Friday, March 6, 2009

Interesting Times

In an earlier post that was peppered with deictic reference, "Mao", "Dickensian Manchester Capitalism", "the Tolpuddle struggles of 1831/32", "Liaoyang", I tried to make the point that China, will discover that the capitalist road is, at best, not a smooth one.(1) Now, the evidence would appear to suggest that, with the IMF talking about 6.7% growth this year, the first big bump is coming up and, while Premier Wen Jiabao is still assuring his comrades that the economy will still grow 8 per cent, the level that the Communist Party believes is necessary to hold down the jobless rate and stave off wider social unrest, we might conclude that the figure is somewhere in between and possibly closer to 7%.
What does this mean? Well, for one thing, with China already the third biggest economy in the world after the United States and Japan, it is going to be all the more difficult to drag the global economy out of its downturn. More importantly, however, is the effect that it is going to have on China itself and the assumption has to be that the wider social unrest feared by "Grandpa Wen" and his mates cannot be avoided. Of course, in the past this has not been a problem for Beijing as the attitude from the countryside was invariably one of, "if the government knew what was happening here, heads would role;" heads did role and Beijing would send a new Head of the Party and a new Mayor out into the village, town or city in question , the peoples' grievances would be "addressed" and everything would be hunky-dory for the far-away Beijing. The problem now, however, is Beijing is not so far away. The unemployed "proletariat" from the factories in Shenzehn are computer literate, more informed and more aware of the injustices in a system that has them in a poverty trap while the new bourgeois sends its children to universities abroad, drives its "made in Germany" cars and pops over to Hong Kong on shopping trips. There are no more "rags to riches" illussions for this new "proletariat", no "Chinese dream" of from factory floor to factory owner and they are all very aware that the real problem does not lie with the party officials back in their villages but rather in Beijing itself. Interesting times, interesting times, indeed!

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