‘Why the Chinese are cheerful about the future’, Peter Hartcher, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26.02.18
In survey after survey, China’s people are full of bounce. In comparisons with the people of other countries, the Chinese show an optimism and a confidence that puts them among the most positive on the planet.
Chinese consumers are brimful of confidence, outdone by only those in India, Indonesia and Iceland. China’s people are the most optimistic in the world that they will have better living conditions in the future.
And among the world’s young people, it’s the Chinese and the Indians who feel most positive that the world is becoming a better place. One reason is that their economies are booming, But they also have great faith in the power of technology to do good.
And, surprisingly perhaps in a dictatorship, Chinese have confidence in their government. This is not just a piece of Communist Party propaganda. It’s a consistent result from surveys by credible international organisations.
A survey of people in 34 countries by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre five years ago found that 66 per cent of Chinese citizens expressed “confidence” in their government. That was the fifth highest in the world, almost double the level in America and equal to that in Norway. Interestingly, Indonesia also had a very high rating on this measure.
And in the annual Edelman Trust Barometer published last month measuring sentiment internationally, a whopping 84 per cent of respondents in China said that they had “trust” in government. That was an increase of 8 percentage points over the course of a year. And it was the highest among the 28 countries surveyed.
Should we be suspicious of polls conducted in a one-party state where criticism of the national leaders is rigorously censored and where dissidents are arrested? Yes, we should be.
And yet there are clues that it’s probably broadly true that the Chinese have high trust in government. One reason is that, again, India and Indonesia, democracies both, show similarly high levels. There seems to be a correlation of broad confidence among the three big, thrusting, emerging countries, all headed by leaders with a sense of purpose and a rockstar aura.
And another is the consistency of findings across different areas of Chinese life, measured by different outfits. The country is on the rise, its ordinary people are better off than they’ve been in centuries, and their government is waging a vigorous campaign against the problem that Chinese have long nominated as their biggest concern – corruption.
As the BBC’s Beijing correspondent Stephen McDonell commented a year and a half ago: “Elsewhere there is fear and uncertainty. Here optimism trumps all.”
And if the people’s trust is earned, above all else, by sheer results, then the Chinese people’s trust in government is no surprise. A new World Bank report, which went online without fanfare a few days ago, sets out some remarkable results. Here are just three.
The world has a rough grasp of the fact that China has made great inroads on its poverty problem. But the World Bank report makes an extraordinary finding. Using the international poverty line adopted in 2011 of income of $US1.90 ($2.40) a person a day, adjusted for a country’s cost of living, it says: “The share of the population living in poverty fell from 88.3 per cent in 1981 to 66.6 per cent in 1990 and 1.9 per cent in 2013.”
The number of people lifted out of poverty in that span? A total of 850 million. That’s two-and-a-half times the population of the US.
It’s the equivalent of the entire number of humans on the planet until the 19th century. The World Bank observes that of all the people in the world who managed to escape poverty in the last four decades, seven of every 10 were Chinese. It describes the scale and speed of this achievement as “unprecedented in scope and scale”. Undeniably.
China has about 25 million citizens still living under the poverty line, and the bank predicts that it will make further progress.
China’s breakneck economic growth made this transformation possible, but while it was necessary it was not sufficient. Many countries in history have managed bursts of rapid growth; very few have lifted such a broad swath of its people out of poverty. Because it’s not just how much money a country makes but how it’s used to the benefit of its people that’s crucial.
And this is point two. China has leapfrogged other wealthier countries in offering a social safety net to its people. “Since the 1990s, China has introduced an array of social protection programs at a speed that is unprecedented internationally,” the World Bank remarks.
Among its reforms are pension and health insurance programs, unemployment benefits, sickness and workplace injury assistance, and maternity insurance for women working in formal job sectors in the cities.
Weaving such a broad safety net so quickly “is a feat that took decades to achieve in OECD countries, and one that many middle-income countries have not realised” the bank observes. Health and education services have been much improved.
China still has shocking inequality and rural areas suffer most. But while it was worsening for decades and became as severe as US experience, the inequality gap has started gradually to close since 2008, according to the World Bank.
Point three helps explain how China managed to deliver so much growth with such broad benefit so quickly. The World Bank assesses China’s institutions as well-functioning. Interestingly, it finds that Communist Party political loyalties among officialdom has not corroded the effectiveness of its institutions.
It says that the party has shaped the “core of a high-performing bureaucracy by integrating features of party loyalty with professionalisation of the civil service in a unique way”. It has “provided incentives through promotion and rewards to bureaucrats and local officials in return for their attainment of growth and job creation targets”.
