Thursday, June 30, 2011

Atop the Tiananmen Tiger: Bao Tong

A man of rare courage and loyalty

Having today come across an article that refers to Bao Tong I was amazed to know that firstly he was still alive but secondly that he still had a voice in political affairs. I therefore thought I would reprint here an article I wrote in 2004 mainly for my online records but I think it still has interest today. Of course we no longer call it a massacre so please make allowances for that.

With the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square student tragedy looming two men in particular are sure to return in their memories to those fateful days when they were forced to mount the ‘Tiananmen Tiger’. A “tiger” from which neither they or the Chinese Communist party has ever been able to get off.

One of course is Zhao Ziyang who at the time of the Tiananmen demonstrations was the Communist Party General Secretary. With succeeding years the legend of Zhao has grown. That of the leader who apparently dared to care and as a result fell from a lofty position, at the very pinnacle of communist party rule, to a life of virtual imprisonment and disgrace.

Zhao’s story is well known and no doubt will be recounted many times over the coming weeks, however another “casualty” of Tiananmen is less well known. A man whose loyalty for his leader, and paradoxically love of his party, led to his downfall as well.

This man the second highest ranking CCP member to fall as a result of Tiananmen ended up serving seven years in jail and upon his release has swapped one prison for another. Unlike Zhao who has remained under close quarters, in what many term “house arrest”, this other man is “free” now to move about.

But so great is this man’s importance and so fearful is the Politburo of him that he is kept under constant 24 hour surveillance by teams of up to six state security personnel. No doubt his telephone, when not “mysteriously” disconnected at politically sensitive times, is tapped, so undoubtably would be his Internet access that he so enjoys until that too ‘mysteriously‘ goes offline only to just as “mysteriously” be reconnected.

Bao Tong is a man of incredible honesty, incredible loyalty and has proven over the time during and since Tiananmen to be a man of equally incredible courage.

Bao Tong was, in 1989, the senior aide to Zhao Ziyang and prior to that in the mid 80's was the Deputy Director of the Chinese State Commission for Economic Reform for the CCP Central Committee. An original revolutionary and “familiare” of Mao Zedong there was only one person higher than him to fall as a result of those tumultuous days and that was the man he so loyally served Zhao Ziyang himself.

As a result of his support of Zhao’s anti force stance, Bao was arrested and was held for two years in jail before being formally charged on supposedly unrelated charges and for which he served another five years before his release in 1996. Following his incarceration he was to endure a further 11 months under house arrest.

Not that Bao was a pro-democracy reformer or particularly pro-student. In fact he comes across even now as being, if anything, very pro party. But he was against the use of the military to break up the student demonstrators and in holding this view he placed himself at loggerheads with many of the “hardliners” of the CCP . It was this failure, or political error as he said openly himself, in not siding with the hardliners that cost him so much

In papers purporting to be a copy of his personal report after the incident to an investigative body of the CCP he describes how he felt at the time of learning of the Politburo’s decision to send in the Tanks:

“…in my heart, I believed we had made a terribly wrong move; I was afraid that we would be trapped in a very difficult situation, ’ riding a tiger, very hard to get off””

Again in that report despite having to be aware of the fate that was to befall him and Zhao he is reported to have said:

“I only felt respect for Comrade Ziyang for he had been honest and straightforward, had not concealed his beliefs and had given no consideration to his personal loss or gain”

 As a result of his stance and his loyalty Bao fell and fell heavily. A lesser man would have thanked God that he eventually was freed and would have happily settled into a life below the radar but not Bao.

One of the Most Extraordinary Letters In Chinese Modern History

Earlier this year a Dr. Jiang Yanyong sent a letter to the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party calling on them to reassess the CCP's culpability over the 1989 July 4, Tiananmen Square massacre.

Dr Jiang is a well respected, former Military Surgeon, who came to prominence during the SARS epidemic in 2003 by coming out publicly and detailing just how serious the SARS problem was. In doing so he forced the government, that was in a state of in public denial at the time, to come clean on the true extent of the problem facing the country and it’s people.

