Monday, January 21, 2008

Op-Ed In Response to Choking on Growth

In Defense of The Great Chinese Communism Party

No country in the world is receiving the amount of attention China has been given these days. Merely two days after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, bang, Choking on Growth Part 9 took over the front page of New York Times again. The ten installments in this Pulitzer-winner-to-be series focus on China’s environmental issues, and the message is clear: desperate time calls for desperate measures; in China, the choice is between making radical changes right now or doing nothing and parish together. The former option, however, looks distant with the incompetence, or lack of clout, of China’s central government, who is known for its determined totalitarianism.

But of course, the western capitalist media couldn’t be more wrong.

For one thing, China has to feed nearly 23% of the world's population on about 7% of the world’s arable land, which is a miracle to start with, and it also means that any policy change in China would have this to consider first. For another reason, China is tired of the age of turbulence, in pursuing a harmonious society, the basic strategy of our government is to cover up the destabilizing factors and when that fails, we can simply introduce an attention-diversify factor to raise the morale of the Chinese people, such as the Olympic Games.

The central government is strong as ever, if not more, sacking the provincial officials for corruption, violation of birth-control policy, or failure to do their job and getting caught by some foreign media, or whatever reason that comes in handy when these officials have become a liability of the current administration.

As any Chinese would tell you, thanks to the ubiquitous education on the nature of our government, that our Party always represents the development trend of China's advanced productive forces, the orientation of China's advanced culture and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people. So why would our government care about the extinction of some turtle ninjas when it is only a phase of Darwinism anyway? Look what happened in California when they decided to redirect river stream to save the delta smelt. Why would our government halt the Three Gorges Dam project when it could generate power for the most developed part of our country at the small expense of some natural habitat, a few thousand-year historical sites, and homes to 1.13 million? Especially that we know the dam is going to function for about thirty to forty years. And why would our government be concerned about a few jailed activists? Without the snoopy foreign press, the majority of the Chinese wouldn’t even know about them, and if that makes them feel better about our country, why don’t we keep it so and tune down the voice of dissidents?

The dictum of our Party (a.k.a our government) is to “serve the people wholeheartedly”. And who would have done a better job? Our public officials are not only strict in their morals, in that they routinely visit their superiors with gifts of respect and never shun the lesser mortals at their doors, but they are also highly efficient in their work. Take the county authorities of Ninxia County Guanghuojie Town in Shanxi Province for example, the night before a sanitation examination from the higher administration, they effectively cleaned the county by dumping the homeless to a nearby county. Such magical thinking was soon adopted by neighboring counties and the ultimate death of a homeless person is but a bonus for solving the problem conclusively.

We also have a formidable police force and city inspectors. When professional and citizen journalists such as Wei Wenhua, Wu Xianghu, and Xiao Guopeng mess with the police operation by filming or writing about the methods used by the police in dealing with some daredevil protesters, the city inspectors would not hesitate to assert their authority by beating the journalists to deaths.

These are just a few proud moments of our “serving the people”, our true pride lies in the benefits we have brought to the millions of Chinese. Starting with the environmental-related sector - coal mines. According to the statistics published by The State Administration of Work Safety on January 12th, 2008, in 2007, the total number of incidental deaths in China is 101.5 thousand, a 27.2% drop from 2002. Coal mine accidents accounted for 3786 deaths, down by 20.2% from last year. Cai Chongguo of China Labor Bulletin disputed our official statistics, saying “the local authorities only came to know about these mine accidents long after they had occurred, and they do not wish to hear about these accidents; in addition, the mine owners don’t want the words to get out, so the enforcement of China’s coal mine safety regulation accountability system only lead the local Bureau of Mines and local governments to hush up coal mine accidents, therefore the official number is highly unreliable.” Therefore we conveniently blocked the China Labor Bulletin website to prevent these dangerous thoughts to contaminated the pure and innocent minds of the Chinese people, along with a number of human-rights website such as Reporters sans frontières, and general websites Wikipedia, BBC news, and blogs from Blogger, Livejournal, Wordpress, Opera, Typepad, etc. With a little help from our old friend Google and Yahoo, we can filter the web, image and news search, even gain access to public dissenters’ email boxes which lead to their arrests. The newly-released guideline for video sharing concludes it all: "Those who provide internet video services should insist on serving the people . . . and abide by the moral code of socialism."

This is not to say our great government has not noticed a few slight problems lying in the coal producing regions where China’s behemoth economy is largely build on. We know that for decades, the people there have been living in the perpetual danger of falling roofs, collapsing walls and sliding houses because of the mining. Just take one village for example, in 1973, an eight-year-old boy was killed by collapsing house in Haojiazhai Village, 100 kilometers south of Taiyuan, Shanxi Province. The villagers protested and over a year later, they won their appeal and the 140 families and 1,000 people resettled. The mining companies followed, so the villagers had to relocate again in 1990. None of these was compensated; the local activists, Hua Lin and Gui Qing were attacked and Hua Lin’s family severely beaten. Our government of the people provided 7 billion yuan between 2003 and 2004 as relocation compensation to people living in subsiding mining areas, which accounts for over 1,900 villages and more than one million people in Shanxi Province alone. But a couple of hundred yuan for each person should be more than enough to rebuild their homes since these places were originally poor. And growing crops on a little patch of land with ten times the population density as their original land is a test to their “advanced productivity force”.

