IN past months there has been so much said about the ‘progress’ made by China in many fields of activity that the point is made that it has already reached Super Powerhood, like it or not. Judging from media reports that flood our newspapers and journals, China’s status is unchallengeable. Are reports on China’s progress so much hype that must be taken with more than the proverbial pinch of salt? Has China grown into a Super Power with its credentials unchallenged and unchallengeable? There have been, in the past, many books on the country’s progress, no doubt accurate in their assessment, but many skeptics have often been wondering what the truth is about China. Is it a case of the half full glass feted and the half empty space conveniently forgotten?
Truth has many faces. Guy Sorman has sought to reveal the real picture of China as it is – and it is not a pleasant one. Sorman is a Frenchman who has been a regular visitor to China in the past forty years. He has travelled widely throughout the length and breadth of the country and in just the last three years explored China’s teeming cities and remotest corners, talking to people from various walks of life.
In other words, Sorman speaks with authority, considering the tremendous amount of first hand research he has done which cannot be dismissed as mere hearsay or a deliberate and vicious attempt to belittle China. Reading him one is reminded of the shocking backwardness of the Chinese people, their endless suffering at the hands of party cadres and the unbridled capitalism prevailing in China together with political despotism. We learn how a billion people remain among the poorest and most exploited people in the world, lacking even minimal rights and public services. We learn how family planning has been enforced on Chinese women and realise the extent of cruelty perpetrated on them to the extent of seven to eight months fetuses being immersed in boiling water. Cruelty, apparently, is part of the Chinese psyche.
Sorman recalls that at the Tienanmen Square demonstration on June 4, 1989, over 3,000 people were gunned down. Dissidents even now get short shrift. In the past, Sorman recalls further, there were 20 million deaths during the so-called Great Leap Forward from 1959 to 1962 and 30 million dead on account of the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976 – all facts withheld by the party. Revealing them is to invite severe punishment. Corruption is present to an unbelievable extent, probably besting India at it. According to Government’s own estimates, 40 per cent of taxes taken from the peasants had no legal basis and never went to public coffers. In villages parents have to contribute to setting up of schools; teachers earn a pittance and their accommodation consists of a single unheated room.
No matter what the emergency “all hospitals in China ask for an 800 yuan (Rs. 4,000) deposit before a patient is admitted. Medical care hardly exists for the rural masses. The country comes first, then the villages. As soon as girls and boys turn sixteen, they are urged to leave their villages and sell their labour in urban areas. When the Great Leap Forward failed, 20 million young people were sent back to their villages, unemployed and unemployable. One-third of Shanghai’s 17 million inhabitants are migrants, providing cheap labour. 20 per cent of the Chinese are unemployed and two thirds of China’s engineers and university degree holders cannot find work commensurate with their high qualifications.
He says: “Corruption, violent deaths, hush money, jail, acape-goating-this is life in China under the enlightened despotism of the party”. Asks Sorman: “Instead of worrying about China’s invasion of the free world,-the danger is theoretical and remote – we should ask why the free world has chosen to support a communist – military complex that is holding 1.3 billion people hostage”. It is a good question. In contrast to China, India is paradise, And it received Sorman’s fulsome praise towards the end.
(Encounter Books 900 Broadway, Ste. 400 New York, NY 10003 www.encounterbooks.com)