Price Rise Drags down Living Standards in China

By Li Tu, Epoch Times Special Correspondent
December 16, 2007 Updated: December 16, 2007

“I used to stew meat soup everyday, but now we can only afford to have soup twice a week,” said Huang, an old lady living in Shenzhen in south China.

Reducing soup supply is no trivial matter for her family. In this part of China where meat soup is regarded as a major source of nutrition and good taste, people would not have given up soup unless they really can't afford it.

Ms. Huang can't afford it now, nor can many other Chinese people. Since pork price soared in May, the overall food costs have been escalating across China. Compared to the same time last year, this November there's a 56 percent price increase for pork, 38.8 percent for poultry, 35 percent for cooking oil, and 28.6 percent for vegetables, to list a few.

As income sees little increase, the surging in food costs has an obvious impact on people's standards of living. For lower income classes, meat is becoming rarer and rarer in their daily menu.

Ms. Li, a resident of a small city in Yunan Province near China's border with Myanmar, said on December 12 in a telephone interview, “Pork cost about 14 yuan per kilogram (US $0.86 per pound) earlier this year, but now it's around 28 yuan ($1.73).” She stopped for a sigh, and then added, “Chicken used to be 20 yuan per kilogram ($1.23 per pound). Now, it's 33 yuan ($2). Prices of vegetables have also gone up quite a bit.”

But food is not the only thing in people's daily life that's getting unfordable. This winter gas price is also going up. In the city Ms. Li lives, most people use liquefied petroleum gas as the fuel for cooking. So when the LPG price rose by 50 percent this year, many started to panic.

The rising LPG price is driving many people back to more traditional fuels like coal. In Guangzhou City, for example, many residents have switched to honeycomb briquettes for heating and cooking. A Guangzhou briquettes store owner said that in the past few months he had been selling 5,000 pieces of briquettes a day, twice as many as last winter.

As a result of the escalating prices, this November China's consumer price index, an important inflation indicator, rose to 6.9 percent from the same time last year, hitting a 11-year high. Experts say the CPI is highly likely to surpass 7 percent in December.