The widening income gap between social groups is attracting more and more attention. But this is overshadowing a different kind of gulf the cultural and information gap, which is also of vital importance to the healthy development of society and its long-term stability.
People who regularly read books and newspapers, surf the Internet and pay attention to building up their knowledge are either intellectuals, government officials, managers or students.
By contrast, many farmers and a large proportion of urban employees seldom read.
But they are not to blame for this shortfall, given their low income. Spending money on books or subscribing to newspapers and magazines is a luxury for most. It should be noted that the cultural gap between different social groups is becoming wider and wider.
This is an expression of the differences in the wage packets brought home by different social groups. But, the cultural gap also serves to widen the income gap. A vicious cycle is being set in motion, demanding action.
The situation is even worse in the context of the "digital divide," which refers to the gaping difference between developed and developing countries in terms of access to online information. A domestic digital divide also exists between urban and rural populations.
This is an obstacle to efforts to reduce the difference between urban and rural areas, to the country's harmonious development and to the drive to catch up with developed countries.
As economic and social development is becoming increasingly dependent on access to information, those who possess only a little knowledge are simply unable to take in large amounts of data, exchange information or operate sophisticated equipment, and cannot cope with the constantly changing market.
Modernization is difficult for a country that is home to millions of illiterates.
The definition of illiteracy has changed with the times. In the past, those who failed to reach the threshold of mastering 1,500 Chinese characters were labelled illiterate. But the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization now defines those who are ignorant of computers as illiterate.
Using the first standard, one-fifth of the Chinese population is illiterate. But the proportion reaches two-thirds using the updated measure.
In the end, it is up to poor citizens themselves, who account for 60 per cent of the country's population, to increase their income by enhancing their cultural attainments.
It is therefore imperative that knowledge be spread among as many people as possible. Popularization efforts, like delivering charcoal to somebody's doorstep in the snow as the Chinese often say, should be carried out conscientiously.
It really is a Herculean task, considering the mind-blowing number of people in this country. The task requires overall co-ordination by the government and support from various institutions, such as universities, research institutes and cultural units.
Help can be delivered in various ways offering ideas, donating money and materials, and sending teaching groups to rural areas, factories and urban neighbourhoods.
Just as economic growth needs infrastructure, cultural undertakings demand their own framework. This requires investment from the government and society at large.
Some projects currently under way, such as bringing television and telephones to every village, are an expression of infrastructure construction.
The implementation of nine-year compulsory education in rural areas and the setting up of Internet facilities and science, technology and culture stations in the vast countryside are also government obligations.
Cultural nutrition needs to be provided. Basic books about science should be tailor-made for farmers and other poor workers. Films, television programmes, literary works and web pages designed to accommodate their needs and tastes should be provided. Some cultural products should be offered free to poor people, such as books, newspapers, magazines and videos. Fees for using the Internet should be cut in half in rural areas.