Mon, Sep 19, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Will China's rise lead to democracy? Fat chance.

By Lin Cho-shui 林濁水

Many people hope that China's economic development will lead to democracy, as was the case in Taiwan and South Korea. That, however, is a vain hope.

When civilization moved towards capitalism, which led to rapid economic development, the first step was both painful and cruel. In England in the 1500s, farmers were evicted from almost 10 million hectares of land. They were forced to the cities where they worked for low wages, while five-year-old children worked 10-hour-days in mines and textile factories.

That was how the "original capital accumulation" by the nobility came about.

Taiwan was far luckier. The four Asian tigers -- Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore -- started labor-intensive production for export to the US, Japan and Europe. This transferred the local contradiction between exploiter and exploited to Europe and the US. Taiwan's miraculous economic growth then allowed it to escape the excessive exploitation of domestic labor that occurred during the early stages of the industrial revolution. Despite rapid economic growth, the gap between rich and poor diminished.

China's growing economy is now copying the Asian tigers' export-oriented approach. But although China tries to export its internal contradictions, it cannot do so successfully, which led to China's US$70 billion trade surplus with the US last year, while the manufacturing industry has entered an era of "microprofits."

If China wants to turn to domestic demand, the amount of natural resources that would be consumed by 1.4 billion people is frightening, and certain to cause an explosion of raw materials.

An increase in raw materials and a decrease in finished products would lead to even smaller profits. With no colonies to plunder, the only route remaining is harsh exploitation of local labor.

The development strategy established by Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) led to a system dividing the population into city dwellers, farmers, laborers and vagrants. Laborers were treated as "foreign labor."

The so-called socialist market economy was divided into two parts -- a socialist-style control of labor and a market economy where employers were free to exploit labor, allowing quick accumulation of capital.

Since this rapid economic growth is built on depriving people of democracy and freedom, it is strange to think that economic growth will bring democracy in its wake.

Income inequality in today's China is severe. The difference in average income between Guizhou and Shanghai is tenfold. There is also a big difference in legal salaries between different provinces, and the difference is even greater in illegal salaries.

There is a huge army of laborers ready to be further exploited. China has been turned into a giant camp for slave labor.

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) pays more attention to social justice than Deng or former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) did, and he wants to eliminate uneven development. In 2001, he relaxed controls on rural village and township populations, but city dwellers and farmers are still strictly controlled.

I cannot see any chance of changing a system that exploits the domestic "colonized," the laborers. Economic and social rights have been restricted, and democracy and freedom will be more forcefully controlled. In this area, Hu has a tighter grip than both Deng and Jiang.

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