Beware of the "China Model"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Food for thought for proponents of the "China model" for Cuba.

From The Financial Times:

Tight grip ensures China never will be free

Sir, John Gapper asks an excellent question. He wants to know why China's educated elite remain so politically docile. His answer: that in return for a bit of self-censorship, individuals will be able to live a life of comfort ("China's business elite is free enough", October 21). I disagree. Something bigger is going on.

As Mr Gapper reports, China will have 200m college graduates by 2015. As such, these people will form the nucleus of a very solid middle class. Moreover, many of China's graduates have already travelled abroad, living in places such as Canada, the US and Japan; places where freedom has touched their souls.

If these graduates have experienced freedom, I would like to know why don't they want to start a revolution? Why doesn't this middle-class bourgeoisie want to make China a better place for their children? My answer is this: fear.

In China, each working citizen has an employee file; supervisors are free to write what they want to about an employee, yet employees can never see what is written about them. A file will follow an employee from one job to another, and what is written can make or break a person's career. If an employer writes something particularly scathing, an employee could find himself working as a day labourer or a freelance salesman, his career prospects shattered.

In effect, a file introduces uncertainty into an individual's life, and thus fear. It is the glue that binds together China's totalitarian system.

In my opinion, the file system is least prevalent in the western part of China. It is in this area that I believe serious unrest is most likely to flare up. Historically, farmers have not had a file opened on them; however, it is from the west that farmers are migrating.

I believe that by building new cities and opening new factories, China can mop up a number of these migrants and provide some stability in their lives. They can also start a file on them and keep them under constant surveillance – just like China's business elite. China's grip on its society will be that much greater.

China will never have freedom in our lifetime.

Walter Weis,
Forest Hills, NY, US