Tuesday, December 28, 2021

China's Reform Generation Adapts to Life in the Middle Class

Interesting read by an American who taught English in China as he catches up with some students who are now entering middle-age and for many what would be considered the middle-class. I found the article interesting for its look behind the curtain aspect of life in China. Reading with a critical eye - I did not find it flattering to either China or the CCP.

The former teacher used Shakespeare in his class and he describes one Juliet who is enjoying "a successful post-Romeo career with the local government bureau that managed the one-child policy." And a Hamlet who "joined the Communist Party, moved to Tibet, and became a cadre in the Propaganda Department." 

His former students came of age under the changes in China initiated in 1978 by Deng Xiaoping's Reform and Opening policy that led to the boom years of the late 1990's and 2000's. Policies that also led to "the largest internal migration in human history, as more than a quarter of a billion people moved from the countryside to the cities."

The author gives numerous examples of his students whose lives changed when a sibling was disabled and the student had to move or financially kick in a portion of his salary to support the family members effected. Yet many of the people now nearing retirement age - which in China is 60 for men and 55 for women - were subject to the "one child" policy so the burden of support in retirement may fall to the government. And with the people aged 45 to 49 being the most numerous in China - could a potential "unfunded mandate" crisis be looming for the Chinese government?

With the crackdown under Xi Jinping "Chinese officials have become a class apart" but with so many in China having seen or tasted the benefits of middle class life - will the crackdowns just breed resentment under the surface? And with kids coming of age today hoping to become a "cadre in the Propaganda Department" instead of the next Jack Ma - how supportable is the Chinese system over time?

I don't think the Chinese economy is as strong as some may believe it to be.

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