I haven’t seen this much consumerism since Bangkok. Shopping mania pervades Beijing (and Xian to be frank). I have a number of questions about consumerism and capitalism in China. These are supposed to be anathema to communism, aren’t they? In truth China is not communist at all, just totalitarian. Mao would be rolling in his grave, don’t you think? And it seems odd that as people have money and freedom to buy things, they still have no ability to criticize the government. Apparently capitalism has no need of democracy. Sounds like the worst of both worlds: conspicuous consumption and exploitation of the worker. And yet, look what China can accomplish with its authoritarianism. Massive public works projects, crazy economic growth, forced grand scale social changes, etc. The questions, as always, are about who wields the power and what checks there are on it.
What do the Chinese themselves feel about it? Do they feel that they are missing anything? People I have spoken with here say that although there is grand censorship, many people know how to get around it via the Internet. Mostly people seem completely apolitical. Bread and Circuses, how long can they hold the attention of the populace? Still, I have a lot of questions as I am here:
– What is health care like here, and is access equal for all?
– What is taught in schools related to communism (Marxist, Maoist, etc) and how do they square that with Chinese capitalism?
– What can be owned?
– How are people taxed (where does the government get its money)?
– What is the state of Social Security (pensions, welfare, etc)
– How much of enterprise is state run vs private?
– What qualifies for censorship? (for example, it seems ok to be gay here, but not to say anything negative about the Chinese stock market)
I will be scouring the internet and asking a lot of people these and other questions over the next few days. Stay tuned.