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"Surprisingly", Compulsory Education is Free!

Education is important to China’s future, and education reform has been a long drawn-out complex process, which people of all stripes agree has basically been inadequate. From the early days of Project Hope corruption to the current education spending that still hasn’t reached the 4%-of-GDP target set by the central government, people have much to complain about. Among all the problems, one most depressing had to have been that basic primary/secondary education required all kinds of fees and therefore no universal access to education existed.

Recently, this topic of compulsory education came up again in the news, and the focus is again on whether the government does not have the resources or will to further invest in education. Here is a translated commentary that will open our debate here. It is seen on the China Elections & Governance web site (joint project between Carter Center and Renmin University), itself a treasure trove of current policy thinking.


By Zhang Gang (April 3, 2009)

In China, anything touching on negative news or requiring the government to bear “greater responsibility” will see somebody jump forth to deny it.

This is perhaps politics with Chinese characteristics.

A few days ago, Deputy Director Sun Xiaoyun of the China Youth Research Center under the CCP Youth League revealed during an interview that the 9-year compulsory education may be expanded to 12 years, but whether the extension is to be upward to include high school, or downward to include pre-school hasn’t been worked out yet.

Even while this news hasn’t been out for 24 hours, there is already somebody from the Ministry of Education jumping out to say, “Because a characteristic of compulsory education is that it’s free education, currently the country still doesn’t have the financial resources.”

Actually, the Ministry need not have been so hasty, we countrymen already have a well-rehearsed attitude of not daring to believe one promise out of a hundred. Only, what shocked me is this is the first time I have heard from people affiliated with the Ministry of Education that, one characteristic of compulsory education is that it’s supposed to be free education. Aiyaya, how I have been ignorant!

Let me dial this back 14 years.

In 1995, I graduated from a teacher’s university and was allocated to a village middle school to teach. During this, the head teacher of the same grade became seriously ill. The principal saw I was “young and promising” (the principal found me after being turned down by numerous teachers), so gave me a heavy responsibility: I would take over the cohort. As I had a boiling blood of passion in my heart, I accepted on the spot. It was a kind of come-what-may enthusiasm.

It came quickly to the close of the year, and time to collect the annual tuition and miscellaneous fees. In my eyes, paying tuition and misc. fees was perfectly natural, as natural as going to the market to buy food. For instance, in 1984 (two years before the compulsory education law), I paid 5 quid of tuition and fees. Five years later, I paid 120 quid for middle school. When I finally turned from student into teacher, tuition for the second year of middle school had already grown to 270 yuan. Since I was taking over, it was the first that I learned of the unspoken rules: anyone paying in 20 days is rewarded with school supplies (these were all stuff sent from above that were supposed to be given to students but weren’t, so now they were prizes), and the head teacher gets 10 yuan for every paying student; anyone paying from day 21 to 30 receives no reward, while the head teacher gets 5 yuan. With such rewards, the teachers complied well. Old-hand head teachers would quickly collect from a good proportion of students. From observation, classical tactics included linking paying fees with two-student competition (that is, two students would compete on variuos quantifiable areas, and periodically the loser buys stuff for the winner as punishment). This was most effective among students with good grades or well-to-do families; for such students it was about face, more than winning or losing. For the students without good grades or were not proactive in paying for economic reasons, the policy was stern and merciless shaming, e.g. announce who hadn’t paid every three days. Students without thick skins would find all possible ways to get their parents to comply, and the thick-skinned stubborn elements required parent meetings, writing promisory letters, making them listen to lecture from the outside, even turning them out of school.

This young and promising youth knew not what to do after seeing this. After one week, other head teachers were doing well, but those paying in the class I led could be counted on one hand. Although I was very reluctant, the leaders still encouraged me to put down my baggage and start the machine. I started to chat with students heart-to-heart, trying to convince them or move them, to no avail. During this time, a naughty student’s question “shocked” me: Teacher, our “Civics” textbook says our country practices 9 years of compulsory education, then why do we still have to pay? Foreign countries also have compulsory education but they don’t charge their students. This question aroused resonance with other students: Yes, yes, even the textbook says it’s compulsory education, why do they still charge us?

I didn’t know how to answer immediately. It was a question that confounded me for many years. Back when I was at the teacher’s college, we even studied the “Compulsory Education Law” especially. Why is compulsory education not free?

I felt really ignorant and stupid, so I reported to the principal and sought advice from “more experienced” teachers. Clearly, they could not give me a satisfactory answer, just as I could not give one to my students, for they gave me a “superglue” (catch-all) answer: our situation has special characteristics, doing otherwise does not accord with our country’s condition. But they asked me not to tell the students that, but to tell them “compulsory education means the law requires your parents to send you to school to study, that’s your parents’ responsibility; if they don’t send you to school, they break the law!”

Not much afterwards, at the request of sir principal, I proactively handed my cohort to a “richly experienced” vice principal, the reason being failure of execution: I had neither the thick skin to play my students, nor the words to convince them.

Just like that, my short-lived “leadership” career was over.

But I had no regrets, but rather “matured” from it. I learned from many common people the ways of life that a noble person would never comprehend:

From the school accountant I learned that “what you get to see has absolutely no problems, the problems you absolutely do not get to see.” From the old fenqing I learned that “in China, but for corruption, everything is fake.” From the director responsible for maintenance, I learned “what is the purpose of construction? it isn’t to let people live in a building, but to see it fall down soon so it can be rebuilt; what is the purpose of paving a road? it isn’t to let people walk on it, but to see it break down soon so it can be repaved.” It is said that these have become classical catch-phrases, not just words on paper.

Living life requires experience? Or rather, wisdom lives in the people?

—Today is the first time that I have ever heard somebody from the Ministry of Education say that compulsory education is actually free! This really astonished me! That is to say, due to comforming to the needs of our country’s condition, from year 1986 (tuition waived) to year 2006 (Compulsory Education Law revised to waive tuition and misc. fees), we have been all along breaking the law, and letting our children see us break the law and lie to them?

Aiyaya, nevermind!

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  1. bianxiangbianqiao
    April 14th, 2009 at 18:02 | #1

    The state is not doing enough for primary and secondary education (and many other things, like health care) in rural areas and poor regions.

    In most cities (large and small), schools are a lot better. One gradual solution to the problems of rural education and poverty is probably urbanization, creating enough opportunities in the cities for more and more people to move out of the areas that are hard to develop. This approach is an addition to improving the conditions in the poor rural areas.

  2. Nimrod
    April 14th, 2009 at 18:26 | #2

    There was another article with an interview with an education official. Since I don’t understand this area very well, a few things were surprising to me:

    1. That education funding and implementation, like for much of policy in China, is highly decentralized. The localities get some money, but mostly they come up with their own money and build their own schools. In rural areas, taxes are collected to do this, so there is a wide disparity in conditions between rich and poor localities.

    2. One explanation given was that the government fiscal policy had been investment oriented, not social service oriented. I don’t get this… is central government disbursement a modern phenomenon? Does anybody understand what the budgeting process is like?

    3. There is the accusation that the Ministry of Education is more focused on higher education (universities) where there are higher returns and visible results to show, rather than improving basic education, which is a social service.

    As to urban education, the migrant workers children at least get schooling now, but they the rural people can’t all crowd into the few metropolises… there is not enough space and it doesn’t promote even development.

  3. April 15th, 2009 at 01:56 | #3

    It’s worth remembering that China performs better than most countries in its lower middle income class on most indicators of per capita educational attainment levels. Before 1949, more than 80 percent of the Chinese population was illiterate, but by the year 2000 that number had declined to a mere 6.72 percent. The 2000 census data showed adult literacy at 91.3 percent, and literacy for those under forty years of age at 95.2 percent. By 2005, both China and Indonesia had achieved youth literacy rates of 99 percent, bringing them on par with much wealthier Singapore. Since 1980, notes the American sociologist, Doug Guthrie, ‘the number of university students in China has increased by more than 200 percent; the number of faculty in universities has increased by almost 75 percent; the number receiving postgraduate education has increased by about 1,600 percent; the number of students studying abroad has increased by more than 1,000 percent; and the number of study-abroad students who have returned to China has increased by more than 4,500 percent.’

    Despite these impressive achievements, which have brought about the massive expansion of opportunities for many, it needs to be remembered that as of the year 2000, less than 4 percent of the total population held university degrees and 38 percent received only primary schooling, with only half of the population finishing the nine-year term of compulsory education. In the impoverished countryside, where there is a lack of both resources and qualified teachers, about 10 percent of children are not even able to attend primary schools.

    So yes, there are serious disparities – a general inequality between urban and rural areas – as bianxiangbianqiao points out above.

    bianxiangbianqiao also suggests that ‘One gradual solution to the problems of rural education and poverty is probably urbanization, creating enough opportunities in the cities for more and more people to move out of the areas that are hard to develop. This approach is an addition to improving the conditions in the poor rural areas.’

