China authorities pushing happiness amid rising discontent

Wang Yang

SCMP reports: “With dissatisfaction growing over corruption, inequality, food safety and numerous other social problems, mainland authorities are shifting their focus from economics to emotions.

“Simply put, they want everyone to be happy.

“From Beijing to Ningxia, local, provincial and regional leaders have been setting up ‘happiness indexes’ or otherwise tailoring programmes, projects and policies to increase people’s satisfaction with their lives, as well as, of course, with the government.

“Eighteen provinces and more than 100 cities have jumped on the happiness bandwagon in recent years, according to a report in Beijing News last week.

“The campaign has helped the Communist Party set the stage for its 18th national congress, which opens this week amid increased incidents of social unrest.

“While most analysts welcome the increased focus on people’s welfare, some caution that happiness is hard to measure and suggest the party would be better off advancing concrete policies for social change.

“The public has been less forgiving, mercilessly ridiculing the policy on the internet.

“‘Without a constitutional government and democracy, a ‘Happy China’ will only be a fable,’ said Professor Hu Xingdou, who is a commentator at the Beijing University of Technology.

“‘There are so many things that the 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 cutting taxes.’

“Reform-minded Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang became perhaps the most prominent – and widely mocked – proponent of the public satisfaction drive last year when he outlined his proposal for a ‘Happy Guangdong’ province.

“As part of the plan, Wang allocated 423 billion yuan (US$66.4 billion) for projects to improve people’s livelihood. He said he would attempt to reduce the province’s gross domestic product growth from a breakneck 12.5 per cent to a more manageable level of 8 per cent.

“To measure his success, Wang set up an index of individual economic indicators, including employment, income, education, health care, crime, housing, infrastructure, social security and the environment.

“But Wang was hardly the first to try out such a scheme. His now-disgraced rival, former Chongqing boss Bo Xilai, also pledged to slow the local growth rate after his city was named the mainland’s happiest in 2010.

“In Beijing, local propaganda authorities even aired a seven-episode television series in August offering advice to those who are unhappy.

“In it, a professor with a psychology degree from Harvard University instructed people on how to find their inner peace, rather than find fault with the government.”

Source: SCMP “China authorities pushing happiness amid rising discontent”

Categories: Politics & Law

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