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For most Chinese, the dream of prosperity has died

The economic miracle that has taken place in China is largely for the benefit of a rich elite.

  • Loretta Tofani
  • International
  • August 6, 2012
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Gerard Lemos, a former visiting professor in China from the United Kingdom, paints a disturbing picture of the failure of China’s extraordinary economic growth to benefit hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens. After conducting a remarkable survey in China, Lemos links the economic problems and fears of ordinary Chinese to the policies of China’s authoritarian leadership, both local and national. Although most of Lemos’s research occurs in Chongqing, where the recently deposed Politburo member Bo Xilai was party secretary, the problems he describes exist throughout China.

In The End of the Chinese Dream: Why Chinese People Fear the Future, Lemos concludes that “the People’s Republic of China is now run by the wealthy for the benefit of the wealthy.” Hundreds of millions of ordinary Chinese are the losers. They are “deeply insecure about themselves and their future” he writes, just when the rest of the world has become “star-struck by the apparent prospect of China’s imminent glory.”

The author, a social policy expert, was a professor at Chongqing Technical University from 2006 to 2010. He was interested in whether policies to support people through the transformation to a market economy were working. After conducting a survey of more than 2,500 Chinese citizens in Chongqing and Beijing, he concluded they were not. On paper, he asked four questions: Who are you? What event changed your life? What is your biggest worry? What do you wish for? He designed the survey in a creative, innocuous way in order to get the necessary permission from officials.

Those surveyed worried about finding jobs, keeping their jobs, getting sick, affording medical treatment, paying for their children’s education and having enough to live on in their old age. These modest ambitions, Lemos writes, “are the true Chinese dream,” but for millions “that short-lived dream has died.”

Still, China has succeeded in drastically reducing poverty, from about 85 percent in 1985 to 16 percent in 2005. But hundreds of millions still cannot find enough money to pay for the services that the government provided until about 1980.

Lemos quotes many of those he surveyed. A 42-year-old man from Chongqing, for example, wrote: “[My greatest worry is] I couldn’t find a job and couldn’t afford to go to hospital and I’m also worrying about my child’s education fee. [I wish] to find a job to support my child’s education and to have health insurance.”

Such concerns are strikingly similar to those of Americans. But the “safety nets” that exist in the West—unemployment insurance, pensions, workers’ compensation—are extremely stingy in China, mere tokens. Free health care no longer exists for most Chinese citizens.

Full Story: Mainland Malaise

Source: America Magazine
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