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I'm Waleed Aly. Hi and welcome to Big Ideas, into the complexities of China and Shanghai resident, Paul French delivered by an economist writer Zha Jianying at Adelaide Writers' Week. and sinologist Linda Jaivin We have the Australian idea of China, economic powerhouse, commodities huge importer of Australian some knowledge of human rights abuses and out on the perifery

more complex picture but this panel presents and argues a and the future. of democracy, trust, corruption between Zha Jianying and Paul French Particularly good are the exchanges aspects of the party leadership, they agree to disagree on several

of the old structures. democracy and the meltdown and satisfying discussion But this is a sophisticated

who seem seriously between three people about. like they know what they're talking China is a really complex place get its head around it? (Laughs) why can't Australia imperative that we do, And obviously there is a real an awful lot invested in because Australia has the relationship with China degree of awareness and we ought to have much higher of chinese realities than we do. It's also the 40th anniversary with China. of the establishment of relations

Gough Whitlam got in there in 1972 United States normalised relations that was years before the of relations with China. we've got a long history are, or we think we are ignorant. So we can't... I don't know why we a question of ignorance Is it maybe not by the place? more than being confounded Now I know I said I would read it, (Laughs) No... but I really think you should read... I want to hear Zha Jianying's voice. I've just been speaking, in China Pop I found a wonderful passage the problem where Zha Jianying summarizes with how do you talk about China of people trying to come to grips and this passage on page 10, 11. and going over to 11. Page 10. On bottom of page 10 evocative passage This passage is a wonderfully with an original metaphor and she comes up difficult task for why it's this incredibly the seemingly difficult task of explaining China. post-Tiananmen, post-1989 China. And this is in the context of Have you found it? see... here? Yeah. OK. So you want me to read from lets if I... I... stutter Let me apologise ahead of time I haven't touched in 15 years because this is a book to read these two paragraphs. so she has just designated for me Here it goes. aside, though, Profound cultural differences social transition China's post-Cold War important factor is marked by a singularly that sets it apart from all others: the revolution failed in 1989, and the Communist Party stays on the reform process. to guide and control This is a crucial fact peculiar complexities and ironies in efforts to understand the of China's current situation. sheepish, defensive, cynical, It produces a half-baked, and often comic atmosphere masked, stealthy, zigzags ahead. in which China's reform breakdown of old regimes, Instead of dramatic, exhilarating and Russia, as occurred in Eastern Europe is a slow, soft, what we witness in China of the old structure. and messy meltdown as "the Whopper effect." I would whimsically refer to this hybrid quality There is an impure, junky, the present Chinese life: in nearly all spheres of attitudes, ideology. culture, politics, picturesque scene for the cameras. This is not romantic, not a often shamelessly vulgar. It's too blurry, too slippery, the CBS, ABC and NBC anchors Who can blame Tiananmen? for not having rushed back since a merry, grotesque banquet To some, it might be akin to filming on the ruins of a slaughterhouse.' Thank you. (Applause) descriptive of the present? Do you think that is still have come back in. I mean obviously the camera crews Have long rushed back with parts of this new China and in some ways quite in love ahead at least economically which now is perceived as roaring got a thriving consumer culture is now number two economy and its parts of urban China and has produced, at least in large

a sizeable middleclass which to, at a certian level, in terms of lifestyels and taste really shares a striking similarity people everywhere else, with all the other urban bourgeois especially in the west. much more familiar So it seems to have become and acceptable to western eyes. Maybe the Whopper is just invisible? (Laughs) it still looks like a whopper And the Whopper... yeah, you can't even count them we not only have so many McDonalds' but you also have so many Starbucks' a little bit and so it's sort of came up respectability and taste. in the latter of a certain disturbing under current But all the while there's this that people are also aware of which manifests itself about sweat shops. in terms of certain information You know like these really factories goods for western societies that are churning out cheap consumer especailly and you hear the talk in Chinese GDP dipped in blood and tears. from all the Chinese that this great sometimes Because there are appauling stories factories in these migrant communities and and of course human rights and you hear a lot about that too.

