By You Nuo (China Daily)
Chinese media have a bad habit of sticking incorrect labels to people and events. They are making that mistake again right now, when they report people’s complaints as a “hatred of wealth,” or of wealthy people.
But in reality, from what one hears from colleagues’ daily conversation, and from the angry BBS and blog columns on the Internet, people are not reproving wealth, or condemning the wealthy, in general.
Rather, people are very focused. They just say that in some industries, and in some places which they can all point out, some individuals have made a profit that they don’t deserve either by charging exorbitant prices for inferior services, or by buying protection from local officials, or both.
So what people are protesting against is not a vague thing called wealth, but economic injustice. And the first thing they want is the laws to be properly enforced so that the injustice will be put to an end.
As if to defend their reports, some media are even coming up with statistics but again with wrong interpretations. Some of the most frequently cited figures are about an enlarging income discrepancy. But there have always been income discrepancies, even in the supposedly most egalitarian era of the 1950s and 1960s.
Nor does Chinese society, as seen in the economic reform in the 1980s and in Chinese communities elsewhere in the world, seem to have a particular liking for the levelling-off kind of distribution system. People like material rewards.
The income discrepancy is wide in Hong Kong. But Hong Kong has never known a wealth-hate movement. People there don’t want to miss any slight chance to make money, and when they have made some, they would also spend, within reasonable limits, on the luxury items that are often taken as symbols of status for the rich.
It is not every income discrepancy that is dangerous. The only dangerous kind is the one that gives reward not to good service and their providers, but to hospital managers selling medicines many times over their manufacturers’ quotes, to schoolmasters holding banquets with public education funds, and to officials charging citizens for services that they lawfully deserve.
The statistical income figures should not be used to divert people’s focus from where the true problem is: Again it is not wealth. It is corruption. And in some places, those traditional monopolies in particular, it may have grown so entrenched as to become a stumbling block for the rest of society to generate wealth. So why don’t we call a spade a spade and call corruption corruption?
What is the point of avoiding using the right word? And what is the point of explaining a matter of political responsibility in faceless figures? Top leaders of the nation have long declared their will to root out corruption and build a harmonious society. Chinese media should do a good job in helping them achieve that lofty goal.
Wrong interpretation of a society can be a bigger mistake than using a wrong name, because it may lead to wrong reactions. And the only viable solution to the so-called wealth-hate trend in Chinese society cannot be monetary. It is neither to better protect the rich in order to make the rich happy, nor to send greater aid to the poor in order to make the poor happy.
Neither the rich nor the poor will be happy, and the goal of a harmonious society will never be achievable so long as corruption stays.