Exciting time for China right now, with the annual two sessions kicking off today. Here are loosely related tidbits of news, which I hope will form a composite of modern China for you:
- The National People’s Congress, one of China’s two legislative bodies (i.e., the ones that are meeting right now), is a shining example of democracy in China, according to Chinese state media. What I find ironic is that the article does not itself contain the word “democracy,” nor does it provide details on how these officials are “elected.” Plus, I’m pretty sure “democracy” carries with it some kind of disdain and irony in China, so I’m not sure why Chinese media still try to promote the image that China is democratic.
- China’s most outspoken economics weekly, Caixin, has declared state capitalism to be “incompatible with … socialist market economy,” “outdated” and “threaten[ing to] Chinese prosperity.” Preach it, sister. China’s economy began its rapid growth under the market principles of Deng Xiaoping, culminating with the break-up and privatization of many of SOEs in the 1990s, before stalling under Premier Wen Jiabao. What you get, in my limited observations as a peon in the state publishing industry, is a colossal amount of waste and idiotic decisions made to impress and boost the egos of clueless higher-ups.
- American leaders may be wealthy, but Chinese leaders are WEALTHY. American leaders are controlled by corporations, but Chinese leaders control corporations. Both systems lead to corruption and cronyism. Which system is worse?
The richest 2 percent of the NPC — 60 people — had an average wealth of $1.44 billion per person. The richest 2 percent of Congress — 11 members — had an average wealth of $323 million.
- And then there is this NPC deputy, who has very democratic thoughts on the Internet. She thinks it should be like the People’s Daily.
- China is getting defensive, both domestically and militarily. Is the 11.5% increase in domestic security part of President Hu Jintao’s campaign to strengthen social management and preempt the growing social unrest (in the form of “mass incidents”)? That’s what the Reuters article suggests, but it could just as easily be an employment campaign.
- Tibetans continue to set themselves on fire in protest of “repressive” government policies over Tibetans. The latest victims are a mother of four and a middle-school-aged girl. Yes, this counts as “social unrest.”
- Perhaps the NPC is democratic, or at least somewhat on its way to being nominally democratic, according to the Economist. At any rate, a rubber-stamper it is not (sort of).
- Beijing is gross. I live between the third and fourth rings, and here is a seventh ring encompassing us all: