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Cablegate: Journalists On Social Challenges and Prospects for Political

VZCZCXRO5340
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHGH #0344/01 1560827
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 050827Z JUN 07
FM AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
TO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 0155
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1168
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0719
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0699
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0721
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0829
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0591
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 6322

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SHANGHAI 000344

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM, EAP/PD, EAP/P
STATE PASS USTR FOR STRATFORD, WINTER, MCCARTIN, ALTBACH
USDOC FOR ITA/MAC - DAS KASOFF, MELCHER, MCQUEEN
TREASURY FOR AMB. HOLMER, WRIGHT, T. SMITH
TREASURY FOR OASIA - CUSHMAN, WINSHIP, HAARSAGER, DOHNER
DOL FOR ILAB - LI ZHAO
HHS FOR STEIGER AND HICKEY
NSC FOR WILDER AND TONG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR SOCI ECON ELAB CH
SUBJECT: JOURNALISTS ON SOCIAL CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS FOR POLITICAL
REFORMS

(U) Sensitive but unclassified - please protect accordingly.
Not for dissemination outside USG channels.

1. (SBU) Summary. A May 18 Consulate-sponsored roundtable
between visiting Western and Asian journalists participating in
the East-West Center-organized Jefferson Fellowship Program,
Chinese journalists, and Shanghai-based U.S. journalists sparked
lively debate on China's rich-poor gap, the one-child policy,
the generation gap, democracy, and press freedom. While one
Chinese journalist took the party line and said that two-party
democracy was not needed in China, other journalists argued for
faster political reforms. Chinese journalists agreed that
Chinese leaders needed to address the growing rich-poor gap,
which one journalist referred to as "a time bomb."
Shanghai-based U.S. journalists noted the difficulties they
faced in meeting with anyone connected with the government and
in covering political and social issues. End Summary.

Rich-Poor Gap Time Bomb
-----------------------

2. (SBU) The Chinese journalists participating in the
roundtable discussion agreed that the growing rich-poor gap was
one of China's biggest challenges. One journalist who worked
for a government-owned newspaper in Shanghai said that although
the gap was widening, the poorest sector of society was better
off now then it was 20 years ago. He added that the Hu Jintao
government was making great efforts to improve the situation of
the poor. For example, the central government had abolished
taxes for farmers and was trying to improve healthcare for rural
peasants. He noted that there was a growing problem of
"left-behind" children who remained in the countryside while
their parents traveled to the city to find work. He estimated
that there were 20 million such "left-behind" children in China.
He said that the government was trying to alleviate this
situation by building daycare centers in big cities to allow
parents to bring their children with them and that there were
also new policies in some big cities (such as Shanghai) that
required local public schools to accept migrant children. He
noted, however, that despite government efforts at integration,
migrant workers and the rural poor were still the underclass of
Chinese society.

3. (SBU) Another Shanghai journalist described the Chinese
healthcare system as having effectively "crashed" with the
advent of economic reforms. The government was trying to
rebuild the rural healthcare system, he said, but this was
occurring at a very slow pace. In the city, residents had
healthcare, but there were limits built into even that system.
According to him, the rich-poor gap was a "time bomb" because
the countryside was not benefiting as much from China's economic
development as the urban areas and many in the countryside were
being forgotten and left-behind. In Shanghai, there were three
to four million migrant workers. If Shanghai's construction
boom stopped, one million of those workers would be out of work,
which could lead to chaos.

One-Child Policy Burden
-----------------------

4. (SBU) The young Chinese journalists in the group
acknowledged that the one-child policy had placed a great burden
on the younger generation. One said that she was her parents
"one bet." She was the only person her parents could turn to if
they got sick. In the past, children could share the burden of
taking care of their parents, but now the parents only had one
child to take care of them. One journalist said that she had to
save money not only to provide her child with an education, but
also to hire people to take care of her parents when they became
older.