Political prisoners and the terrible treatment that some of them suffer in prison. And so the reality is kind of messy blend of all these different things and it is hard to get a clear picture but, Paul, you're an economist, does that actually, you know - economist, I always think of nice neat paradigms, and charts and graphs and that sort of thing. Does being an economist make it easier to understand China? Yes. Because we're logical. (Laughs) We don't go running off with whopper type motifs. No, I mean, I do think, at the risk of putting myself out of a job, I don't think it's that difficult to get China. I think there's been a very unholy alliance between the Communist Party of China and organisations like McKinsey and people like that who profit greatly from confusing people about China, to make out that it's some sort of difficult thing to understand, you know? And of course, the Communist Party likes to confuse it, because it wants to take the credit for everything that's happened certainly since Deng Xiaoping and the opening up. The real heroes of that period, as I was saying the other day here, are not the Communist Party. The real heroes are those hordes and hordes of women between 16 and 24 years old with non-arthritic fingers who happened to be willing to work, to move from the countrysides to the cities to work for low wages, at a time when the West had developed broad based technologies, like DVD players and iPods and iPhones and there was a taste for cheap commodified clothing across all the throwaway clothing stores and everything. That was what the world wanted, the technology was there to produce it, China happened to be right in that demographic sweet spot to do that. And it had a totalitarian government that decided it wanted growth, and anyone who didn't like that idea got trod on. And anyone who suggested that maybe you might not want to dump effluent in a river or something, was told 'Stop that, you're anti growth.' Growth trumped everything for 30 years. And so we've all got $50 DVD players in our house and mobile phones made in China in our pockets.

And everything we're wearing. A certain rising out of poverty occurred in China, as it always does in any industrial revolution anywhere. The question is, as we come into this year of great change in China, in terms of the leadership, is are they going to be able to capitalise on that in anyway at all? Are they going to understand that the next 30 years have to be about value rather than volume? About quality rather than quantity? 'Cause if they do another 30 years what they've done for the last 30 years, they will break it. And they won't be able to put it back together again. This is the great turning point that we've had. The demographic sweet spot is over, that's now India's for the next 20 or 30 years.

The one child policy has warped that demographic sweet spot as well. So it's not that difficult to understand, just don't listen to the Communist Party of China and don't listen to McKinsey or any of the other big consultancies and you'll be fine. And listen to these people right here. It's no coincidence, I think, that Paul's various specialties are listed as - retail, consumer and 'leisure in China' and then 'North Korea'.

So, there you go - dictatorship and shopping.

Now, within this there is this incredibly fraught situation as everybody's been saying, and in your work, Zha Jianying, and in your life, in fact, we see a lot of these things come out. But Zha Jianying did grow up during the Cultural Revolution,

and her brother served a very, very long prison sentence much more recently. Her brother was an absolute hard-core Maoist red guard who then became a democracy activist and has paid a very, very high price for this. And you, at a session called China in Two Acts, at the PEN Festival of International Literature in New York last year, which, if any of you want to watch, it's on YouTube. You spoke of the fact that China in the post-Mao period was rising and strong and had lifted some 600 million people out of poverty, which I don't think anybody would deny is an extraordinary achievement, and yet it was dictatorial, corrupt, environmentally self-destructive and rife with injustice. Now, you said that these contradictions caused you and many of your peers to be, quote, 'caught between pride and outrage, happiness and misery.' Where, in the interest again of communicating what we feel is not that hard a reality to understand, but then again we all spend lots of time there. How would you reccomend, what can people read - I mean, in addition to Tide Players and China Pop, The Monkey and The Dragon, my book, and other things - where can people find reflections? Can they find reflections in the Chinese literature that's translated, for example? Or particular Chinese films? Where do you think we can get our best understanding of China? And that complex. Well, just a quick response to what Paul has just said - about it's not that hard to get China. And I think it's comforting to hear that,

at least for someone from outside to see that clarity, because it does ring a bell in my experience,

because I feel part of my life is leaving and coming back between China and US. The point about leaving your country is to gain certain distance and therefore clarity. Once you're in this - and it is a big monster of a story - and you're inside it, and it's hard to have clarity. Sometimes the Chinese are... especially at this historical moment when things are happening so fast and transformations are taking place in so many ways of Chinese life that people are confused

