“The Sound of Rising Prices”

It may not be as well-produced as the Chinese song about rising housing prices ((For more on how crazily expensive houses are, see this Danwei post.)), but rising inflation has finally inspired its own song.

The song is a parody of an already well-known tune called “The Sound of Applause” (掌声响起来, listen here). The parody version is called 涨声响起来, roughly translated as “The Sound of Rising Prices.” Here’s one of many videos that’s been made already:
http://www.tudou.com/v/kRdTpCGNBok/v.swf
(direct link to Tudou)

Here are the lyrics used in the video (note: the following translations are especially artless as I am exhausted and over-caffeinated, but you get the idea):

Standing at the counter of the supermarket,
Seeing how all the [prices] are rising,
I only feel like sighing,
There is nothing inexpensive,
So many prices have been changed,
Now regular people can’t afford to buy vegetables.

Thinking back on Chinese cabbage when I was young,
When 20 cents bought a big bagful,
I can’t keep from crying,
So many big buildings being constructed,
So many new cars being sold,
But I still have to tighten my belt.

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
My wages aren’t rising as fast as the prices,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
From now on I may have to eat [only] pickles ((咸菜 could be translated variously as pickles, salted veggies, salty food, etc. I’ve mixed and matched here for variety’s sake, but the point the songs are all making is that 咸菜 is relatively cheap.)).

Living in these times,
Are we lucky or is it tragic?
I feel even more like sighing.
There’s no such thing as “good quality goods at fair prices,”
Food, clothing, shelter, and transportation [costs] have all gone up,
I suffer each and every day,
Waking and hurrying to work,
Busy making money and paying off [housing] loans,
My happy carefree life is long gone,
So many second-generation rich kids are buying nice cars,
So many second-generation poor selling things off of blankets on the street,
The gap between rich and poor is getting worse.

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
Everyone will be eating salted turnips,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
We’d be better off and happier as beggars.

[Cue dramatic key change and female vocal harmony]

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
Everyone will be eating salted turnips,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
We’d be better off and happier as beggars!

However, netizens are so enthused about this song that there are already a bunch of versions (all share the same melody and, generally, the same rhyming sounds). Here’s are the lyrics as written in the image posted above, which we found being passed around on RenRen:

Standing at the supermarket counter,
Seeing [the price] of everything rise,
I feel unlimited helplessness in my heart,
So few inexpensive options,
So many prices have changed,
Common people can’t afford to buy vegetables!

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
Prices are rising faster than salaries,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
There’s no industry that isn’t tainted by corruption.

And here’s still another version of the lyrics we found here:

While eating bread and pickled veggies,
I heard the sound of prices rising,
And I suddenly feel like sighing,
Every day it’s radishes and cabbage,
Looking forward to when housing prices drop,
Waiting for my wife to “say bye-bye,”
The floor covered in instant noodle packaging
Is a record of my helplessness,
And I can’t keep from shedding a tear.
I was once confident and bold,
I was once strong and patient,
But in the end I was defeated by rising prices.

As the sound of rising prices rises,
My tears flow till they’re an ocean,
Some people laugh and some people are full of sorrow,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
My tears flow till they’re an ocean,
I finally understand the great importance of money

There are actually a lot more versions of this song, but we’ll leave it at that as they tend to be fairly similar. The phrase “the sound of rising prices” has even become so widespread that it’s referenced in news broadcasts, such as this story about the rise of “group purchasing” websites:

http://www.tudou.com/v/Tc4J880Vijo/v.swf

The Chinese government, of course, is busy throwing an absolute fit about Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize, and doing everything it can to appear as petulant and immature as a three-year old.

I think, though, that if the government is really concerned about things that “subvert state power,” they should lay off Liu and address the rising discontent with housing and commodity prices and the atrocious gap between rich and poor, which is manifesting itself in all kinds of ugly ways.

The incident I’ve linked to there, in which a police officer crashes his car into an old woman and then gets out to beat her, shouting “What I’ve got is money, so I’m gonna beat you today!” is just one of a number of recent rich-people-play-with-the-lives-of-the-poor stories that has incited outrage and violence.

Personally, I see this as the biggest challenge to state security that China currently faces. Unfortunately, it’s a tough one to blame on the West, so it looks like for now China’s government will be content to shriek their Liu Xiaobo conspiracy theories in increasingly-shrill editorial pieces that no one reads (except, of course, when they’re looking for a laugh).

Of course, why should the government care if “Kart-like” Westerners laugh at their ridiculous propaganda? They should, however, be concerned with the tone of public opinion in China, especially on the internet, where a recent Global Times op-ed noted (without a hint of irony):

[There is] a [sic] extreme lack of tolerance for dissident public opinion on the Internet where there is almost no room for opinions that favor the government.

Note that here, by “dissident,” they mean people who support the government. Yeah. That’s how bad it’s gotten.

Good luck, Zhongnanhai. Your preposterous “Confucius Prize” stunt might succeed in distracting people from the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony (at least for as long as it takes to laugh, snort derisively, and change the channel), but I’m not sure it’s going to distract Chinese people from the fact that despite China’s powerhouse economy, living here seems to be getting harder and harder.

