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Verden har latt seg blende av Kinas enestående vekst. Men under overflaten lurer problemene og de er store og mange.

Det var i 2003 at Goldmann Sachs spådde at fire land ville få en vekst som ville overstige G-6 gruppen: Brasil, Russland, India og Kina, forkortet BRIC. Spådommen holdt stikk, men det går an å se seg blind på veksttallene. Herald Tribunes Howard W. French kaller det BNP-kulten. Omverdenen har delvis bidratt til en nesegrus beundring for Kinas vekst, og stiller få kritiske spørsmål.

French spør: hva er det som holder Kina sammen? Hva er det som gir innbyggerne et følelse av et «vi»? Den delen som har fått være med på velferdsstigningen forvandles til konsumenter, mens halvparten av befolkningen definerer seg selv som fattige. Det som kunne bygget bro over disse sosiale kløftene – fremveksten av et sivilt samfunn – stanser myndighetene – slik som frie medier og fagforeninger – selv om det på litt lengre sikt dermed undergraver sin egen stilling.

The intent here is not to slight China’s economic achievement, which in the past quarter-century has truly been all but miraculous. The point is to say that so much remains to be done here, including most of the hard work.

China’s outstanding tasks tend to be of the kind that evade quick and simple measurement and will certainly not loom large in the calculations of the graph paper and ruler gang.

The people who inhabit the world’s oldest unitary state have a common nationality, but they have yet to construct commonly held bonds of citizenship, which allow for the sharing of other people’s problems and of each other’s dreams.

The road thus far for China has been built on an official religion: the cult of GDP growth. China has built roads and buildings in dizzying quantities. And at the individual level, Chinese people are acquiring things just as fast as they can, but there seems to be little other rhyme or reason to life here for the time being.

The predominant reason for this is the government, which reserves for itself the right to proclaim causes and strikes down anyone who insists on articulating a different agenda too loudly. Similarly, it tightly controls the right of association, meaning that any group of any size must be organized under the government’s aegis.

The result is an atrophied sense of the individual and of civic participation, from which the country and its people are just now awakening, and not a moment too soon.

Problems lurk beneath China’s shiny new surface
Letter From Shanghai

bilde:

Sze Tsung Leong. (American and British, born Mexico, 1970). Yihaoqiao, Yuzhong District, Chongqing. 2002.