    I agree. Some years ago I did some voluntary teaching in a small primary school in Zhongdian, in Yunnan Province. I recall one day having an interesting conversation with the principal, an ethnic Tibetan, who made the point that being able to speak fluent Mandarin and English could help his students to find jobs. New hotels were then under construction, the road from Lijiang was being upgraded, and many of the local villages in the area had only just received power and water facilities for the very first time. No doubt both the local government and tour operators were viewing the nearby monastery as a destination worth promoting, seeing it as the main attraction of their new ‘Shangri-la.’

    According to the principal, back in 2003, government investment in the prefecture was 1.7 billion yuan, which was more than the previous thirty years of state investment combined. He surmised that by the time his students become adults they will be able to find jobs as tour guides or as hotel or restaurant staff, provided they can speak good Mandarin or English. ‘Tourism and poverty relief are one and the same thing,’ he said.

    Enticing qualified teachers from the cities into remote rural areas is never easy though. The primary school I spent a breif period of time teaching at in Zhongdian for example, was expected to teach English as part of their curriculum, but simply had no English language teacher to run the program. The school had to make do by sharing a Tibetan English language teacher with the local high school. He was quite fluent and well trained, but was only able to visit the primary school for half a day a week.

    The school was very clearly lacking in resources.

    On another occasion, while in Nangang village, located in the Liannan Yao Autonomous County in Guangdong Province, my spouse Xiaojing and me met a small family of two – an elderly woman and her young grandson – who invited us into their home for some homemade wine and some boiled peanuts. Xiaojing struck up quite a rapport with the boy, whose name was Tang Ming. He told us that he was twelve years of age, and that both his parents had died when he was only four. He lived here alone with his grandmother, who he said was sixty-five years of age, and that he regularly attended school as a fourth-grade student – though he had to walk a good hour each morning to reach his school, which he said was located in one of the larger villages on the lower slopes. When Xiaojing asked him what his favourite subject was, he answered Mandarin, though he said he had to borrow textbooks from his teachers each day, as he couldn’t afford to buy any of his own. The cost of these textbooks, he said, totalled forty-five yuan per semester, which is ninety yuan per year – a mere fourteen Australian dollars.

    We gave him fifty yuan, though I have no idea whether he actually ever spent the money on his textbooks or not. He didn’t even own a pen or a pencil, and I suspect that he probably didn’t even attend school regularly. The only item of furniture in the house, apart from one small wooden stool, was a chest of drawers, which I assume they kept mostly of their clothes in. The house had a dirt floor and only one bed, which comprised of little more than a cushion of straw and which they both shared. Tang Ming’s grandmother always cooked indoors she said, over a small fire, though none of the homes in the village possessed chimneys, so you can imagine the kind of long-term damage the smoke must do to their lungs. The interior was entirely covered in soot, and every time she needed water young Tang Ming had to go outside to fetch it in a bucket from the communal bamboo aqueduct.

    Again, trying to attract well qualified and trained teachers from urban areas to live and work in villages like this is enormously challenging.

    I taught mostly in unversities during my time in China, and was employed by the New South Wales Department of Education and Training – my current employer, and my employer on and off for the past eighteen years. During my last year in China I taught Certificate IV English to a group of logistics management students at Shunde Polytechnic, in Guangdong Province, preparing them for entry into a joint-degree program with Queensland’s Griffith University. Some of my students came from wealthy middle-class backgrounds, from nearby Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Others though, had more modest backgrounds, having come from poorer rural villages. Allow me to quote at length a chunk from my book, which details a conversation I had one lunch break with a student of mine. I found her to be such an inspiring young lady. Her story is not unlike those of countless others – literally hundreds of thousands of others like her – who struggle with determination to better their lives. Just about every person I ever met throughout the five years that I spent in China, even those I encountered at the lowest rungs of the social ladder, struck me as being determined in their struggles to create for themselves a better life. Haijiao’s story is typical, yet so deeply inspiring, and it certainly illustrates very clearly the importance of education to the lives of village kids:

    * * *

    The campus restaurant is flooded by a hungry tide of students – all eager to satisfy their rumbling bellies, the plates they load with stir-fried vegetables and meat. I quickly retreat to the back of the room, anchoring myself to a seat.

    Haijiao approaches, and asks if she can join me. ‘I enjoy your
    teaching,’ she says as she straightens her back, her eyes full of pride.

    ‘I think our Teacher Mark is a candle, bringing light to us all.’

    ‘That’s a very beautiful metaphor,’ I smile.

    Happy, she begins to chew on her bitter gourd with beef. ‘This is
    called kugua ban niu rou,’ she says. ‘It’s my favourite food. My mother always prepares this for me whenever I return home to visit my family. They live in Lei Liu village. It’s a long way from here. Would you like to taste?’

    I accept her offer, and remove a spoonful from her plate.

    ‘Mmmm, very delicious,’ I say. ‘It has a nice soya bean flavour,
    and with a pleasing hint of garlic.’

    Her face brightens again, and she begins to tell me about her
    family.

    ‘There are six members in my family – my parents, two sisters, my brother and me. I am the eldest child in my family, and my brother is the youngest. My father is now forty-one years old, and my mother is thirty-nine years old, but I am nearly twenty-one years old now.’

    ‘So your mother was only eighteen when she had you. She was
    very young.’

    ‘Yes. I admire my mother very much. She always works hard in
    our home and tells me not to be a lazy girl, so I study hard. She is proud of me. All the housework is administered by her. But my father is a very reserve man. He considers that girls needn’t go to university, but should just find a man to marry. I can understand Father’s thoughts, he has four children, but our family is very poor. But I want to study more, because I don’t want our life to stay the same like this forever, so studying is my best choice. Luckily my mother supports me to study; otherwise I’d be married to a simple man by now. I think I must be independent and learn how to make my own life.’

    ‘Your mother sounds like a very strong character – the family
    suffragette!’

    ‘My mother is my compass, showing me the correct direction.’

    We chat on, and I begin to realise just how extraordinary a young lady Haijiao is. Her old primary school teacher, she says, recognising her potential, lent her the money to pay for her university tuition fees – a debt she fully intends to some day pay back in full. She is the first person in her entire family to have ever made it to university, and her most important goal now she says is to find a part-time job during the semester break so that she can try to save enough money to help pay for the educational expenses of her younger siblings.

    ‘In the future, maybe I can afford to provide a house for my
    parents in the city. We can enjoy a modern life there. People in our village are too poor, and are very superstitious. Last time, when I returned home to Lei Liu to visit my parents, I saw some people killing a black dog before throwing it into a pond. I didn’t understand why they were doing this, so I asked my mother why these people killed the dog and threw it into the pond. My mother said, “If someone drowns in the pond, the family of the dead person must kill a black dog and throw it into the same pond. If they don’t do like this, their child’s spirit won’t go to heaven.” I don’t like their backward kind of thinking. It shows their feudalism.’

    Her steely determination to shape her own future impresses me,
    and so I refill her cup with tea, curious to know what kind of job
    she’s hoping to find once she graduates.

    ‘I want to use my Logistics Management degree to find a job with Haier Group, that company is world’s fourth largest white goods manufacturer. This company is guided by excellent leadership of CEO Zhang, and has a big factory here in Shunde. But in the society, job-hopping is now normal among the young people. Some persons prefer sticking to just one job to changing jobs frequently. They think if they can insist on one job all the time, they will have a chance to be promoted to the better position one day. This kind of persons don’t like adventure, they enjoy the stable lives. On the contrary, some others like changing jobs for different challenges. I will step into the society after two years, and I hope I will find a good job that is really fit for me. Maybe I won’t stay at the same job, because I want to try different challenges to cultivate myself. I don’t want to become stale. Chances wait for no woman. So we must take hold of each chance by ourselves, ride each wave as it comes.’

    The lunch hour ends with the tide leaving as quickly as it had
    rolled in. Haijiao stands and excuses herself, and rushes off to her next class, no doubt pleased with herself for having seized the opportunity to practice with me her spoken English.

    I might be a candle, I quietly muse, but Haijiao is an Olympic torch, whose flame I hope will never die out.

  4. Raj
    April 15th, 2009 at 13:52 | #4

    I remember when the agricultural tax was abolished most people celebrated it, but it soon became apparent that the local governments weren’t going to be given any central funds to make up for it. So either they had to increase other taxes or cut spending – guess which won out. Nimrod I think you’ve touched on this point already.

    You would have thought decentralisation would be best for a country like China, but perhaps with no political competition there’s no reason for local CCP administrations to increase education spending for poorer Chinese or the central government to provide more funds. So probably it will require more more money from Beijing or at least tighter control to force officials to make money available one way or another. Urbanisation won’t solve much because the extra schools with good facilties and quality teachers will still be required.

  5. Wahaha
    April 15th, 2009 at 14:39 | #5

    “….but perhaps with no political competition there’s no reason for local CCP administrations to increase education spending for poorer Chinese or the central government to provide more funds….”

