Sunday, 20 January 2008

Nanjie: Food for Thought

Zunxian Huang, 71, is one of about 3,000 commune members. He was assigned this three-bedroom apartment and nearly all the furniture in it, down to the sofa cushions.

As I was browsing online, I came across a very interesting article about Nanjie village (in China). Of particular interest is the following excerpt: "Huang [the man who appears in the photo] says the village gives him 30 percent of his income in cash -- a total of $32 a month. The other 70 percent is all benefits: free food and housing, cradle-to-grave health care and education."

While Huang was able to receive his three-bedroom apartment without having to pay a cent, several people around the world cannot even dream of buying such an apartment since their income does not allow them to apply for a mortgage that could cover the cost of a similar place!

10 comments:

Somnath said...

I would like to offer my services as an Electrical Engineer there - and I'm absolutely serious.
I have many years experience in building Communication Systems, and would like to donate my knowledge to that outstanding community before I die.
I am tired of the greedy self-centered life of Silicon Valley and would like to find a more meaningful existence.
Can someone please provide any contact information to that community?

Andre said...

I don't think for a minute China can be called a communist country. It is ruled by a communist party but it has adopted a neo-liberal agenda when it comes to the economy. The irony here is that the ruling Communist Party doesn't have faith in the teachings of communism and adopted elements of capitalism.

But anyway, regarding the article; Amnesty International has published various cases of people being forcefully evicted from their property in order to make way for the Olympic village in Beijing. In one case, the person committed suicide. As far as I know no other accommodation was provided.

Red said...

Somnath: Some research about Nanjie will lead you to this community...

Andre: I agree that, generally speaking, China can no longer be viewed as a Socialist country moving towards Communism (in the Marxist-Leninist way). China embarked on its current disastrous path shortly after Mao Tse Tung's death, when it embraced market reforms.

Nanjie, however, has hit the headlines precisely because of its struggle to maintain Mao's path instead of going along the current way.

As I read a bit more about Nanjie, I discovered that "from 1986 to 1994, social welfare in Nanjie developed rapidly. Originally, Nanjie provided free water and electricity to its residents. Now it provides fourteen public welfare benefits. In addition to free water and electricity, coal, natural gas, cooking oil, flour, education, medical care, family planning fees and agricultural taxes have all been made free or paid by the village collectively. Since 1993, Nanjie people have been living in communal family apartments. Each of these three-bedroom apartments, ninety-two square meters in area, has central air conditioning, a TV, a refrigerator and a washing machine, all free of charge." (http://www.oycf.org/Perspectives/7_083100/nanjie_model_and_its_vitality.htm)

It was also interesting to read that "A new day has arrived in this commune on China's central plains where residents enjoy free food, housing, healthcare, schooling - even free weddings and funerals.

As the rest of China struggles with mounting social problems brought on by two decades of turbocharged economic reforms and vanishing social safety nets, the decidedly retro Nanjie seems to have found the good life. It is the best known of a handful of villages that have returned to the country's communist past." The article also states that Nanjie is "is free of crime and unemployment". (http://www.thestandard.com.hk/stdn/std/Weekend/GA22Jp11.html)

Reading a BBC article published in 2001, I was shocked to read that in spite of Tony Blair's New Labour being in government, the article stated that at that time, "Over five million people" were living "in absolute poverty in the UK".(http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1207241.stm) Could Tony Blair's/Gordon Brown's New Labour really be regarded as a success when considering its efforts to construct a truly socialist society?? Britain's New Labour might not be as bad as the Conservative Party, but I find it incredibly hard to view it as a genuinely socialist organisation.

Andre said...

New Labour is new labour - and it is meant to govern from what is termed to be "the radical centre". I think the Labour Party in the UK can hardly ever be termed as being a "socialist party". It was always a party of the labour movement and a party of the centre-left. And it is a party which I identify most with.

In 2001 Labour had only been in government for four years - the damage made by that bitch and her puppet could hardly be reversed in 4 years. Recent statistics show that there is a record number of people in employment, a record number of people who were lifted out of poverty and a record number of constant economic growth since 1997.

Similarly investment in the NHS and investment in education are at an all time high. Gordon Brown has recently unveiled plans for a better and more personalised NHS, and new programmes for preventive care.

Mao was quite frankly a mad man. I can hardly refer to Mao's legacy as a good legacy - particularly after what happened in the cultural revolution.

Obviously China's adoption of some market-based systems should be applauded. The problem is that the increase in economic wealth has not lead to an increase in health services, education services and there has been no improvement when it comes to freedom of speech.

GleGer & Kimmsy said...

Excuse us for changing the subject. This is the blog that we have together as a couple, if you would like to join, this is the link: http://acjblog-gleger.blogspot.com

We would appreciate if you would be a regular visiter of our blog.
Thanks.

GleGer & Kimmsy said...

Sry again to interrupt the subject, but we have a bit of a problem with the blog, so we had to change the address, here is the new one: http://acouplesjourney.blogspot.com

Thanks.

Red said...

Andre: I think that once a political party decides to adopt neo-liberalism indefinitely, there will always be a huge amount of poverty. Whether this happens in the UK or elsewhere is quite irrelevant. In the UK, no matter the gains made by Tony Blair/Gordon Brown, as long as they stick to neo-liberalism, they will never be on the path towards guaranteeing certain rights to everyone (e.g., the right to a decent home).

To continue about neo-liberalism, I was recently reading an article on Guardian Abroad. The article was about El Salvador. Interestingly, the author stated that "the Arena government’s implementation of neo-liberal economic policies have merely accentuated the gap between rich and poor". (http://www.guardianabroad.co.uk/country-profile/158)

Mao was very far from being a saint. I will not hesitate to say that he committed many mistakes which should never be repeated. Yet, I respect the fact that during his time, he managed to replace a great deal of the superstition and the massive inequalities that existed in China with a more scientific and socialist way of thinking.

When analysing historical events and people, I believe that it is fundamental to retain the good, avoid making the same mistakes, and move forward to build something better.

L-Imżebbel said...

Well mate, I'm a Radical Socialist like you, but I'd prefer to live in the worst capitalist country immaginable than in Mao's China.

Besides, the policy of Mao was based on peasants, and not on workers. From a Marxist perspective, it was doomed to failure from the very start.

Unless we denounce the likes of Mao, Stalin, Kim il Sung and Pol Pot we will never be taken seriously. I have always had this problem when talking with fellow Socialists/Communists.

smurf said...

I have visited Nanjie twice since I read an article about this incredible and wonderful commune in the Los Angeles Times. I also met their leader, Wang-Hongbin, a charismatic and modest man whose farsighted vision transformed Nanjie from one of the poorest communes to one of the most developed in China.
Redsmurf13@hotmail.com

China said...

Whoa! I've been reading news reports that Nanjie, the Maoist Utopian village, is now bankrupt: worse, its leaders have been quietly siphoning off the village assets into their own names.

@Somnath: If those reports are true, aren't you glad you didnt give up on the "greedy self-centred life of Silicon Valley" to offer your services as an Electrical Engineer to this "outsanding community".

Not mocking you, just saying that any judgements we make of the world should be tempered with a bit of realism. It's easy to create Animal Farms like Nanjie and with slick propaganda make them out to be shining cities on a hill. It's for us to not see the world through rose-tinted eyes or flip for PR spin.