Pursue goodness, not money“New normal,” the latest buzzword, is likely to be heard over and over again in China since Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned it in his New Year message. The phrase refers to the ending of China’s two-digit growth rate, or the 7.7 percent growth of 2013, and the beginning of a stable growth period. Pain will inevitably accompany deviating from high growth and creating structural reform in medium growth. The war against corruption is part of the new normal. China senses a crisis - that the party and the country will not survive if they hesitate to cut out the infected area and let the malignant tumor spread to its core.
It’s not that Xi’s predecessor didn’t address the issue. During the Hu Jintao era, hexie, or “harmony,” was the most celebrated slogan. The goal was to attain a harmonious society where all people in all classes get along. So reducing the gap between the rich and the poor and slowing down growth was necessary, while fiscal austerity to take away the economic bubble continued. But groups with vested interests in stagnancy resisted. They thrived in the days when they could not only produce results but also accumulate wealth with development projects.
When the Party’s Shanghai Committee Secretary Chen Liangyu opposed Hu’s policy, Hu secretly ordered an investigation on corruption allegations and dismissed him. It was an open warning to the Shanghai clique. However, it was four years into Hu’s leadership when Chen Liangyu was arrested. Two years later, the global crisis hit, and towards the end of his term, Hu’s reform was not finished. As the global economy struggled, China returned to a growth-oriented policy, pouring in 4 trillion yuan ($644 billion).
Unlike his predecessor, Xi started his anti-corruption drive early on. But he needs to differentiate his agenda in order to achieve success. Instead of relying on surgical purging, he needs to establish a system that does not allow corruption. It is therefore meaningful that the nationwide real estate registration regulation is enforced in March. Only when registration is enforced can the property registration disclosure of civil servants be effective.
Chinese society is interpreted with codes such as “clamshell” and “sheep.” Clamshells mean money, as they were used as currency in primitive times. Sheep represent noble ideals and values, as they were offered to God. The Chinese characters for virtues such as beauty, justice and goodness contain the symbol of sheep. Since the reform, China has only pursued money. Its slogan “Look Forward” is often changed to “Follow Money.” Hopefully, China’s new normal will be a process of reform and modification to correct its chasing of money. In the Year of the Sheep, China will pursue beauty, justice and goodness.
The author is the Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 6, Page 30
by YEH YOUNG-JUNE