Thursday, April 3, 2008

Misery in Rural China: The Emperor has no clothes

I just came across a very detailed account of the miseries of millions of chinese people, and the not-so-hot economy, by a real journalist: the Frenchman Guy Sorman.

I remember saying a month or so ago, that I had the feeling that the arrogant Chinese authorities would have their come-upance in the Olympics.
They have already had some due to the Tibet protests, and I have a feeling all will not be well during the Olympics, what with incredible smog levels and such.
China has the most polluted cities in the world… an atrocious human rights record, and massive poverty in the countryside. There are regularly riots against corrupt or abusive local officials in the countryside; the locking out of 100 000s of AIDS sufferers due to blood transfusions; the 3000 killed in Tianamen square in the 90s; the concentration camps in the north with Falun Gong members and others tortured horribly; the cracking down on Tibet protests in the 90s (led by the current Chinese leader), which involved torturing of nuns using electric shock and beatings…
Not to mention the forced mass forced abortions and murder of new-borns due to the one-child policy.
Systematic censorship of internet forums, allowing no criticism of the govmt ;attempted blocking of websites such as BBC and CNN; students put in prison for 10 yrs for the crime of posting an opinion on an internet forum; a huge array of radio jamming towers to stop foreign radios being listened to…

What a shit place…what a shit government.

Quite illuminating. It’s hard for us spoilt westerners to imagine a country where you need a permit to work in another state, and where you can’t send your kids to schools outside your district….

From the stories I read, corruption on a local scale is endemic, as are arbitrary beatings (sometimes to death) by local police, for offences such as not paying taxes. Reporters without borders and amnesty intl. Websites have hundreds of detailed and depressing accounts of such events.

Full article:

The Empire of Lies
by Guy Sorman
The twenty-first century will not belong to China:


But China’s success is, at least in part, a mirage. True, 200 million of her subjects, fortunate to be working for an expanding global market, increasingly enjoy a middle-class standard of living. The remaining 1 billion, however, remain among the poorest and most exploited people in the world, lacking even minimal rights and public services. Popular discontent simmers, especially in the countryside, where it often flares into violent confrontation with Communist Party authorities. China’s economic “miracle” is rotting from within.

Riots against local authorities and such:

The government puts the number of what it calls these “illegal” or “mass” incidents—and they’re occurring in the industrial suburbs, too—at 60,000 a year, doubtless underreporting them. Some experts think that the true figure is upward of 150,000 a year, and increasing.
The uprisings are really mutinies, sporadic and unpremeditated. They express peasant families’ despair over the bleak future that awaits them and their children. Emigration from the countryside might be a way out, but it’s not easy to find a permanent job in the city. All kinds of permits are necessary, and the only way to get them is to bribe bureaucrats. The lot of the peasant migrant—and China now has 200 million of them—is to move from work site to work site, earning a pittance when payment is forthcoming at all. The migrants usually don’t receive permission to bring their families with them, and even if they could, obtaining accommodation and schooling for their children would be virtually impossible.
The Party’s primary concern is not improving the lives of the downtrodden; it seeks power more than it seeks social development. It expends extraordinary energy in suppressing Chinese freedoms—

The boy had gone, out of curiosity, to Tiananmen Square to watch pro-democracy student demonstrators seek a dialogue with the authorities. The world knows how Deng Xiaoping reacted: he ordered a massacre that cost 3,000 their lives, many of them barely adults. Ding Zilin was one of the few parents to recover the body of a child lost at Tiananmen. Most disappeared without a trace, their families never learning for sure whether they were dead or alive.

In 2004, the internationally esteemed economist sent a polite petition, signed by 100 fellow intellectuals, to the Chinese government, asking it to apologize for Tiananmen and thereby help bury the tragic past. He, too, lost his university position and wound up under house arrest.

Massive Aids infection due to contaminated blood:

having the blood, sans plasma but pooled with that of other donors, reinfused, absent HIV tests—a recipe for massive contamination. The AIDS sufferers of Henan are now dying in the hundreds of thousands, trapped in their impoverished villages with no one to care for them.
The government’s initial reaction was to deny any problem, isolate AIDS-affected areas, and let the sick die (a pattern that initially repeated itself when SARS broke out in the country).