And instead of finding a deadening political oppressiveness in government departments, the World Bank reports that “the cadre management system and the broader political systems in China have facilitated vigorous contest ability of policy ideas, which promoted policy effectiveness”. The success and durability of the one-party state point to China as a standing challenge to democratic countries.
The World Bank report, with the delightfully evocative title Systematic Country Diagnostic, is not, however, a portrait of a socialist Utopia. The bank finds huge problems. Environmental collapse beckons. Pollution is “an all-encompassing challenge” and climate change is wreaking havoc. Similarly, the levels of debt in the economy pose the danger of acute financial crisis. And the ageing of the population, set to accelerate, will pose new problems of national solvency.
But China’s successes and its people’s surging confidence help explain why President Xi Jinping feels that he can now do what no Chinese leader since Mao has done, something even the autocratic Vladimir Putin has not attempted – rewrite the constitution to make himself emperor for life, as Hong Kong University’s Willy Lam has described it.
There is confidence. And then there is hubris.
From Comments at The Virtual Politician:
Worth considering: ‘The war in China has given the death-blow to the old China. Isolation has become impossible; the introduction of railways, steam-engines, electricity, and modern large-scale industry has become a necessity, if only for reasons of military defence. But with it the old economic system of small peasant agriculture, where the family also made its industrial products itself, falls to pieces too, and with it the whole old social system which made relatively dense population possible. Millions will be turned out and forced to emigrate; and these millions will find their way even to Europe, and en masse. But as soon as Chinese competition sets in on a mass scale, it will rapidly bring things to a head in your country and over here, and thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’
Engels to Friedrich Adolf Sorge in Hoboken; London, November 10, 1894, Marx Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1982, 450-451
I am unfamiliar with Engels and Friedrich Adolf Sorge, let alone their designs upon destroying American and European capitalism. Might you expound a bit on that for us?
Thank you for your interest. Essentially I quoted Engels not to argue for destruction but for how the world works – that the only absolute is change and that matter (objective reality) is primary to consciousness (that consciousness is the product of objective reality – what one thinks, whatever that may be, is secondary to and derivate of the world). Accepting these two points orients and focuses one’s thought on all subjects.
The one-party state in China, as you know, is demonised in capitalist ideology. Western ‘democracy’ is held up as the highest form of political organisation, the standard. But if there was a vote for anything that threatened their interests, the capitalist class would destroy it.
Look not only at the damage the Democrat/Republican divide is doing in the United States (a division which reflects the decline of their middle class – a global phenomenon – and exemplifies the increasing exposure of the opposed interests of their ruling and working classes), think of the enormous forces – economic and social, that are being impacted on by these divisions.
In China with its population of 1.3 billion (and as Engels foresaw) is taking place rapid economic development, following on the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. With that development, and dialectically informing it, is the equally rapid rise of millions into the middle class.
In the rise of capitalism, the middle class was the agent of individual representation and I believe that this rising middle class in China will put growing pressure for the recognition of the significance of the individual on their one-party state and that the engagement between these two forces (party and middle class) will result in forms of political, economic and social organisation within socialism that will be models for the world, as those in England were previously under capitalism.
I think that these developments, together with the benefits they bring, underscored by the vast size of the Chinese population will force similar and fundamental economic, political and social change on the Western (capitalist) nations. And this is what Engels foresaw in 1894, in outline.
We are witnessing and experiencing the unceasing, contradictory change of dialectics at work.
I listened to your interview of the professor from Defence Studies at the ANU with regard to China.
I wonder if he referred to the many pigs at the trough (the most responsible, unpunished) when the latest crisis of capitalist dynamics – the ‘GFC’ (which came within an ace of bringing down capitalism and has not gone away) broke out? I strongly doubt it.
The Chinese are way ahead of the West for three reasons:
> they have had their socialist revolution which the Western nations are yet to have – for the fundamental reason not that I wish it or to provoke your guest but as Marx identified (I am not a Marxist) – that of the level of development of the productive forces, the uncontrolled ramifications of which can be seen everywhere in the West
> they have the potential of the one-party state (cf. the obligatory myopic street-theatre of Republican/Democrat, Liberal/Labor etc.) which, since Deng Xiaoping, has shown a crucial capacity to release the engine of reward for individual initiative within a socialist framework – something the Soviet Communist Party was never able to do (Lenin first unsuccessfully attempted this with his NEP in 1921)
> bearing on this is the consequential rapid rise into the middle class of hundreds of millions of Chinese – a class historically associated with ‘democracy’ – i.e. ‘a voice’ and power. There will be an increasing tension between the Chinese one-party state and their rising middle-class and I think that the Chinese will continue to successfully address this and other matters and lead the world with forms of political and economic organisation that will be models for it.
