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End of a dream for China
Chen Chingsong
9/3/2004

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The Chinese government admitted recently that in 2003, the number of people in China facing poverty increased. Among them, most are farmers. This frank admission is contrary to previous reports spread around the world that China has made tremendous improvements in assisting its poor.

The increase is likely more than the 800,000 people that the Chinese government reported. According to the definition and standard of the Chinese government, the impoverished population includes only 29 million; however, Chinese authorities have acknowledged that according to international standards the impoverished population includes at least 90 million.

The rise in poverty in China is linked to several issues. The first is that since 2000, the gap between urban incomes and rural incomes has returned to the level before 1978. The second is that from the beginning of 2004, the average quantity of food owned by Chinese people has dropped to its lowest level in the past two decades. The third is that the area of cultivated land has decreased yearly, dropping 100 million acres last year.

All of these problems can be traced back to the policies launched by Jiang Zemin since he came to power in 1989. He has betrayed a great amount of farmers, sacrificed jobs, shown indifference to underprivileged groups, bribed city dwellers, won elites over by every means, increased troops and police, sacrificed rural villages, filled cities, sacrificed agriculture, favored industry, and transformed the “alliance of labor and farmer” into the “coalition of official and merchant.” A whole set of utilitarian mentalities has led to a serious imbalance in the development of Chinese society.

Furthermore, corruption is widespread in the government, so the limited resources are taken advantage of by those who hold power. All of this makes the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. In this situation, the executive branches of the government are swollen with officials, the burden of farmers is heavier, the funds assisting the poor are embezzled, the lands in rural villages are occupied by force, and the wages of laborers goes unpaid for years on end.

This explains why whenever the infrastructure of water and electricity is disrupted, a large amount of poverty results. Experiencing the horrors of land confiscation, forced migration, deception and low compensation, more than 10 million people were impoverished when they were forced off their land. They were made to leave so that a nearby reservoir could be exploited for water resources.

Those who originally lived in this fertile river valley were forcefully “migrated” to impoverished regions where they faced tough living conditions. The fees for migration were usually embezzled by corrupted officials. Re-employment programs didn’t work. Some of the immigrants from the reservoir areas even became beggars, living by picking up trash. Some female immigrants sold themselves to make money.

In past years, China has regarded Asia’s Four Dragons, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore, as models to imitate and as competitors to catch up with. After over 25 years, this has left China with many economic problems.

All of these problems have caused China to become more and more like South American countries which experienced short-term economic booms, but quickly ended up in long-term busts. As for the exhausted resources and polluted environment, China has gone even farther than them.

The most apparent similarity between China and Asia’s Four Dragons is the export-oriented economy, and the most obvious difference between them is that Asia’s Four Dragons have efficiently curbed corruption, upheld social justice, and stressed harmonious development by practicing democracy. Naturally, the Four Dragons are gradually becoming westernized countries, which are rational and bright politically, and healthy economically.

The biggest similarity between China and South American countries is corruption and a politically-left orientation. This includes collusion between officials and merchants. The biggest difference between them is that South American countries have democratic institutions and their social conflicts have been dissolved effectively, but China is still an autocratic and totalitarian society, in which social antagonism caused by social injustice can’t be defused, and may come to a boiling point leading to complete collapse at any time. For example, the peaceful appeals by private citizens are barred violently by the authorities. Those migrants and farmers who have lost their land are furious with the government, but have no way to express their dissatisfaction.

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