I have enjoyed my few days so far in Beijing, all the feeling of a hexie society. However, that is only the superficial view of one man. According to this Tianya post (连接) from a mainland Chinese also overseas, the under-currents are not always so smooth. Many of those on TIanya, feeling their own discontent with society, applaud this post as being critical but balanced. For part 1, see here. NOTE: This is the translation of a Chinese BBS post, and does not necessarily represent my experience, nor my opinions.
The turbulence in China’s larger social environment, at root, has been caused by imbalanced development in Chinese society.
On the one hand, the laobaixing in China remain the most hard-working and good-natured anywhere. Just as I described before, waiters making 800 RMB can peacefully coexist with senior white-collar workers making tens of thousands of RMB per month. I’ve carefully watched their every action, and you can tell that they truly treasure this work despite its poor pay, and you can imagine how much less they must’ve made in their home villages.
But on the other hand, don’t know how long this situation can continue. These guys and gals haven’t intimately seen the excessive life of luxury that some people of their age can live. Maybe these guys/gals believed that by coming to the big city, it’s an opportunity; that if they work hard, they can create a future better than that of their parents generation. But what’s waiting for them? Is it really what they’re hoping for?
Take my younger cousin as an example. She’s cultured, and knows her way around Beijing. Chatting with her, its as if she’s come to accept that her treatment is lesser than that of other Beijing’ers. How this sort of thought was infused in her mind, for those of us who grew up in China, I think we’re all very clear. But, I don’t believe that this can forever maintain stability and harmony in society. We are all people and working hard. 20 years ago, the Chinese people were willing to work themselves to death over the slogan of “to each according to his work”, but when people find that reality is drastically different, then can they really maintain a balanced attitude?
When I read about the incident of Yang Jia killing cops in Shanghai, as soon as I read the headlines I knew Yang Jia would come from a poor family. Although the police who were killed are innocent, but after this kind of an incident, if only Yang Jia is asked to bear the burden, then regarless of how he’s punished, I can guarantee that a limitless suply of similar people will continue to rise to the surface. Inequality in society has caused some people with high expectations but without hopes to turn to violence and desperation. The rush of committing a crime, and the punishment they eventually receive, perhaps this is the only way they have to vent.
You can say modern China is built by very poor proletarians, being cheered on by a group of capitalists claiming to believe in Marxism/Leninism. Those leaders can describe themselves as very smart and very great, but they must also be clear that if they leave the people, they’re nothing. So today, do their descendents remember how their forefathers won this land? If this modern society continues to split into multiple classes, if those capitalists and their servants, if those with special rights continue to commandeer a large portion of society’s wealth, then after a new generation of proletariats become truly homeless and without wealth, then burning/killing/robbing will be their only path to survival. Execution or famine, which one is more uncomfortable?
This is especially the case because people in modern society want more than a meal. Even the poorest people have self-respect, have expectations for the future, have the right to seek equality. Communism is only a mirage, and no one holds any fantasies towards it, but a relatively equal Chinese society is an absolute necessity. A completely egalitarian society can not exist on this planet, no country can do it. But in relatively developed countries, the poor can always use their own efforts to achieve a certain stanard of living. So, people from around the world come to America speaking of the “American dream”. In China, eople are the same. A poor person without any connections, they still need a way to change their life. If honest hard work can not improve a poor person’s life, but if in their eyes if liars/cheats and violent criminals can advance themselves, then won’t they want to go the same path?
To society right now, the middle-class is the main support beam. For now, they have food, clothes, and few worries. But they are still pursuing a better life. For these people to do their work solidly, that’s the primary factor behind Chinese society’s stable development. But are they really very content with their lives right now?
The middle-class in China, as a group, is actually easier to instigate into anger than those poorer than them. They have better culture, and they’re very satisfied with the present situation. Many of my former classmates are in their ranks, making 5000 to 40000 RMB per month. They have no worries right now, but I believe they’re far from living in paradise. We don’t have to talk about work pressure; everyone faces that. But when the middle-class raises their eyes and sees those with special rights and capitalists stealing wealth, how do they feel? Based on what I know, many still have complaints in their hearts. On the other hand, they are wary of lower-class workers. They know that if the workers at the lowest level lose hope and become criminals, then those in the middle-class will be their easiest victims. So, take a look… every home in Beijing has an anti-thief door, and every window under three stories are covered with security caging. They rarely trust the good-will of strangers; those in the middle-class are also living in a state of concern.
Their spirits are fragile: if the stock market collapses, they can’t handle it. If they haven’t bought a home, when prices grow they feel horrible. If they’ve bought a house, when prices plunge they’ll commit suicide. The middle class has been spiritually broken by constantly changing government policies; they never know if, at any point, the stable life they live today will evaporate into smoke. After all, they’ve all seen the difficult lives lived by the workers of previous generations who used to live comfortably, but were then laid off during reforms.