Worth considering are Engels’ words from a letter to America in 1894:
‘The war in China has given the death-blow to the old China. Isolation has become impossible; the introduction of railways, steam-engines, electricity, and modern large-scale industry has become a necessity, if only for reasons of military defence. But with it the old economic system of small peasant agriculture, where the family also made its industrial products itself, falls to pieces too, and with it the whole old social system which made relatively dense population possible. Millions will be turned out and forced to emigrate; and these millions will find their way even to Europe, and en masse. But as soon as Chinese competition sets in on a mass scale, it will rapidly bring things to a head in your country and over here, and thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’
ABC Radio National/Late Night Live 25.08.15/China crash
* * *
There is a great deal of potential for health care in a society by reflecting on how China’s barefoot doctors were trained, how they were organised and how they worked:
Doctors in Australia have been extremely reluctant both to give up any of their procedures to those less qualified and to accept a perspective on health care other than one consonant with their mantra of ‘evidence-based’ (so often shown to amount to pro-the drug industry and pro-surgery, and often amounting to the rejection of evidence), arguing a concern for patient safety.
The reluctance, even refusal, still, of Western doctors to have an wholistic approach to health care and medicine (contrary to all the evidence), to appreciate the relationship between how a person thinks and feels and the health of their body would be incomprehensible if one didn’t see the forms for surgery and all the little hand-outs from drug companies on their desks.
An equivalent of the barefoot doctors could form another level in the provision of health care not only in urbanised regions but particularly in sparsely populated areas – such as in Australia. It should not be a matter of either (the fully qualified professional)/or (none at all)
I have no doubt that the traditional methods and ways of thinking (communal and grounded in nature) of Australia’s Aboriginal people would have a great deal to offer in this regard.
Precisely because the ethic of the barefoot doctors represents an approach to health care contradictory to the nature of capitalism (socialist, not exploitative and profit-driven), the lessons they embody will most probably be lost on a capitalist West.
I understand that with the gradual loosening of economic constraints in China (a necessary but complex and delicate development that the Chinese have so far managed very well since a process of reform was initiated by Deng Xiaoping) the Western view of health care is also, most unfortunately, (re)gaining influence.
Chang’e-4 made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon at 10:26 Thursday morning, marking a breakthrough in human exploration of the universe, according to a statement the China National Space Administration (CNSA) sent to the Global Times on Thursday.
The probe sent back images at 11:40 am, about one hour after landing in the Von Karman Crater of the South Pole-Aitken Basin, said the administration, unveiling the moon’s far side for the first time in lunar exploration history.
The far side of the moon refers to the hemisphere that never faces the Earth and cannot be seen directly from the Earth.
The lunar lander touched down and sent signals from the moon’s far side to the Earth for the first time, launching “a new chapter in human exploration of the moon,” according to the administration’s statement.
The probe’s lander and rover successfully separated on Thursday night, Xinhua reported. The first photo of the Yutu II rover landing on the far side of the moon was snapped by a camera attached to the lander and sent to Earth via the Queqiao satellite.
The name Yutu II was picked for the rover of Chang’e-4 from 42,945 online suggestions from all over the world including Light, Walking Man and Elf, CNSA announced on Thursday night.
The rover looks like its predecessor Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, China’s first lunar rover launched in 2013.
But the newer rover has adaptable parts and an adjustable payload configuration to deal with the more complex terrain on the far side of the moon, the Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.
Hashtags related to Chang’e-4’s moon landing had been viewed more than 100 million times as of press time on Thursday evening.
Internet users almost universally welcomed the landing.
“Chang’e flying to the moon is a myth and we are realizing the myth,” Sina Weibo user Zanjia posted.
“Congratulations to China’s Chang’e-4 team for what appears to be a successful landing on the far side of the Moon. This is a first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment!” tweeted NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Rocks on the moon’s far side are comparatively more ancient than those on the front, Pang Zhihao, a Beijing-based aerospace expert, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Chang’e-4 will help humanity learn the origin and evolution of the moon and help with low-frequency radio astronomical observations, Pang said. Those observations may well lead to some major astronomical discoveries, he noted.