His letter was widely applauded with the general consensus that here was an extremely brave man indeed, one who dared, so publicly, to call the present CCP leadership to task over probably the most sensitive incident in Chinese Communist Party history. And so he was.

But in March 1999 Bao Tong , only three years out of jail for his role in Tiananmen and a man obviously of tenuous circumstance, also authored a letter to the Politburo that was been described at the time as "one of the most extraordinary letters in modern Chinese history". ( March 27 1999)

Like Dr Jiang was to do five years later Bao took the unprecedented step, for one in his precarious position, to send his own letter to the Politburo. In it he called on the CCP to admit that the Party had made one of the most significant mistakes in it's history over it’s handling of Tiananmen and one, no matter the passage of time, would haunt it and the people of China unless it received appropriate closure. That closure could only come with the CCP openly admitting culpability over the outcome of the decision to use force, the death and destruction it was to cause and the resultant rent it has caused in the fabric of Chinese society.

In the letter, alluding obviously to many sitting on the Politburo in 1989, he likened the Tiananmen Square students to other young and impassioned men from the 1940’s who also were not without their own mistakes

He said also that at all times the students in Tiananmen were “orderly, their demonstrations constituted neither riot or rebellion” and inferred that they were no threat to national security as claimed after the massacre.

He spoke of how Ma Zedong had the courage to openly admit that the Cultural Revolution was the nadir of the CCP’s post 1949 history but that the very admittance of the mistake was it’s highest point. He stated that Tiananmen had now become the current Party’s nadir, but, like Mao, the leadership of 1999 could make amends and raise the esteem of the CCP in the eyes of an otherwise unforgiving Chinese people by admitting errors of judgement

History tells us that his plea to the Politburo went unheeded. Despite what has to be considered an incredibly heroic stance and one fraught with immense danger, Bao was not punished though he was warned that unless he kept his own counsel he would be charged with treason.

But true to the man that he is he has not to this day heeded the warnings. In March this year he was prompted to write a fairly reasoned missive, though one laced with cynicism and a degree of pathos, questioning the present leadership’s statements that now, 2004, is the best period for Human Rights in China’s history . .In this letter he speaks of having his own freedom of movement limited and having his phone and Internet disconnected during the National People’s Congress. He even talks, as an aside ,of trying to contact Dr Jiang to offer his support and congratulations over his own stance.

In another instance in a radio interview conducted by the “Voice of Hope” radio programme “Voice of San Francisco Bay Area” also reported in March this year Bao openly talks about one of the most touchy subjects for the CCP, the Falun Dong. And says: 

“I think there is insufficient evidence to label an organisation with tens of millions of members a “cult” I consider these millions of practitioners exemplary Chinese citizens.”

He even goes on to blame in part the Chinese Government’s poor health care system in forcing people into alternative medicine and “well being” practices such as Falun Dong.

As recent as this month the Washington Post carried a report on Bao 

Mr. Bao, a de facto spokesman for liberals among China's political elite, said that since Mr. Zhao stepped down amid the 1989 crackdown, 'many things stopped progressing. On the contrary, some things have even gone backwards.' He cited the party's putting itself back in charge of 'judging and making arrests in political cases' and its beginning to interfere again in the media and publishing sectors -- areas in which the party had minimalized its involvement under Mr. Zhao.

I do not know whether we can hold Bao Tong up as a democracy reformer I think that his unrequited loyalty to his party (as distinct from some of it's members) would rule that out. But one wonders what China would be like today if people like Zhao and Bao could have held sway within the upper echelons of the CCP back then. Would the outcome have eventually been different? What would China be like now? An interesting intellectual exercise that.

Regardless of his politics one has to admire the man for his incredible courage and loyalty to what he believes in and the fact that he chose, like Zhao, to prefer other avenues of resolution than that of violence. A violence so pervasive in Chinese Communist Party history and culture.

As an aside I wonder what Wen Jiabao, now Premier of China, thinks of this man considering they both served Zhao at the time in question but who managed to remain unsullied by the association with both.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How does it feel to be ninety?