and people feel the sway between optimism and pessimissim so sometimes we're called a pesmo... opti-pesmo nation. I think people just constantly feel a sense of hope and a sense of despair. Pride and anger, as I said there. But, I think, in spite of all that that could be in fact the real material for great writing and art and there's some, despite constant censorship and self-censorship the pressure is just that much higher. This is not a uniquely Chinese problem, as I heard in this morning's session and heard about Patrick White being censored by Adelaide for his play and that seemed to have inspired him for the rest of his life to seek some kind of literary revenge, to come back to what he called 'starchy bourgeois town' and win recognition. So there's censorship everywhere but in China you have this peculiar - this strong form of an all-powerful paranoid State who wants to constantly watch and delete and snuff out. And so, in spite of that, I think these works do come out and they're not just what you usually hear from film festivals like these big sort of martial schlocks and epic, you know, old imperial China stories that you probably are familiar with in the works of Zhang Yimou and so on. There are smaller and gritty writings and films produced in China. For example, Blind Mine... (Speaks Chinese) OK. Is it translated as...? I don't know. It's about a swindler who tried to make money in these really bloody kind of dangerous, small mines in certain parts of China. And so, on the surface it's about a hoodlum but it really is a wonderful and sharp slice of contemporary Chinese life. With money making and the sort of plunging down of the morals

and relationships between the official and the individual. And that's just one example and there's the work of Jia Zhangke, a young filmmaker who has made these movies about migrants moving from small, rural China to big cities like Beijing. And there are works in literature... Well, there is Yan Lianke's Dream of Ding Village, which is about a village in which everybody has got AIDS from blood transfusions and trickery and all sorts of... ..I mean, it's a horrific story... And it's based on real - it's fiction but it's based on real - The author was actually a volunteer, a medical volunteer in one of these AIDS villages. From his home province, you know? And there were also, you know, other... there's a lot of also journalism and, you know, TV programs. I mean, these are in Chinese so this is hard to recognise. But it's good to know this. Yeah. To let people know the extent of discourse. One the questions I had was about journalism and its ability to convey Chinese realities. Do you think those... If you don't mind, I'm going to Paul for a moment. Sure.

Paul, you've written quite a few books that talk about foreigners in China and these include Carl Crow: A Tough Old China Hand and also Through the Looking Glass which is the story of foreign correspondents in China,

including yours and my favourite, George Morrison. (Chuckles) I wrote a novel about George Morrison

and he was just going 'Oh, that old...

..he was a terrible journalist, he was missed everything.' (Laughs) But he was Australian, so I'm not going to drag that story up now. He was Australian so we like him. (Chuckles) But how well, past and present, if you could give us a survey, have foreign correspondents been able to tell the China story? How well did they do it in the past? How well are they doing it now, in your opinion? Well, I get into terrible trouble for telling all the journalists

that the story is not as important now as it was before 1949. There is a China story now, it is reasonably interesting. There were more column inches on China in the 1930s then there are now in most of the world's leading newspapers. There were certainly more correspondents. The stakes were so much greater. We talk now about - we've just had the Wang Lijun thing, Chongqing official, maybe he's doing this, maybe he's doing that? Oh, big story, let's go and chase it.

Its not quite the Warlord era. Right? We have problems with tainted food and things like that. But we used to have massive famines in China, right? The government continues this obsession with the old ladies in Falun Gong and they are worried about that. But I have to say they're not the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, which was 15 years of civil war and 20 million people dead. 20 million people died, yes. In the 19th Century. In the 1930s the two big questions about China was - would it resist the link between Chiang Kai-shek and Mao who both incorrectly identified China as one solid nation. Would it do what its historic destiny is which is to be a federated country like the United States or Australia? Would it just break up into any number of countries as it could have done and would have done under warlords and so on, and could have possibly created some form of government out of that. And a second great question was would Japan wipe it off the map completely? And now we have trade spats like the Bra Wars or whatever it is between America and that. We worry a little bit about EU quotas. We used to have this migration story but that's coming to an end now. Of course there are still stories in China, I'm not sure if the stories are quite as great as they used to be. My issues with the journalists is that I think they get the economic story pretty much right, actually, to be fair.

