A top Chinese government official has blamed Europe’s economic problems on welfare provision and labour laws.
Jin Liqun, chair of China’s sovereign wealth fund (the body which manages the Chinese government’s overseas investment of its spare loot) told Al Jazeera: “If you look at the troubles which happened in European countries, this is purely because of the accumulated troubles of the worn-out welfare society. I think the labour laws are outdated. The labour laws induce sloth, indolence, rather than hard work. The incentive system is totally out of whack.
“Why should, for instance, within [the] eurozone, some member-states’ people have to work to 65, even longer, whereas in some other countries they are happily retiring at 55, languishing on the beach? This is unfair. The welfare system is good for any society to reduce the gap, to help those who happen to have disadvantages, to enjoy a good life, but a welfare society should not induce people not to work hard.”
Welfare provision, and laws which give workers some protection from unfair dismissal or unsafe work conditions, exist in Europe thanks to two hundred years’ struggle by labour movements across the continent. Eroded in recent decades, they still exist.
China has never had a free labour movement. Since the victory of Mao Zedong’s Stalinists in 1949, all working-class organisation outside the official state-run trade unions (fake “trade unions”) has been suppressed.
In recent years, strikes have become common in China, with the growth of a vast urban working class facing enormous social inequality and corruption. The government, nervous about unrest, is sometimes subtle about dealing with them: but they all happen, at best, in a legal grey area. Chinese workers have no rights.
Welfare provision is minimal. Health care has to be paid for (though some prices are subsidised). People complain that they have to bribe teachers if they want their children to get a decent education.
The Chinese state puts more people to death than all the rest of the world put together. It publishes no information on its use of capital punishment, but Amnesty International reckons that executions in China run into thousands a year, maybe ten times as many as in the next-worst country, Iran.
Jin Liqun’s statement shows what the Chinese bureaucrats think about this. To them, the oppression in China seems normal, and the still relatively civilised conditions of European workers look like an outrageous departure from what is normal and right.
Would-be leftists in Europe who still regard China as “communist” or “socialist” or left-wing should learn the lesson. “Communism” which relies on such oppression of the working class that Merkel, Sarkozy, and Cameron look outrageously “soft” by comparison is not “communism” at all, but a system of exploitation by a bureaucratically-organised ruling class.