Well, things don't work as well as they use to for a start.

The old bones start to creak. The muscles seem to get sore quickly. The spirit is still strong and I still have my self belief, but, just not the old energy. Sometimes it comes in a rush and other times it deserts me. Every forward step now takes my breath away.

Why can't I just sit back quietly in the sun and take the time to review my life? My successes and, yes of course, my failings. What man is so perfect that he has not made mistakes in such a long life?  I just want to live without a care.

But I don't seem able to, no one will leave me alone.

My children and grandchildren always pester me, asking questions, criticising, wanting me to change.

Grandpa, they ask, we want more money. We want to do things like the kids in other families do. We want to do things on our own without you prying and watching us all the time. Aren't we almost adults now?

But why should I change? I have made as good a home for them as anyone can. I restored the family's pride, grandeur and fortune when other families have fallen.

When my children were dressed in rags I clothed them didn't I? When they were hungry I fed them. I built them magnificent places that are the envy of all other families everywhere.

Of course I was a little strict and I did not spare the rod. Children need discipline it builds character and loyalty. I instilled that in my children, but instead of being thankful they look back at the hard  times that we went through and blame me. It is easy to do isn't it? Blame. But I am not ashamed I did what I thought was right and looking around me now I see all the good things I have brought upon my family and am proud.

But now some want to put me in a nursing home. Grandpa is old now, they say, he can no longer lead our family! His ideas are too old fashioned!

They use to love me my family. At birthdays and special occasions they would all come around and march and sing like little soldiers to entertain me. But, not anymore do they come with such enthusiasm and love. Some do of course but not all of them. Not like the old days.

And it's not only my family that pesters me, it's others as well

Other families look at my family and wonder how I did it. I am sure they are in awe of my achievements but they rarely give me praise.

They greet me with a smile on their faces but I oft see their venom and jealousy.They pretend superiority. They pretend that the way they run their families is the best way and that I should change.

Why do they want  to tell me how to run my family. Do this, don't do that, they say, but what do they know? They only know their own family not mine.

Sometimes I just want to grab them and bash their heads together but that is not my way. I just smile and walk away but, one day, who knows?

So I am happy to just say "look what I have achieved for my family! Look after yours before you tell me what to do."

So mind your own business, I say to them, go away and leave my family to me, to do things the way I want them to be done.

But I really am tired. It has been a long and hard life. Maybe it is time to let my children take over.

 I just don't know? Maybe, one day.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

China: A Middle Class? I don't think so.

Much is written about China’s “emerging ‘Middle Class’ or ‘middle stratum’ as China likes to call it. How big is it? How big will it be? It’s spending habits. It’s likely effects on politics and democracy.

In the early 1990's when Deng Xiaoping had his ‘Wall Street’ moment announcing "to get rich is glorious" there did not exist in China a 'Middle Class' or anything vaguely similar.

However, by the late 1990‘s, as China’s economic rocket took off a 'Middle Class' was said by analysts and commentators to be 'emerging'. The west got very excited about it. They seemed to assume that this emergent, if in fact it existed, would change the very fabric and direction of China. Democracy would naturally descend upon China and the world would rest easy as the last great communist regime dissolved.

But what is a 'Middle Class' that is capable of wringing these profound changes, and, does there exist a true 'Middle Class' in China?

Definitions are endless. Economists, analysts and commentators say it can be assessed on myriad of criterion: income, assets, lifestyle, education and employment categories, or, a combination of some or all of the foregoing

All these experts seem to agree, despite their disparate methods, that there exists now in China a 'Middle Class'

Having arrived at that conclusion they each expound on how this 'Middle Class' will effect China  be it economically, politically, culturally, drawing, of course, on Western experience of the dynamics of a 'Middle Class'

But is their conclusion that there exists a 'Middle Class',with all it’s attendant connotations, and, ergo, their predictions for China, premised on that conclusion, correct?

I would argue not.

