George Orwell’s China?
Over the Chinese New Year holiday, a crowd of passengers at the Tianjin Railway Station were held waiting by police, left holding their luggage on the platform in the piercing cold wind while a small group of Communist Party cadres strutted onto a first class carriage. Enraged by the unfairness of it all, a young law student from Beijing University snapped a photo of the scene with her cell phone. Several uniformed and plain-clothes police rushed her, yelling at her to surrender her camera and come with them. When they grabbed her, she screamed ‘like a fishwife’ (in her own words), creating a scene until they let her go. The moment she did board the train, she posted her story on her school’s micro-blog, where it spread like wildfire across the Chinese Internet.
Ever since President Hu Jintao took office in 2003, he has made fairness a central theme of his agenda. Hu, along with his power base in the Communist Youth League, view China’s widening gap between rich and poor as a significant threat to social and political stability. The country’s latest Five Year Plan, which was unveiled last November, aims to redistribute income more evenly in order to foster ‘inclusive development,’ reflecting a widespread belief among Party leaders that Deng Xiaoping’s maxim—‘let some people get rich first’—has gone too far.