walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
Feed
Features
Reviews
Podcast
Into the Heart of China

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39nMp5Sc0qs&feature=player_embedded’]

The above clip is a short, eight minute homemade video by the blogger Sinostand, who cycled through Shandong province to catch a glimpse of the Chinese countryside. It is a part of China rarely seen by foreigners, as you can tell from the curious looks on the faces of many locals.

The video is a visual representation of some of the narratives we’ve been talking about here at Via Meadia: that despite decades of extraordinary growth, China still has a long way to go to eradicate poverty; that large swathes of the country have missed out entirely from the boom; and, perhaps most frightening, that China’s housing market may be a huge bubble.

Watch the whole thing. (h/t Sam Roggeveen at the Lowy Interpreter blog)

 

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • Anthony

    Thanks, interesting snapshot of a country with a billion plus people.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Very interesting. You can only imagine what living conditions are like in some of the inner provinces where the average GDP is only a fraction of what it is in the area around Peking.

    Here’s something I just learned that sheds light on all the empty apartment buildings: Among the major industries in China owned by the Party — and let’s be clear, the Party not the state, is sovereign power in China — along with the banking, steel, and cement industries is the construction industry itself. The big construction companies in China are all SOE’s (so-called “State Owned Enterprises”)

    Thus when the Party decides it needs to do “stimulus” to keep unemployment down when exports are down (as happened in 2008), the central Party headquarters in Peking call the banks, construction companies, and provincial governors and orders them to accomplish a certain volume of construction in a certain time frame. It is up to the provincial governors and those under their jurisdiction (mayors, or rather party bosses at the municipal level — the mayors don’t call the shots) to figure out how to get it done (meet the “target”).

    Real estate is the major sector in China which is not (at least nominally) under Party control. Fortunes are made in private real estate. Because the Party is above the law this means the local authorities can literally force local families to “sell” their small holdings at below-market prices and then resell the land to “private developers” (meaning themselves and their friends). They then use the forced loans from the state banks (the savings of urban factory workers actually) to construct gigantic apartment complexes (shades of Stalin) like the ones we saw in the videos. Never mind that there aren’t enough jobs in the area to pay back the loans. And even if the developers don’t make money on the apartments themselves, there are more than enough kickbacks in the construction process to make it worthwhile.

    You can’t have an efficient allocation of capital in a system like that. It isn’t capitalism but something else.

    This kind of thing is happening all over China and peasants are rioting and protesting in literally thousands of places because they are being cheated out of their sole means of support. (A typical farm family in China is only an acre.) But since the police are under local party control you get things like this:

    http://tinyurl.com/brnatoq

    From my recent readings in Chinese history, literature, and contemporary society I would like to make a generalization: The Chinese are a cruel people. Not all of them of course. But far too many. And those are the ones that tend to rise to the top.

    Why this should be so I do not know.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Meanwhile a nation of Berlusconis:

    http://tinyurl.com/cooxmaq

    http://tinyurl.com/d7ktzq5

    So much for the equality of women. China is reverting to its pre-modern ways and we are fools for letting them get away with it. Here’s the way they treat us:

    http://tinyurl.com/cvhymw3

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    [I’m sorry. Here’s the way they treat us (read the Prologue): http://tinyurl.com/cfrkp9a ]

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Question: What is a civilization without civil rights and the rule of law?

    Answer: It is not a civilization.

    Let’s stop honoring China with the word civilization. It’s culture is medieval, its institutions barbarous, it’s official title (People’s Republic of China) a lie.

    This Leninist state is an armed hypocrisy and we should stop doing business with it — gradually, not suddenly, with a published schedule of future tariffs which will go into effect absent verifiable reform. Let them sputter, let them even strike out at their neighbors, but do not let them get away with what they are doing to us and to their own people. Stop now.

  • Kris

    Luke, I don’t want to pester you or belabor the point, so I’ll mention this a last time: Tinyurl is useful for Twitter, but in circumstances like these, it says: “Just trust me on this, the link is worthwhile, and you will want to click on it”. It may be a link to the NYT, the Epoch Times, a Taiwanese blog, Wikipedia, a book on Amazon, something I might well have already read, never mind; if I want to know what’s there, I’ll have to go to the trouble of opening a deliberately anonymized link. I doubt I’m the only one unimpressed by this. But do as you wish.

  • Glen

    My first visit to China was in 1989. Sure, things have changed a lot since then. But most Chinese still live the same way they did nearly twenty-five years ago.

    This video simply reenforces the shallowness of most so-called informed commentary. When was the last time anyone at Via Media was in a Chinese city other than Beijing or Shanghai? Or a Japanese city other than Tokyo or Osaka? Or anywhere in South Korea other than Seoul?

    Imagine what one would think of the U.S. if their only interactions here occurred exclusively on the island of Manhattan? Or in Washington, D.C.?

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2014 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service