SHANGHAI 00000344 002.2 OF 003


Generation Gap
--------------

5. (SBU) According to one young Chinese journalist present,
there was a generation gap between younger (20-somethings) and
older (40-somethings) adults in China. She said there did not
appear to be any basic foundation on which people of different
generations could talk. Young people complained on Internet
websites and in chatrooms about the generation of people born in
the 1960's. They called this generation the "lost generation"
and complained that it had made many mistakes that young people
now had to live with. They said that Chinese websites were
filled with complaints and anxieties about the future. The
journalist added that such postings were constantly being
deleted by the censors, but that they always came back again and
again.

Democracy Now or Later
----------------------

6. (SBU) The Chinese journalists heatedly debated the need for
democracy in China. A young journalist from Beijing, herself a
Jefferson Fellow, said that she personally believed that there
would be no political structural changes in China in the next
ten years. The situation in China was very different from the
United States, she said, and a two-party political system was
not suitable for China. Citing the Tang and Han dynasties, she
said China traditionally had a one-party system and what was
needed was for the Party to be more transparent and democratic.
A young journalist from Shanghai warned that there were costs to
establishing democracy in China. In a country with so many poor
people, it was unclear who in China would be willing to pay the
costs needed to establish a democracy.

7. (SBU) Another young journalist from Shanghai disagreed
vehemently and said that one could not say that Chinese people
did not like democracy or that democracy was against Chinese
tradition. She defined democracy to mean "a system in which
people could participate in the decision-making process." She
added that democracy was not a unique Western concept and said
it was important for China to implement reforms immediately,
albeit gradually. According to her, China's current one-party
system was not working. In her view, there were no saints or
philosopher kings in the world; everyone was human and
governments needed checks and balances. She said there was
already a great deal of tension among peasants in China and,
unless something was done to address their needs, there would be
violence.

8. (SBU) A 40-something Shanghai journalist shared a similar
view. He said while democracy was not efficient, it was at
least fair. He said there was no need to organize a revolution,
but reforms needed to be implemented gradually to address some
of China's social problems. Another 40-something Shanghai
journalist said that he was very optimistic that there would be
democratic reforms in China in the future. He said the Chinese
government was pushing many democratic measures and he felt that
President Hu Jintao wanted democracy. He added that there had
already been progress in this area, noting that when he had
attended a Consulate discussion with the Jefferson Fellows in
2005, journalists were not willing to debate such topics. The
lively and open debate at this session was a testament to the
increased openness in China.

Press Freedom Limited
---------------------

9. (SBU) Shanghai-based U.S. journalists briefed participants
on the media environment in Shanghai. One said that while it
was relatively easy for Western journalists to meet with
business people and Chinese counterparts in the press in

SHANGHAI 00000344 003 OF 003


Shanghai, it was very difficult to meet with anyone connected
with the government, including in state-owned enterprises. In
these cases, journalists could not go directly to the government
offices or companies for interviews, but had to instead go
through the Foreign Affairs Office (FAO), which often resulted
in requests for interviews being declined. She added that a
journalist must be very inventive in Shanghai to get access to
information. Another U.S. journalist agreed and said that it
was much easier to cover economic issues in Shanghai than
political or social issues. He said that he had heard of cases
in which emails were intercepted or sources were told not to
talk to journalists. The U.S. journalists also made mention of
the relatively new regulations that allowed foreign journalists
to travel freely in China to cover Olympics-related news.

Comment
-------

10. (SBU) This discussion among journalists was interesting not
only for its candor, but for the differences in views expressed
on China's future between 20-somethings and 40-somethings. The
younger journalists admitted that their only-child generation
tended to be self-centered and to think first about the impact
of any change on their own lives. Their 40-year-old
counterparts, in contrast, were from a more idealistic
generation that still held out hope for the traditional Chinese,
step-by-step approach to gradual change. Similarly on the
rich-poor gap, the two groups' views split along generational
lines with the younger group foreseeing imminent unrest and the
older group confident that the government was taking appropriate
measures to avert a crisis. In all, the discussion provided the
visiting Jefferson Fellows with insights into the lives of
average Chinese of two very different generations and proved an
useful forum for eliciting a variety of opinions on China's
current social challenges and prospects for political reforms
JARRETT

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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