A friend of mine (Reece) recently posted this link to a Canberra Times article on his Facebook. Being the inquisitive soul I am, I felt compelled to click through ….. especially as Reece has a habit of finding obscure, esoteric and amusing titbits from across the web. And hence I came across the story of 67 year old Farmer Luo Boagen, from the village of Xiayangzhang in Zhejiang Province, who had decided to resist the authority of the Chinese state and not to sell his home for inadequate compensation for the betterment of the community as a whole ……… in this instance the construction of a 4 lane highway to the new railway station! Now in many places such action would scupper the development plan; but not in China!! As you can see from the photo the road construction proceeded – house or no house!
The article, whilst amusing, was certainly not an isolated event in China. Actually such examples are quite common there, where the Chinese are endlessly pragmatic and dogmatic all at the same time. Sounds oxymoronic ….. but the Chinese manage to achieve both extremes at the same time.
However, what really caught my eye was not the plight of poor Farmer Luo Boagen, but rather the comments from the Canberra Times readers below the article itself, one of which declared that Farmer Luo Boagen was a “green voting, latte sipping, Luddite”, while another claimed he had paid bribes to the Communist Party of China so as to get his house built in the first place. I quickly re-read the article to find how I had missed such important facts. But no! I had not missed them!! They had been “dreamt up” by the Canberra Times readers. The basis for such imaginings still escapes me. The image of Farmer Luo Boagen as a “green voting, latte sipping, Luddite” is, I have to say, without doubt incongruous and seriously hard to conjure up!!
The following comment by “Disillusioned by “Animal Farm” snouts in trough” (how creative is this guy with his user name!) sums up the tenor of the comments in general from readers of the Canberra Times as they relate to Farmer Luo Boagen, and I quote verbatim.
@Carl500 “This bloke should move to inner city of Sydney and join the Fairfax reading, green voting, late sipoping Luddites there. Surely someone there could get him a public sector job. He would be at home in Rozelle, Newtown or Erskenville.”
So Carl you see nothing wrong with someone who has recently spent 600,000 on building his house (with all the correct approvals and Communist Party bribes paid) then told his home will be bulldozed and he’ll get 220,000 compensation?
I suspect if you were in his shoes you may think it unfair, even if you don’t read Fairfax (BTW do you know what an oxymoron is?).
In a Sydney context it is like what is happening in Randwick this year – Council owned public open space rezoned to 8 storey commercial. Next door properties – single storey houses about to live in the dark. Want to buy their houses for what they recently paid?
The most revealing thing for me was the ignorance of certain of the readership of the Canberra Times. Or perhaps the careless influence of the general media in allowing their viewers and readers to build generic views and perceptions based on their misinformed reporting.
Regardless, the comments on Chinese bribery led me to ponder the reality of corruption in China from my personal experience. Having just spent 6 years living and working in China I thought I should have some better basis for making the assessment, than an ill informed Canberra Times reader. After suitable reverie I think I can say that never once was I asked for a bribe and that I never paid one during the 6 years I was in China. There was of course much talk and hearsay about bribery; and I am sure some would have taken a bribe if I had suggested or offered one. But then I never did.
Such contemplation then lead to a broader consideration. Is there corruption in China? A rather wasted thought because the answer is “of course there is!” But then there is corruption everywhere, in every country. In Malaysia, in India, in the US, you name a country and corruption will exist at some level. At least most countries (including China) acknowledge that corruption exists and take steps to reduce or eliminate it.
However in China, if you put aside western media hype, its probably no more prevalent than in the US. The main difference between China and the US, when it comes to corruption, is that in the US they have “legalised” corruption and call it “lobbying”. Oh, and at the same time they have banned US companies from “lobbying” outside of the US. They call it the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Now thats true hypocrisy for you!!!