Discussion Section: Are Things Getting Worse?

This is a question I’ve been pondering for some time now, but it’s a question that’s impossible to separate from one’s own experience, so it’s tough to answer: are things getting worse in China?

On the one hand, the economy is growing blah blah blah yes we all know that and it’s important. But, in the last few years, it seems to me — and I am not an economist — that things have been getting worse for regular folks. Housing prices have gone way up in cities, inflation is also hurting (esp in terms of some food prices), and there seem to be an awful lot of people left angry by all the development (specifically, the people who used to live in the houses that just got torn down).

At the same time, it seems like the political situation is getting worse, too. Liu Xiaobo’s winning the Nobel Prize was an excuse to block a whole new group of sites (including this one, and the well-regarded Chinese bbs forum 1984bbs), people are being arrested because of snarky tweets, and most recently there are rumors (from a very credible source) foreign reporters are being threatened with not getting their visas renewed as punishment for negative coverage of China.

But, like I said, it’s a tough question to separate from one’s own experience and perspective. So what do you think? Are things getting worse in China from where you sit? Better? The same?

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0 thoughts on “Discussion Section: Are Things Getting Worse?”

  1. Even the religious issue is getting worse, at least in the Catholic area. The ordination of Bishop Gao without Vatican acquiescence and with “kidnapping” of some of the ordaining Bishops, after 6 years of warm ties and close negotiations; The protest of 100 seminarians in Shijiazhuang (they even dared to “stood quietly for 14 hours in front of the provincial Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau”), protesting what they see as the political appointment of the seminary’s deputy director. The meeting december 7-9 of the 一会一团 (Catholic Patriotic Association + Chinese Bishop Conference) that is putting a lot of pressure on many Chinese Catholic lay, priests and bishops…

    And true, food is getting expensive, rental is expensive (they ask you for a 10% increase at least), real estate is already in another galactic division (same prices than in Madrid [+3000 Euros per sqm for second hand apartment in a similar area] for lesser quality construction, time constrained ownership and no without owning the land).

    I was hoping that after 2008 Olympics, 2009 60th anniversary and 2010 Expo+Asian Games we will finally have a nice, peaceful, low profile, no frills, balsamic 2011… seems that my expectations were wrong. Dear passengers we are experiences some turbulence; please remain seated and fasten your seatbelt.
    Hope we do not listen to “Braze, Braze, Braze….)


  2. Political repression in a Communist Party ruled country? Who knew?

    But on a serious note, you could have added China’s whole diplomatic profile to the list of things that seem to be going downhill. Unless being the world-recognized Sugar Daddy to murderous North Korea counts as an achievement.


  3. “Foreign reporters are being threatened with not getting their visas renewed as punishment for negative coverage of China.”

    I personally know three U.S.-based scholars who have been denied entry into China after publishing books and/or essays on politically sensitive topics.

    In addition, the NY Times is suggesting that at least some Chinese officials are complaining that Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Prize is part of a U.S. plot to discredit China’s government.

    What are we to think about such thin-skinned, paranoid secrecy freaks? Makes you wonder what kind of “super power” China may become.

    China IS getting worse, but I’m hoping (against hope, perhaps) that this is just a phase. In the end, I’m very happy that I hold a foreign passport.


  4. Lol, I remember when Custer was relatively pro-China until all the fenqing turned him around

    Regardless: Human rights/freedom of speech etc. is not a measure of success. At the end of the day, it’s national strength and wealth that counts, and in that respect China is getting better every day.


  5. At an economic level we can be sure the salad days of easy growth from exports and much needed infrastructure improvements are over. At the same time costs will continue to rise because of increasing reliance on energy imports.

    At a political level it seems that the powers that be will likely become more paranoid and fearful as a rapidly changing society increasingly challenges their authority in all corners.

    I think it’s safe to say that for the vast majority of Chinese, the next decade will not be as good as the last.


  6. “[I]t’s national strength and wealth that counts, and in that respect China is getting better every day.”

    Right. That’s what everyone said about 1930’s Germany and the Soviet Union in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.

    I often wonder what people in small, wealthy, well-adjusted nations like Norway think about world “powers” like China. Given a choice, where do you think most people would rather live — small, weak, and “poor” Norway or big, strong, and “rich” China? Waking up in Beijing, I’m sure the throngs of Chinese packed into overstuffed cars on Line 1 just sing at the thought of China’s national strength. Where’s Julie Andrews when you need her?


