After more than twenty years of Socialism with Chinese characteristics, education and health care remain prohibitively expensive for the majority of the population, privatisation in many sectors has left millions unemployed, independent labor unions are outlawed and capitalist hyperdrive has pushed the gap between rich and poor close to the breaking point.
While Marxism remains a relevant ideology for the hundreds of millions of Chinese still classified as peasants, for the Chinese government it's become a target for censorship on the internet—evidenced by the forced closure earlier this year of several of China's largest labor websites.
Individual blogs, however, are helping to keep the discussion flowing. On Wu Zuolai's Sina blog we see some of that sentiment expressed:
I once edited a collection of amateur stories and I noticed that a lot of the poor folk in these stories tended to hate the rich, as if it were perfectly justified for poor folk to have a death wish out for rich folk, regardless of the law or humanity.
Why is there such a vital market for Marxism in China and other poverty-stricken countries? Because Marxism puts the rich into a class towards which it is perfectly justifiable for the poor to be hostile, to overthrow; a class that exploits and oppresses the people, that eats people but doesn't spit out any bones, that makes one one's own gravedigger, a decaying class sure to perish.
China's poor are really quite pitiful, because instead of working towards a fair and humanitarian society, instead of striking out at the system which creates this unfair society, they strike out at the rich. A new nation has been built. We still see a small number of people grasping society's wealth, and we still see a small number with the power to decide what to distribute and what to plunder. Only now it's not the four large Jiang, Song, Kong and Chen families, but China Telecom, Sinopec, China Rail, People's Bank, China Realty, China Central Television, such corporate groups prefixed with a ‘China’ or a ‘People's’. Before it was a family now it's a corporate group. There isn't much difference between these groups and the group of the past: one uses state power and will to realize its benefits and the other gives no justice or humanity to the people, nor allows them a voice.
Several responses follow, all anonymous—
A complete improvement of behavior needs to come from those already in power; by that I mean those now in power decide our fate. How we can influence them is the most important question at present. As we consider this question, though, we see that every path that could be taken to influence them has already been closed. Wu Zuolai, what is one supposed to do? Please answer.
Wealth and power in China are the same in that they're both overindulged. Self-indulged power and wealth have created a monster, savage and evil. Naturally it has created a society with a mentality of kill or be killed. Contemporary China's biggest problem is that power and wealth have come together to create something extremely powerful. Everywhere you look you can see the diseased and freakish high-speed development society is going through!
If I suspected the ways in which the rich become rich, I would only look to the government, not blame the rich themselves…
—except for one, the longest, from Qian Shuiwan (浅水湾) who, incidentally, once had an MSN Spaces blog , until the company shut it down:
There are two ways to gather wealth: just and injust. What this depends on are differences between societies. Under normal circumstances just and injust run side by side. Under abnormal circumstances just and unjust should be reversed. Today's China includes Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, three places with their own situations, that's why the wealth distribution of Chinese is rather complex and diverse.
What cannot be denied, though, is that the desire to rapidly acquire wealth in the whole of Chinese society has already reached the realm of the incredible. That's why we see more and more casinos opening and prospering, supergirls shooting to fame overnight and in the case of Hong Kong, millionaires being made every week off legal lotteries and horse betting. Two years ago there was a television show called Millionaire, which created a new one with each episode. Such is the reality of our society, where these various chances of striking it rich create many fantasies, but unfairness and hostility as well. Where the Buddhism of the past told us to accept our fates, and consoled us of our fates, today it destroys fate and leaves seeds of revolution.
A look at major Chinese portal site and blog host Sohu, we see a related post at Sheng Yuwen's blog on the recent and increasingly discussed issue in China of ‘mortgage slaves'—urban homeowners finding themselves trapped economically by stagnant wages and volatile property prices. While China's rural majority may not consider this a major issue, those that do have an equal amount to say:
Aristotle, in his well-known work Politics
, gives a definition to the word slave, as follows:
(1) Any person whose being does not belong to himself but to another person is therefore a slave.
(2) Any person having since become a piece of property (intended for use), should then become another person's possession.
(3) This piece of property in life and behavior shall become a tool, a tool which can be segregated from its owner.
According to this our houses should become our masters. Who are our houses’ masters? None other than our real estate developers. In these times in which we've already become slaves to our real estate developers, could such words and expressions be used for self-mockery?
China abolished slavery as early as the Western Zhou dynasty. Up until the civilized feudal times, one never heard talk of such ‘mortgage slaves.’ Only in all the more civilized today do we see the reappearance of such backwardness, which can only be said is historical regression.
I remember hearing when I was young that China had a population of one billion people, eight hundred million of which were farmers. I should say that of China's total population today, the number in front of the decimal are the poor, those said to be mortgage slaves, while the number behind the decimal point is of the rich, who they call the mortgage masters.
Can't afford to buy a house and you're a slave to your house. Even those who can are still slaves to their mortgages. The pervasiveness of those we call slaves shows us that the time for China's rich has already arrived, and lets us feel the intensified polarization in China.
Today's social democracy resigns the poor to the status of slaves and makes a mockery of both our proletariat and those people who would have a home of their own. It's hard to believe that a few developers can control our proletariat as though they were masters of a dictatorship. We're all their slaves. I think it's time for China's 1.3 billion people to wake up!
A sample of comments left:
In capitalist times, the majority of people will struggle for money. In today's ever-changing society, the more people need force maintain their safety, the more likely it is that they'll become masters of slaves. The most likely to become slaveowners is the Communisty party bureaucratic class.
We're not slaves and definitely not mortgage slaves. The socialist system and reforms have given us well-being. I question the motivation of those who buy condos and call themselves mortgage slaves.
It's always been the fate of the proletariat to overthrow the capital and property holders. While revolution might create turbulence in society, it is only through revolution that resources will be redistributed, that the old system of society will be struck down, that further development can be obtained. Armed revolutions of the past have always taken place because society had no democratic system, as well as the corresponding imbalance in distribution of society's resources. Despite the government's current effort to develop democracy, one can still see the results have not been great. From government officials down to flat-headed common folk, everyone's working hard to get a piece of the pie. Who cares about democracy? It couldn't have less relevance to us! Who knows how many revolutions society will have to go through until we reach that day. Rulers in history finding themselves in this sort of dilemma have all been overthrown. That's why the most important factor in ensuring a successful and thorough reform is how to keep the transition a bloodless one.
‘Mortgage slave’ is just a term journalists have come up with to wow and win favor from their readers. I've got a mortgage on a house, took out a loan too. It hasn't affected my life much because I only took on what I could and bought a house I can afford.
Just who do you think you are? Are you an ordinary person? Think about it. How much does a house cost. Is that something ordinary people (eighty percent) can afford?!