Chinese firms rush to embrace Xi Jinping's 'common prosperity' slogan

Chinese President Xi Jinping's push to narrow the country's wealth gap has sent shock waves through the economy. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Scores of listed Chinese companies have name-checked President Xi Jinping's "common prosperity" drive in earnings reports, as the private sector seeks to align itself with China's campaign to reduce wealth inequality.

At least 73 companies, including China's largest insurer Ping An Insurance (Group), food delivery giant Meituan and the state-owned Bank of China, used the flagship slogan in statements to shareholders filed to the Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges in the two weeks ending Aug 31. While that accounted for less than 2 per cent of the more than 4,000 filings surveyed by Bloomberg News, it featured some of the country's most-influential firms.

Mr Xi's push to narrow the country's wealth gap has sent shock waves through the economy, triggering market sell-offs and prompting a flood of charitable giving among the country's billionaires.

A meeting led by the Chinese President on Monday (Aug 31) explicitly called on officials to "urge companies to obey the leadership of the party", as reforms are rolled out.

Meituan, one of the companies facing increased regulatory scrutiny as part of Mr Xi's reforms, said in its filing that China's largest food delivery firm would "promote common prosperity for the larger society".

During an earnings call on Monday, the company's founder Wang Xing explained Meituan's name literally translated to "better together", showing common prosperity was in its DNA. He also said the company could face significant fines amid an antitrust probe into its operations.

Real estate service firm Greentown Service Group announced a common prosperity plan for employees in its report, and bottle manufacturer Zhejiang Haers Vacuum Container said the slogan would help grow the market, without elaborating on how.

Some companies referenced the term in relation to China's rural revitalisation drive, and a few included it in environmental, social and governance targets. Others went beyond paying lip service to Mr Xi's favorite slogan.

Pinduoduo, the fast-rising online commerce giant now challenging Alibaba in the countryside, went as far as to pledge its next US$1.5 billion (S$2 billion) in profit to farmers' welfare.

Tencent Holdings, China's most valuable company, said last month it will double the amount of money it's allocating for social responsibility programmes to about US$15 billion.

Mr Xi's renewed embrace of the common prosperity slogan, which dates back to the founding of the Communist Party, is driving a slew of economic policies expected to shape the next decade.

Last year, Mr Xi pledged to make "substantial progress on common prosperity for all" by 2035 - when China aims to achieve "socialist modernisation" and double the size of its economy from 2020.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.