The pundits have defined ‘Middle Class’ based totally on numeration and materialism; money or things obtained through having the means for discretionary spending. In other words they believe nothing exists but matter and spiritual issues play no part in their definitions

I will look at ‘Middle Class’ not defined by money or what money buys but the mindset that comes from  feeling 'Middle Class' and the way a mature 'Middle Class' interacts with society as a whole.

Middle Class in the Western World

The existence of a 'Middle Class' in the western and developed world is a fairly recent phenomenon having it’s genesis with the First World War almost 100 years ago. It was not until after the Second World War, particularly in the late fifties and sixties, that a middle class truly emerged as a very distinct entity which  started to effect society as a whole, economically, politically and culturally.

We, in the developed west, now have a 'Middle Class' fully evolved culturally and politically. I use the world evolved because that is what it has done, over time, to become what it is, what it represents and what it’s power and importance is today. 

The 'Middle Class' we see today, its norms, it’s values, it’s importance in all aspects of society evolved learning about itself as it grew, altering, changing and metamorphosing itself into what it now is.

Today, in the West, it is the backbone of economy and society. The ballast that keeps the ship trim, if you will, a living breathing checks and balance. It’s importance is such in the West that if the middle class gets a sniffle the western world will get an almighty cold.

The West’s ‘Middle Class’ has earned the right to now be defined simply in monetary terms of income or assets, of lifestyle, because a system of being 'Middle Class' and a full understanding of what a 'Middle Class' is and represents  has fully evolved. Therefore if you have A you are therefore B and you act C. And everyone who is not 'Middle Class' knows what to expect from you and how to interact with you.

Now this is not the case in China. Yes, in monetary terms and lifestyle terms, a thing resembling a 'Middle Class' can be observed. It meets the income, assets, lifestyle criteria of being 'Middle Class' in a materialistic way. But with China it is not a case of “if it looks like it is, if it smells like it is, if it taste like it is it must be..”

Every social system existing in  humanity has required an in situ evolution. A social system can not be learned from a book. It can not be imposed, bought or wished for, it must be  learnt and earned over a considerable period of time. 

One generation will start the ball rolling, it will stumble fall and get up. It will slowly over time learn from it’s mistakes. The next will have learned from history, make their own changes over which they too will stumble, fall and get up  and they will learn. And so the process continues.

China’s so called 'Middle Class' does not exist because, whilst a certain sector of Chinese society has money, it does not have the life skills, experience or an evolved system to function as a true “middle class” as we in the west know it and with all the good things that 'Middle Classes' bring to society as a whole.

Lets explore this quickly. 

China’s so called 'Middle Class' far from being the backbone of Chinese society, as in the West, is wracked with anxiety, insecurity  and a degree of fear. It is aimless, searching, wandering.

The commentators expect of them to have learned in the course of a decade what the West’s 'Middle Class' took a century to learn and do so in a completely different and far more adversarial environment, culturally and politically.

They have not come to a realisation as to where they slot in between the old culture and some nebulous new culture seemingly on offer. Nor have the 'higher ups' or working class worked out their relationships to it..

Their position vis a vis the next class up and the class below has not been settled to any ones satisfaction unlike in the west. They are not in a 'comfort zone'.

In the west the ‘Middle Class’ is all powerful and respected by all other classes. It controls the bulk of the money and therefore it’s effect on the economies of the world is great, it’s political clout is immense. In China these Noveau Riche  are virtually powerless in relation to the ruling class and generally through their ostentatious lifestyle, the kid in the lolly shop, not particularly admired by the working class.

In the west a thriving positive ‘Middle Class'  functions effectively because there is no ceiling. Bubbles that wish to can reach the very top, bubbles that wish to just float can and others can sink, not so in China.There is a 'glass ceiling' and that is the CCP. Chinese culture requires you be seen to keep 'rising' but there is nowhere to rise to. You can put all your hopes and aspirations on your children but they too will feel the same constraints. The only alternative will be to go abroad.

In China the Nouveau Riche  lack maturity because not only are they on the first rung on the evolutionary ladder as a social and political entity  but also, because of China’s incredible economic growth and their rapid promotion, these people are biologically  younger in years than their western counterparts.