    Raj,

    keep spewing the nonsense.

    Did you see the picture of those students in SiChuan Earthquake ? They study English in elementary school. Do you know when we started studying English 20 years ago ?

    and THE EARTHQUAKE AREA ARE WAS AMONG THE POORERST REGION IN CHINA,

    Get a clue how stupid and moronic your comment is ?

    BTW, whether a government is for people or not for people is not decided by voting. The simplest way is having a look of if lower 50% of people benefit from the police carried out by the government. The government in China is far more representitive of poor people than any countries on earth.

    If you dont agree, fine, name a government that its policy give more to lower 50% of people in its country than Chinese government has done.

    Please dont pull some crap of “human right” out of textbook. you are talking about “people’s government”, so let us look the lower 50% of people (the people who need government help) get from government.

    If you cant, you are just a pathetic hater.

  6. Nimrod
    April 15th, 2009 at 15:48 | #6

    Wahaha,

    I don’t think that’s what Raj is saying … no need to get personal.
    Back to the topic.
    In recent years the situation has gotten better. I hear that there are only some 27 counties left that do not have 9-year free education now. But it took a long time to get there. Sometimes good intentions don’t work out. In 1986, tuition became free, but miscellaneous fees kept going up unchecked. Now that is gone (or is it capped?) but there are other problems like good schools vs. bad schools. All I know is the official reasons don’t make much sense. Financial resource shouldn’t be a problem, and 4% of GDP is not much; somebody even compared it to Uganda. So what’s going on, what are the real difficulties? Maybe not enough teachers? Maybe there is a need for an under-educated labor pool? Otherwise education should be one of these no-brainers, it really drives me nuts that universal access is not the highest priority on the agenda.

  7. Wahaha
    April 15th, 2009 at 16:01 | #7

    Nimord,

    I dont think I misunderstood Raj, anything bad or bad in his bizarre imagination in China is related to the ‘tyranny’ in China, like once CCP is gone, everything will be OK.

    Back to your question “So what’s going on, what are the real difficulties?”

    One of the reasons is no good teachers, that is what is going on. I heard some graduates in big cities rather work for 1000 yuan a month in big city than 6000 yuan a month in poor area.

    BTW, a graduate can get very very good salary to teach in Tibet.

  8. huaren
    April 15th, 2009 at 22:42 | #8

    @Wahaha

    I completely agree with your take on Raj’s twisted sense of logic. There is no goodwill from that tiny corner of the world, you know what I mean? The success of China alone will cause that corner to kill over. I love that thought and sure you do too. 🙂

    @Nimrod

    I don’t understand what is your point?

    @MAJ

    Thx for sharing the story of Haijiao.

  9. April 16th, 2009 at 01:31 | #9

    Raj said: “You would have thought decentralisation would be best for a country like China, but perhaps with no political competition there’s no reason for local CCP administrations to increase education spending for poorer Chinese or the central government to provide more funds.”

    Raj, my understanding is that decentralisation has produced both positive and negative outcomes, although I think most would agree that the positives have to date outweighed the negatives. Many economists and sociologists alike say that decentralisation has been a key factor in promoting and facilitating China’s rapid economic development since the Deng reforms.

    In terms of education spending – at the local level of government, especially in poorer rural areas, spending priorities to date have been focussed on developing basic infrastructure. As I said in my comment above, if we take Zhongdian as an example (and I believe it is quite a typical example) the large increases in government investment in the local prefecture since 2003 have been spent providing the basics, which is what most locals also see as being the priority. In Zhongdian’s case, developing the local tourism industry was seen as the best long-term development strategy, since the region can capitalise on local cultural assets, as well as scenic assests. New hotels to accommodate tourists were thus prioritised, along with the construction of a new, safer road from Lijiang (where there is an airport) and in 2004 many of the local villages in the area received power and water facilities for the very first time.

    Improving school infrastructure is not normally the first priority, because without basic infrastructure, like electricity and water facilities, and decent accommodation, it is difficult to attract not only tourists, but also quality teachers. If the local economy cannot provide long-term decent employment opportunities, local graduates will simply move on to find employment in larger urban settings – so local economies will only then suffer brain drain.

    This is the kind of logic behind the thinking of local officials when it comes to development plans and the spending of central government allocated investment funds. They are right in their way of thinking, in my opinion. Spending scare resources on schools without first providing the basics would be a big mistake. Remember Raj, China is not a high income country. It falls into the lower-middle income class, and so its financial resources are limited and thinly stretched. The eastern coastal regions were initially prioritised for development because of their close access to port facilities, and so funds have been disproportionately directed to coastal cities to date. Developing the western regions is now the next big challenge.

    Also Raj, you should not overlook the democratic role played by local villagers when it comes to lobbying their local representatives. You are wrong to think that there is “no political competition”. Think of the role of village elections for example. I know that the system of village elections has produced mixed results and that it allows for a very limited form of democracy, but it would be wrong to dismiss them as having no tangible results for local constituents. There is perhaps no better authority on China’s village-level democracy than Dr. Anne Thurston, a professor at The Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, for she, as one commentator has noted, “understands better than most the need to leave stereotypes at home when exploring the People’s Republic, and instead to bring an open mind, an ear attuned to cultural nuance, and an academic’s eye for assessing what is really going on beneath surface appearances.”

    Thurston observed three rounds of village elections in nearly twenty villages spread throughout three provinces between 1995 and 1997 alone, and she has observed many more since. According to her, “village-level elections have begun to resolve many pragmatic needs of ordinary citizens – such as the construction of roads, wells, and other quality of life issues – through democratic means.”

    She also says “that village elections have led to significant tangible and intangible changes in local administration” in that “village finances are now made public and are usually placed prominently on a community bulletin board. Less obviously, while many pre-election era officials have retained almost identical positions after the introduction of voting, they seem to have a new sense of responsibility to their constituents.” (see Thurston’s report, “Muddling through Democracy”)

    Many other observers have produced similar assessments, like Dr Suzanne Ogden for example.

    Huaren – I’m glad you enjoyed my sharing of Haijiao’s story. She is inspirational, yet typical, and her story does, as I said, illustrate the growing importance of education to village kids and their families.

    One thing that I think we can all agree on – you, me, Raj, everyone – is that kids like Haijiao deserve to have access to quality educational facilities. But economic development is always going to be an uneven process, no matter where and when it occurs. The right question to consider then, as I said to Raj in an earlier comment on another thread, is not whether the glass is half empty or half full, but whether the glass is in the process of being filled or emptied.

  10. April 16th, 2009 at 01:59 | #10

    One more thing – I have noticed that some commenters here have a strong dislike for Raj, and are quick to attack him personally whenever he leaves comments here. I’d like to second what Nimrod said in his earlier comment above: there’s no need to get so personal.

    I know all too well what it’s like to be ganged up upon and attacked personally for expressing views that the majority in a particular online community disapprove of. Blogs like this lose their value if they simply serve as venues for people to experience a desublimated form of pleasure gained through the fanning of conflict. Attacking others may be cathartic for some, entertaining for others, but in the absence of Ego, which is a feature of the cyber world, Id all too often seems to enjoy free reign. I know I am guilty of once having subverted a particular online community myself, not so much by attacking people through the firing off of personal insults, but by mocking others through the use of cyber fictives (like my Dr. Anne Myers character), but it was through the process that I came to appreciate the error of my way. My behaviour at that time though, in creating cyber fictives to serve as allies, was largely a response to finding myself ganged up upon and constantly attacked personally or dismissed as a CCP stooge, etc.

    Let’s debate the issues raised here in a friendly manner, and in the spirit of developing our own assessments. Blog debates can provide a dialectical process of development, if we debate in the right spirit.

  11. Raj
    April 16th, 2009 at 11:40 | #11

    keep spewing the nonsense

    So you don’t agree that the abolishment of the agricultural tax in any way impacted on local government’s resources? Or that you’ve picked on a single comment I made, caveated by the word “perhaps”?

    Did you see the picture of those students in SiChuan Earthquake ? They study English in elementary school.

    An unfortunate example given that in some cases the worst affected buildings were the schools for poor children. But your point is still irrelevant given that there are schools in every country in the world, usually even in poor areas. The issue is what sort of education is being provided, how many families can access it, etc.

    The simplest way is having a look of if lower 50% of people benefit from the police carried out by the government.

    That’s a silly way of measuring anything because you have set the bar as low as you possibly could. If there was a 0.1% increase in standards/provision of a service that would fulfill your criteria. You have to look at what is being done and then compare it to what could be done.

    Also the “lower 50%” would probably suck up middle class or working class families who do not need government assistance (or if they do, only a smaller amount). You should look at those who need help.

    If you dont agree, fine, name a government that its policy give more to lower 50% of people in its country than Chinese government has done.