We acknowledge that once in a while, an accident involving over a hundred deaths in these coal mining areas was overlooked, but it is only because of the extensiveness of the problem, when it comes to specific projects that would potentially sabotage environment as well as people’s lives, our government shows tremendous sense of responsibility. The 2006 project of building a petrochemical plant manufacturing paraxylene (PX) in Xiamen received its planning review on December 2007, after the appeal of 105 members of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in March and protests of thousands of locals in May. The planning review, though having no legal or administrative power and was submitted to the local government and planning authorities for approval instead of environmental authorities, as pointed out by Liu Jianqiang, a reporter and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, is nevertheless what the locals believe could determine whether they would continue living in this idyllic coastal city or under the threat of hazardous chemical and carcinogen, and thus give them a considerable boost in morality. How we enjoy the naivety of our citizens!

Our greatest achievement is in the economic and social sector. Our fiscal revenue is projected to reach 5.1 thousand trillion yuan in 2007, a rise of 33.5% from last year, according to the report by Xie Xuren, China’s minister of finance, on National Work Conference on Finance last month. Compared to these numbers, the minor lost of 60 trillion yuan in interest every year of the depositors because of the current two-percent negative interest, according to economist Zhong Wei, is quite neglectable. So is the 200 trillion yuan lost of the farmers in the last twenty (mostly recent) years because of the low-price land requisitions.

At the expanse of the labor force, we have soaring Chinese enterprises. The percentage of labor remuneration in GDP dropped from 53.4% to 41.4% in the year 1990 to 2005, while at the same time, operating balance in GDP rose from 21.9% to 29.6%. In the industrial sector, the income distribution likewise leans towards to capital holders. In 1998, the total wage of state-owned and larger industrial enterprises is 2.4 times of their profits, whereas the percentage plunged to 0.43 as of 2005, according to The Chinese Enterprises Competitiveness Report (2007) released by The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in November. Such income distribution is a calculated stimulation for the labor workers to become CEOs so that they can have lucrative income with even less tax.

Our great government has also learned from the failure of the European governments who maintain a social benefit so high that their people have lost the “spirit of revolution” and turned negligent. We, as representatives of advanced productive forces, believe that people can take care of themselves by hardworking and therefore need little help from the government to pay for their health expanse, unemployment or retirement. In 2004, 37.6% of our fiscal expenditure was in administrative affairs, compared to 12.5% in the United States, 11.6% in economic construction expenses compared to 5.0% in the U.S., and 25% in public service and social administration compared to 75% in the U.S., according to Zhou Tianyong, vice director of the Research Department of The Party School of The Central Committee of The C.P.C.. Some scholars pointed out that the percentage of our fiscal expenditure in people’s basic livelihood in the national GDP in the recent few years was the lowest in the world. It is our Communistic pride to work to have a better life, not to have a perfect life handed to them by the government.

And besides, our national economy is not as Brobdingnagian as some would believe. Last month, the World Bank pegged China’s GDP at $6-trillion, 60% of the original estimate. And the hoarding foreign exchange reserve ($1.53 trillion as calculated by the end of 2007) is becoming more of a millstone than a bless as the U.S. economy slipping towards recession. The bottom line is, we have to choose what we spend on with fastidious care. As for now, there are far more important projects to invest in than spending our money to insure the basic life quality of our citizens: the Chang’e lunar orbiter project has cost 1.4 billion yuan ($187 million), and in 2008, China plans to launch 15 rockets, 17 satellites, and one spaceship. Our people would be much better off once we have conquered the universe.

We have also learned from the success of American healthcare system and took it further. According to WHO’s 2005 World Health Report, countries such as India, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, Myanmar have adopted a free healthcare system for all their citizens; the European governments pay for at least 80% of the medicare, the government of the United States takes care of 45.6% of their healthcare, while China is paying 17%, which put us number four to the last in WHO’s world health funding and distribution equity chart. Of the 17% paid by our government, more than 80% goes to the 8.5 million Party cadres. According to officials in Ministry of Supervision and Ministry of Personnel who are too humble to be named, nationwide, 2 million Party and government cadres take long term sick leaves; 0.4 million occupy special cadre wards, cadre hotels, vacation villages, regaled with seafood and champagne, costing 50 trillion yuan every year. This is the ultimate demonstration of Chinese’ reverence and respect for the old and powerful.

Our serve-the-people government tells us to sacrifice. The workers continued the subway construction for the Olympics after the collapsing tunnel killed five of their colleagues, because they have a promise to keep and miles to build before they sleep. The gargantuan south-to-north water project speeds on, draining the south to feed the thirst of the north, price-tagged at $ 59 billion and costing the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and fundamental changes in the hydrology and ecology of two river systems. Not to mention the $40 billion tax-payers’ money to be splurged for the Olympics according to Wall Street Journal, and the sacrifice of 1.5 million Beijing residents who would have been forced to relocate by 2008 according to Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions in Geneva. Indeed, our Party is to be saluted for bringing out the goodness in our people: how noble in reason! how infinite in faculties!

And now as I’m coming to the end of the article, I cannot help being thankful for our great Communism Party for not including free textbooks in our free compulsory education system because otherwise I wouldn’t have the chance to give my young friends in the AIDS-villages some good readings for the winter break. All is said, Caesar smiles down at us: Libenter homines id quod volunt credunt.

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