No this group of people do not constitute a ‘Middle Class’ in the Western sense. They show some of the attributes but, at the moment, and for a long time to come, they are just a group of people that earn more money than the group of people below them.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wu calls for boosting Xinjiang's development

BEIJING - China's top legislator Wu Bangguo has called for promoting "leapfrog development" and "lasting stability" of northwest Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region during his four-day visit of the far western area.
From Thursday to Sunday, Wu toured enterprises, farmland, communities, and met local families in the cities of Hotan, Kashgar, Changji, Shihezi and the regional capital Urumqi.
Efforts should be made to "learn the significance of the progress in Xinjiang" from a "strategic and overall view," said Wu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the country's top legislative body.
"By utilizing nationwide support, Xinjiang's self-development ability should be strengthened and its resource advantages should be transferred into economic strength," said Wu, also a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

Wu calls for boosting Xinjiang's development

Sunday, June 19, 2011

China: Does inflation equal turmoil?

With the May inflation rate of 5.5% being recently posted everyone is aware that China’s inflation rate is running high.

This figure is up from an average inflation rate of 4.25% experienced for the period 1994-2010. It’s causes are not really of concern here nor what China’s is attempting to do to reign it in. The question is what effect will high inflation have on the vitally important Chinese Communist Party objective of  maintaining “Social Harmony

There are very many issues effecting “Social Harmony" in China today, the list is almost endless. There is nothing in China that does not upset or affect someone or some group of citizens.

Each, on it’s own, can be dealt with by the government. Small isolated and localised grievances, for whatever reasons they exist, can easily be quelled and silenced, if necessary, by sending in China’s ubiquitous Riot Police who seem for ever poised to quickly respond, anywhere, anytime.

And we do see it all the time. The recent riot in Guangzhou involving migrant workers was quickly quashed and plausible reasons for it’s occurrence trotted out just as quickly. Local rumour mongers were to blame not the heavy handedness of the Local security, nor the rapidly growing disenchantment of migrant workers everywhere caused by a multiplicity of grievances. An incident like this is reported on, in this case internationally, but soon forgotten. One small and localised group is affected, so what, life goes on.

But when an issue arises that affects more than one group then a whole new scenario arises. We have the potential for a domino effect. If riot police are used to break up a protest or a riot among a group more nationally representative then the whole dynamics change. If there is a crackdown in Shantou of “ordinary" citizens then a group in Lanzho might say  "Hey that is us! We have that grievance as well, we should do something about it too." And so it starts, dominoes falling across the nation, slowly at first but quickly picking up tempo. Riot police are not going to as easily stem that tide.

Inflation is just that type of cause. It affects everyone. The poor feel it in their stomachs, the middle class feel it in their wallets and even the “Higher Ups” feel it, the uncertainty, who’s head is going to be on the chopping block if something goes wrong?.

It magnifies differences between individuals and between groups, belting up the amplitude of dissatisfaction. Everyone starts reassessing their personal and family situations against the “haves” (or “more haves") and the “higher ups”. When everything is going along well things are less noticeable or, if they are noticeable, they are more easily acceptable. But when things are not going along so well then the small mites in eyes become rather large and very painful planks that need to be removed.

A 5.5% inflation rate is not something that seems scarily high but when the food inflation rate embodied in that figure is 11.7% and the cost of housing, particularly rent for low income families, is skyrocketing, consequent with housing stock shortages, alarm bells should and, I would say, are ringing very loudly in the Politburo.They will recall that rampant inflation was one factor in them getting into power originally.

There is a trigger that is waiting to be pulled in China if the government is not careful. It may be inflation, it may be housing issues, it may be migrant workers or ethnic minorities. Once that trigger is pulled the pent up rage festering just below the surface in China will embroil all the disparate grievances and coalesce them into one almighty snowball.

Friday, June 17, 2011

China Coal Mining: Six dead in Inner Mongolia

CNTV reports that 6 miners died in a mine accident today in China's north west Inner Mongolia.

