China has been rocked by the image of an 8 year-old boy who nearly freezes every day.
Why is he at risk?
Because Wang lives in poverty in Yunan province, South Central China, and can only afford the thinnest of jackets. This makes his trips to school a waltz with death.
According to the BBC, "State-run China News Service agency says the boy walks 4.5 km (2.8 miles) to get to school, a journey that takes him an hour. On the day the picture was taken, the temperature was -9C [15.8 F], the agency says."
Of course, now that the media has got hold of the story, the regime's always-ready propaganda machinery has kicked into overdrive. The local communist youth league somehow managed to scrape together more than $15,000 to provide Wang with clothes and his school with a better heating system. More help will probably flow to the suffering child.
Nevertheless, Wang's ill fortune is only a metaphor for the broader injustices of China's communist system. After all, China's economic boom and corollary improvements to living standards have never been a consequence of communist sharing. Improvements to Chinese living standards have flowed as the results of low cost production and a vast export-focused economy. And these improvements have not been shared across all of society.
While Chinese citizens on the coasts and in major cities have seen a dramatic increase in living standards, many like Wang have been left behind. Two charts from the GeoPolitical Futures team explain the situation. The first chart shows the average annual income in rural households. Note that Yunan province, where Wang lives, is one of China's poorest.
The second chart shows the average annual income in urban households. And while things are undoubtedly better here, the divergence between wealth in the coastal and northern provinces and the southern and central provinces is evident.
What does this mean for China's future? Put simply, problems. As impoverished Chinese citizens like Wang grow up and move to the cities, they'll find how little they had compared to their fellow citizens. This is neither a recipe for social stability, nor for China's ability to match delivery on middle class aspirations with poverty reduction. China also faces escalating pressure from states like Vietnam, who can undercut China's export cost margins.
All of that might explain why Xi Jinping has been talking a lot about the need to strengthen his nation's internal security forces.