Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Too little, too late?

Interesting news out of China today.  Not the kind you'll find on Xinhua, the BBC or in the NYTimes.  This is news in the best of Chinese tradition: word of mouth.  The following paragraph floated across my inbox this morning, and lends a Chinese perspective (translated through a couple of non-Chinese) about the state of affairs in China.
"Then he talked about the developing ; social unrest. People can no longer afford to go to the doctor; doctors are constantly receiving kick-backs from the pharmaceutical companies to prescribe the most expensive medicines and from the hospitals to prescribe CAT scans and X-rays that the poor cannot afford. Housing is becoming prohibitively expensive and developers just move into areas, pay off local government and party people and take over land that has been part of families’ and community holdings for generations and the poor are left with no place to go... A fascinating evening with a really great guy who has a tremendous heart."
The man presenting this opinion isn't some disgruntled peasant, shoved off his land for development.  He's a well-educated professional living in a (big) city.  By nature of the work he does, though, he comes across people from across the social and economic spectrum.
China's leadership has recently begun taking steps to attempt to ameliorate the condition of those living in rural China.  Repealing the agricultural tax, holding local elections, putting more government investment into rural areas.  But a hallmark of Chinese actions since the arrest of the Gang of Four has been "baby steps."  Everything done slowly, little-by-little.  Statements like the one I read this morning make me wondering when "little by little" turns into "too little, too late?"

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