Comments on China
Just before I left for the trip, my friend, Barbara recommended a book to read: entitled “China Wakes” by Nicholos D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. It was an excellent resource for the trip as it provided a succinct history of China setting forth the true picture of life in China today and how history has laid the foundation for why China thinks the way it does today. Interestingly enough, this book is not available in China and it sparked some interest when I discussed it with the guides on the tour. But, the China that existed when the Communists took over some fifty years ago is changing and there is no doubt that the Communist China “dynasty” has migrated from a totalitarian form of government to an authoritarian government.
Deng Xiaoping, the former Premier of China set forth the current transformation of modern China when he directed that China must move “forward”, during a speech in the early 1990s. With that thought...changes in the way China would interact with the rest of the world began. It was the start of capitalism in China that has been progressing ever since, it was the beginning of inviting foreign companies to become a part of the Chinese commerce system, of letting foreign money share in the development of Chinese industries and creating the beginning of a development scheme that will be a major productive apparatus in the future.
Today, the current government of China may be a Communist government, but the people are apolitical and for the most part the party leaders themselves do not see Communism as an ideology that will enhance the economic development of China, though they would never admit to this belief. In fact, it has to do with power and the control of that power over the people. Make no mistake...Beijing will continue to wield a strong hand from the top. China has a strictly defined hierarchal structure that starts down at the village level and progresses up through districts, counties, provinces and up to the seat of power in Beijing.
Committees at each level of the hierarchy have broad powers to tax and set rules that affect the lives of the people. Often, abuses of this power may not be corrected at higher levels because of payoffs and bribes. But China is rife with dichotomies ....a way of life that severely impacts those in the rural parts of the country and is quite liberal in the cities. Corruption and neglect of public needs abound in the villages, while more liberal interpretation of rules may exist in the cities. The Communists came to power on the backs of the peasants, but today the peasants probably feel the least benefit from the economic growth being realized in China.
To live in Beijing, Shanghai or any other major city in China, people need a Resident permit issued by the local governing organization. This permit enables the person to reside in the city and acquire some type of housing based on their needs. Housing is dreadfully limited in all cities and a residence permit is extremely hard to acquire. A worker could be issued housing in a particular city from a company that he or she works for, but could not stay in the area if they no longer retain that position. In fact, they are not considered residents of that city for census purposes.
Since population growth is such a major issue to China...China has 1.3 billion people ...all families are restricted to having only one child. Exceptions exist for the Tibetans and for the Muslims, who live in the far western province of Xinjiang. Even with that restriction China’s population growth is about 15 million people annually....about the population of the Netherlands. Violation of the single child restriction could result in additional taxation and sterilization depending on the degree of the number of children borne by a mother.