    Ok, I would choose the UK’s National Health Service policy, which provides free, comprehensive health care to all people regardless of whether they live in the cities or rural areas. Also if you’re poor you don’t have to pay anything for prescriptions. Some regions like Wales even cancelled prescription charges for everyone.

    I’ll even double up and cite our education policy. If you’re poor you can get free nursery places, free primary school education, free secondary school education, free meals, no tuition fees at university and a grant towards the cost of living.

  12. Wahaha
    April 16th, 2009 at 16:20 | #12

    Blah, blah, blah,

    0.1%, where did you get this number? 20 years ago, average income in China is below $500, do you know math ? allow me to show you :

    500 x ( 1 + 0.1%) ^ 20 = 510

    I said your bizarre imagination is beyond anyone’s imagination.

    Using UK as example ? how pathetic !!! If a country with $40,000+ average income couldnt provide better health service than a country with $3,000 average income …

    Wait a minute, what are you trying to say ? huh ? Allow me to repeat the story I mentioned before :

    In Shui Dynasty, there was a kid emperor who was born an idiot. One year, there was drought and thousands of people died from starvation. When the kid emperor was told the death of thousands people, he asked ” why didnt they eat chickens ?”

  13. Wahaha
    April 16th, 2009 at 16:31 | #13

    MAJ,

    Thanks for the advise.

    There is no reason to explain something whose only purpose of coming here is spewing his hatred or pissing off us.

    There are lot of issues in China that should be corrected, for example, people didnt get paid for their hard job, pollution, police violence (AGAINST HAN CHINESE), but they wont talk about it, why ? cuz it is hard to sell their agenda by talking about those issues.

    Look at Thailand, that is what people like Raj want to see in China, so be nice to him ? I dont hate him, there is no point to hate a hater, be nice to him ? sorry. I cant be nice to a person who cant wait China become another Thailand or India.

  14. Oli
    April 16th, 2009 at 17:21 | #14

    @ Raj

    OK, see this as me throwing the guantlet down and for the sake of cross cultural understanding.

    Now that you’ve told us all that is so great about the British NHS (National Health Service), why don’t you tell us what YOU think is NOT right with it?

  15. huaren
    April 16th, 2009 at 18:12 | #15

    @MAJ, #10

    I appreciate that perspective.

    For a lot of readers here, those without any goodwill and have some sort of agenda to see a country or its people fail are despicable. I don’t care what cloak they hide behind – “human rights”, pretending to be some people who he is not, etc, etc..

    @Wahaha, #13

    I am completely with you against the BS. We should be careful not to antagonize Thailand or India. They have their circumstances to deal with.

  16. JXie
    April 16th, 2009 at 18:55 | #16

    @MAJ#3

    [A]s of the year 2000, less than 4 percent of the total population held university degrees.

    The base of that # is probably the population of 6 or older. If you limit to 20 or older, the number worked out to 5.1% in 2000 and 9.6% in 2007. The “university degrees” include those from 2- to 5-year programs.

    It takes a long time to raise that number in the general population. As of now roughly 20 million youths reach 18 each year (typical age to enter colleges). And this year China will likely graduate some 7 million from all sort of 2+ year college programs, including adult education and remote education. It works out to 35+% of youths will graduate from some sort of colleges eventually. Looks kind of impressive, but even with 7 million college graduates this year, among the whole population of 20 or older, the percentage only raises by less than 0.8% — considered some with college degrees would die each year.

    [T]he current education spending that still hasn’t reached the 4%-of-GDP target set by the central government.

    The public education expenditure to GDP ratio has been bubbling around 3% each year, plus private money (donations, tuitions, fees, etc.) it gets a bit over 4%. As bad as it sounds, in nominal term, the education public spending has grown 16+% on average each year since 2000.

  17. Wahaha
    April 16th, 2009 at 20:09 | #17

    Huaren,

    Thx for the advice, I just have no interest talking seriously to someone who hate Chinese and China.

    BTW, you dont have to worry about antagonizing India, they talk about us 10 times more than we talk about them. Of course, you can only see the talks by the ‘elite’ in india, they keep talking about the system in China.

  18. huaren
    April 16th, 2009 at 21:52 | #18

    Wahaha,

    on India – wow, I didn’t know that.

    Anyways, have fun trashing the activist scum logic! I enjoy those. Oh, leave some room for me. lol.

  19. Nimrod
    April 16th, 2009 at 22:04 | #19

    Guys, please keep it civil and relevant.

    For example, education and basic literacy are pretty bad in many other developing countries, frequently much worse than China. But we don’t want to be like them. That’s not our model. We look elsewhere. To be an advanced and civilized country, to continue to raise the standard of living, to upgrade China’s economic structure, to have a less polar society, all of these require that education be accessible. Not to mention the cheap but true slogans: children are the flowers of the motherland, and future of the country. Who you educate today are who you get tomorrow. I think we all understand these logic.

    I know of many really poor Chinese among us to make it to university based on the sacrifices of their family. And smart people are born in poor families everywhere in China all the time; it’s not like problems that other countries have where they don’t have a education ethic and work ethic. The issue is access.

    Now, JXie is right that because the economy has grown the education budget has also grown very fast in absolute terms. That is good of course, but the fact that it is stagnant for a long time (drops in percentage) and then periodically gets bumped up but never reaching the government’s own target, as well as the need for private money and charity projects to even be involved in such eras of prosperity, excess, and waste really show me that it is not treated as a critical priority, but at most some bureaucratic project. That is painful to swallow, and I hope it changes.

  20. Raj
    April 16th, 2009 at 22:42 | #20

    Using UK as example ? how pathetic !!!

    You said any government. If you wanted to exclude certain countries, you should have said so. But of course you were off on your Chinese nationalist rant so you didn’t stop to think before you opened your big mouth.

    Do you find it so strange I would use examples from my own country, the country I understand the best? I guess in your strange little world that’s unusual…….

    Wait a minute, what are you trying to say ? huh ?

    I was merely replying to your demand to know about a government that did “more” for the poor than China. Don’t complain if you don’t see the relevance in the discussion – you wanted it to go this way.

    Trying to get back on topic, perhaps you could enlighten me as to how collapsing schools for poor Chinese, when other buildings in the same area survive, is a sign of a great education policy.

    ++++

    Oli

    Now that you’ve told us all that is so great about the British NHS

    I was asked for an example of another country doing more for the poor than China does – I did that. I might add that in doing so I merely scratched the surface, anything but “all” there is to say about it.

    why don’t you tell us what YOU think is NOT right with it?

    Some of the things that the NHS does badly or needs to do better would include in some areas a focus on targets rather than the best attention to health care, problems ordering equipment (where in some cases it’s more likely they’ll be approved if several things are ordered, even if only one is needed) and a poor work ethic amongst some support staff (spending more time avoiding work than trying to earn their wages).

    Perhaps you would be so good as to say what you believe to not be right about the provision of education for the poor in China?

  21. huaren
    April 16th, 2009 at 22:43 | #21

    Nimrod, #19

    Basically, you are saying you are not happy with China’s commitment towards education for its population, right? This is such a big thing to chew on. You or I may visit China occassionally (I assume you don’t live there) and we are sitting thousands of miles away – do you want us to come up with ways to improve education in China?

    Or do you want simply to prove that the Chinese government is screwed up in this area and we need to condemn it into action?

    OR

    I think if the theme of this thread is on how people outside of China who wants to help China improve education in a concrete way, then I’d think that’s more meaningful. I’ll give you couple of examples:

    1. Donate to project hope – how do we broaden that message and get more people participating? I hope you are personally donating if you really care.

    2. There are scholarships in the U.S. you can donate to which provides opportunities for Chinese students to come and study in the U.S..

    I am sure other readers are involved in whole bunch of ways. Lets hear it.

  22. April 17th, 2009 at 01:11 | #22

    Raj – I have to say, with all due respect, I think it is quite meaningless to compare China’s education and healthcare systems with those of the UK. As the American philospher and international law scholar, Professor Randall Peerenboom asserts, it is quite unfair to compare China’s human rights progress – both collective and individual (along with the performance of its legal system, health and education systems and government institutions) – with the record of much wealthier countries, as empirical studies show that ‘rule of law, good governance, and virtually all rights including civil and political rights are highly correlated with wealth.’

    What is more meaningful and revealing is how China compares to other countries in its lower-middle income class.

    Many Western critics – especially those Enlightenment fundamentalists of the liberal democratic variety – all too often try to compare China’s performance on both macro and micro human rights indicators against those of their own higher income nations. They then try to link this ‘inferior’ performance to China’s soft authoritarian one-party system of governance. In other words, they are ideologically motivated (or should I say blinded?) when making their assessments.