I think they get the story fairly right. Where it goes off the rails a little bit is on the democracy thing. I think with articles that tell me that the be-all and end-all of the democratic debate in China is when everyone goes to a booth and votes for either Bo Xilai or Xi Jin-Ping or Huo Wen-Lin. It's like an American presidential election. Now, we just had at the Adelaide Film Festival here, Weijun Chen,

who showed his new documentary, The Law of the Dragon, which is a wonderful documentary where he follows a country judge in Hunan Province who goes around villages, mediating disputes - divorces, two families coming together, fighting each other over a water pipe, another one that's a suicide and they don't believe that it's suicide. And he doesn't pass sentences as such, he does that very basic Greek ethos of democracy, which is to mediate, to arbitrate.

And that's what - as China becomes this more middle-class, property owning, asset owning system, it would be very nice if everyone could vote for a leader but they don't necessarily need to do that. What's needed is that myriad of arbitration and mediation

that goes on in a society like Australia,

where if you're not happy

with the treatment you received at the hospital, there's the health board to go to. If you're not happy with what happened at school, you can go to the school board.

Don't like the price you're paying for electricity,

there's a regulator and you can go and see them.

There are these myriad of things that many of us are involved in - parents' associations and health boards and, you know, Justice of the Peace type systems and these things. Prison watchdog organisations and everything

that arbitrate all of these disputes that mean that we don't all go to war with each other all the time. And then on the top of that, you've got Rudd and Gillard, right? Which, of course, everyone in China is sitting there going, 'Why can't we have that? Why can we not have that?' (Laughter)

Who is Rudd? Rudd was the Prime Minister. Australia has not been a shining beacon of how good it can be, at the moment. But, you know, that's not what it's about. So I do get a bit annoyed about that one because I think there's a lot going on, a lot of people are fighting and being active and working very hard to try and do arbitration and mediation at all sorts of levels in the economy. And all of that has to be in place before you start seriously voting for whoever is the prime minister of China. But everyone focusses on if it's not like a democratic election in America, you know? And let's face it, we thought Ho and Xiao were slightly silly names we've now got Newt or Mitt. I mean, that's even more ridiculous. Newt? Gingrich. OK, yes. Yes, what do you...? Yeah, actually, I think I both agree and disagree

with what you just said. The first part - That's a Chinese way of saying you disagree, isn't it?

(Laughs) We're not that polite, actually. Actually, I meant it. The first part, 'cause I hear more of a perspective for someone who's worked on history and I know you write these historical novels and then, you know, you have the long perspective and in the long-term, of course, we see these great wars, like Taiping Rebellion and the Warlord period during the republican era - all of that was also discussed with nostalgia in China, because in the vantage point of this great Chinese communist revolution that seemed to have been a golden era, the road that was not taken. You know, and was great cosmopolitan culture and cities and great warlords and all that, but I think people do live in the present and they are naturally more obsessed

with more of a personal interest in what's happening now. And you can approach this moment, either with, you know, perspective as we said earlier, by pulling back, but still in it. Or you can go at it at kind of a skin deep fashion, which I think was really what upset you about certain superficiality and the simplicity of writing about this current China which is really as complex and the issues have this high stake as in the past, because we're wrestling with a country of such scale, even though, you're right, the economic rise of China is similar in pattern with some of the smaller countries, like in Taiwan, in South Korea, all of which had a kind of similar story about a strong State, like State capitalism. And that's also, even now, so unfamiliar, in more distant past in Germany or in the United States, you know, that the states played a heavy hand in earlier part of capitalism. Then retreat. And then retreat. But we're not really getting a retreat, are we? No, because you're in it right now so it's not to say that China - I'm not trying to say this is unique but the scale does make a certain difference

and also that we're in it so I think, you know, that's the part I have a slight disagreement was, you know, to say, 'This is just not so great, what's so special and great about the contemporary?'

The second part - what was the second part that I agree with more? Mediation, arbitration. Yeah, mediation, I totally agree, which I think we focus, especially in the West, so much about elections, general elections - that's THE trademark of democracy. But, you know, to give an example,

I was once asked to be interviewed in a US TV program called Democracy Now. I mean, I was told beforehand that they're really radical and they wanted - you know, they have a very clear position about, you know, advocating for democracy. So the producer caught me beforehand and said, 'OK, we want you to speak on democracy and so what's your position?' And I said, 'You want an honest answer? My position is not democracy now in China. Democracy tomorrow because if you have democracy tomorrow it has a better chance to last and democracy now is likely to lead to, in a place like China, maybe instantly 500 parties overnight and the most nationalistic - 500 only? Right! 5,000, maybe. And the most nationalistic, loud, demagogue

probably has a better chance to win the election.