Nazi-like forced abortions:

Villagers often told me that it wasn’t the local Party secretary whom they most hated but rather the family-planning agents. To ensure the proper implementation of China’s single-child policy (in some provinces, the limit is two children, if the first is a girl), the agents keep close watch on childbearing women, often subjecting them to horrific violence. In 2005, a family-planning squad targeted the city of Linyi and its surrounding rural area, in the Shandong Province, because the population had far exceeded the Party’s child quota. The agents kidnapped 17,000 women, forcing abortions on those who were pregnant—in some cases, immersing seven- to eight-month-old fetuses in boiling water—and sterilizing those who weren’t. The agents tortured the Linyi men until they revealed the hiding places of their daughters and wives.

Unemployement and mass inefficiency, nepotism

Many goods that China produces are worthless, Mao Yushi reminds me—especially those made by public companies. About 100,000 such Chinese enterprises continue to run in the old Maoist style, churning out substandard products because they’ve got to hit the targets that the Party sets and provide employment to those the Party cannot dismiss, not because they’re responding to any market demand. Most public-sector firms don’t even have real accounting procedures, so there’s no way of ascertaining profitability. “China is not a market economy,” Mao says bluntly.

The Party gives the banks lists of people to whom loans should go, and the rationale is frequently political or personal, not economic. Indeed, in many cases, banks are not to ask for repayment. That investment decisions obey political considerations and not the law of the market is the Chinese economy’s central flaw, responsible at least in part, Mao Yushi believes, for the large number of empty office buildings and infrequently used new airports and an unemployment rate likely closer to 20 percent than to the officially acknowledged 3.5 percent.

“Do you dare deny China’s success story, her social stability, economic growth, cultural renaissance, and international restraint?” Yan Yfan (a pseudonym) asks me, back in Paris. A scholar on the payroll of a Beijing foundation, an extension of the Party, he has the assignment to handle my case. I respond that political and religious oppression, censorship, entrenched rural poverty, family-planning excesses, and rampant corruption are just as real as economic growth in today’s China. “What you are saying is true, but affects only a minority yet to benefit from reforms,” he asserts.

Yet nothing guarantees that this so-called minority—1 billion people!—will integrate with modern China. It is just as possible that the “minority” will remain poor, since it has no say in determining its fate, even as Party members get richer. Yan Yfan underscores my fundamental error: “You don’t have any confidence in the Party’s ability to resolve the pertinent issues you have raised.” He’s right; I don’t.


Marcus said...


I read this posting after the "Pacifism enables thugs" posting. There is no comparison: I read the full article by Guy Sorman (whom I believe I have heard of before) - it is well-written, apparently well-researched and very informative. And ironically his written English is flawless, as far as I can see, despite the fact that he is French, as opposed to the (presumably) American writer Bueche, whose screed is less than admirable in style and correctness of English.

I don't find it hard to believe what Sorman says about the state of the average rural worker in today's China. A telling detail I noticed a while ago is that China has a single time zone, whereas its breadth ought logically to dictate at least three time zones. Of course the east coast time zone (where all the affluent cities lie) is in concordance with the actual sunrise and sunset; but the poor old peasant living in the far-western provinces must experience a yearly median sunrise at around 9 a.m... The border between China and Pakistan (yes, there is one, although I doubt there are very many transitable routes across it) is the only land border crossing in the world, as far as I can ascertain, where you have to change your watch by three hours to concord with the respective local time zones.

In other words, the administrative body located on the east coast doesn't care tuppence about the living and working conditions of the rural poor in the remote western hinterlands.


Marcus said...

Well, my last comment turned to be pretty ominous.

If China had been split up into properly corresponding time zones, the time in the rural areas in central and western parts of the country when the earthquake struck would have been 12:28 or 13:28 instead of 14:28, so most of the school kids would almost certainly have been at lunch and not in the classrooms.

And it was the collapse of many shoddily-built schools that caused the greatest (and most tragic) casualties.


Jules said...

Yeah... shoddily built by the Chinese state and local authorities. Rumour has it that they had the money to build them properly, but it was siphoned off.

And anyone who dares complain about local govmt corruption, or violent abuse of power is fell upon by the govmt, like a ton of bricks.... students have been imprisoned for 10 yrs for posting an opinion on a net forum ! (says reporters without borders).

Jules said...

The thugs in the Chinese govmt are gonna get mud in their face, sooner than we think, I beleive.

The current president was in charge of Tibet when nuns and monks were tortured horribly, under his orders. (1990 I think).

deserves a bullet tween the eyes...