China has been the most rapidly growing economy in the world over the past 25 years. This growth has led to an extraordinary increase in real living standards and to an unprecedented decline in poverty. The World Bank estimates that more than 60% of the population was living under its $1 per day (PPP) poverty line at the beginning of economic reform. That poverty headcount ratio had declined to 10% by 2004, indicating that about 500 million people have been lifted out of poverty in a generation.

    Since the far changing economic reforms were made in the late 1970s, the growth fueled a remarkable increase in per capita income and a decline in the poverty rate from 64% at the beginning of reform to 10% in 2004. At the same time, however, different kinds of disparities have increased. Income inequality has risen, propelled by the rural-urban income gap and by the growing disparity between highly educated urban professionals and the urban working class. There have also been increases in inequality of health and education outcomes.