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Intensified contradictions and people’s resistance

Saturday 15 June 2002, by Zhang Kai

Premier Zhu Rongji’s Government Work Report, delivered to the People’s Congress this year revealed acute problems in the Chinese society and economy. Although economic growth was reported to be over 7.3% for 2001 (and such a figure is disputed by many as exaggerated), the central government’s expenditure increased by 10.1%, the financial deficit reached a new high of RMB 309.8 billion yuan, state bond was 256 billion yuan, and the state defense budget increased by 17.6%. Criticisms were made by delegates and specialists that a huge deficit as stimulant to the economy will bring serious problems in the future. [1]

After a positive note on the economy, Zhu Rongji reluctantly admitted that ’there exist some problems in the economy and social life that urgently require resolution. They are mainly: peasants’ income growth was slow; in some areas where grain was the main crop and in areas suffering from serious natural calamities, peasant income had reduced; in some places there was serious delay in wage payment; there were difficulties for some factory production and workers’ livelihood; there was more pressure of unemployment; economic structural problems were still unresolved; ecological problems were still quite marked; regional protectionism flourished despite prohibitions; market economic order was wanting rectification; in some sectors or departments, formalism and bureaucratism were serious, extravagance was acute, and some corrupt phenomena were rather marked; in some units, unlawful appropriation of funds and non-abiding of laws were quite general; serious accidents were frequent, and in some places law and order was not good.’

While Zhu tried to tune down the severity of the problems by qualifying them as happening only in ’some’ areas, there were amendments by the Congress delegates, such as deleting the word ’some’ from ’some corrupt phenomena were rather marked’, to highlight the severity of the problems. As confirmed by XiaoYang who made the Legal Report, in 2001, a total of 20,120 persons were convicted of corruption or bribery, an increase of 44.35% over the previous year.

On the question of the impact of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Zhu Rongji’s reply to an American journalist at a press conference was: ’the soya beans imported to China from the USA is already equivalent to China’s total output - 15 million tons. When we wanted to adopt a policy that many countries in the world are implementing, which is to control GM agricultural products, your leaders from the USA came to talk to us about soya beans and said this would affect the USA’s export of 1 billion US dollars, you must be more prudent. But you announce you will impose an added 8-30%tariff on China’s exported steel products, which will make it impossible for China to export 350 million US dollars’ worth of steel to USA.’ [2]

Li Changping, a former township party secretary, wrote about the burden on peasants through listing the expenditures of townships and how peasants are expropriated to bear the burden. He estimated that the total amount of annual expenditure for townships were: 80 billion yuan of interest for a debt of 600 billion yuan, 80 billion yuan on salary for teachers, 50 billion yuan on books and facilities, 200 billion yuan on salary for a total of 39 million cadres at the county, township and village levels, 300 billion yuan on expenditure of various departments and bureaus at county, township and village levels. This in all was already 710 billion yuan. Li estimated that peasants