Unrest will not bring social equity

By Xiong Lei (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-10 07:58
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Achildhood friend is among the most apolitical people in town and she spends most of her time singing and dancing with other retirees. Recently she learned from a dancing partner that there was to be a gathering of foreign media people at a certain business street in downtown Beijing and she was curious to know why.

When she learned that they were gathering in the hope of witnessing a Chinese version of the unrest in the Middle East she was disinterested.

"They are making much ado about nothing!" she declared.

This friend and her husband both rely on pensions, which are rather meager, and are not pleased with the disparities in wealth in the country. Nevertheless, my friend said, social unrest solves no problems and that it is ordinary people that suffer the most from any turmoil.

"I'm not supportive of anything like that," she said. And nor are her daughter and son-in-law, both white-collar workers in their early 30s.

It's a pity that some foreign people are so eager for a drama such as that unfolding in the Middle East to take place in China that they fail to notice the mood prevalent among ordinary Chinese people.

Perhaps they are disappointed at the lack of "revolutionary momentum" in China. But the Chinese people know there is no reason for the mass of people to participate in such events at the behest of some anonymous Internet messages and the Western media.

It is true that our country and government are far from perfect. Many government departments and officials are often the targets of my and other people's criticisms. We criticize them, sometimes even bitterly, because we believe constructive criticism will lead to solutions and lead to social progress. Such criticisms are meant to make our country better.

We are also critical of the government because it is responsive to our criticisms, although sometimes the responses may be rather slow. For instance, the affordable housing programs to counteract the red-hot property market, although they might seem a bit late to some of us, are nonetheless a welcome move to crack down on real estate speculation.

Another positive response came just before the convention of the Fourth Session of the 11th National People's Congress, when the Ministry of Public Security issued a directive instructing the police not to get involved in building demolitions and land requisitions. It made clear that such actions fall outside their duties. Although the response came after a number of tragedies in which the police were involved, it is still an encouraging signal.

It is also encouraging that the Party leadership has emphasized the importance of balancing economic growth with social equity and called for the majority of people to benefit from the country's development. This is a departure from the tendency to concentrate on economic growth at the cost of people's livelihoods, and it is also a response to the concerns of ordinary people.

Our lawmakers are currently gathering to review the guidelines for our development in the next five years. Even if the final decisions do not satisfy everyone, I think they will benefit most Chinese people.

None of these policies and proposals could be achieved if the country was in chaos.

I am not an ardent supporter of absolute social stability, since I believe contradictions and social injustice are inevitable so long as there are diversified interests and society is moving forward. But taking to the streets is no solution to the nation's problems and social equity can never be reached through social disturbance.

In fact, people of my generation have seen much worse chaos in China than that in Middle East. That was during the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976), when many government departments collapsed and officials were kicked out. Few Chinese people who went through that period would welcome such events happening again.

Even though I am not a shrewd investor, I know I cannot pin my future on some anonymous sources with no accountability, just for the enjoyment of those who won't bear the consequence.

That is why my childhood friend and I, as well as many other Chinese people like us, do not approve of what some Western news people have been up to.

The author is a guest professor of journalism at the Renmin University of China.

(China Daily 03/10/2011 page9)