Advertisements

0 thoughts on ““The Sound of Rising Prices””

  1. “Personally, I see this as the biggest challenge to state security that China currently faces. Unfortunately, it’s a tough one to blame on the West”

    I disagree, we’ve already seen the beginnings of this campaign to blame foreigners (especially the US) for inflation in China a few weeks ago in Seoul. Expect many more statements blaming Western monetary policy, excessive spending or whatever else they can think of in order to shift the focus away from a deeply dysfunctional economy.

    Like

  2. I think domestic economic factors and not human rights (however that is defined) will be the major driver for change in China. So this post hits the right spot. As the income disparity rises in China, the government will need to quickly think of ways to solve this issue. The stories of the rich acting above the law resonates extremely well with the ordinary Chinese people.

    A note about the Confucius prize, I think that has been way overblown by the Western media in an effort to mock Chinese government’s pettiness. For example, the winner of the prize (a former VP of KMT in Taiwan) has not even been notified. The businessman who came up with this idea (through newspaper OpEd) said that he doesn’t know who or what organized this. From the way this ultimately turned out, this is a very amateurish act by a group of unorganized nationalists. Though the Chinese government had to certainly give this prize its blessings for this to take place, I doubt the Chinese government had much to do with it.

    Like

  3. Great State of the Nation overview, Custer. Perhaps you should accompany it with a Social Cohesion table for voting readers.

    1 = Complete and total social harmony.
    to
    7 = Widespread civil disorder/zhongnanhai fleeing to their boltholes in Switzerland.

    Like

  4. Has anyone else noticed that the Propaganda bureau recently directed a stop to ‘bunny killing/ crush fetish’ stories in the Chinese press but that the Global Times (only on the English page) has been featuring a special investgation titled ‘Babes kill bunnies for kicks’? Apart from some graphic descriptions of the death of the rabbits, the real culprits are revealed – sicko westerners who will pay for such videos. who would have thought it? yet again the fault of the depraved west…

    Like

  5. C.Custer: “[I}f the government is really concerned about things that ‘subvert state power,’ they should lay off Liu and address the rising discontent with housing and commodity prices and the atrocious gap between rich and poor…”

    I agree that the regime’s approach to dealing with Liu Xiaobo has been completely assinine; however, there is little reason to doubt that they aren’t also completely freaked out about housing prices and inflation. Indeed, everything I’ve read leads me to believe that inflation and housing prices are of far greater concern than Liu (as they should be). In any case, where the Party-state is concerned, there are no quick fixes to any of these problems.

    C.Custer: “[It is unlikely that the Confucius Peace Prize is] going to distract Chinese people from the fact that despite China’s powerhouse economy, living here seems to be getting harder and harder.”

    An ugly fact of the last 30 years of economic growth in China is that it has empowered/enriched the state (and its hangers-on) far more than it has benefitted the Chinese people. One of the reason that political and economic reform is so difficult now is that there are now many vested interests (既得利益者) who benefit from the current system and seek to undermine efforts at reform. China appears so much stronger because the Chinese state is strong. Meanwhile, most Chinese people remain relatively weak and unempowered.

    Like

  6. @ LOLZ. Agree with your commnent re income divide. But I think foodbasket inflation is an even greater threat to the existing political order.

    Would you like to speculate on what type of domestic changes will take place if Beijing cannot put the inflation genie back in the box?

    Genuinely interested.

    Like

  7. King Tubby,

    From my point of view, the response to these rich vs. poor events (Li Gang, etc.) has shown that things could get very ugly. We’re on the brink of violence now; imagine where we could be in a couple years if food prices keep rising…not being able to buy cars because of inflation is one thing, but FOOD is quite another.

    Like

  8. Yes, inflation if it continues to rise will be the key determinant. People are pretty well resigned to clusters and networks of corruption, but inflation embraces every aspect of life: food, housing etc and also kills off bank accounts.

    I may be wrong but I think food inflation is a bit over 10%.

    Workers on contracts can counter the effects, since some companies are now paying extra months/bonus at year’s end. The self-employed and small family businesses have no such offset.

    Like

  9. “Would you like to speculate on what type of domestic changes will take place if Beijing cannot put the inflation genie back in the box? ”

    Inflation is not the core issue. A healthy country will always see a certain degree of inflation. There are multiple things China can do which will definitely lower inflation: as the last resort China can allow the RMB to float. Of course, this will cause the unemployment rates to rise. Unemployment rates is quickly becoming the biggest source of discontent in most countries.

    However, even if inflation is controlled, you still have unequal income distribution between the haves and have nots. IMO this is what causes rebellions and what the Chinese government is afraid of. The Chinese government will eventually have to implement policies to redistribute wealth. Unlike India, China can’t use religion (concepts like karma) to justify inequality in a society. Eventually I am thinking more progressive and enforced taxation on the wealthy/middle class. The money will then be spent on social policies such as Healthcare, education, and pensions. Combined with extra heavy doses of propaganda this will keep the society from acting up too much. Slowly moving towards democracy may also help to easy off tensions, though it won’t necessarily address the inequalities in the society and I don’t think the CCP wants to share power with others yet.

    Of course, the powerful elite can also just skim the wealth, build up their secret Swiss accounts and then move their entire families offseas. This will enable a revolution not much unlike what the communist party did when it initially rose. The CCP will be overthrown and China will fall into chaos. My guess is that many think this will speed up the democractic process in China, but personally I think this will create a deeply false/flawed democracy at best. For most Chinese who have any kind of assets, this is clearly the worse case scenario.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s