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Wealth, With PRC Characteristics
Sushil Seth, Taipei Times
In a recent forum on Australian TV, participants debated if China was headed
for a boom or bust. Many commentators around the world now regard continued economic growth of around 10 percent as a given -- and with it, the continued political monopoly of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is credited for the economic miracle.
It was therefore interesting to hear a number of informed participants in the studio audience express a healthy skepticism about those claims.
The optimists believe that the 21st century belongs to China. It will increasingly become the engine of global economic growth, benefiting not
Of late, some China experts or sympathizers have come to argue that economics has simply superseded politics in China.
Economics, in their view, is the new politics, and hence all the fuss about political pluralism is irrelevant.
The new history textbooks for high school students in Shanghai have virtually eliminated China's political history from their course content. According to a New York Times report from Beijing, "Socialism has been reduced to a single, short chapter in the senior high school history course Chinese communism before the economic reform that began in 1979 is covered in one sentence. The text mentions Mao Zedong only once -- in a chapter on etiquette."
China's history is now all about "economics, technology, social customs and
At the level of global politics, China's presumed emergence as a superpower is seen as a useful corrective to US unilateralism.
However, notwithstanding the rosy picture of China's future, there are many
The economy is overheating, and might be headed for a crash. In a recent survey by Caijing magazine, 56 percent of Chinese economists saw signs of overheating, up from 15 percent in April.
But even if this weren't the case, the economy's pace is creating various social and economic imbalances. There are sectoral imbalances resulting from misallocation of financial resources. For instance, state control of financial resources has resulted in a massive transfer of funds to the property sector, leading to an overheated real estate market. Indeed, there is a view that this is where the crash might occur, creating a ripple effect.
Inefficient use of financial resources in real estate and elsewhere has
The misuse of funds is also creating severe social problems. The overheated real estate market, fueled by funds which might be productively used elsewhere, is putting a financial squeeze on the urban middle class. As beneficiaries of the urban economic boom, this class is the CCP's support base.
If they continue to be financially squeezed with pricier real estate and higher educational and health costs, this base is likely to erode, swelling the numbers of those who have become frustrated and angry with China's rulers.
Rural areas, which have been squeezed to support the urban boom, are experiencing large-scale, though fragmented, unrest.
As there is not much developmental activity in the rural areas, there has
The country has become a volatile mix of all kinds of imbalances like the urban-rural divide, social and cultural alienation of rural workers in an unwelcome and exploitative urban environment, wide income disparities with
This is not all. China's environmental degradation, including poisoned
As for human rights, an example of their gross violations is the harvesting
The latest example is the mock trial and sentencing to four years imprisonment of the blind activist Chen Guangcheng, on the spurious charge of "organizing a mob to disturb traffic" and "damaging property." His real "crime" was to expose the practice of forced late-term abortions as part of China's one-child policy.
Editorializing on this, a Canadian newspaper, the Gazette, wrote: "This too is modern China. Profound injustice, it turns out, can co-exist with dramatic economic progress."
But for how long?
Sushil Seth is a writer based in Australia.
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