    When you compare China’s performance on most indicators of human rights (including healthcare and education) to all of its lower-middle income neighbours (some of which are in fact democracies in the Western liberal sense) you will see that China outperfoms them all in most areas. In fact, China even manages to outperform high income countries on some indicators. It is simply wrong then, to argue that China underperforms, or that the absence of parliamentary democracy acts as some kind of fetter on its development. The overwhelming weight of empirical evidence simply does not support such a claim.

    Even when it comes to measures of good governance (including rule of law) China outperforms most of its lower-middle income countries on most indicators! (see the World Bank Good Governance Indicators).

    JXie wrote: ‘The base of that # is probably the population of 6 or older. If you limit to 20 or older, the number worked out to 5.1% in 2000 and 9.6% in 2007. The “university degrees” include those from 2- to 5-year programs.’

    Thanks enormously for providing this statistical insight JXie. I’d like to update my essay on human rights (on my China Discourse site) by adding this, so I was wondering whether you could provide me with a source for this information. Cheers!

    Nimrod wrote: ‘…education and basic literacy are pretty bad in many other developing countries, frequently much worse than China. But we don’t want to be like them. That’s not our model. We look elsewhere. To be an advanced and civilized country, to continue to raise the standard of living, to upgrade China’s economic structure, to have a less polar society, all of these require that education be accessible.’

    As I said in my initial comment on this threat (comment No.3), China does indeed perform better than most countries in its lower middle income class on most indicators of per capita educational attainment. But China, as you say, does not simply aspire to outperform other countries in its income class, but instead, wants to more fully develop – wants to continue developing until reaching high income status. It is worth keeping in mind here then, that already China outperforms some high income countries on some education and healthcare indicators, so it is certainly following the right path. In 2005 for example, China achieved youth literacy rates of 99 percent, bringing it on par with much wealthier Singapore.

    Nimrod, I know that you would like to see a more consistent approach to education funding in China (one with a larger budget), but as I noted in comment No.9 on this thread, in developing rural areas, education is not prioritised over the providing of basic infrastructure – and quite rightly so in my opinion (and for the reasons I provided in comment No.9).

    Interesting thread of yours this has turned out to be, by the way. I especially appreciate JXie’s providing of statistical data that I wasn’t before aware of.

  23. Nimrod
    April 17th, 2009 at 01:36 | #23

    Mark Anthony Jones,

    Nimrod, I know you would like to see a more consistent approach to education funding in China (one with a larger budget), but as I noted in comment No.9 on this thread, in developing rural areas, education is not prioritised over the providing of basic infrastructure – and quite rightly so in my opinion (and for the reasons I provided in comment No.9).

    +++++
    Very good points. There is no arguing with developing the basic infrastructure of an area. On the other hand, it’s not too much to ask that (primary) education be given the same zeal (via evaluation indicators for political achievement) as adding so many points of GDP. It is a mentality change — I think some people still see it as a case of “too bad”, rather than seeing a direct correlation between level of education and benefit to the whole society. Anyway, even the original article shows China has come a long way and it is not my job to dispute that. If anything, things like this show precisly why dynamic societies need to be viewed dynamically and problems should not be seen as a static snapshot.

    And yes, this post isn’t meant to “prove” or “condemn” anything. The reasons for the post are two. One, this topic hasn’t been broached here. Second, it is a non-partisan issue (both wrt internal Chinese politics and external politics), so talking about and understanding the difficulties in China on this would arouse more universal responses rather than big controversies. That’s the hope anyway, haha…

  24. April 17th, 2009 at 01:50 | #24

    Nimrod wrote: “it’s not too much to ask that (primary) education be given the same zeal (via evaluation indicators for political achievement) as adding so many points of GDP. It is a mentality change…”

    This is a fair enough comment, so long as it is remembered that China has nevertheless managed to achieve comparatively good educational outcomes despite not reaching its own GDP targets.

    Nimrod wrote: “…things like this show precisely why dynamic societies need to be viewed dynamically and problems should not be seen as a static snapshot.”

    Well said. I for one couldn’t agree more.

  25. JXie
    April 17th, 2009 at 02:04 | #25

    MAJ,

    The source is National Bureau of Statistics. Their web site is http://www.stats.gov.cn. The 2000 Census data can be founded in http://www.stats.gov.cn/tjsj/ndsj/renkoupucha/2000pucha/pucha.htm. The specific percentage can be derived from the data in form 1-7 and 1-8. From Form 1-8, you can get there were 44 million with 大学专科 or better education; from Form 1-7, there were 855 million of age 20 or older.

    The 2007 data can be found in http://www.stats.gov.cn/tjsj/ndsj/2008/indexch.htm. The relevant forms are 3-7 and 3-12 (0.09% sampling data). BTW, the web site uses some sort of Excel add-on, only Microsoft Internet Explorer will work.

  26. April 17th, 2009 at 02:24 | #26

    Raj – regarding your comment No.20. Addressing your remarks to Wahaha, you wrote: “You said any government. If you wanted to exclude certain countries, you should have said so. But of course you were off on your Chinese nationalist rant so you didn’t stop to think before you opened your big mouth.”

    Two things:

    Firstly, to exploit Wahaha’s invitation to draw comparisons with “any” government by choosing to compare China’s healthcare system with that of the UKs seems a little silly. It’s meaningless to compare the performance of lower-middle income countries with those of high income countries. To do so simply leads to the unsurprising conclusion that China performs poorer by comparision. In order to assess how well China is performing, it makes more sense to compare its performance to other countries in its income class – this is far more revealing.

    To defend your decision to make such a comparison by saying, “If you wanted to exclude certain countries, you should have said so”, sounds a little childish in my opinion – it sounds almost as if you’re treating this discussion as some kind of game.

    Wahaha I realise, didn’t exactly respond to you in a courteous manner either.

    This brings me to my second point. When you write responses that are aggressive in tone, like, “But of course you were off on your Chinese nationalist rant so you didn’t stop to think before you opened your big mouth”, you simply lower yourself. As I said in comment No.10 above (in defense of you, I might add), there is no need for anyone here to attack others personally.

    Surely we can all address each other with courtesy and tolerate one another’s differences of opinion with grace, and perhaps even try to learn from one another’s varying perspectives.

  27. April 17th, 2009 at 02:27 | #27

    JXie – thanks enormously for providing me with the sources. I shall update my human rights essay when I next get the chance, possibly later tonight.

    I’m about to leave home for the pub right now. My thirst needs quenching!

  28. JXie
    April 17th, 2009 at 02:29 | #28

    A few random points:

    * A better stat would be expected lifetime school hours. Nobody is computing it that I am aware of. But based on some other outside data, i.e. typical school hours each year, percentage of youths attaining 9-year, 11/12-year (HS and vocational schools 中专), 14-to-16-year schooling, my guess is that as of now among teenagers China and the US are largely at par.

    * Zhu Rongji was the premier who during his terms had increased the public educational expenditure to GDP ratio by some 1%. 1. After the Asian Economy crisis, the Chinese government was in a pump priming mode. 2. Then the number of youths at school ages actually was quite a bit bigger than today, which brings up the next point.

    * The bulge of the school age population is passing through. There were, at one point some 30 million of youths reaching 18 each year, and now there are only around 20 million. In some cities with fewer “immigrants”, schools are now getting quite a bit smaller. That’s one of the major reasons why now the public educational expenditure as a percentage of the GDP is smaller than when Zhu left the office. Yes, China can still use more money in the public schools, but the marginal benefit is getting smaller.

    * For the folks passing your traditional school age, the education attainment level was much lower — the older you are, the less likely you had HS to college education. Since China now is back in a pump priming mode, it’s probably a good idea for the government to sponsor some sort of nationwide loan program with very-low or even zero interest rate, for lifetime education. The programs can use a lot of extra funding are such as remote education and adult education.

  29. Oli
    April 17th, 2009 at 03:51 | #29

    @ Raj

    Actually, what you’ve said about what’s not right with the NHS are but the symptomatic issues. It does not address the underlying systemic issue of universal health care provision. While the aspirational mission statement of the NHS was admirable, with Clement Attlee and the building of New Jerusalem and all that, its establishment in 1948 was predicated on UK continuing to have an oversea empire and colonies to fund it. Yet by the 1970’s it was becoming increasingly obvious that as Britain looses its overseas colonies and diminishing revenue from North Sea oil, the cost of funding the NHS has become increasingly prohibitive (The Winter of Discontent). To the extent that the UK spends approx. 7% of GDP on healthcare, while the rest of Europe spends on average 8-10% (2001 figures) without the commiserate return on value for money. Expressed in percentage terms it may not appear significant, but it routinely constitue approx. up to a quarter of budgetary spending announcements.

    The cause of poor value for money lies not only in chronic under investment, but also in the tremendous amount of red tape and other bureaucratic wastage that are endemic to all free healthcare system. Such systems are often seen as cash cows by private sub-contractors and the healthcare industry, as well as being highly suscetible to pork barrel politics.

