''MOBILISING all the initiatives'' is an oft-repeated catch-phrase of government officials in China. On many occasions, they are referring to increasing worker initiative and making savings, rather than boosting incentives on investments. To accelerate economic development, there is a pressing need to bolster individual investment, which takes many forms - from buying stocks to operating industrial and commercial businesses, and practising contractual farming. Despite its need, this form of individual investment is not immune to criticism. One school of thought holds that boosting individual investment is beneficial to society, but remains uncertain of the impact of those factors on society. They therefore suggest it is better to increase incentives for work and to save, than to initiate individual investments. Another school of thought suggests that individual investment will benefit individuals. So, is there a need to impose a restriction on profits reaped. If individuals gain high profits, will that be a disadvantage to the community? If so, why encourage it? The two school of thoughts have led to further discussions. The first topic for discussion is judging the social criteria of individual investment. It is crystal clear that individual investment will benefit the investors. The issue of whether it is to the community's advantage or disadvantage relates to the social criteria of individual investment. Assuming individual investment is harmful to the community, criticism is imperative, regardless of the purpose of the investments. So what is the criteria? There is a need to investigate it from both the legal and illegal standpoints. Legal investments, of course, should be considered normal. Illegal ones, however, will have to be banned and should be handled in accordance with the law. It is always misleading to analyse the impacts of investments on society without paying attention to its legality. While the law protects the interests of society, individual investments should be conducted only when lawful. Any individual investments deemed to break the law are harmful to society. Changes are required if the law governing investments is outdated. Law is solemn and serious. So any amendments to it need proper procedures. There is no excuse for neglecting the law, even if it is obsolete. If one set of laws is obsolete, and nobody cares about it, shall we treat other laws the same? If not, treating laws in an arbitrary manner will do great harm to society. As the economy grows, amendments to the law are imperative. However, the prevailing law should be used as the criteria for individual investments before any changes are made. Based on this, legal individual investment should be encouraged. The second topic for consideration is the criteria for judging profits from individual investment. In judging profits on individual investments, the only criteria will be whether they are conducted according to the law. Whether profit from individual investment is big or small, the law should be abided by. The inequality of profits of individual investments hinge on resolution of administrative measures such as individual income tax. There should not be too many restrictions on individual investment when it conducted within the law. The way of thinking has to be fully liberalised in China when encouraging individual investment to enable individuals to make gains in lawful investments. Professor Li Yining is head of Beijing University's department of economics and management and is a standing committee member of the National People's Congress.