More and more information is coming out of China about the social transformation that is taking place. China’s leaders have embarked on a program to turn the majority of people into urbanites. This program will take decades to unravel at a huge expense.
It’s a risky endeavor that may fail because overlooked is the fact that the country may not be able to afford the consequences of this social engineering. Moving millions of people into cities, living in high-rise dwellings, sustaining employment and paying the welfare bill may be too much for the government to handle. What then? No one has the answer.
Communist China found out what other countries with that kind of government discovered decades ago: that is, that for survival elements of capitalism must be allowed, and to avoid a major rebellion by the people. Strict communism can’t survive because it produces a nonproductive economy in which the masses suffer, and it stifles growth in almost every area except perhaps the military. While it’s true that such things as education and health care are free, it is generally substandard in that it is often behind the times and not readily available.
In Cuba not too many years ago, on a visit, we learned that medical students were using textbooks from the 1950s and there were long waits for medical treatments. What we have as everyday food, those items were scarce, with meat once or twice a month. Wages were very low, even for professionals.
China, of course, has advanced much more and was not as poor as Cuba, so economic progress was better. With foreign investments due to low labor costs, China prospered to an extent. People had money to spend and more conveniences resulted. China also embraced capitalism to a point.
According to a New York Times story, the social engineering plan in China is to turn 70 percent of the population into urban residents. That translates to 900 million people. Never in the history of the world has such a massive modernization plan been tried. That’s the goal by 2025.
The government has taken farmers’ land (that is, from those who were able to own their farms) already and is moving the displaced rural residents into 20-story-high apartments. The housing is rent free and they did get some money for their land. When that runs out, and if they don’t find a job, what happens then is not known.
The Times story said: “Some of these problems could include chronic urban unemployment if jobs are not available, and more protests from skeptical farmers unwilling to move. Instead of creating wealth, urbanization could result in a permanent underclass in big Chinese cities and the destruction of a rural culture and religion.”
We don’t think this experiment is going to work. We don’t think the jobs are going to be there; these are unskilled people they are trying to urbanize. Who will work the farms? There undoubtedly will be more crime and general unrest. China is trying to do too much too quick.
The communist government must feel an unexplained urgency for this social upheavel of people. Could it be the unrest that already is present and growing more worrisome for the government?
Wages have increased in China, so much so that some of the foreign investors are closing up shop and moving out. That includes some American companies. Higher transportation costs also have been a factor that has made “made in China” not what it once was. There is worker unrest.
China has embarked on a dangerous journey. This may be a “people push” that ultimately results in a rebellion. One can’t help but wonder what these new cities jammed with people will look like in the years to come. Slums? If they do find jobs and prosper, will they do like city-weary Americans and look for a few acres in the country for their dream living?
China-watching is going to be even more interesting.