    Regarding wider socio-political and economical implications, the existence of free universal healthcare has created a situation that absolves the individual of responsibility for their own personal health, such that Britain has one of the highest, if not the highest rate of “rich man’s diseases” in Europe, such as clinical obesity, bulimia, anorexia, binge-eating disorder, alcholism, other substance abuses, as well as teenage pregnancies and a resurgence in STDs. The consequence is the creation of a vicious circle that places ever increasing burden on an already overstretched healthcare system, which in turn necessitate proportionally ever greater government funding, higher taxation/higher level of government borrowing, less available resources for other national priorities and ever greater dependence on free healthcare which then becomes a political vote winner, leading to an unwillingness to place the onus back on the individual, which would amount to political suicide.

    As regarding the situation in China, one of the undeclared aim of the reforms is in fact the reform of its people’s attitude towards the provision of public services and the transferance of responsibility from the state back to the individual. What many in the West seems to have forgotten in its years of plenty living off other people’s backs is that freedom also means responsibilities. And part of that responsibility includes being responsible for one’s health, one’s aspirations and one’s future, as expressed through one’s training and qualifications. The resources that are freed up in this transferance of responsibilites means that the state can then better concentrate on the provision of access to opportunities that are par of the course of reform and modernisation.

    The aim is the creation of a virtuous circle that allows the creation of wealth, to afford modernisation, to raise the level and sophistication of public services, to give greater access to opportunities, to aid social development and overall societal and national sophistication. Ultimately, the trick is to get the balance right between the socio-political and economical need for the provision of vital public services and empowering the individual, without stifling economic growth, in order to create the necessary resources for future development and advancement.

    Consequently, China’s recently announced increased spending in healthcare and education is simply a re-balancing act in order to continue this cycle. And it is precisely able to do so because it is for the moment unencumbered by interest group or pork barrel politics that are so prevalent in Western style democracies.

    Therefore your comments demonstrate not only a severe lack of understanding in public policies and political economy, but also worryingly what is presumably your own country’s most pressing issues, nevermind China’s. Overall, your lackadaisical assertions ignores the wider social-economic and political context of universal and free health care provision. Ultimately, I find most of your inane utterances singularily lacking and utterly unconvincing, being the usual drivel of a self-obsessed dimwit of an ignoramus suffering from a clinical condition of unmitigated gall. Perhaps its high time that you visit your beloved NHS for treatment, unless of course it is genetic, then you have my utmost pity.

  30. Wahaha Jr.
    April 17th, 2009 at 05:35 | #30

    @Wahaha,
    “I just have no interest talking seriously to someone who hate Chinese and China.”

    I think you should make little bit changes with your above sentence so that it will be very representative statement of yours. The corrected should be:

    “I just have no interest talking seriously to someone who disagrees with me and me-like paid netizens.

  31. Raj
    April 17th, 2009 at 07:00 | #31

    Therefore your comments demonstrate not only a severe lack of understanding in public policies and political economy, but also worryingly what is presumably your own country’s most pressing issues, nevermind China’s.

    Oli, get off your high horse. I tapped out a quick response as I had other things to do – I wasn’t even trying to write a full account of the NHS’ problems because that’s not the topic for discussion under this thread.

    Moreover your allegations that having a universal health system encourages irresponsible behaviour are unfounded. It may encourage people to visit A&E when they do not need to, but issues like teenage pregnancies are to do with matters separate from the provision of health care. Countries with different styles of health care provision, such as France, are dealing with similar problems such as increased binge drinking especially amongst teenagers.

    Yes, bureaucracy is a problem in the NHS, but, hey, what do you expect if resources aren’t the issue? You’ve made a highly superficial review of the subject ignoring all the key, individual problems that have to be understood before the overall service can fully meet its potential.

    Ultimately, I find most of your inane utterances singularily lacking and utterly unconvincing, being the usual drivel of a self-obsessed dimwit of an ignoramus suffering from a clinical condition of unmitigated gall.

    Big talk from someone who is well versed in the art of spending a lot of time writing nothing of any consequence and is mostly interested in bitter, snide attacks rather than engaging in polite discussion.

    I answered your comment, very briefly, in good faith despite the fact it was still off topic. Your reply ignored my request for you to directly comment on the actual topic raised by Nimrod and set off on a profitless ramble. If you write merely to put others down then I suggest you get a hobby or two so you can spend your free time more meaningfully.

  32. Raj
    April 17th, 2009 at 07:03 | #32

    By the way, Nimrod, I’m sorry the discussion has got off-topic, but when the bully-boys come out I’m going to respond to personal attacks.

  33. BMY
    April 17th, 2009 at 12:35 | #33

    This makes me remember the old good days when I enjoyed free education all the way through college.(so did my parents in older days) It was about one yuan something to 3 yuan something school fee per semester from my year one till junior high. It was 10 yuan per semester in my senior high school days. I didn’t pay any tuition fee in uni but my own in-campus accommodation, food, books.

    Public education is always problem for many countries including the highly developed countries . The primary school my daughter goes to that has little change in the past 50 years. The primary school I went to 30 years ago in a small town in China had better classrooms and sports facilities than the school my daughter goes to today which is the thing I hardly understand.

  34. Wahaha
    April 17th, 2009 at 13:42 | #34

    “I just have no interest talking seriously to someone who disagrees with me and me-like paid netizens.“

    Hahaha,

    80+% of chance that I make more money than you do, junior.

    Besiders some hard-core in Taiwan, only someone who deeply hate China and chinese would claim Taiwanese are not Chinese, get it ? now go back to junior school.

  35. Oli
    April 17th, 2009 at 15:02 | #35

    “Moreover your allegations that having a universal health system encourages irresponsible behaviour are unfounded.”

    I suggest you go and see what it’s like in the usual “pub crawl” areas of Cardiff, Birmingham, Sheffield or London etc. on a Friday or Saturday night. Ever seen William Hogarth’s picture of 1750’s London, entitled “Gin Alley” (go google it)? Personally, I don’t see that much difference between that 1750 drawing and my personal experience of the worst parts of inner city Britain today, including its sink estates, on an average weekend. And these are just the public faces of Britain’s alcohol abuse problems, now imagine what it’s like privately.

    In fact, Britain’s drinking culture have at times become so bad that once when I visited an English friend who lived in a pleasant small town an hour outside of London, one English shop owner couple there told me that they tend to avoid the High Street (English speak for Main Street) where all the pubs/bars/clubs are on the weekend because of the drunkards, the fights (both men and women), the vomit and all the associated general harassment. The singular exception in my personal experience is the quaint and convivial atmosphere of your average English village pubs.

    And should you think I’m exaggerating I suggest you go talk to an UK inner city kebab, fish and chips shop or other fast food joints owners/workers about their experiences. While you’re at it, go and talk to NHS Hospital A&E (Accident & Emergency: the UK equivalent of an ER) staff and ask them about their experience and opinion about people’s irresponsible behaviour. From personal and professional experience, I can attest that many of them are singularly sick of people’s utter lack of self-discipline and personal irresponsibility and many privately feel that such people do not deserve treatment and are a massive burden to the NHS and the social services, as many such malaise do not involve a cure but instead often require long-term treatment and care, placing further massive burden on other associated social benefits and care.

    Re. alcoholism, binge drinking and alcohol induced sex among teenage boys and girls, according to The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (Espad) in 2007, UK rank 3rd highest, after Denmark and the Isle of Man, in saying they had been drunk within 30 days of the survey, with 33% reporting such recent intoxication.

    Re. obesity level, according The Foresight project’s “Tackling Obesities: Future Choices” and the UK department of Health’s own report “The Health Profile of England 2007”, British obesity levels are also the highest in Europe.

    Need I go on?

    “…but when the bully-boys come out I’m going to respond to personal attacks.”

    “Big talk from someone who is well versed in the art of spending a lot of time writing nothing of any consequence and is mostly interested in bitter, snide attacks rather than engaging in polite discussion.”

    Boohoo! So run along to daddy or go cry me a river why don’t you…LOL!

    Its hilarious how some ignorant laowai become so notoriously thin-skinned when their own personal shortcomings, myopia and faulty reasoning are pointed out to them. And they harp on about Asian/Chinese people having “face” issues, LOL!

    As for high horses, sometimes one has to ride one in order to unhorse another already riding one. So mehehe et c’est la vie n’est pas? And guess what? “Good faith” and “polite conversation” is worth didly squat when a self-deluded ignoramus is talking out of his flaccid posterior without an iota of primordial intelligence, especially about his own supposed country (for shame), nevermind China. Besides, I just completed a doodah and got some holidays on my hand and my hobby just so happens to be a good old turkey shoot of the ignorant, particularly of the “genus ignoramus rajas eiern lecker”.

  36. Oli
    April 17th, 2009 at 18:29 | #36

    BTW dearie sweet Raj ol’matey mine,

    The UK also has the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Western Europe and the highest number of unmarried teenage mothers in the world, according to figures put out by your own government’s Office for National Statistics in 2007. Now guess who’s going to get to pony up for all the social housing, childcare, income support, unemployment benefit to people who probably never worked a day in their lives?

