Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Great Leap Backward

This morning on BBC Radio 4's Today Show, there was a feature on a Chinese family and their privations under the new economic system. The reporter told the very sad story of a family with multiple health problems and the struggle to make ends meet. They were separated by great distances and the father was working in the precarious black economy in order to keep bodies and souls together.

But the reporter kept going on about how this family were the victims of the new China, the losers in China's booming new economy.

I'm not saying that this family weren't suffering. I'm not even saying that a little bit of socialist intervention might not have made their lives a little easier (like, you know, socialised health care or universal access to good education, or even an agricultural extension agent). But let's not compare the realities of present day China with the rosy, lies of China's Maoist past.

Sure the dad might be working all the hours coming in a Chinese boomtown and Granny might be gleaning wheat from the side of the road. But in the Great Leap Forward, they wouldn't have even had that much to eat. During Mao's time there wasn't even the freedom to travel to the city of your choice to have your labor exploited. China's Communism didn't even attempt a proper welfare state - it was just grinding, totalitarian misery.

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