Starting in 1949, the revolutionary Communist government, led by Mao Zedong, waged war on inequality of all kinds. By the time the Cultural Revolution ended, having wreaked havoc throughout Chinese society, the government had effectively abolished private property, and had even mandated a bland, unisex style of dress.
The equality was a false one. Economic resources were concentrated in the hands of party cadres, in a hierarchical pecking order. That withstanding, inequity between urban and rural residents was not especially pronounced.
Then, in 1981, under reformist leader Deng Xiaoping, China made an about-face: reintroducing land rights, allowing foreign investment, and gingerly spurring private enterprise.
It is good for some people to get rich first. ~ Deng Xiaoping
Since China’s embrace of market economics, inequality has surged to be one of the greatest in the world, as has China’s proliferation of waste and pollution. The richest 10% of Chinese make 13 times as much as the poorest 10%, compared to a 5 times multiplicand for Americans in these income brackets. For how capitalism changes societies and environmental quality, look at China.
(In 2015, the top 10% of Chinese income earners garnered 40% of the country’s total take, just below the US (47%). The richest 10% own nearly 70% of private wealth in China, up from 40% in 1995. The richest 10% of Americans own 80% of US assets (in 2015).)