Once again it shows just how dangerous being a coal miner in China is.

Each year thousands die in search of coal to fuel China's ever growing economy.

But I have just tweeted this story and commented that whilst it is always bad news to hear of deaths it has been a while since the last reports of fatalities and, whilst I did not say it as it would sound rather cold, that is a good thing.

When I started blogging China in the early 2000's every morning you awoke to news of  more deaths in Chinese coal mines. Reports back in say 2004 put estimated Chinese coal mining deaths at 20,000 per year not to mention the many thousands that were injured. It was soul destroying. I used to ask myself, in my naivety, how can the Chinese government let this happen?

A lot of international public scrutiny was brought to bear on the Chinese government through that decade and to their credit they have significantly changed the situation. In 2010 Mining deaths were reported at 2,433  (1) and year to date March figure saw a decrease of 39% on corresponding period 2010. A significant achievement in any ones books.

They have done this by closing down illegal backyard sized mines and mines that could not satisfy safety standards, made coal mine owners responsible legally for deaths in their operations and punished local officials who either were too lazy, or more likely, too corrupt to enforce safety regulations.

The Chinese government has done well and is continuing to bring the death toll down. There will always be deaths in coal mining, no coal mining country is exempt from that but they can be considerably lessened.

But, beyond all this, what I am as equally happy with is that now the Government does not hide deaths in mining. Within 10 odd hours of this accident occurring Chinese English news media were running the story.

Some cynics may say that the accident occurred in Inner Mongolia and the Chinese Government was getting in quick given the recent unrest in that region but I don't think so. This "openness" has been apparent to me for some time now.

Note (1) These are official figures. Actual deaths will be higher due to non reporting and illegal mine operations

Further Reading from me on Coal Miners Rights
6 killed in coal mine accident in N China CCTV News - CNTV English

China: Women and Children's Rights

The Chinese Communist Party has released a Ten Year Plan with a view to increasing equality of woman in China in all areas of Chinese life and also to focus on the the physical and mental well being of children particularly those from rural areas. A copy of the press release follows.

Two guidelines concerning women and children's affairs over the next 10 years were approved Wednesday at an executive meeting of the State Council, or the Cabinet, stressing gender equality.The Program for the Development of Chinese Women (2011-2020) covers main goals, policies and measures to ensure women's legitimate rights and interests,and promote their social status, according to a statement released Wednesday after the meeting.
The program also aims to ensure that women equally exercise their democratic rights in accordance with the law, equally participate in economic and social development and equally enjoy the achievements of reform and development.
The Program for the Development of Chinese Children (2011-2020) sets goals in the areas of health, education, welfare, social environment and legal protection. Relevant policies are also made to guarantee childrens' right to subsistence, development, being protected and participation.
The program also aims at boosting children's physical and mental health and their overall qualities as well as narrowing the development gap between children in urban and rural area The statement didn't reveal details about the two programs.
"We must clearly realize that, under the influence of various economic, social and cultural factors, the development of women and children in China and the protection of their rights still face many problems and challenges," said the state
Women's average life span in China rose to 75.25 years last year from 73.3 in 2000, and the number of employed women and their influence in decision-making and management both increased "steadily," said the statement
Premier Wen Jiabao, urged local government departments to map out their own development programs for women and children and set up tight-knit working mechanisms to ensure the implementation of the programs. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

China’s Changing of The Guard

Ramifications for "Social Harmony"

Mao and the next generation

The linked article speaks to China standing at the crossroads as it moves forward to late 2012 when the fifth generation of Chinese leadership will take their seats at the helm of the fastest growing and, potentially, the most volatile country in the world.

Thirty two years ago then China's Paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping  implemented far reaching reform and opening up policies. Policies that would see drastic changes to the very fabric of China’s society, culture and economy. 

These policies see a vastly different China today then the one that existed then. A China that has experienced the most astonishing economic growth in history, to a point now, where it stands as the second biggest economy in the world and poised to overtake the United States in the not too distant future.