What about that? Russia. Huh? Russia. Yeah, you have Russia. You have Putin. I mean that is democracy now. But in the meantime people don't seem to want to pay attention to these smaller incremental changes at different levels like what Paul just said about these negotiations both at the village, at the district, and in journalism. There are so many journalists, not just the radical dissident critics but journalists who work in the state media with CCTV even and with official newspapers who constantly try to push the envelope by reporting on these grey areas. They may not be writing a piece, say, 'Down with the Communist Party,' because you just can't - it just won't be printed. But there are all kinds of creative ways of, you know, exposing corruption, speaking about the importance of individual rights and free enterprise. I mean, in some ways, there is a kind of silent, not so visible long standing project of enlightenment in China. That's been going on for 30 years. And people don't seem to want to pay so much attention to that but they wanted to see China as either just a horribly repressed regime as it always has been or, you know, this huge market with 1 billion consumers and, you know, maybe some Australians see China basically like a destination for, you know - It's like what you said, you dig up and we gobble it up. So I think the reality is really always somewhere in between. And it really serves us better

to pay attention to this in between process. Because that's really - It's ground up. Yeah. And one of the problems of this, of course, is that these are the things, as Paul said, they're not riveting, instantly recognisable, huge stories but they are so important because, as Zha Jianying says, it's happening on such a huge scale. And you do have these incredible human rights violations and you do have these fantastic economic success stories.

I think that there are two megastories that have - for which the stakes are incredibly high but they are as impossible to report on as that - it's back to that Whopper thing. They don't have a shape that you can go in and easily film for interview and one of them - of course there are lots of little stories coming out about this issue - one of them is corruption because corruption affects every level of Chinese life. It affects absolutely everything that goes on in China

from your confidence in buying something at the supermarket and feeling that whatever is in that milk

piece of sausage or whatever is in that jar a friend of mine found an electrical wiring in a jar of chilli - that, you know, this is not - that you don't have to worry about this beyond normal human error.

It affects whether or not you can stay in your home. Does the state really need to knock it down or is it just corrupt local officials in cahoots with developers. And then of course it goes right up into China's foreign reserves and why is there so many - there is so much money that's taken outside. What is the real story with the second generation and so on. It's a very vast and messy and unfilmable story, for the most part.

And the other story is environmental destruction which you've spoken about as well and again you've got these brave reporters, you've got people who are working very hard to expose the corruption - In jails. Yeah. Exactly. And you also have people who have been talking for the last 20 years or so like Dai Qing and the others about civil society. You have people who have formed NGOs

and they - somehow they struggle for funding and work to improve the health of miners - I'm talking about miners underground - they create schools for the children of migrants who weren't allowed an education because they didn't exist formerly in the cities and so on. These are things that are really massive stories. I think the stakes are very, very high but they're fairly unfilmable, they're not dramatic. You know, it's not Mao versus Jong and it's not the famine of - you know. And, yes, I take your point that those are really massive stories but also China's growing military is a huge story, don't you think? I don't think corruption is such a massive story actually. Really? No. I think China is an emerging market and the simple definition of an emerging market - I'm going to try and put McKinsey out of business again here - is not - (Linda scoffs) It is simply get as much as you can, get it as quick as you can and get it however you can. That's what you do in an emerging market. India, Russia, if you like, at the moment,

and certainly China. That's what everyone does on a low level. That will lead to some corruption. In many, many ways the government is starting to crack down on corruption. I was out there recently helping a retailer get permits.

They have a centre where you go where everything is filmed, you have all the different things you need, health and safety, fire, refrigeration, whatever, you do all of that and then you go and pay with one thing.

It's not perfect, people find ways around it but they are trying to get to grips with it. I think the issue is not corruption. Corruption will work its way out of the system as it has done in most other places, as the economy rises, as people get richer, as they get less tolerant of it. I don't think that's been solved, even in, let's say, the United States.

