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India, China & Asia

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The Expose of the Plight of Peasants in China
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Americans may wonder why local provincial political leaders in China can get away with corrupt practices that are contrary to the intent of the central government in Beijing. The book, “An Investigation of China’s Peasantry” exposes local official’s corruption which is being challenged and unsuccessfully suppressed as reported by Joseph Kahn in your news section.

9th July 2004 - Prof. Sidney Gluck

The contradiction in political controls between the periphery and the center in China may be difficult to comprehend. China’s governance has been historically quite different from the experience in our country. Economic modernization now demands a greater unification of rule of law and its enforcement.

In November of 2000, we had the privilege of addressing a conference at the Academy of Sciences in Beijing on “Contradictions in Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”. It put the problem of corruption in China into a historic perspective that could be better understood here in the United States. We quote:

“Underlying much of the frustration in economic unification of China are the impediments to political coordination between the central government and the relatively independence leaders of provinces and local administrations. This is probably the most sensitive contradiction in China. Failure of coordination is evidenced in the handling of allocations for development and social needs transferred by the central government and administered by provincial governments that do not carry out policies as directed by Beijing.”

At that time, we referred to the embarrassment of the Beijing government which had to bail out two provincial international investment trusts that had disregarded trade agreements with the US to pave the way for entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Local leaders are prone to nepotism, personal power and economic corruption in implementing government allocations of development and social funds, distorting directives and retarding the tempo of economic progress. To quote further:

“The USA system of delineating federal and states' rights is erroneously held as an example. The relationship between state and federal governments in the USA was codified in the establishment of a strong federal government of the original 13 colonies as their center, subordinating state constitution to that of the federal constitution. States that joined the Union subsequently had to accept the primacy of central government over their own laws.

“In China, political unification was established through concessions by the central government to feudal leaders in the provinces which in many instances even retained control of their armed forces. Traditionally, therefore, there emerged a different relationship between the provincial and central governments in China than that of the federal and state governments of the USA.”

This political contradiction is an Achilles Heel to the Central Government. The promotion of private enterprise that has been enshrined in the Constitution has intensified the problem, as did the Communist Party’s sanctification of over 100,000 existing members who had already become private entrepreneurs before the year 2000. The government has now pledged to eliminate corruption and lawlessness in the next eight years, has initiated an ideological campaign and a training school for 2000 local cadre rotating every six months from different areas. Beijing hopes to establish a more consistent political and economic unification that will enhance and accelerate modernization.

For those of us who have been following developments in China and are aware that there have been 58,000 demonstrations last year, mostly in the peasant areas, the conditions exposed in Wu Chuntao and Chen Guidi’s book were really not news. Nor are the efforts of the Fourth Generation government in modern China to bring about political reforms and greater consideration for the mass of peasants and workers under the leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao fostering democracy within the Party. They hope to affect general political relations, bring rampant corruption to heel and generate more even development, job creation and a more effective modernization of the country as a whole. The expose of the condition of peasants will add to a general stream that is developing in China and hope the Central Government will find the means to change the system which did not succeed to suppress the corruption because of another form of corruption-literary copyright piracy.

Prof. Sidney Gluck is Professor Emeritus (Specialising in Marxism), New School of Social Research, Former President, New York Chapter, U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association