independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Golden age for economy but politics stays the same

For the Chinese state media, the past 10 years under the leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have been a "golden age".

The size of China's economy has quadrupled, the country's roads, railways and skyscrapers are the envy of the world, and the standard of life in the countryside has radically improved.

In Beijing, people were quick to acknowledge the leap forward that China has made. "Development in the past 10 years has been much faster than in the previous era," said Wang Xiaohong (24), a Russian translator from Hefei in Anhui province.

"In my home province, the medical system has improved and salaries have risen by 80pc or so."

Mao Yushi (83), one of China's most famous free-market economists, said: "The biggest change over the past 10 years has been the rapid growth of the economy and the growth of small and medium cities. Ten years ago, small cities were still wastelands."

Min Jianjun (42), a chauffeur in Beijing, said Mr Hu (69) and Mr Wen (70) had hugely improved the city's infrastructure. "There are a lot more subway lines, the traffic is better, and a lot of apartment blocks have been upgraded, which is good because the bathrooms used to be outside," he said.

"Personally, my family has done well. We have a bigger house now, and a better car."

But critics of the Chinese leaders argue that reforms have calcified on their watch, as they focused, above all, on keeping China stable.

" Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao's generation could have achieved a lot, but they did not," said Yao Bo, a former columnist at the 'China Daily' newspaper

"They inherited good foundations, but they did not make a difference."

Mr Hu and Mr Wen have weathered crises that would have seen leaders in other countries forced to resign.

In 2008 alone, protesting Tibetans attacked Han Chinese in Lhasa; 80,000 people died in the Sichuan earthquake and 300,000 Chinese infants were poisoned by deliberately adulterated milk.

This year, the transformation of the Chinese government into an enormous kleptocracy has been laid bare, first by the scandalous fall of Bo Xilai – the former Politburo member whose wife confessed to murdering British businessman Neil Heywood – and then by a series of revelations about the family wealth of senior leaders.

Mr Yao added: "The last decade has not been lost, but nor has it been golden. It is an unchanged decade. The economy has developed rapidly, but politics has stayed where it was 10 years ago, and that is unbalanced development." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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