China: The Turmoil Brewing Under The Surface
It is difficult for the foreigners to see China with the Chinese perspective. We, the non-Chinese, try to analyze the Chinese affairs by looking at the present. Anyhow, foreign vision gets really clouded beyonds the 1980 marker – the year economic reforms in China had started to pave the way for its ‘open door’ policy. But, in order to understand what is going on in China, and the course it is going to take from this point onward, it is essential to dissociate from the fabrics of propaganda matrix that had been knitted to shroud the truth and facts about the pre-1980 China.
In the early 1950s China was in a shamble – no manufacturing, no industry, no service sector, and no institutions of technical and higher education. Agricultural production was not enough to feed its population – millions were dying due to famine and starvation. The country had zero foreign reserves – as the thugs of Chiang Kai-Shek had looted away all its gold and wealth, and had virtually no trading with any country – there was nothing to trade with. It was a dire and bleak outlook for a country devastated by the wars, occupations, and sanctions.
But, it was the spirit of revolution ignited by Mao, and the iron will of the Chinese people to build their country from the ashes that ultimately prevailed. It was the hard work and sacrifices of the previous generation of Chinese that had paved the way for the Chinese Miracle that we are witnessing now — That is the fact that we need to recognize in order to appreciate and understand what is going on in China now, and what are the aspirations of the Chinese masses.
Despite the self-serving propaganda in the west, in the eyes of common Chinese, Mao Zedong was the most revered leader in the world – He liberated China from the clutches of the feudal lords and the tyranny of the puppet government of Gen. Chiang Kai-Shek. Mao dismantled the class of the land lords, and rooted out the entrenched establishment, thus terminating the ‘hopes’ of the global tyranny to ever be able to sabotage and hijack the Chinese revolution – He empowered and motivated the masses to work hard for the future of their children. Chinese masses appreciated his wisdom, leadership, ruthlessness in charting and achieving the objectives, and, above all, his sincerity.
During the Mao’s era – essentially from the 1950 to 1976, China had already been completely transformed – it had already emerged as an industrial and manufacturing economy – self-sufficient in every field – from the production of food to the nuclear reactors. From under 15% literacy rate, the country had achieved close to 100% literacy. From almost no industrial base, the country had built an enormous manufacturing base. From virtually no roadways and railways, the country had put together the essentials of a massive national infrastructure – China’s enormous manufacturing base and the web of expansive Expressways and Railways that dazzles our eyes is built upon the same base that was put together during the era of Mao.
It was the dedication and extremely hard work of the previous generation – spanning a period of more than a quarter of a century, that became the foundation of the present day’s China Miracle. The previous two generations, the grand parents and parents of the current generation of Chinese, endured all the sufferings, and died working for a better future for their children. They tolerated the hardships, and accepted the indignities so that their coming generations could enjoy the abundance and prosperity. They put their trust in the Communist Party, and, with the Chinese perspective, the leadership of the communist party has betrayed them – The dreams of their fathers have been stolen and handed over to the likes of Jack Ma, Wang Jianlin, and Ma Huateng.
While the ‘working class‘ – the class that was supposed to be the most comfortable class in a communist system, has to endure the harsh working environment for the meager wages, the wealth of the billionaires has been doubling every couple of years. While the masses are languishing, a corrupt and greedy bureaucracy is thriving.
There is deep rooted resentment, frustration, and anger that is ready to erupt at the slightest provocation – and, it seems that president Xi Jinping is well aware of it. The current government has become more attuned to the needs of the ‘common’ man, and working hard to show that it cares. But, as for as the Chinese people are concerned, these are just the token gestured.
It is true that the Chinese, as a whole, see their tomorrow much better than their yesterday. Chinese government is taking steps to make sure that the prosperity should keep on trickling down a bit to the bottom – the working class should not feel getting suffocated and starved. The hopes and dreams of the common man must be kept alive. The media is at full blast, marketing the ‘Chinese Dream’. But, the problem that the Chinese authorities are encountering is that the Chinese Dreams, unlike the ‘American Dreams’, are not strong enough to suppress and wipe out the reality.
Though the middle and upper middle class is growing rapidly and becoming more comfortable, there is a feeling that they are not getting their full share in the economy. The high-tech and professional segment of the society is enjoying a lifestyle that was the dream of their parents, but, they too feel that they are being been short changed. Their thinking is that the wealth of the super wealthy class in China is due to the theft of the public assets – the work of their parents and grand parents.
This Educated middle class in China is knowledgeable and well aware of the local and global affairs. They understand the politics, they notice the amount of the rampant corruption, and notice the power of the government officials, they observe the arrogance and extravaganza of the super rich, and they resent it very much.
The anger of the Chinese masses keep on showing up on occasions – The attacks of rage over the last few years, from the Xinjiang province to Guandongt, have more to do with the economic disparity and the anger over the official highhandedness. The incident at the eastern province of Zhejiang in April 2014, in which a mob attacked the police – in response to the police brutality, viciously beating and killing four officers while shouting ‘Kill them! Kill them’, should have been an eye opener for the authorities in Beijing. There were reports that tens of thousands of angry Chinese were pouring into the city of incident, Lingxi – Lucky for Mr. Xi, the authorities didn’t copy the American model and sent the equivalent of the National Guards and SWAT teams, otherwise it would have been the beginning of the end of the Chinese billionaires. Official apologies and the calm response finally ended up easing the tensions.
There are reports of many other similar incidents where the large crowd of people formed to confront the police. Confrontations, though, were averted thanks to non-confrontational attitude of the police forces. But, these continuous occurrences point to the underlying anger of the population.
Within the PLA, there are elements who are very angry with the turn that China has taken over the course of last two decades. These are the hardcore nationalists who think that the communist party leadership has sold out the country for personal gains. They believe that China should call the US bluff, and stop accepting the US dollar – that they refer to as the ‘toilet paper’, for the goods made by the Chinese skill and labor. Their opinion is that by piling up trillions of dollars in reserve, China has tied itself to US, and the western banking system. There is a deep rooted resentment.
This hardcore military element poses the greatest threat to the Beijing’s authority. There have been rumors of a couple of coup d’état attempts in the last two years. Mr. Xi Jinping, while chastising the military command and advising it to always obey the authority of the Communist Party, has lately been busy reshuffling and removing quite a few of the ‘bad apples’ from the lot of the PLA command.
President Xi Jinping is the ‘Prince’ president of the Billionaires Club of China. He is a very shrewd, and ruthless, politician. While working to assert the Chinese power globally, he is successfully exploiting every blunder that the US make – and there is no end to it, to establish China as the only reliable and trustworthy trade partner to every other country in the world. It is a big feat.
The fact is that China has emerged as the only Exceptional Nation in the world – The way things stand now, the world cannot be without China. But, the way the undercurrents are moving and the turmoil is brewing under the surface, the question one has to ponder upon is;
What the China is going to be in the coming years?
» Part II to follow