    Are these “bitter, snide, attacks”? LOL! Well I suppose that’s how facts may appear to people with a massive, but oh so fragile ego and very little else, intellectually and probably otherwise too. Is it any wonder then that people mock and pity thee? So here’s a great big, juicy, fat raspberry to you!

  37. Raj
    April 18th, 2009 at 00:40 | #37

    I suggest you go and see what it’s like in the usual “pub crawl”……..

    Your irrelevant post has proved my point. You haven’t linked drinking problems to the NHS, just said “there is a big drinking problem”. Well congratulations for stating the obvious! Would you like a prize for raising something that has been discussed in the UK for goodness knows how long?

    I can attest that many of them are singularly sick of people’s utter lack of self-discipline and personal irresponsibility and many privately feel that such people do not deserve treatment and are a massive burden to the NHS and the social services

    No shit sherlock! Anyone who has listened to drive time on Radio 5 just once would know there are people who feel that way.

    Need I go on?

    You haven’t started in linking binge drinking to a universal health service. You’ve just ranted about problems in the UK. Wow, well done – you’ve reached the education level of an average Sun reader!

    Its hilarious how some ignorant laowai become so notoriously thin-skinned when their own personal shortcomings, myopia and faulty reasoning are pointed out to them.

    If you want to delude yourself that I’m the ignorant one, feel free. But all you have done is assert a point no one here is disputing, that there are social problems in the UK. You draw a link between health care provision and those problems, with nothing to back up that link other than the belief you’re right.

    It’s wonderful to look at the antics of a blinkered Chinese nationalist with his head so far up his own backside that he feels superior for trying to divert the conversation away from his inability to substantiate points he makes.

  38. April 18th, 2009 at 02:15 | #38

    Mmmm….this conversation, despite deviating a little from the topic, is quite interesting (despite the unnecessarily aggressive tone).

    Raj’s outlining of the NHS’s problems, offered in response to Wahaha’s question, does, I agree, seem a little disingenuous. The problems Raj lists are calculated to appear rather minor in comparison to China’s: problems “ordering equipment”, “poor work ethic amongst support staff” and rather oddly I think, Raj asserts that focussing on targets is needed “rather than [providing] the best attention to health care..” This seems to me to be a rather odd thing to say: that meeting “targets” should be prioritised over paying “best attention to heath care”. I’m not sure what Raj means. Perhaps he simply didn’t word his example carefully enough?

    At any rate, the problems of the NHS are far more serious than what Raj wants to believe (or wants us to believe). A quick google search spills out dozens of articles – both journalistic and academic – that paint somewhat bleaker assessments. Eight years ago, the World Health Organisation’s “The WHO report” (which compares the performance of global health systems), found that “chronic problems afflict the NHS as a whole and, in aggregate, cause far more suffering and waste. They include long waiting lists, postal code variation in practice, and poor outcomes in cancer care, and they caused the UK to lag ninth out of 15 European Union countries in the World Health Organisation’s recent ranking of health systems.” The British Medical Association accepted the findings of the report.

    Six years later, “The WHO report” noted some significant improvements: “Waiting times are shorter than ever. Most people who need surgery are in hospital within nine weeks, four out of five people get a first outpatient appointment within eight weeks, and almost everyone going to A&E is seen within four hours. Meanwhile lives are being saved through reductions in deaths from cancer, circulatory disease, coronary heart disease and suicides.”

    Good news, though serious problems remain. Funding is still a problem, and so Britain continues to perform poorly when compared to most of Europe (most European nations spend far more). The quality of health care also varies greatly depending on the hospital. Stafford Hospital is an extreme case, I know, but it does show just how bad the quality of health care can be. Last month, a damning report form the Healthcare Commission detailed a “catalogue of failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Stafford and Cannock Chase hospitals.” The findings of the Commission were widely reported by the UK press, often including details like this: “Dehydrated patients were forced to drink out of flower vases, while others were left in soiled linen on filthy wards.”

    The Commission’s report revealed that “at least 400 deaths could not be explained, although it is feared up to 1,200 patients may have died needlessly” over the last three years.

    This type of hospital is, as I said, an extreme case, but other studies also show that healthcare services vary greatly from hospital to hospital, with many suffering chronic problems (I refer here to last year’s Health Commission Survey results).

    Blaming such serious shortcomings on an alleged “poor work ethic” among support staff simply won’t wash. Stafford Hospital for example, was inadequately staffed – the result of either insufficient funding or poor management (or both).

    When we look at the bigger picture though, it needs to be acknowledged Oli, that Britain performs reasonably well on most health indicators. Not as well as its European neighbours, true, but impressive enough. What Raj needs to understand and to more fully appreciate, is that China also performs quite well, when measured against the world’s averages within its income class. China outperforms all of its lower-middle income neighbours on just about every health and education indicator, and it even manages to outperform much wealthier high income countries on some indicators. Even by the early-1990s, the city of Shanghai had surpassed New York on indicators of life expectancy. As the New York Times reported back in 1991:

    “By the prime measures of healthfulness, Ms. Zhang’s infant will have better odds of survival than a baby born in New York City. In Shanghai, 10.9 infants out of 1,000 die before their first birthday, while in New York City infant mortality is 13.3 per 1,000 live births. And life expectancy at birth in Shanghai is now 75.5 years, compared to a life expectancy in New York City of about 73 years…” Today, life expectancy in Shanghai has risen to over 80.

    American health experts, back in the early-1990s, of course, wondered how it could be that one’s life chances were greater in China’s largest city than in America’s largest city. Their findings support Oli’s overall argument here: China emphasises preventative measures.

    Raj – this is why I think that your prediction that China’s budget for its planned health reforms will prove to be grossly inadequate most probably will turn out to be wrong. It may turn out to be a little inadequate, but probably not seriously so.

    I’m short on time, so let me finish up by quoting a lengthy passage from the New York Times, April 14, 1991, which explains why money is not the crucial factor in China when it comes to delivering quality health outcomes (though keep in mind that the figures here are those for 1991. Per capita spending on healthcare for all of China for example, is now $41, whereas in Shanghai back in 1991, it was $38):

    …..The answer has nothing to do with modern equipment or with money, for Shanghai spends just $38 a person on medical care, compared to more than $2,100 in the United States. It appears that only about 5 percent of the Chinese gross national product is devoted to health expenditures, compared to 11 percent of America’s.

    “There’s no question that in a time when people are despondent about what’s happening in China, the health-care system really is a shining light from the Maoist era that continues to shine to this day,” Gail E. Henderson, an expert on Chinese health care at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said in an interview. “It’s a model for the developing world.”

    Doctors, health officials and foreign specialists say the Chinese system has succeeded for several reasons. Most fundamentally, it has emphasized prevention of disease, including large-scale projects to improve sanitation and to inoculate children. In the unglamorous but critical foundations of a public health system, like prenatal care, China excels. Jacks-of-All-Trades Of the Health World

    In visits over the last two years to hospitals and village doctors in seven provinces, the first impression is of rustic examination rooms where the doctors are semi-educated peasants wearing frayed and stained white jackets. Yet the more enduring impression is that these unscrubbed, sandal-clad doctors have a broad range of useful skills – treating infections, diagnosing pneumonia, assisting in births and pulling teeth – that in rural areas are more useful than anything at the cutting edge of Western medicine……

  39. April 18th, 2009 at 03:49 | #39

    One more thing I should have mentioned – very quickly:

    Oli – should keep in mind too that as China develops, the kinds of diseases that come with affluence are going to most likely increase in incidence. There is already considerable evidence to show that cancer rates are on the rise in China, along with obesity. I’m not sure about binge drinking problems, though chronic alcoholism certainly is a problem in some areas – it certainly is a problem in Tibetan communities, both inside and outside the TAR.

    Mental health problems are serious throughout China, especially in rural areas, and disproportionately effect women – so much so that China has the world’s highest per capita female suicide rate.

    As China continues to develop, and more and more people enter the affluent middle class, the seriousness of these problems may very well rise too. China needs to look very carefully at the West, and try to learn from its mistakes. When I taught in Shanghai and Shenzhen, I was a little alarmed at how many of my students (when surveyed by me in class) said they regularly consume American fast foods like McDonald’s, and in particular KFC, with many saying that they rely increasingly on such poison for their lunchtime and evening meals. Most cited time constraints as the key factor influencing their eating habits, which is largely why such fast foods appeal to them. Back in 2004 I visited a secondary school in Shenzhen to discuss the possibility of setting up a joint-venture program to deliver an Australian-developed but now American owned university foundations program, and I was alarmed by how many of the students were obese! Roughly one in five. The school was located in the wealthy Futian district.

