外文标题：An Indian in China (Part 5): A country on the move
At the beginning of this series I had said that my personal aim on my maiden trip to mainland China was to investigate the notion that there exists a social contract between the Chinese people and their government whereby the former barters away certain privileges in lieu of economic growth. At the end of my journey I find the truth to be more complex than I imagined.
A social contract exists insofar that the Chinese people have certain expectations of their leadership which the latter is obliged to fulfil. In fact, as standards of living increase the Chinese people want more privileges. This is something that the current leadership in Beijing is acutely aware of. Led by President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government plans to meet its people’s needs through its steel-like focus on reforms.
That said, reforms are going to happen at a pace that both the Chinese people and their government are comfortable with. Of course, there are disagreements over this with some believing that Beijing isn’t reforming fast enough. In fact, scanning through Chinese newspapers or social media one finds evidence of such disagreements everywhere.
Take for example the August 26 edition of the China Daily (English). The opinion page of the newspaper carries an editorial on China’s hukou or household registration system. Apparently, in many cases hukous – the aim of which is to control the migration of people from the countryside to the cities, especially to megapolises like Beijing and Shanghai – are sold by criminal gangs or people associated with state-owned enterprises who enjoy discretionary powers and have access to hukou quotas. The fact that a Beijing or a Shanghai hukou entitles the holder to several privileges in terms of housing, ownership of a car, education, healthcare, etc means that the system is susceptible to abuse and manipulations.
The China Daily editorial was followed by a collection of views on the hukou debate published in other Chinese publications. Most of them were critical of the hukou system, calling for reforms that de-link privileges from household registrations on grounds of fairness and justice. I was told that the Chinese government has already taken cognisance of the issue and efforts are underway to relax hukou norms in many Tier-II Chinese cities – a process that would gradually expand over time.