Yes, and you keep - you just keep on bashing away at it. You just keep on bashing away at it. But it's one of those things. I think the issue, the real issue, and I think the party has identified it as the issue is trust. Trust is what the food scares are all about. Can you trust the food product. Can you trust anything that you buy in a shop not to be fake. Why would you not go online to buy something through e commerce because someone may send you a fake they may send you nothing, and they'll have taken your money.

Why do you not want to put your money - every single element of life is trust. Why do people - why is driving sometimes a little erratic, to put it slightly, in China. Sometimes! Because nobody trusts anyone to let them cross the road. Nobody trusts - you know, you want to keep ahead of everyone else. Everything is about lack of trust. Why do you check into a 5-star hotel in China and they ask for 500 renminbi deposit because they've assumed you're going to nick the kettle or take the television or something. There's this complete lack of trust at all levels of the society. And that's what has got the party really nervous because you start distrusting your milk and your infant formula and then you distrust your property developer

who sold you your property

and you distrust your bank and you distrust your taxi driver to take you where you should be the right way, all of these little things, and ultimately, of course, you end up distrusting the government and that's when it could get messy. So I think we'll always have little bits and pieces of corruption around. It will get - I think that will work itself out. There are ways to deal with that as countries get richer and rule of law starts to come and we'll see how China develops but trust - trust in your institutions, trust in your party, trust in everything is the one big thing at the moment, I think, that's got the party and should have most of the intellectual class in China very worried. Yes, it certainly does. What do you think? Can I agree and disagree again? Yes! I'm sorry. I told you it was a Chinese thing. I'll leave it to you to trust me, my sincerity or not, at the end of this. OK, the agreed part, is, I think, corruption is not, again, a huge problem in terms of that it's a uniquely Chinese problem. It's not. I think corruption actually is human nature, as greed us, Wherever there's greed there will be corruption no matter what system is - But there are differences in forms of corruption, in scales of corruption. That's where we can, you know, really zoom in at it.

I think - I'll give you a joke about India and China in terms of corruption because I work - that's my job in the last eight years, for the Indian China Institute in New York so I travel between India and China a lot and one of the things I heard about corruption in India and China is that if you bribe someone, if a businessman bribes someone in China

you actually get the deal done.

If you bribe someone in India, you still don't get the deal done! That is the difference. So there is corruption and there is efficiency.

So the whole thing - maybe this story was made up by a Chinese guy. I'm not sure. But I think I heard it in India, you know. So the thing about corruption is I think it is everywhere and there is different forms, for example in the late '90s when I first heard about the Enron scandal I hear among my Chinese businessmen friends sort of, 'Aha! So, see, they're corrupt, just as corrupt as we are except they're just more sophisticated at it because they're at a later stage of capitalism.' They know how to - they're high-rollers and we're just these crude savages in the primitive capitalist societies so we do these kick-backs and bribing officials and insider tradings in a really crude way. So, yes, maybe as you get - the market gets more regulated, maybe the corruption, some forms of corruption,

will be better, you know, kept monitored but then there'll be other ways of corruption that will, you know, upgrade. Upgraded corruption. But there's nothing intrinsically corrupt about the Chinese though. You mean - There's nothing in their genetics that makes them more corrupt. No, no, no! It's just a system and as the system evolves, so the corruption will evolve. Absolutely. I'm saying, you know, yeah, corruption is everywhere, it's not Chinese, it's not just the Chinese are innately corrupt. But the part that I feel like you're right about the trust is that is a very special Chinese problem right now.

But the - and that's behind a lot of the corruption. Where I disagree there is that you say

'Oh, if you're going to distrust your milk and the next day you distrust your train and then eventually you distrust your government,' but I would say it actually started with the government. Because the government really destroyed trust in society a long time ago. Before any of these food problems, train problems, and it was really the revolution 60 years ago was the constant class struggle and merciless campaigns to demonise a part of the society, say the rich or the politically suspect sectors of the Chinese and which tore the society apart, which had all these stories about your brother turning on your other bother your wife turning on your husband. And people are just constantly betrayed.

