China’s aversion to social unrest and a farewell to the village – Matt Chitwood
“Without social stability, we can’t have prosperity.” Gewa Bingma, a young man from Yunnan province, told me this over hotpot the night before China’s 70th National Day celebration, last October 1. He contrasted the hunger his parents experienced under Party leadership with his own generation that has never known hunger – also under Party leadership. “We can’t even clean our plates,” he tells me, the pot half-filled with food. “Now we can anju leye,” he says in pithy Chinese – peacefully live and joyfully work. “Without the Party, we would have no new China.” These are the fruits of peacetime and Party policy since 1978, and the majority of Chinese, tasting them for the first time, are eager for their children to also enjoy them.
When the People’s Republic of China turned 70, President Xi Jinping surveyed troops and intercontinental ballistic missiles along Beijing’s Street of Eternal Peace. Colorful floats narrated China’s development since 1978 – reform and opening, WTO accession, the 2008 Olympics – which has produced a slurry of economic statistics envied by the rest of the world: double digit growth for more than 25 years, a reduction in infant and maternal mortality rates to an eighth their 1980 levels, trillions of dollars in unparalleled infrastructure investment, and 800 million people lifted from poverty. This year, the once-impoverished rural village where I live achieved the formal classification of poverty-free thanks to a national campaign to eliminate abject rural poverty by 2020. Rural residents – still 40 percent of China’s 1.4 billion people – have new roads, new houses and “meat whenever I want it,” one told me.