China’s economic growth at risk from societal stagnation, scholar warns of the ‘most significant crisis of our time’

by Luna Sun at

China’s economic growth is under risk of being hollowed out by formalism, bureaucracy and a growing sense of resignation from the bottom up, according to a prominent scholar from Wuhan University.

“In various sectors, there is a trend towards superficiality rather than substance, leading to societal stagnation, which constitutes the most significant crisis of our time,” Lu Dewen, a sociology professor specialising in rural governance, said in a WeChat post on Sunday following a recent field trip to rural areas in China.

“Grass-roots governments prioritise reporting to higher authorities rather than addressing real issues.

“Village-level organisations prioritise meeting superior directives over serving the community, and even when they do serve the community, it is often merely to put on a show for higher officials.”

He also mentioned that during a reunion with middle school classmates, who are public servants, teachers, doctors, businesspeople and state-owned firm employees, they all expressed concerns over the trends of formalism at work.

The formalism trend has also sullied academia, which is now subject to various metrics and standards, Lu said.

“Universities are touting innovation talent cultivation loudly, but the specific measures often only encourage low-level repetition,” he added in the WeChat post which has since been removed, having been widely reposted.

The political climate shift is also accompanied by China’s sluggish economic recovery, with a growing sense of pessimism and resignation permeating throughout society.