Insight into China’s Boom
by Sandra Hattingh The Epoch Times – Sydney, Australia
Recent SBS TV Insight programme “China’s Boom – will it last?” caused controversy for reasons more profound than its topic.
The sudden withdrawal from the debate by owner and CEO of Soho property development company came as the result of a simple question: “Zhang Xin in Beijing, you’re one of the richest property developers in China, one of the country’s new billionaires. Can you give us an idea of just how big your business interests are in China?”
General enough question, but according to author Jennifer Zeng, a former policy research consultant and former financial consultant from China, this hurried and rather panicked withdrawal speaks volumes about the shadowy secrets behind the Chinese economy.
“The actions of this Beijing CEO tell the whole secret of the Chinese economy; that is, no billionaires ormillionaires dare to make public how they have become so rich, even if their money is clean. Most money is “dark” money,” said Ms Zeng who enjoyed a successful career within China’s booming economic sector, both public and private.
While some Insight debaters were seemingly gleeful about China’s booming economy, not so was Mobo Gao, Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Tasmania: “I think that indicates the lawlessness of the Chinese capitalism currently. Because this really means that she (Soho CEO) can’t tell the scale of business. Why she’s afraid? Because that’s how business is done in China. It’s not lawful.”
The SBS Insight debate questioned the stability of the boom economy on which Australia heavily depends. On the SBS website promoting the debate it stated: “Australia is riding high on the resources boom, with BHP Billiton recording the biggest profit by an Australian company ever. Recent tax cuts for all Australians were funded by China’s boom. But despite China’s rise its future remains uncertain.” The reality check continues: “Behind the economic boom is a looming environmental crisis….. The growing wealth gap continues to divide the country and rampant corruption infects every part of society.”
Ms Zeng agrees: “The bigger picture is that nobody dares to make long-term business or investment plans in China; nobody feels that his wealth and social status are stable. Today you can be a billionaire, tomorrow you could end up in jail for whatever reason. Two things are sure: no big money is decent in China, and nobody is comfortable with being exposed to the public as being too rich.”
“Wealthy people are fearful; poor people are miserable, who see no chance at all of getting anywhere in society, and who even have problems surviving. Middle class? There is no such thing in China. With everything subject to Communist Party whims, liable to change at any time, there is no political, social oreconomic environment for a middle class to be formed in society”, she says.
“The bad debt of the banks may have well risen to somewhere between 40 per cent to 60 per cent, far above the 25 per cent”bankrupt” level by the international standard. Can we perceive such a society as stable? That’s the real mind of China under this regime: not daring to face the world and tell people anything about their “business”.”
SBS was unable to bring the debate, originally between 40 people, from Beijing as they had planned. Media visas were denied to the Insight team by the Chinese Embassy in Canberra. “Of course it could have been a bureaucratic snuffle, but I also suspect that they did not like the idea of a debate. They did not want to lose the control of the content”, explained Insight guest Dr Minxin Pei of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, USA.