with the long term and painful solutions of economic (and political?)
reform and personal sacrifice, Zhu also provided a short-term solution
to the problem: a 17.6 percent hike in defense spending to combat
"hostile forces inside and outside of China." Targeted
aggressors included the convenient Fa Lun Gong, religious extremists
and terrorists and generally anybody the Communist Party deems a
threat to social stability.
problems facing China are interconnected, solving one depends on
the resolution of another. In order to understand this, consider
that one of the major causes of all China's problems is also its
oft-touted greatest asset: 1.3 billion people.
for gainful employment are scarce, even for highly qualified, highly
motivated young Chinese. Most talented Chinese search for a placement
with a foreign company in China or, better yet, abroad. For those
unfortunates who can find neither a foreign company in China nor
a scholarship, guangxi (connections) and luck are the only
light at the end of a tunnel. Using guangxi is second nature
to all people of every country, but in China, having no connections
means having absolutely no chance at a good job. Thus we have (political)
for the peasants, well, they dare not dream of good guangxi.
Blood, sweat and tears for these fellows. Being at the bottom of
the totem pole means shouldering the ridiculously heavy taxes that
fund the trip abroad for the children of local leaders (or, in many
cases, the lavish, debauched banquet to celebrate said trip.) Being
at the bottom also means that roadside veggie vendors must haggle
fiercely over pennies, that when the state owned enterprise goes
belly up, you're the first to be laid off. If possible, you move
to the city and bleed some more and haggle even harder over pennies
all this amidst periodic crackdowns to enforce nebulous codes
regulating the movement of the masses (the hukou and danwei
systems). As a peasant, you either add to the urban unemployment
and risk the wrath of the local city officials, or you squeeze as
much produce as humanly possible out of plot of land and pay tribute
to the local village officials.
Just feeding China requires a massive agricultural industry
now with foreign produce entering the market and the need for China
to export food in order to stay competitive, the only result can
be a further drain on an already tired and broken environment.
the WTO requirements will only exacerbate these problems. Russia
and the EU recently banned Chinese produce due to unhealthy levels
of antibiotics and chemicals peasants must now improve and
revamp their practices just to stay alive and be able to pay taxes
to the local government, which in turn fudges any and all reports
to the central government, which in turn tells the international
community that all farms in Henan Province are up to (WTO) snuff.
If anyone believes that this will change in the future because Zhu
demands it in a speech to an entirely powerless assembly of yes
men is seriously deluded.
If population really is a major cause, then what could a possible
solution be? Ignoring an AIDS epidemic? Mass executions? Of course
Real solutions would entail harnessing the power of a
billion people economically by allowing them to participate politically
i.e. more freedom of choice and movement for the worker. To the
Communist Party this is unthinkable, doubly so in these times of
transition. And the government's plans to put more money into the
army squash any hopes of the cab driver who lamented the slow pace
of modernization since the death of Deng Xiao Ping. Successors to
the thrones are groomed apprentices they will have their
ears pricked to the words of their elders, just as Jiang listened
intently to Deng's mumblings up until the very hour of his death.
The Chinese government is doing anything any other government would
do when pressed with serious domestic problems: give happy rhetoric
about anti-corruption drives and economic reforms while inventing
a boogie man (or men) and beefing up the country's monopoly on force
in preparation for the unrest to come. The difference is that China's
problems are infinitely more dangerous due to their size. An environmental
disaster coupled with widespread unemployment would severely tax
even the Chinese government's capacity to spin the facts and destroy
opposition. And what would the international implications be of
a drop in that magic number (7 percent) growth rate?
The strength of the individual Chinese will to persevere and improve
the country is a strong foundation upon which to rest one's hopes,
but without the political reforms that "dissidents and foreigners"
have been calling for all this time, the will to persevere and improve
the country may turn into a desire for "regime change."
printable version of this article
is a teacher living and working in China. His articles have appeared
in the South China Morning Post, the Minnesota Daily,
and elsewhere. His exclusive Antiwar.com column (usually) appears
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