- Category: International
- Created on Monday, 22 August 2011 07:00
- Written by Kasama South China Bureau
We have published previous reports from our correspondent (who half-jokingly adopts the title of Kasama South China Bureau) — those previous reports touched on prostitution, capitalism, and anti-government sentiments.
by Kasama reporter in South China
As they passed through Sichuan province on the Long March, the First and Fourth Front Armies could well have seen schools like the ones shown above in a photo taken this year near Xichang.
China is an enormous country and there are enormous areas of isolated, rural communities of very poor people. The days of mass campaigns to serve the people and send teams to learn from, and help the peasants are long gone.
The particular irony of this impoverished school is that Xichang is also known as “Space City” because of the nearby launch facilities for the Long March rocket.
This biting irony was not lost on the Chinese media that publicized this photo asked why these conditions still exist. A lot of people are demanding an answer in an increasingly confrontational way.
The government stopped issuing statistics for “sudden mass incidents” in 2005 but since then there have been reliable estimates from the Shanghai Jiaotong University annual report on crisis management.
The numbers tell the story:
Number of Sudden Mass Incidents 2005 87,000 2006 90,000 2008 127,000 2010 180,000
As related in “China’s season of working class discontent” (the previous Kasama post from China Worker), the causes are many,
“..police brutality, discrimination against migrants and ethnic minorities, industrial pollution, unpaid wages, land seizures, government-business cronyism and corruption. Inflation, and the sharp rise in food and fuel prices.”
and that for the last two years,
“spending on internal security overtook military spending for the first time.”
According to Dr. Mary Gallagher, a distinguished political scientist at the University of Michigan and director of the Center for China Studies, the regime in Bejing is caught between conflicting power structures at the national level (running horizontally) and between the national government and the local level (running vertically). At the horizontal level all sorts of progressive anti-pollution and workers rights legislation is passed. However, from the center to the provinces and towns the prime directive is to maintain an overall rate of economic growth no matter what. Because of this the party apparatus and local government structures collude with the new bourgeoisie to enrich each other by seizing more farmland to build new factories. As a result peasants are displaced, the mandated anti-pollution equipment is never installed, and the noxious waste products pollute the water and help wreck the surrounding farmland that was not taken. Working conditions within those factories can be miserable to brutal and when a company gets into trouble, they often respond by simply not paying wages.
Neither socialist nor harmonious
Three years ago I listened to earnest reports on China television decrying the decline in the amount of agricultural land and the governments resolute decree that China maintain 10 million mu of farmland to help insure an adequate food supply. In the wake of the economic crash China then poured billions of dollars of stimulus money into the construction industry which made real estate speculators even wealthier, drove more peasants off the land, and resulted in steep increases in food prices. It is a trap for which Deng Xiaopeng thought, the guiding spirit of the Communist Party of China since 1980, has no escape.
The goal of the regime is to build a “socialistic, harmonious society” but China is now neither socialist nor harmonious.
In Mandarin Chinese the difference between the words “comrade” and “colleague” is very slight indicated by either a rising or falling tone on the final syllable. Among both comrades and colleagues here I was not surprised to hear resentment against the CPC or to learn that some party members had even quit.
In asking why they took this step the responses of my very limited sample were remarkably consistent. They all stressed their love of their country and then said that the party simply did not serve the needs of the poor or represent those struggling to survive. What was surprising was that one of these same people told me of her desire to visit Tsunyi and Yenan, two of the most celebrated locations on the Long March. Her excitement at the prospect of going on this journey was evident as is the increasing presence of the image of Mao in homes, cars, and offices and stores.
China is as full of contradictions and the contradiction between the current Communist Party of China, and its own history, is especially jarring. Has Mao been reduced to a superstitious good luck symbol or a token of unthinking nationalism? Is the phenomenon of “red tourism” merely a sign that people want to travel? All of this is possible and probably exists to a degree. It is without a doubt, though, that the resistance of workers, migrants and peasants will continue, and grow, and begin to take in an organized form despite the enormous power of the regime to strike back. It is without a doubt that the presence of beggars and prostitutes in the cities will spread and that the children in the dilapidated school buildings in the countryside are being robbed of future opportunities. It is without a doubt that from life experience of hundreds of millions there a desire stirring to begin another long march to dignity and equality. What it will look like this time will be up to history, and the comrades, and all those who march with them.