China makes strategic move towards social harmony

Oct 01, 2005 02:00 AM

With per-capita gross domestic products reaching more than $ 1,000 in 2004, China is more than ever embracing social harmony rather than pinning the focus on economic growth.
"The construction of a harmonious society" was initiated by the Chinese President Hu Jintao, who, while addressing a high-level seminar at the Party School of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in the capacity of its General Secretary in February, urged the state and Party leaders to prioritise social harmony on their agenda.
In Hu's words, "A harmonious society should feature democracy, the rule of law, equality, justice, sincerity, amity and vitality."

This focus shift is timely, as many observers point out, as China is confronted with increasingly acute potential social unrest caused by disparity in development and distribution, inequality, injustice, and corruption despite rapid economic progress.
The "harmonious society" initiative has stemmed out of awareness of the social problems cropping up in the process of development, which might hold back the country's sustainable progress and brew up into real social crisis if they are not dealt with properly, says Dr Ding Yuanzhu, a prominent sociologist with the Academy of Macro-economic Research under the State Development and Reform Commission.

In fact, notes Ding, China has never put "harmonious society" above economic progress.
"The idea of social harmony demonstrates the central government's determination to overcome thorny social problems caused by inadequate policy decisions and overheated economic development."
During the past 26 years, China, in its reform and opening drive, seems to have created an economic miracle with GDP growing at a dazzling rate of 9.5 % annually. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that the total amount of GDP hit 13.65 tn yuan (8.11 yuan against $ 1) in 2004.

The economic glory, however, doesn't necessarily promise social stability.
Says Dr Ding, "A most severe social crisis often erupts at the time when economy reaches its most flourishing stage. Ominously, behind the current stability of macroeconomic growth, a range of negative social elements emerge dramatically. These include widening disparities between the rich and the poor and between urbanites and farmers, worsening chronic unemployment, and deteriorating ecological system."

Social conflicts as such clearly indicate that "Chinese society has entered an unstable period," says Dr Ding.
"Containing social inequity and injustice has become crucial. These are not just ethic issues any more. They have become a matter of social and political stability."
Some farmers may keenly feel the inequity more than other groups. In the process of rapid urbanization, mms of farmers have lost land to farm or become surplus labour and marginalized in the economic growth. In pursuit of a better life they have flooded to cities, taking odd jobs with poor pay.

Among them are Zhang Yong and his wife from a south-western mountainousvillage, who came to Beijing, the national capital, five years ago, making a living by selling vegetables in a residential area full of high-ranking officials in western Beijing.
Parents of two teenagers, the couple gets up at 2:00 a.m. in the morning to get the freshest vegetables at the best possible price at a wholesale market. The 35-year-old husband complains, "We have to work 17 hours a day on the average to make both ends meet, earning 800 yuan a month. There is no money for entertainment. At best we just take a day off."
Even so, the wife says, "life still is better than it is in the countryside, where you might not get in anything if the weather doesn't bless you. Here in Beijing, you can always have some cash in your pockets at the end of year."

China now has more than 120 mm rural surplus labour, also known as migrant workers. And there are another 30 mm of unemployed population, including laid-off workers. These people represent an important stake of social harmony, Dr Ding warns. Farmers like Zhang Yong and his wife account for over 70 % of the country's total population of 1.3 bn, he says.
"If they cannot savour the sweetness of economic prosperity, their growing discontent may eventually touch off an appalling social disaster."

Zhang the vegetable vendor might not understand the meaning of social harmony. Yet, a laid-off steel worker who is now working as a traffic assistant on Beijing's signature boulevard Chang'anjie believes, "equity and justice must be the core. Without that, no people can hope for harmony. "
His remarks are in keeping with what President Hu has warned the government: Without equity and justice, people won't feel happy. It is important to balance different interests, and properly handle the people's internal contradictions in order to ensure social equity and justice for all.

Currently, conflicts of various economic interests are primary among the people's internal contradictions. Jing Tiankui, director for the Sociology Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, notes, "Building a harmonious society is a long-term and systematic project. Balancing different interests cannot be delayed any longer."
He adds that the government should be the coordinator of different interest groups instead of scrambling for profit.

The Chinese government is working hard to guarantee that the people's rights and interests are honoured. In a bid to improve the thorny situation of unemployment, the government has decided to put in 10.9 bn yuan on "re-employment," and another 3 bn yuan to improve industrial safety, especially in the country's coalmines.
Meanwhile, the government has pledged to exempt 730 mm farmers from agricultural taxation, and provide subsidies to ensure all the poor rural children with the 9-year compulsory education.

Education and healthcare are prominent in the endeavour to build harmonious society in rural China. A study conducted by the China Students' Federation showed the average cost for education in a full-time four-yearuniversity is 38,500 yuan, equivalent to 40 years of income for a poorest farmer in west China. That means many rural children are denied full education.
As for healthcare, according to the Ministry of Health, in some areas, the medical insurance covers less than 10 % of 900 mm rural population, although 80 to 90 % were covered by an organized cooperative medical system before 1979. An official with the ministry says that many people have slipped back into poverty because of huge debts caused by chronic diseases like cancer.

Realizing that healthcare is critical to social harmony in rural areas, the central government has been carrying out the New State Cooperative Health Insurance, aimed to cover the entire rural population by 2010. The program, considered a remedy to the collapsed cooperative medical care system which functioned in rural China up to the early 1980s, has been in place for two years.
Farmers who want to join the program only pay a minimum 10 yuan a year which is matched by another 20 yuan from the central and local governments. By the end of 2004, nearly 80 mm farmers have joined the program, while 41.94 mm have claimed reimbursement for medical expense of 1.394 bn yuan.

Dr Ding Yuanzhu believes that the Chinese government is moving in the right direction.
"The rural population plays an important role in fostering a harmonious society," he says. "Only when the poor farmers live a better life, can the whole society expect to live in harmony and stability."
Furthermore, he notes, "it's a pre-requisite requirement for government authorities to provide an equal and fair-play environment, where needy people can get basic public services, like healthcare, housing, and a minimum income."

The idea of building a harmonious society marks the maturity of the Chinese Communist Party as a ruling party with serving the people as its guideline.
Dr Ding says, "These policies lay a theoretical framework to boost sound societal development, steady economic growth, and an abundance of social wealth in the years to come. If we abide by them, social harmony is possible."

Source: Xinhua
Alexander's Commentary

Change of face - change of phase

In the period of July 20 till August 3, 2015, Alexander will be out of the office and the site will not or only irreg

read more ...
« July 2020 »
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31

Register to announce Your Event

View All Events