But this economic miracle has not been without it’s costs particularly concerning China’s social stability, or “Social Harmony” as it is generally referred as.

Rapid growth has seen many changes in China’s society and culture. The move to a “market economy” on the principle, pretty much, of “laissez fare” has seen seismic shifts in wealth distribution in China, not only as between rural and urban dwellers, but also within urban areas between the emergent “middle class” and the others.

As well there has been drastic changes between regions within China with the coastal regions growing exponentially and the central and western regions lagging considerably behind.

The “market economy” policy allows money to flow to those regions and industries that have “competitive advantage”, in the case of China, this means the coastal areas, areas that have ready access to export facilities, relationships with foreigners and transport infrastructure.

Prior to the “opening up” internal investment was centrally controlled. Money was divided up reasonably equitably between regions and provinces. Post “opening up” this has changed with Government money following private money. As the coastal  regions grew so did government investment in those areas to support the private sector’s growth. This investment was diverted to a degree from other areas. Thus, the likes of Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and many central provinces such as Qinghai' went backwards in their share of the national pie, becoming relatively poorer.

Rural industries likewise suffered vis a vis manufacturing and exporting industries causing a rural/urban-industrial income divide, exacerbated by the drain of rural workers to the factories and construction sites of the coast. 

On an individuals level inequities have became apparent and continue to grow. With wealth pouring into China a new “Middle Class” emerged and continues to expand. Educated, urban, worldly, technologically savvy and growing considerably more affluent, they wield not inconsiderable power economically and politically.Thus a middle income trap came into play where the government pandered to the wealthy to the neglect of the others.

On top of these "food in the mouth" issues there are others eating away at China’s “Harmony”. 

Rampant corruption consumes the nation. This is not a new phenomenon, it has been a way of life in China for millennia. What has changed is that with new avenues of communication, a rise in general education standards, the growing disparity between the haves and the have nots the latter are asking “What about me?”

Rapid industrialisation also has seen the need for land to build factories and infrastructure and many times this has been acquired without due concern for the original occupiers. Repossessions, forced evictions and the like have seriously affected millions. The Three Gorges Dam project saw the relocation of some 1.24 million people, the Beijing Olympics saw an estimated 1.5 million relocated,  forcibly, in a lot of cases.

These examples are only the tip of the iceberg. Such land grabbing has brought immense pressure on the available supply of housing stock, particularly for low income earners, with the resultant increase in rent and decrease in the quality of accommodation not to mention the dignity of those affected.

Another issue is the phenomenon of China’s “Migrant workers” or Mingong. As the term implies they are a 225 million strong floating and marginalised group wanted by no-one but the businesses they slave for.

Hailing from rural areas they work for little money, in the worst conditions, living in substandard accommodations and without the protections and welfare support of China’s Hukou Registration system or Organised Labour. The potential for social disharmony issuing from this class of citizen is incalculable. A recent riot in Chazou in Guandong province proves that the potential for discord is bubbling just below the surface.

And finally not to mention the perennial problems and potentiality for disturbance in Xinjiang, Tibet and, now, rumblings in the normally quiet Inner Mongolia. Not only are there ethnic/cultural differences at play but these inherent problems have been further exacerbated by all of the foregoing.

Maintenance of "Social Harmony" a Must

The maintenance of Social Harmony has to be of paramount importance in China, a country of 1.3 billion, and there is disquiet within the Chinese Communist Party that the government has allowed “liberalisation” “opening up” “market economy” and “peaceful rising” policies to have gone too far. That in fact the policies are impacting very negatively on Social Harmony”.

Just recently the State owned press organ People’s Daily has had several editorials and op-eds on issues relating to “Social Harmony” such as CCP discipline, Co-Operation, Religious Freedom and pace and style of democratic reform  One editorial piece Bring social cohesion into full play sums it all up.

This all goes towards proof that with the “Riot Season” upon them the Chinese government is very concerned at the moment.

