The Best of Times, the Worst of Times by Michael Burleigh

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times by Michael Burleigh

Author:Michael Burleigh
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Pan Macmillan UK

The sharp-eyed will notice that Xi Jinping holds the highest cards, with close connections to the PLA as well as experience governing booming provinces. After graduating, through gritted teeth, in chemistry at Quinhua University, Xi became a (uniformed) mishu or private secretary to a general-cum-diplomat in the Central Military Commission. Xi’s mother arranged this appointment, while Xi’s father reciprocally fixed up a journalism job for the general’s daughter. One might call this precautionary nepotism, since ‘If our sons succeed us, at least they won’t turn against us.’47 That very senior people admired Xi’s father as a straight bat (see above) did not harm him, nor the minor courtesies Xi is careful to pay to his elders and betters. In his first post in Hebei province he donated his official car for the use of the veteran cadre office, while easing their access to medical services, and his first act when posted from Zhejiang to Shanghai in 2007 was to refuse an official villa, insisting it be given to veteran cadres as a retirement home.48

Of the others, it has not damaged witch-finder general Wang Qishan to be a very well-read historian or Liu Yunshan a Party journalist in a Party dominated by business and economics graduates, or that the spook older brother of Yu Zhengsheng had defected to the US in 1985 exposing China’s spy network. His work as head of the China Foundation for Disabled Persons brought the patronage of Deng Pufang and his father. Although running a thriving province with a population equal to that of Europe’s biggest countries helps, managing natural or man-made disasters (or unrest) in much poorer or peripheral regions, some with ethno-religious complications, also attracts positive notice.49

Xi unveiled an ambitious series of economic reforms at the third plenary of the 18th Party Congress in 2013. They consist of 340 policy initiatives, from ending the one-child policy via land reform to supply-side restructuring of the economy towards consumption and services, not to mention the ongoing urbanization of China. In 2011–13, China used 50 per cent more concrete than the US consumed in the entire twentieth century. The aim is to have 60 per cent of people living in urban centres by 2020, 70 per cent by 2030 and nearly 80 per cent by 2050. This means that whereas in 2016 54 per cent or 731 million Chinese lived in cities, by 2030 the number will be a billion.50 Even if this is achieved through partial amnesties for the 100 million people living illegally in cities without hukou residence permits, it will entail enormous expansion of education, housing, health, pensions and welfare provision.

While Western societies grapple with the urban cultural effects of ‘diversity’, China has a similar problem with its own people in the sense that, as in Victorian Britain, the poor are another ‘race’. The smart and rich in the biggest cities like Shanghai have ensured they will not have to rub shoulders with the rural unwashed in teeming slums, by insisting migrants are redirected to cities of a million or so inhabitants.


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