 40 years ago, China had one of the lowest levels of economic inequality in the world," says Bruce Dickson, a China expert at George Washington University. "But that was because everyone was equally poor." When China’s economy opened up to the world starting in the late 1970s, wealth poured in. But that wealth has not trickled down equally to all parts of society. […]
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