Chinese Journal Review: Migrant Workers’ High Saving Rate and Space Weaponization 

On February 17, the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology published a comprehensive paper by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) about the new coronavirus and its epidemiological features. I’ve not included a summary of that research in this newsletter since its findings have been so widely reported elsewhere. Click here to read the English-language version of the paper (it’s short).

In this week’s summary, we look at two papers. The first, in the journal Chinese Industrial Economics, the authors discuss high saving rates among migrant workers. Migrant workers can increase their income levels by leaving rural areas to work in more urban environments, but they tend to save the extra money they earn, not spend it. This creates a challenge for Chinese policymakers, who are counting on increased consumption to drive future economic growth, the authors write.

In the second, a professor writes in the Journal of International Studies that China should increase investments in space weaponization, including by developing the ability to deploy nuclear weapons from space.

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In this edition:

  • The Influence of Rural Labor Migration on Household Saving Rate

  • Weaponization of Space and Construction of China’s Space Security

Title: The Influence of Rural Labor Migration on Household Saving Rate (农村劳动力流动对家庭储蓄率的影响)
Journal: China Industrial Economics (中国工业经济)
Author: Yin Zhichao (尹志超) ; Liu Taixing (刘泰星); Zhang Cheng (张诚); 
Publication Date: January 2020

  • China’s high saving rate is a serious challenge to China’s ability to transform its economy, writes Yin Zhichao, dean of the School of Finance at Capital University of Economics and Business, and his colleagues.

  • Finding ways to increase consumption, especially among China’s rural residents, has become an important priority for Chinese policymakers. From 2008 to 2012, saving rates for rural residents increased from 26.77 percent to 29.58 percent. This rate has been on a downward trend since then, writes Yin, but still remains high, around 20 percent.

  • The National Bureau of Statistics reported that China had more than 288 million migrant workers at the end of 2018, a 0.6 percent increase over 2017. Yin notes that, in rural areas, at least one person out of every two households is a migrant worker. Chinese migrant workers typically leave their rural hometowns to work in more urban, higher-paying areas.

  • Using data from the 2010 Chinese Family Tracking Survey, Yin finds that, while increased labor mobility has increased migrant workers’ household incomes, consumption rates among these groups have not increased, while the saving rate has. Migrant workers faced significant uncertainty, especially relative to other types of workers in China, including greater fluctuations in income, more frequent periods of unemployment, and uncertain access to medical care (or an inability to afford it). Migrant workers therefore tend to put aside the extra money they earn from working in more urban environments as a form of preventative savings, Yin writes.

  • Yin also found that participation in insurance schemes and educational programs that increased migrant workers’ human capital had a positive effect on reducing the saving rate and increasing consumption.

  • Yin concludes by making the following recommendations:

    • The state should pay greater attention to finding ways to reduce uncertainty among migrant worker populations so as to reduce incentives to save preventatively. This includes: building a more comprehensive social security system, increasing reimbursement rates for medical procedures, reducing medical costs for rural residents, and increasing educational investments to help rural workers learn new vocational skills that can increase their employability.

    • The state can also make local employment in rural areas more attractive, including by increasing investments in the countryside in roads, communications infrastructure, and industry.

Note: The government-affiliated Chinese Academy of Social Sciences publishes China Industrial Economics journal.


Title: Weaponization of Space and Construction of China’s Space Security (太空武器化及中国太空安全构建)
Journal: Journal of International Security Studies (国际安全研究)
Author: He Qisong (何奇松)
Publication Date: January 2020

  • East China University of Political Science and Law Professor He Qisong writes that, since the Cold War, there has been an increase in the weaponization of space. The United States has formed a new space command, with plans to establish an independent Space Force and to deploy sophisticated spacecraft and space-based weapons interceptors.

  • Recognizing the futility of limiting space weaponization, other countries, including China, Russia, India, and Japan have also accelerated efforts to weaponize space, He notes. According to public reporting, China has developed at least two hypersonic aircraft that can fly at Mach 5-10 speeds, as well as anti-satellite weapons systems.

  • Nonetheless, there is a significant gap between US and Chinese space military capabilities. Inferiority in the space weapons race threatens China in four ways: 1) China’s space assets, including its military and non-military satellites, are at risk; 2) a superior space power can restrict China’s ability to move freely in space; 3) China’s land-based installations can be targeted by another power’s space-based weapons, and; 4) spy satellites give opponents additional capabilities to surveil China.

  • He argues that China needs to upgrade its space strategy by dedicating greater investments to four areas:

    • Maintain satellite parity with the United States. The United States maintains 901 satellites, 176 of which are military satellites. China has 299 satellites, 99 of which are military satellites. The United States is highly dependent on its network of satellites, which makes it vulnerable to attacks. To credibly target these satellites in a “mutually assured destruction”-type scenario, China should attempt to have at least 70-80 percent as many satellites as the United States.

    • Strengthen space weapons capabilities. This includes increasing the number of reconnaissance satellites and satellites with “early warning” capabilities to warn of incoming missiles. In a recent report, the US Department of Defense understated China’s anti-satellite weapons capabilities, but China should still nonetheless invest in new and diverse ways to counter or destroy enemy satellites, He argues. Similarly, China should also invest in satellite protection, including by improving communications encryption protocols, and also increase its ability to quickly launch multiple satellites into space during times of emergency.

    • Increase space situational awareness. The United States has a Joint Space Operations Center, which coordinates an “unparalleled” global reconnaissance network to monitor missile launches from anywhere in the world. China has some Earth-based reconnaissance systems, including in Xi’an, Beijing, and on the Yuanweng Sea Vessel, but it will not be able to build a similar ground-based system as the United States. China should instead direct more investments towards building space-based missile-monitoring systems.     

    • Finally, China should construct a space-based “Nuclear Trinity.” China already has the ability to deploy nuclear weapons via land and sea. To increase China’s nuclear deterrent, it should also expand its ability to deploy nuclear weapons via space. 

Note: He Qisong is a professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law. The University of International Relations publishes the Journal of International Security Studies. Some prominent China analysts argue this university has institutional links to the Ministry of State Security.