  7. One of my friends, a few months ago, was telling me that the number of natural disasters around the world seemed to be increasing enormously. He pointed out all the high-profile incidents of the past few years, and how they seemed to all be coming faster and faster.

    Yet, I looked up the numbers… and the incidence of major natural disasters isn’t on the rise. What’s happened is connectivity. It took three weeks for people in the southern provinces of China to hear about the Tangshan Earthquake in the 1970’s… whereas everyone in China had heard about the Sichuan Earthquake within minutes. The Tangshan Earthquake was back-page news in the US; the Sichuan Earthquake was covered extensively by 24-hour cable.

    What does this have to do with China? Well, as I like to put it- more bad news is good news. Bad news means that people are speaking freely. It means the media and the internet are doing their job. It means that corruption is being revealed, and problems can be addressed.

    Is the political situation getting worse? Well, tell me- what would Liu Xiaobo’s fate have been in 1982? Probably a quick bullet to the back of the head. How about 1992? Probably a quick trip to a detention camp- with not even the semblance of a trial. It’s telling that they felt the need to create trumped-up charges to imprison him; the government would have felt no such need back in Deng Xiaoping’s day, or perhaps even Jiang Zemin’s. They simply would have disposed of him- and not acknowledged any petitions regarding his fate. I’d imagine more foreign reporters are being threatened these days because- a) there are a lot more of them, b) they have a lot more access than they used to, and thus a lot more opportunities to get into trouble, and c) lower-level officials feel more empowered than they used to.

    Housing costs are a bubble, and one that will pop sooner or later. Inflation is natural in a country where wages are rising 15-20% per annum.

    No, the real problem is the environment, and that’s not one that is solved easily. They’re putting 2 new windmills online every hour, regulatory powers are increasing, vast swaths of trees are being planted to hold back the desert… but there’s still no way it can possibly be enough against the rate of development here.

    So, overall, with the exception of the environment, I’d say no, it’s not that the problems are getting worse- it’s that our perception of the problems is getting better!


  8. After three decades of so-called reform and opening, a peaceful dissident is given a sentence of 11 years instead of Wei Jingsheng’s 15 years–a whopping four years’ reduction in sentence. If progress under the CCP’s authoritarian bureaucratic capitalism remains at this rate into the future, a nonviolvent Chinese dissident might be able to expect a prison term of merely three years by 2070. That would be practically a socialist heaven on earth, thanks to the CCP’s Heavenly Mandate from History to rule China unopposed indefinitely… No need for the CCP monopoly to bother with messy things like international-standard elections, a parliament independent of Party control, or a judiciary independent of Party control.


  9. No, it’s because your memory is freshest for the most recent thing.

    Haven’t you seen enough news every other day that predict China will collapse? Or its social problems will burst? Or that China got the worst form of government, because it has the worst part of socialism and the worst part of capitalism? This is just the pessimist in you talking. Just leave this kind of question for a while, and reconsider it sometimes later. The answer will be different.


  10. The Chinese communist party is doomed. Here in Germany the German wall came down very quickly and with it the communist regime in Eastern Germany. Things change constantly. And the Chinese communist party is surely one of the things we can do without. The continuing process of undermining the Chinese communist party was very much helped by the fact that the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel peace prize this year.
    People all over the world are getting increasingly aware of what is going on in China. The erroneous idea of the glorious cultural revolution has faded. Is there still a need for the communist party in China? Clearly no.

    All that is needed now is that courageous Chinese individuals take a lead and demand openly the end of the communist rule in their country and call for free elections bearing in mind that human dignity, democracy and environmental protection are of greatest importance.


  11. There is no communist rule in China. It’s authoritarian rule, communist in name only. And the idea of the glorious cultural revolution faded 30 years ago, probably before you were born. It’s time to let it go, the Chinese did.


  12. Keisaat, what an awesome segway into what I wanted to say.

    I’ve been following the news on Xi Jingping, trying to get a feeling for what kind of leader he will be. Bad news. It’s starting to look more and more like he will make Hu and Wen seem like radical liberal reformers…

    Now Xi Jingping is meeting with Bo Xilai and shouting Maoist slogans with him. http://t.co/gdoBqtX

    I breathed a sigh of relief for China when that Bo guy got passed up for the leadership, but now it looks like he’s going to be in a position of power again.

    Get ready for a “mini” second cultural revolution when these guys take over.


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