Thus, China is at a  very important crossroads and all bets seem to be that, with the new generation, there will be a stepping back. A change not particularly to a Mao type era but certainly back to a more Marxist Socialist ideology that has been departed from over the last 30 odd years.

China has enormous issues to contend with and there are many, many more then have been touched on here, none the least being energy, pollution and food. The list is seemingly endless. 

The CPC knows that it has to get the balance right for it is to survive well into the future and priority above all priorities in China is the survival of the Chinese Communist Party.

How this will be achieved and how it will pan out in terms of Social Harmony is really anybodies guess. As they say it is hard to stop a horse once it has bolted and there is a hell of a lot of “Social Harmonising” to be done.

And the world should wait with bated breath.

Friday, June 3, 2011

China preparing Tibet as future war zone?

Rapid Infrastructure Investment Not What it Is Cracked Up to Be?

China is always putting out what can only be classified as propaganda concerning all it is doing for the Tibetan people.

New roads, train lines, airfields all are said to be done to enhance the life of the Tibetan people.

 To raise them out of lives of virtual serfdom that supposedly existed pre 1951 under the Lama theocracy.

 And sure, China's investment in infrastructure has brought great change to the Tibetan people not all bad as some would have it. All measurable standards of living conditions have irrefutably improved under Communism.

The linked to article from the Indian Deecan Herald looks at these infrastructure changes in light of their worth from a  military and internal security viewpoint.

Particularly it looks at the ramifications for India's security of this considerable increase in China's logistical capability.

It goes without saying that Tibet sitting atop the the Sino-Indian border (So close that the existing Dalai Lama walked to India during his escape) is of immense importance to China from a strategic point of view.

Their desire to bolster their military capabilities and responsiveness anywhere in China  is totally understandable. That is their sovereign right and, may I say, duty to do so. This is more so in Tibet where there has existed smouldering animosity between India and China for decades punctuated with several border skirmishes.

The problem I have with all this is twofold

  1. That the ability to respond with considerable force is not only outward looking but could quite easily be turned inward, that is, internal security against "Separatists" and "Splitists" to wit: the Tibetan people.
  2. That China with it's propaganda about the good it is doing for the Tibetans does so in such a condescending way looking so to make her appear so very altruistic in the eyes of the world.
What can be done? Nothing China is doing nothing particularly wrong here other then to dabble in some pretty transparent self marketing.

Whether India has anything to worry about I would say yes. Not because I believe China has any expansionist ambitions in this area, or any area for that matter, but because they COULD and that is something to worry about. 

The problem for all is that " worry" is what causes border incidents and border incidents cause war.

The problems for the Tibetans and the Tibetan Government and Emigre groups in exile is that their battle was  lost a long time ago

Thursday, June 2, 2011

China Cracks Down On Causes Of Unrest In Inner Mongolia

China Cracks Down On Causes Of Unrest In Inner Mongolia

After a week of protests by the normally quiet Mongolian people of China’s Inner Mongolia Region, the Chinese Government has announced a crackdown on the lucrative coal mining industry.
Like the Tibetans and the Uyghur people of Xinjiang the Mongolians are an ethnic minority group in China but unlike the former they have been very compliant to date with the policies of the central government.
However it is obvious a cup can only hold so much water.
The Tibetans, the Uyghurs and the Mongolians have seen, since the Communist Party took power, a complete change in their lifestyles, their freedoms and their natural environment.
Given their geographical position on China’s borders these regions are of immense strategic importance. As well, they are very rich in natural resources particularly energy that China is desperate for.
This has resulted in a virtual flood of Han Chinese into the areas weakening the respective cultures considerably and ravishing the land that they regard as being their ancestral home.
In the case of the Mongolians they have seen the lucrative mining industry rip out the wealth of their homeland with little commensurate compensation. They have witnessed the destruction of their vast grazing lands. They have, like the Tibetans and the Uyghurs, become strangers in their own land.
The death of the herdsman that started the Mongolian’s protests was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The problems run far deeper and the Chinese Government, with the announcement of this crackdown, realise that.
If this “Crackdown” will appease the Mongolians, other than in the short term, I fear not.