It was not easy for Chang’e-4 to land in the heavily cratered, mountainous South Pole-Aitken Basin, he said.
The basin was created by the impact of a meteor and is one of the largest known impact craters in the solar system. It is about 2,500 kilometres in diameter and 13 kilometres deep, according to Xinhua.
Unlike the Chang’e-3 probe landing on the Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, on a parabolic trajectory, the Chang’e-4 probe made a vertical descent at the Von Karman Crater, said the CNSA.
“The Von Karman Crater is believed to have great scientific research potential. The region is also comparatively flat, making it safer for Chang’e-4 to land there,” Pang said.
A vertical landing helped Chang’e-4 avoid hitting rocks on the far side. As Chang’e-4 cannot directly communicate with the Earth, the probe relays communication – with a 1-minute delay – through the satellite Queqiao, or Magpie Bridge, said CNSA.
Such a time difference creates the conditions for a “blind landing,” meaning the probe must land on its own, using information installed in advance.
To ensure a safe landing, Chang’e-4 was equipped with an autonomous diagnosis system to detect and resolve problems for itself.
The probe can also work at night to record the temperature of the far side, another improvement on Chang’e-3, Pang said.
More than 100 spacecraft and probes have been launched onto the moon since the 1950s, but none soft-landed on the moon’s far side, Zou Yongliao, deputy director of the National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at a press conference in November 2018.
Chang’e-4 is carrying eight payloads including a low frequency radio spectrometer from Germany and detectors from Sweden.
Instruments will conduct low-frequency radio astronomy observations, research the structure of the moon’s surface and study neutron radiation on the moon’s far side.
CNSA said that with data provided by the Chang’e-4 probe, they would like to jointly explore the universe in cooperation with foreign space agencies, research institutes and space enthusiasts.
The Chang’e-4 landing moves China a step closer to the establishment of a moon base. The lunar exploration project was initiated in 2004 as China’s first step into deep-space exploration.
The Chang’e-1 to Chang’e-5 lunar probes constitute the first of three phases from unmanned lunar exploration through manned moon landings to the establishment of a moon base.
The construction of the moon base will be controlled by artificially intelligent robots and occasionally managed by human beings after astronauts are sent to the moon, China News Service reported in March, citing Zhao Xiaojin, Party chief of the China Academy of Space Technology at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
Christina Zhou, ‘Chinese cities enforce their own versions of the Social Credit System to target issues in their area’, ABC News, 15.11.18
…In Jinan, a city in eastern Shandong province, authorities have rolled out a credit scoring system to enforce responsible dog ownership.
After enforcing the system in January last year, recently released figures show some 1430 owners have been penalised, with more than 120 temporarily surrendering their beloved pooch after losing all their points, according to a CCTV news article on Jinan’s SCS website.
Just like an Australian driver’s licence, the pet demerit system gives every registered dog owner a licence with 12 points, and penalises owners for every infraction.
First-time offenders who walked their dog without a leash or tag, or didn’t clean up after their pet, or were reported for a disturbance, were docked three points.
Second-time offenders were fined 200 to 500 yuan ($40 to $100) and penalised six points, and those offending for a third time would lose all 12 points and be forced to surrender their dog, the provincial SCS website states.
Meanwhile, pet owners who failed to renew their dog registration every year would also have their dog temporarily taken to a kennel until they passed an exam on dog-keeping regulations.
A China Daily report published this year said complaints about owners walking dogs without a leash dropped by 43 per cent as a result of the credit system, while state media Legal Daily commended the “effectiveness” of the system and argued for it to be rolled out across the country. …
Alone and Drinking Under the Moon
by Li Bai (Li Po) 701-762
Amongst the flowers I
am alone with my pot of wine
drinking by myself; then lifting
my cup I asked the moon
to drink with me, its reflection
and mine in the wine cup, just
the three of us; then I sigh
for the moon cannot drink,
and my shadow goes emptily along
with me never saying a word;
with no other friends here, I can
but use these two for company;
in the time of happiness, I
too must be happy with all
around me; I sit and sing
and it is as if the moon
accompanies me; then if I
dance, it is my shadow that
dances along with me; while
still not drunk, I am glad
to make the moon and my shadow
into friends, but then when
I have drunk too much, we
all part; yet these are
friends I can always count on
these who have no emotion
whatsoever; I hope that one day
we three will meet again,
deep in the Milky Way.
