Thursday, April 13, 2006

Development in defiance of the Washington consensus

For those who had followed the news round the clock during the Tiannmen Square Protest in 1989, it would be hard to shake off the 'evil' image of the mainland government ever since. But the twenty years that follow saw China rose to be the economic giant in Asia Pacific, but in the meantime we never cease to hear about the negative comments about Chinese government and its policies. US always fancy a go on China's human right records, suppression of religious freedom. Hong Kong's once blue sky is constant at sieged by the pollution emitted by Guangdong factories. And it you ever come across the book 'Investigation of Chinese Farmer ', you would know that rural China is very different world to the rising coastal cities.

Despite all that, I actually have good feeling about the current leadership of the Chinese governement. It seems they do put issues of environment, rural livelihood and income inequality on the agenda. Deng Xiaping had famously said once to let just part of the people (in China) get rich first. That had been a worrying neo-liberal capitalistic statement, a policy that is bound to divide the country into two rich coastal region its poor rural brother. Far from making empty promises, Den in the meantime had been preparing Hu and Wen, who were working in the poorest provinces of China, as the future leaders. Now it seems the urban bias growth strategy is very much the policy of the past; in the recent announce 11th five year plan, there were full of social conscious agenda items, such as fuel tax and rural public spending etc.

I have shared this view with a few people but I mostly met scepticism. Then I come across an article written by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureat economist, who is also very positive about China's new development policy. I particular like the way he compare China's development with other developing countries, the latter bought in a capitalistic package (Washington Consensus) and resulted in economic growth at the expense of enviromental degradation and widening income inequality. China is taking a middle ground, growing at 10% GDP increase a year but not at the expense of the next generation. China's has already achieved an economical miracle in the past decade, if it can also demonstrate it's ability to care for the less fortunate and care for the future, it would be a development story to be proud of.

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