So that really ruined a certain innocence and honesty and trust, so, after that all that, the Chinese really had a deep-seated mistrust about everybody and everything... Which is also - ..beginning with the government. Which is also because people have become so alienated, because they distrust each other, it makes building any sort of capacity in the voluntary sector, or in the charities and everything so much more difficult to do in China because everyone is alienated. Everyone thinks why should I do that - someone is getting ahead of me - that whole, will I - will someone else be benefiting from my labour doing something - Yeah and because you have this extreme make this socialist new man kind of campaign to build this new socialist man who is totally selfless - you're supposed to devote your whole life and give your soul to the nation and the party and the big utopian dream and that's so unnatural because we're naturally, you know, selfish in some way. We have self-interest, you can't just wipe that out so once that whole ideology goes bankrupt,

with the planned economy and Mao, people really return to this sort of 'I'm here for myself only' with vengeance. And so everybody is basically - Grab all you can, as quick as you can, any way you can. And so you don't trust any altruism, like NGOs or civil - why should they be doing something not for their own good? Yep. It's a moral vacuum - It must be a scam. But a lot of that does also relate, as you were saying, to the fact that the government itself - it doesn't have transparent processes, how do you trust it when you cannot - when there is no transparencies so you have never any ability to say yes that decision was made according to a process I understand and respect. It always seems to be behind closed doors, so the suspicion of corruption is always there, even when things aren't being handled corruptly. Now, we are actually - this has flown by! I've got a whole - pages of questions

that I'm never going to get to. I think what I'd like to ask you

is where does, just in each of your opinion and if you can keep the answer sort of short, because I'm sure we've got lots of questions and we'll have a mic there, so you can start lining up there because we'll be pointing to you soon. Um, where does China's - where does the best hope for a healthy, uncorrupt, powerful,

but good China, shall we say, I mean this is a - a China that every single one of us would say, 'That's fantastic, what a great, powerful nation to have in our neighbourhood.' What is the greatest hope, and for the Chinese people, of course, themselves to be happy, not worried about the lack of transparency, the lack of trust, what's in the milk etc, what is the greatest hope? Where does this lie, does it lie in future gen - in the younger generation, does it lie in the return to Confucianism that the government's promoting as a way of filling the moral vacuum. Does it lie with the likes of dissidents that have been fighting for human rights, disability rights and so on, people like your brother? Does it lie with Communist Party itself, does it lie with shopping? Or something else entirely? Can we check all the boxes? We need them. All of them. I think the realpolitik is that the immediate future lies with the Communist Party. And it's just a question of what the people decide to make of what they choose and as I say, I would go back to the this year as very important. They can start talking about quality of life and how they're going to fix things. They made a hell of a lot of money in the last 30 years, right? What are they going to do with it? Are they going to start addressing these qualities of life. Are Chinese people going to embrace the fact

that they now have leisure and a little more money in their pocket and hopefully it's going to stay that way. And what are they going to do with their time? Are they going to become involved in their own society rather than just their own family

and their own extended family? I think that's interesting.

I think the other thing we have to say as well, as a nation, and, of course, this is where the government - China is an economic superpower, it's going to have to start acting like a responsible superpower as well. It cannot simply go on in the UN Security Council vetoing everything. It's going to have to start making decisions, taking a stand. Will it? Or can it just go on like that? No, I think it absolutely can start to address these things

if it wants to. If it starts to make that decision that it's going to - it's built on the last 30 years, it's got everything up to a decent level. The Communist Party, much as I'd like to see it disappear tomorrow, if I thought - They are a quite pragmatic bunch - pragmatic is the word that gets thrown out about China a lot and they are quite a pragmatic bunch of people. I don't think in the very long term they're the future. But if they start that process, they will have opened the door to something that at last Chinese people can grab hold of and make their own. I hope. And I have no reason to see why they wouldn't. There's 1.4 billion people. If they want to change things there are various ways they can start to get - And there's a very interesting development

which has happened with the - we don't really have time to go into it, but with this year's political changeover. One of the - there's a group of, they're called the children of Yan'an

and they are particular group of children of former leaders - there are many corrupt children of former leaders but there's also a group that wants to return the Communist Party to a kind of ideological purity, to seriously fight the corruption that the other children represent

and it's a very interesting situation because they would want to move China further in the direction of ideological purity and yet they offer a kind of a hope for process and for responsibility. It's a very mixed and contradictory situation. What -

And everyone is still going to go shopping.