Ross Gittins, ‘China thinks big, while Australia waits for luck to strike’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 03.08.16
Sorry if I sound wide-eyed, but I was mightily impressed when I visited China as a guest of the Australia-China Relations Institute. Obviously, we were directed to the best rather than the worst but, even allowing for that, it was still impressive. Those guys are going places.
In a hurry. I was struck by how fast-moving the place is – in several senses. We argue interminably about getting a high-speed rail link, while the Chinese just get on with it.
We took the bullet train from Beijing to its nearest port, Tianjin, 140 kilometres away. So smooth you didn’t really notice how fast it was going.
The government-run China Daily announced while we were there the plan to have 30,000 kilometres of high-speed track built by 2020. You could be sceptical – except they already have 19,000 kilometres installed. …
Of course, we tell ourselves, any technology they use has come from foreigners, sometimes without proper recompense.
Don’t be so sure. We visited Shenzhen which, until 36 years ago, was a fishing village just across the water from Hong Kong, before someone made it a special economic zone. …
Today it’s a city of 10 million, with income per person of about $29,000 a year. It has maintained 45 per cent of its area as parks and forest by the simple expedient of having housing go up rather than out. …
China is big; we think of ourselves as small. China is confident, impatiently pushing towards a better future; we are fearful, waiting for more luck to turn up.
Donald Horne, The Lucky Country – Australia in the Sixties, Angus and Robertson, 1965 (first published in 1964)
14 ‘Australians love a “battler”, an underdog who is fighting the top dog, although their veneration for him is likely to pass if he comes out from under. At work – among the unambitious – the feeling for underdogs runs very strong.’
18 ‘Australians like people to be ordinary…To be different is considered an affectation.’
18-19 Horne believes that Australians embody ‘a complex of resentments against difference…It is only when a difference stares them in the face that ordinary Australians become truculent; and then only in a personal way.’
26-27 ‘This cynicism beneath purpose feeds our notorious philistinism…This deeply inlaid scepticism is a genuine philosophy of life, a national style determining individual and group actions. Its influence can be detected throughout Australian society. It may be the most pervasive single influence operating on Australians.’
27 ‘What (Australians) find it difficult to do is to imagine the new for themselves.’
32 ‘The passion for egalitarianism may combine with the passion for scepticism to hide and often frustrate talent.’
32 ‘Much energy is wasted in pretending to be stupid. To appear ordinary, just like everybody else, is sometimes a necessary condition for success in Australia.’
56 Horne paraphrased the diary entry of Mrs. Marcel Dekyvere, chairperson of the Black and White Ball Committee (in 1964) in response to a sermon titled “I Have a Dream” ’ – ‘We must all keep our dreams, even if sometimes they don’t come true. Don’t you agree?’ (Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on 28.08.1963)
76 ‘On 27 December 1941, John Curtin made the single most significant statement ever made by an Australian Prime Minister: “Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America”.’
83 Australians are suspicious of all idealism: ‘ “What’s in it for him?” ’
88 ‘In the past Australia has also displayed the other side of provincialism: the boastfulness and arrogance of the liberated province, parading its very provincialism as if it were homegrown.’
101 ‘Despite its internal democracy, Australia plays an aristocratic role in the society of Asia – rich, self-centred, frivolous, blind’
107 The words ‘White Australia Policy’ were removed from the Labor Party platform in 1965.
112 ‘if Australia is to play a more forceful role in Asia the change must be dramatic enough to impress Asians that it is a change. It would seem a comparatively simple method to enter into migration agreements with Asian countries that might meet any of their own fears and that would set up clear public standards of assimilability – of language, education and working capacity…My own view is that the future holds dramatic possibilities for Australia which may necessarily include racial change, that this is Australia’s ‘destiny’. It is going to happen one way or the other. It is a task that will be undertaken either by Australians, or by someone else.’
121 ‘Not that Australia has ever spent much on research and development anyway…This indifference to research and development goes beyond the question of foreign ownership.’
130 ‘Several generations of Australians were taught to venerate not lions or eagles or other aggressive symbols of nationalism; they were taught to venerate sheep.’
136 ‘the things modern Australians are really interested in – getting homes, raising their children, going on holidays.’
190 Against the justification that ‘we are only a small nation’:
Horne, quoting Irving Kristol’s review of the first edition of The Lucky Country, emphasised the importance of leadership that could enable a people to create ‘better than they know’ and of appreciating their creation, without which that people would not only be far poorer in their self-definition but would be blissfully unaware of their poverty. Leadership enables the discernment of a promise and a potentiality that becomes integral to their way of life.