All a Matter of Perspective

A point was hit home to me in a conversation with a friend the other day. Whether you love or hate the Chinese Communist Party (or fall somewhere in between), over the past 30 years, it has accomplished something absolutely amazing. The number of people who lived in poverty, many in absolutely disparate conditions, and no longer do thanks to the government's "reform and opening up" is larger than any society in human history has been able to accomplish. That figure has went from 250 million in 1978 to around 20 million today. Let me repeat that, in 1978 the figure was 250 million, today it is around 20 million (possibly even less). From 1997 to 2003, China went from 50 million people living below the poverty line to 25 million below the poverty line. These statistics are amazing and even when broken down to a percentage of the population, they are still unmatched.

Within that huge figure, there are a large number of Tibetans and other minorities included, something that is lost on many of the people currently protesting. China, because of its Communist government, is under a microscope where its many accomplishments ignored and its mistakes broadcast and bolded all over the world.

Things need to be kept in perspective.


Bill said...

What do you think would have happened if the CPC did what they did in 1978 in 1949 instead ?

克莱夫 said...


but they didn't.

Unfortunately you're demonstrating precisely what the poster is talking about, grubbing about looking for anything negative and avoiding anything positive. This 2008 not 1978, things have moved on.

China Law Blog said...

I agree with you. The other thing that always bothers me is when people say things like China is the most evil or the most repressive regime on earth as though North Korea, Zimbabwe, Iran, Syria, Saudia Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, etc., simply do not exist.

b. cheng said...

Thanks to all 3 commenters for stopping by and taking the time to write something.

There's no way to know what would have happened if reform started in '49, but its likely that it wouldn't have been possible then, because reform and opening up meant a change in policy as well as letting things from outside China come in. In '49 the US was too busy arguing who "lost" China and Japan was in no position to sell anything to anyone. Plus, the country was still in disorder. It's a game of "what ifs", but I don't think what was started in 1979 could have been done in 1949.

Exactly, too much time is wasted on empty rhetoric when, in reality, the Chinese government isn't that bad (most of the time) and in fact has done a lot of good that is simply ignored.

Anonymous said...

I didnt realize that Dan Harris of the China Law Blog is now an official member of the committe of apologists. I suppose it is easy to find reasons to praise anything if you have no ground for comparison. The better question here is how China would be if the CCP had competition years ago. The nearby democratic countries indicate that things turn out pretty well economically in a free country.

Jonathan Lumb said...

Whilst I agree that the CCP has done a lot of good for China over the last 50 years or so, this cannot however be used as an excuse for the government to now go and do lots of bad things and remain unchallenged for its actions.

If I told you that before World War II the living conditions of German citizens had drastically improved, does that make it fair for the German government to then go and invade half of Europe in an effort to conquer the world?

Prince Roy said...

I agree, but I have to wonder at what cost. The country, simply put, is an ecological basket case, a nightmare. Every time I visit China, I think the air and pollution can't possibly get any worse, only to find myself even more shocked on a subsequent visit. It is untenable. The quality of life in China now is the worst since the reform period and will only get worse, not better.

The leaders of China need to come to grips with the problem, although it probably is already too late. They really dropped the ball in the early/mid 1990s--China could've led the way in sustainable development, and could have ushered in a green revolution. Instead, it went for the quick fix.

If China had sacrificed even 3% of its growth and invested that in clean growth, one wonders how different the PRC would look today. It is truly a shame.

b. cheng said...

What "nearby democratic countries"? Japan only became a democracy with the US' help and its basically a one party system. Korean and Taiwan didn't become true democracies until the '90s. The only real democracy in the region is India, and China's done a much better job than India over the past 50 years.

CCP did a lot of bad things in its first 20 years, but for my money, it isn't doing very many of those bad things anymore.

An excellent point about the environment, but I don't think it has impacted the quality of life as much as you point out. Steps need to be taken and the central government knows it, the problem is getting all the regional and local governments in line. That's what happens when you go through the industrial revolution a hundred years after the rest of the developed countries...

Micah said...

@b. cheng: I think the answer is still Japan, Taiwan and Korea, and it's still a point with merit.

@anonymous: agreed, this is veering close to the same mentality as the Crysanthemum Club that framed Japan's march to the one-party system that b.chen mentions above.