Thursday, 10 May 2012

Another Definition of Happiness

A year ago Guangdong party chief Wang Yang launched the slogan, "Accelerate the transformation and upgrade, Build Happy Guangdong".

Guangdong party chief Wang Yang
As part of the 12th Five-Year Plan from 2011-2015, The government established a happiness index and urged citizens to see the party as the benefactor and provider of good fortune.

However Wang gave a slightly different take of the ambitious campaign.

Instead he put the onus on people to find their own happiness. Period.

"It is the people's right to pursue happiness and it is the party and the government's responsibility to do good for the people," he told the opening of the province's 11th Communist Party congress yesterday.

"We should eradicate the wrong concept that happiness is a benevolent gift from the party and the government."

This is part of the provincial government's plan to slow growth to 8 percent from the 12.5 percent in recent years and so it felt residents should not chase production numbers but instead "real happiness".

But residents aren't that easily fooled. They criticize the government for not providing enough jobs, social welfare, medical services and housing, which many argue are necessary to be happy.

Wang spins it by saying people should strive for their own happiness. "We should respect the people's initiative and allow the public to boldly explore the road towards happiness."

What does that really mean? If people want to commit evil deeds because it brings them money and money makes them happy, is that OK? Or if people want to protest against the government and speaking out makes them happy, would that be sanctioned? Surely there should be some guidelines or at least some kind of definition of what "happiness" is...

Nevertheless, Wang, who is tipped to be a leading contender for one of the spots in the Politburo's Standing Committee (that Bo aimed for, then magnificently crashed and burned), promised to improve party governance at the grass-roots level within five years. He also added the government would strengthen supervision and audits of party cadres, especially decision makers and launch a reeducation campaign to crackdown on corruption.

We've heard that kind of party speak before...

Professor Hu Xingdou at Beijing University of Technology said "Happy Guangdong" was just an ideal. "Without a constitutional democracy, a 'Happy China' will only be a fable. There are so many other things authorities could do to improve the public's satisfaction, such as protecting civil rights, building a democratic country, fighting corruption, stopping illegal land grabs and reducing taxes.

"Guangdong cadres don't have the ability to build 'Happy Guangdong' without a fundamental change in the political system. That's the matter of the whole country."

Hu took the words right out of my mouth.

However the task of completely reforming the political system is practically impossible without a revolution and that's the last thing Beijing wants. So it just keeps building onto the existing system, creating so many contradictions and bureaucratic layers that it's amazing anything gets done.

Sadly it may take Guangdong people a long time to be truly "happy".

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