What about the greatest winners of the reform period? Are they completely comfortable with their lives? As those at the top of the food chain, they’re the most clear that China isn’t at all how they’ve described it: peaceful, united, harmonious. Other than a small number amongst them who’ve been hugely successful through a combination of honest hard work and rare fortune, the vast majority are clear that their wealth comes from exchanging power for wealth, or from cruelly exploiting workers. They aren’t comfortable with the money they have, because they’re human beings, and even while they can hide their conscience, they can’t destroy their basic humanity. They also know that when the power they rely on doesn’t exist, then their wealth will become fatty winnings in the eyes of the new power-brokers.
In the top 10 list of the wealthiest people in China, other than a businessman involved in the solar pwer trade, the majority are real estate developers. This is not a normal scenario. And how many hidden wealthy people are out there? How many mine owners gained their wealth through technical expertise…? They’re grabbing everything they can, because they don’t know what tomorrow will be like. Find a judge, find an accountant, find a detective… and search the account books for the real estate developers, search the account books for these mining operations. My estimate is, probably 30% of real estate developers have acted illegally in buying land, and 30% have problems with their investment capital and taxes; 60% of mine owners have hidden problems. For me to say this, someone will ask whether I’m spreading rumors? I’m not saying this irresponsibly; if getting massive profits suddenly is actually legal, then the laws/policies themselves are no longer rational. For a business without any technology to win massive profits, then that can only be bad for a country’s development.
China is an interesting country, the Chinese have a philosophical quality not inferior to anyone. 30 years ago, the Chinese people received completely traditional socialist education. Everything that is happening in modern society today, in the eyes of the older generations, would be considered a crime in their generation. And even those who received middle school education 10+ years ago, textbooks in political classes would still with all serious discuss the abuses of “old society” and the ugliness of capitalist exploitation in other countries. Those of my age probably studied, in junior high school, the Western “sheep eating people movement”. In England, in order to raise more sheep for their wool, they forced people away and claimed their land for grazing ground. That was happening during the 18th and 19th centuries, during the “primitive appreciation” stage in England’s development, the exploitation of primitive capitalists against ordinary people. Classic textbooks in China used this as an example to prove why Western capitalist nations were inhumane and evil. And now, China is building factories and homes, is it really happening with completely harmony, with those forcibly moved completely content? And if that’s not the case, then if we use the same theories as used to exist in our textbooks, then what kind of movement is this? Who’s eating who?
So, the Chinese are turbulence, the Chinese aren’t comfortable. The kind of activity that we were taught 20 years ago as youths were the actions of a primitive capitalist society are now more and more common in China. We studied so earnestly back then, but now looking back, now we’re off-step from the government, we’re “counter-revolutionary”.
If China was like India, or a colonialized nation gradually transforming into a capitalist country, then the people can accept far more pressure during this primitive capital appreciation phase. But the fact is, all three generations of Chinese were raised with an education strongly critical of capitalism. And as the process of grabbing capital from ordinary citizens continues in China, while the highest levels are singing of a harmonious socety that focuses on the people… the obvious contrast between these two positions can lead any sort of conflict between two people into a battle of life and death.
The turbulence felt by Chinese, also comes from a clarity that we’ve never had before. For money, some are selling every they can sell. China’s resources, China’s environment, China’s labor, and even China’s basic morality…. when weighed against money, they’ve all lost. The people who’re selling these things from China, they have a certain power. The great majority of those who ache at seeing this don’t have the ability to stop them from selling the country. Maybe they can call out online, and when average people see it, they can only become more troubled because of their own inability to act.
China’s rare metal deposits represent 70% of the worlds’ total, and without these rare metals, industry (especially military industry) basically can’t proceed. But local officials and businesses have caused many of these rare meatls to be sold overseas for “foreign currency”. The really important resources are being bought and stored by foreigners, while we’ve traded for dollars and Japanese yen. And when we use these dollars to buy a share of America’s oil market in the Middle East, do Americans agree? When we take the Japanese Yen to buy development rights east of the middle-line in the East China Sea (see related: Has the Chinese government sold out China?), would Japan agree? Scholars with foresight have loudly complained, China must stop excessively exporting rare metals, and severely crack down on smuggling, or we’ll leave nothing for China’s future generations. When I see this I can only sigh; these officials and smuggling businesses, they’re only thinking of their future generations, how can they have time to think about China’s future generations? If they have money, their children can emigrate. What does the future of ordinary citizens have to do with them?
When I was attending university, I was the only Chinese person in my class. And when the professor was lecturing, he didn’t avoid me. When he spoke of the environment, he said the US is only doing design and research towards semiconductors, with production done in southeast Asia, Taiwan, and mainland China. Because semiconductor production harms the environment too much, and the cost of processing these waste material in the US is too high… so they put the production lines in Asia. The pollution behind randomly throwing away a cell phone is probably greater than the protection of recycling 100 aluminum cans. So, discarded chips and electronics are also sent to China and southeast Asia to handle.
I believe the management in China isn’t unaware of these problems, but for money, they’re willing to establish factories without effectively treating waste, allowing industrial waste to pollute our waters and mountains. And for more money, they’ll even accept garbage from overseas. When China’s gardens and scenery turn into wasted hills and disgusting rivers, this small group of peple will take the dollars and yen they’ve accumulated and leave this country. But for ordinary people, can they really hold on to a peaceful heart, and avoid feeling disturbed?