The Chinese People’s Anxieties in 2007 – Liang Jing

Thanks to Dr. David Kelly for the translation:

2008 is the thirtieth anniversary of China’s reform and opening up. No one expected that 30 years later China would host the Olympic Games, still less that it would become the world’s second largest economic entity, not only putting the global growth rate to shame, but even exceeding the United States’ economic growth for the year. However, as we come into 2008, not too many Chinese people are thrilled by today’s “heyday.” Both the elite and the common people have too many reasons for anxiety about 2008 and China’s future.

The number one anxiety in 2008 for China’s political leaders, is, of course, the Beijing Olympic Games. Whether they will bring China glory or stigma is a major concern in 2008. No one is clearer than China’s leaders that the real issue is not how many medals China can win, not even whether the opening is brilliant, but how much of the dirty linen of China’s political darkness will be aired thanks to the “great Games.” In 1999, in order to ensure “joy in the great dragon’s eye” for Jiang Zemin in the 50th anniversary National Day cele brations, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers were cased out of the capital, using shocking and despicable means. This time, I believe the regime will not be so foolish as to play same old tricks. However, Beijing is clearly troubled by another, more difficult prob lem, namely, thousands of “petitioners” with grievances of every kind all over the country, who may very well bring their petitions to Beijing over the period of the Olympic Games. It has been reported that the final “petition village” where the “petitioners” stay in Beijing, was recently forcibly demolished by the Government, showing that the authorities are preparing for 2008. But the problem is, if there really are tens of thousands of “petition ers” Wang are resolved and of one mind, it will be hard to guarantee that none intrudes into Beijing. More importantly, if various levels of local governments unscrupulously “curtail petitioning” under high pressure from Beijing, more vicious incidents will be produced and China will lose face.

While we can’t tell how many people share the regime’s anxiety over the Beijing Olympic Games, no one doubts the general anxiety about the economy in 2008: everyone, rich or poor, officials and populace, is anxious. Of course, the anxieties of rich and poor aren’t the same. The rich fret about increasing investment risks, possible devaluation of assets, while the poor worry about high inflation eating up their wages. And the officials, of course, fear that economic instability will lead to political unrest. While Ms. Ye Tan’s year-end comment on the topic of “Assured Investments in 2008” [1] is seemingly optimistic, it is a warning to the Administration. The core view of the article is that the capital market in 2008 may be prosperous for a time, but if the Government lacks the wit to undertake genuine reform, “a complete recession will be detonated sooner or later.”

But are China’s rulers capable of genuine reform? This is precisely the most profound source of anxiety for Chinese people in 2008. On the eve of 2008, several new high provincial officials are appearing, the most eye-catching of whom is Wang Yang in Guangdong. He prominently reiterated Deng Xiaoping’s “emancipating the mind” slogan of 30 years ago, and called on Guangzhou and Shenzhen to vie with Singapore and Seoul. This indiscreet performance confirms many people’s worries that the new CPC leadership is mediocre and incompetent, are at the end of their rope, and have exhausted their talents.

For more than 10 years, the CPC’s reliance on slogans to renovate national governance has given rise to discontent among the citizens. Not only does calling yet again for “emancipation of the mind” make people feel that those in power are out of touch, it shows that they are not even capable of coming up with new slogans. How could the people of Guangdong and all those who worry about China’s future fell other than disappointed? Deng Xiaoping’s call for “emancipation the mind” was directed at the top level of the CPC. For the past 30 years, the capacity for self-help of every single person and locality has been shackled by the CPC. Could there be anything in the world more absurd than confronting them with calls to “emancipate their minds”?

In their disappointment, Chinese intellectuals can do little more than appear in the Guangdong media to clean up Wang Yang’s mess, making light of things in the process. Can this, however, solve any problems? China’s peasants, who are up to their ears in misery, have long lost interest in self-deceiving games of China’s political and intellectual elites. Now, more people are taking risks, trying to grasp their destiny in their own hands.

According to an article Liu Xiaobo, in the last month of 2007, thousands of farmers in Heilongjiang, Shaanxi and Jiangsu provinces challenged the govern ment’s power over the land, openly seizing and declaring their ownership of the land. Liu spoke highly of these collective actions as Chinese peasants declaring recovery of their land, and expressing their will and determination in demanding land privatization. While advocating for the farmers, Liu Xiaobo could not have been ignorant of the price China would pay for yet again depending on spontaneous peasant resistance to establish a new social order. But in 2008, what other hope do the Chinese people see of escaping from their gradual slide into disaster?

[1] Ye Tan 叶檀, “2008放心投资” .

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