CHINA: by Jeffry Babb News Weekly
Chinese Communist Party set to implode
, March 16, 2013
Observers who have not travelled to China’s provinces — or even walked a few hundred meters away from Shanghai’s teeming Nanjing Road — have no idea what a struggle life is for the average member of China’s working and middle class.
Take food, for example. Many tourists from mainland China go sightseeing to Taiwan, the estranged province just 130 kms across the water from China.
When I have asked returning travellers what they liked best about Taiwan, they have replied, without exception, “the food”. Even the so-called “middle class” in China, said to number 600 million, can’t get enough of the food they want to eat. Taiwan, in comparison, is a cornucopia.
It’s not only food that is lacking on the mainland, but opportunities for China’s young people. Each year, 6.8 million students graduate from China’s universities, plus another 2.5 million from community colleges (similar to our TAFEs). The trouble is that the much-vaunted transition from a low-wage economy, based on cheap exports, to a high-wage service economy, based on domestic demand, isn’t happening.
The millions of new college graduates who can’t find jobs become members of what has become known as the ant tribe. The term was coined by sociologist Lian Si, a post-doctoral fellow at Beijing University, in his 2009 book Ant Tribe. He describes the living conditions of this vulnerable group as follows: “They share every similarity with ants. They live in colonies in cramped areas. They are intelligent and hard-working, yet anonymous and underpaid.”
Zhang Ming, a professor of politics at Renmin University in China and an outspoken critic of China’s education system, says: “College essentially provided them with nothing. For many young graduates, it’s all about survival. If there was ever an economic crisis, they could be a source of instability.”
China’s graduates have an overriding goal — either to find a job in an MNC (multinational corporation) or to join the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Succeeding in either of these endeavours is a ticket to prosperity.
No one any longer even pretends that joining the Communist Party is about idealism or promoting the common good — it’s about making money and getting ahead. Even candidates for CCP membership describe the political theory they are expected to absorb as being mind-numbingly boring. Some candidates find questions in the party entrance exams so ludicrous that they burst out laughing during the test.
The unfortunate thing for the CCP is that, even though it has a membership of 82 million, making it the world’s largest political party, it can’t absorb even half the graduates who leave colleges and universities each year. In 2012, 3.16 million new members joined the Party out of 21.6 million applicants.
New party boss Xi Jinping has said the party will be purged of “unqualified members” to improve the party’s reputation and vitality.
One commentator has observed, “We found that some applicants were not pure and even had their own, different agendas”, while another has said, “The core problem of the Communist Party is rampant corruption among senior officials, while unqualified grass-roots members do not have any impact on the party’s overall reputation.”
The party’s blatant corruption, whereby China’s leaders and their families accumulate fortunes worth billions of dollars, are one reason the CCP cannot reform itself. The “princelings” — the offspring of Mao’s henchmen — dominate the upper reaches of the party, government and big business. They will not put their families and network of cronies at the mercy of the masses by agitating for reform.
The reason the Communist Party will collapse like a house of cards is that, as Christ said, “Man does not live by bread alone.” Man is not merely an economic animal. According to Plato, in The Republic, man’s soul has three parts — the desiring part, the reasoning part, and the thymotic part, or “spiritedness”.
All individuals want to be valued in some way. This is similar to Abraham Maslow’s concept of the “hierarchy of needs”, where people first satisfy basic needs before moving on to the highest level of satisfaction, which is self-actualisation.
Frances Fukuyama, in his 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man (1992), wrote: “The propensity to feel self-esteem arises out of the part of the soul called emos. It is like an innate human sense of justice. People believe that they have a certain worth, and when other people treat them as though they are worth less than that, they experience the emotion of anger. Conversely, when people fail to live up to their own sense of worth, they feel shame, and when they are evaluated correctly in proportion to their worth, they feel pride.”
The Chinese people have a very well developed sense of justice and fair play. This is because, for thousands of years, members of China’s mandarin-class of ruling bureaucrats were selected through competitive examinations, open to any talented candidate in China. The sole criterion was merit.
Today, China is governed by a venal and self-perpetuating elite called the Chinese Communist Party. Eventually, one of the tens of thousands of “mass incidents” that occur in China every year will spark a conflagration, and this evil empire will topple.
Jeffry Babb is a Melbourne-based writer, who has recently returned from a tour of South-East Asia.