By Mitch Moxley - Monday, February 4, 2013 - 0 Comments
They are four times richer than they were 20 years ago, yet they find their lives lack meaning and direction
The Chinese have an expression to describe coping with hardship: chi ku—to eat bitterness. The sensation is familiar to Wang Hui, a 50-year-old salesman in Beijing. Wang earns less than $6,000 a year, struggles to put his son through school, and is openly jealous of those around him who have made out better in the new China. A former colleague, for example, who invested in real estate at the right time, now owns four apartments and a Mercedes-Benz.
“I’ve seen so many people get rich so quickly,” says Wang, whose missing bottom tooth and cracked watch seem to accentuate his Willy Loman predicament. “If I worked for 50 years, I wouldn’t make that much money. Of course I’m envious.”
Wang isn’t alone. In fact, he reflects a widespread dissatisfaction in China, one that at first glance might seem counterintuitive. It’s been more than 30 years since Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping opened the country and the Communist party embraced the mantra “to get rich is glorious.” In the decades since, hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty. In 2010, China surpassed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy. The Chinese today are four times richer than they were 20 years ago, and people like Wang have opportunities and creature comforts unheard of a generation ago. Continue…
By Nancy Macdonald - Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 7:40 AM - 0 Comments
The biggest buzz from the Communist Party’s meeting was around the yawns
Photos of bored Chinese Communist delegates at a pivotal party meeting went viral last week, before quickly disappearing from social media. Yawning party loyalists, after all, don’t fit with the official excitement surrounding Beijing’s once-in-a-decade leadership turnover.
In fairness, the 18th party congress, which ended Thursday, was hardly heady stuff. Decisions were made months in advance, and the names of the top leadership—including Xi Jinping, who replaces Hu Jintao as head of the Chinese Communist Party—have been known for years. Apparatchiks were just going through the motions.
But that didn’t stop an aura of paranoia from sweeping Beijing. Officials, spooked by falling growth rates, corruption scandals and the children of Communist politicians crashing Ferraris, ramped up security ahead of the handover. The sale of knives was banned in the capital. Buying a toy plane—which could have seditious messages attached to it—required a police chief’s permission. Cabbies were ordered to lock their back windows to prevent passengers from handing out political pamphlets. And in Tiananmen Square, guards carried fire extinguishers to stop Tibetan monks from lighting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule. Still, in places, dissidents did turn out to protest; scores of them were hauled off by security agents. Continue…