    My observations at the time confirmed for me what was also being widely reported by both China’s and the world’s media: “China’s first official nutrition and health survey shows that between 1992 and 2002 more than 60 million people became obese,” the reports read. “The biggest problem is in China’s cities, where 12% of adults and 8% of children were classified as obese….Health officials have been blaming diets too high in fat and a decrease in physical exercise.”

    Not surprisingly, cancer rates in China are also increasing at alarming rates – especially breast cancer. As one media outlet reported: “An increasing taste for Western-style junk food and unhealthy lifestyles have caused the rate of breast cancer among urban Chinese women to jump sharply over the past decade, a state-run newspaper said Tuesday. In China’s commercial centre of Shanghai, 55 out of every 100,000 women have breast cancer, a 31 percent increase since 1997, the China Daily reported. About 45 out of every 100,000 women in Beijing have the disease, a 23 percent increase over 10 years.”

    My girlfriend of eight years (she’s Chinese) had an aunty in Shanghai who passed away last year from breast cancer, as did an aunty of mine here in Sydney.

    The point is, if these kinds of illness continue to increase, then China will need to start spending much much much more money on health care, because to treat such diseases requires very expensive medications and technologies.

    Only if China can maintain relatively low per capita rates of obesity, cancer, etc, through its more traditional emphasis on prevention, will it be able to continue to produce impressive per capita health outcomes on its relatively modest budget.

    To do this will require more government regulation – to make fast foods more expensive and so less appealing (perhaps through taxation, and through planning laws that restrict the number of outlets allowed in a given area), along with a sustained and widespread public health education program. In other words – some measure of socialist planning, rather than excessive capitalist “freedom”.

  40. Oli
    April 18th, 2009 at 14:46 | #40

    Howdy Raj me matey!

    Wow! Seems like I step on a raw nerve there. Was it the bit about the fragile ego or being an ignoramus?

    Sigh! Look matey, one certainly doesn’t need a medical or sociological degree to understand the link between being irresponsible with personal health and lack of self-discipline, alcoholism and the NHS being overburdened. Anybody who is not a total dunce and with a modicum of education is capable of grasping the correlation or are you the exception, being the obvious ignoramus that I think you to be? Or is that just the level of UK education you received?

    Fine, for something that even a ten years old can do, go and google “alcohol related diseases” and see for yourself the variety of medical effects excessive consumption of alcohol can cause. Now isn’t the NHS in the business of TREATING DISEASES???? Or did I miss something there in what you said and the NHS is actually in the bed and breakfast business?

    And guess what? These are just the tip of the iceberg, being the direct medical implications of excessive alcohol consumption. Drunkenness and reduced inhibition also leads to outbreaks of violent fights and injuries, criminal property damages, unprotected sex, STDs etc., which in turn necessitate further medical treatment and therapy. And its helloooo NHS all over again, nevermind potentially saying hi to the police and the courts as well. Other wider implications also involve a myriad of other socio-economic and political problems, such as marital and family breakdown, poor work attendance and performance, the political need for additional funding etc. and so on and so forth and around the sink hole the nation and one circles.

    Whenever I happen to be in the UK, the only driving I tend to do are track day driving with my friends, so I would seldom have a chance to listen to “drive time” on Radio 5, which according to my local friends is a bit “twee”. And as you’re obviously a fan, I guess that explains a lot about the way you are (I’m batting me eyelids here at you).

    Besides, all medical professionals are bound by a code of professional ethics. They are unlikely to discuss patients or patient care in public, whether on radio or TV, unless it is with regards to general public policies. But meet some in private then see them rant and rave about people’s irresponsible behaviour, how overburdened they are, about how disgusted they are with some of their patients and how under resourced the NHS is, despite the amount the UK government is spending.

    Finally, if you want to insult me or put a label on me, please for the sake of conversational discourse and “cross-cultural understanding” and love to all mankind and all that jazz, at least do it with some semblance of intelligence and panache. Add a dose (pardon the pun) of reasoning or two in there so that people can at least surmise that you’re not some deranged lunatic in need of the NHS yourself or the men in white. So, tell us something worthwhile, back it up with sound reasoning and who knows, I might even respect you come morning. LOL!

    PS: What’s “Sun” and what is a Sun reader?

  41. April 19th, 2009 at 02:35 | #41

    Oli – I don’t know whether or not you read my two comments above, addressed to you and Raj, but as I said there, you need to remember that obesity, cancer and alcoholism are all growing problems in China too. One study, conducted in 2002 by a team of Chinese researchers – Zhang Jiafang, Wang Jiachun, Lu Yunxia, Qui Xiaoxia and Fang Ya – titled “Alcohol abuse in a metropolitan city in China: a study of the prevalence and risk factors”, found that “Nearly 15% of urban Chinese adults aged 15-65 were alcohol abusers.” The study wasn’t published in English translation until 2004.

    In 2002 The Shanghai Star ran a report about the rising incidence of alcoholism in China: “The incidence of alcoholism in China is on the rise and some cities are now planning campaigns to combat the spread of the disease.”

    “The annual consumption of alcohol in China has reached the size of West Lake in Hangzhou,” the report added, noting also “that alcohol addicts are becoming ever younger, with the proportion of women and girls constantly increasing.”

    I don’t know the latest figures, but according to one study I read, also published in 2002, “per capita alcohol consumption [in China] increased 402 per cent between 1970-72 and 1994-1996, making it one of the fastest-growing alcohol markets worldwide.”

    China also has a growing drug-use problem. According to a medical research article published in Medscape Today, “the number of drug users documented officially by Chinese public security departments increased from 70,000 in 1990 to 1.14 million by 2004, while the estimated number is 3.5 million…The main drug of choice in China is heroin.”

    As I said in my comment above, only if China can maintain relatively low per capita rates of obesity, cancer, alcoholism, drug use, etc, through its more traditional emphasis on prevention, will it be able to continue to produce impressive per capita health outcomes on its relatively modest budget.

  42. tinman
    April 19th, 2009 at 08:08 | #42

    Oli, Sun is cheap Uk newspaper mainly for low working class readers. maybe this raj gets most his ideas about China from!!!!!

  43. opa
    April 20th, 2009 at 20:34 | #43

    Why wasn’t compulsory education not free? no money, easy and simple as that.

  44. huaren
    April 21st, 2009 at 18:52 | #44

    @MAJ, #41

    If you read Oli and Wahaha, et al, posts in the past, you would know that they don’t deny there are problems in China. I too believe there are tons of problems in China – for example, pollution, water supply, AIDS, drugs and obesity as you mentioned, etc..

    From my standpoint, it is fruitful to discuss how to improve the conditions in China in a practical sense. It is fruitful to put forward the facts and offer warnings so the Chinese people learn not to repeat the mistakes made elsewhere or in the past – your posts are often of this type which I find very constructive.

    For the activist scums, the position they often take is something like this – “They have drug problem and that’s because they don’t have democracy. Their government is evil.” They really don’t care about the problems themselves. They in fact seems to take joy in highlighting how screwed up things are. The other thing about these people is obviously they cannot take the most simple moral stance with issues relating to China.

    Its not rocket science to see the thrust of what they say.

    @opa, #43

    I hope the Chinese government’s over-all plan is to make compulsory education essentially free. The fact that some really poor people are having a hard time paying nominal fees is a problem that should be addressed.

    You would have to believe that the Chinee government is eagerly interested in creating opportunities so even the poorest Chinese people can rise economically so these nominal fees do not become hinderence to education access.

  45. April 22nd, 2009 at 01:48 | #45

    Huaren – I agree, that all too many Westerners come to discussions like the ones that take place here, wanting to link all of China’s problems to the fact that it has a political economy that is different, and, because of its economic success, ideologically threatening. They focus almost exclusively on China’s problems, leaving out at least half the story, and so what they develop and present is a very cynical and skewed set of views. Their belittling of China’s achievements in the areas of human rights, the rule of law and even democratic reforms (like village elections) can be read, as the English philosopher John Gray concludes, as revelations of their own unconscious wish for China to fail – as manifestations, if you like, of an arrogant ethnocentrism.

    I know that Oli and Wahaha recognise that China has problems, and I do in fact agree with much, if not most, of what they say here (as is evident from my comments). But when they resort to presenting skewed assessments of the West’s problems as a way of countering the rants of Enlightenment fundamentalists, they simply end up mirroring them.

  46. huaren
    April 22nd, 2009 at 05:17 | #46

    @MAJ,

    “resort to presenting skewed assessments of the West’s problems as a way of countering the rants of Enlightenment fundamentalists, they simply end up mirroring them.”

    This is a very important point and I completely agree with you.

    Hey, you represent a very cool voice in these forums and I really appreciate your contributions. Also the fact that you personally took part in teaching even in some really poor areas of China means a great deal. I am certain tons of other FM readers feel the same.

  47. April 22nd, 2009 at 06:55 | #47

    Huaren – thanks yet again, for your very kind and encouraging remarks. I appreciate your feedback.

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