That Luis Vuitton bag thing - Yeah. Oh yeah, it's a crazy, it's a mixed-up situation. Did you want to want to have one final word and then we'll turn to questions? Maybe just one. I think confluence. Convergence of all these factors,, 'cause China really needs, I think, a piece of luck in things happening

in the right time, in the right place.

It hasn't in the past, I think -

revolution and a war happened in a very bad time, when things were possibly moving towards a good direction. And so far I think, in the last 30 years, in general, in general, China has had some good luck with things beginning to open up and to reform,

economically and also politically in terms of lots of things, like personal freedoms and things that we've been talking about here. If that continues to happen, both from the top and bottom and things don't get rushed and crinched and pressured to implosion too early then I think we have a pretty good chance of a hopeful future. Well, that's a wonderful note to end on and I think we've heard fascinating discussion. I think we've got some questions that are beginning right here.

I was very interested in what Paul had to say about trust, internally in China and it made me start to think about China's relationships with the rest of the world. Would you agree that China is friendless in the international community. If so, why? Friendless? Friendless. Well, they don't have very many friends. Everyone -

what is it, enemies come with smiling faces or whatever so, you know, everyone smiles at the Chinese. I'm not sure, on a diplomatic level, anyone likes them very much. Certainly some other nations have a major problem with them. I think that one of the biggest risks we have is an India/China conflict. I think that's - there's a lot of stuff going on there.

The Sudan is a friend. Of course, Kim Jong Un, Kim III, is a friend. Does he need scoff down there? The Chinese have got it.

Yeah, everyone else is very nervous about them - the Mongolians, 'twixt the dragon and the bear, you know. Very nervous. The 'stans are very nervous. The new Burma must be very nervous. Of course China's reaction to all of this will just be containment. 50 Marines or whatever it is up in Darwin, plus a bit of democracy in Hillary Clinton going to Burma, you know. Americans saying that they'll stand by the Philippines and Taiwan having an election and 51/49 and no blood on the streets and everything. That's a good example of how democracy can work in a Chinese society. String of pearls, all of that, I mean you know, they don't have a lot of friends out there in reality, I don't think. Would you, briefly...? Yeah, I mean, it's true but I think we need to differentiate a little bit between the State and the people. Oh yes, absolutely. And Chinese State have very few friends, we can count them in one hand, we just went over them - Burma, formerly. North Korea and Cuba. But I think the people are different, the people to people contacts are constantly friendly or moving from misunderstanding to more understanding

and there was a tremendous expansion of travelling and circulation of people between China and the rest of the world. And in that sense, I think, it's hopeful that the Chinese state politics cannot hijack a whole nation as a friendless place. That's a really important point. That's a very important point. We have to distinguish when we talk all the time between whether we're speaking of the State as represented by the Communist Party of whether we're speaking of this heterogeneous nation that I was talking about at the beginning. Yes? I am concerned - what do you think is going to happen to the minority groups? The problem is the narrative of Chinese history that has been imposed on the Chinese - the post-Tiananmen education system and so on. No, it's Ching dynasty onwards. Well, you know different places, different parts. The Qianlong Emperor basically extended the empire through to Tibet - Yeah, but it moves all the time, Taiwan until the '80s still wanted the whole of Mongolia, right? They didn't even recognise that. So it moves around.

And there is now this narrative of history which the party feels it cannot change which puts these people under it, which leads to a problem. And then, again, it's one of those things, as hopefully as they grow and mature as a State and all the rest of it that these dialogues will start to take place. How long has it taken the English and the Scots to talk to each other? I'm not that optimistic because, and I'll only speak very briefly, but the fact is that what the Chinese have done in Tibet and Xinjiang has been very, very steadily, to move massive migrations of Chinese into these areas to dilute the population, to dilute the cultures. There has been massive destruction. The destruction of Kashgar, the destruction of the Bakor in Lhasa, and so on. I don't think that these particular ethnic cultures really have a hope of surviving in the shape that they were in, say, even 50 years ago.

I'm not- I'm not feeling completely positive about that. We have probably time for one more question - two more questions if they're short and our answers are short. Oh, there are one or two here. Sorry, sorry, sorry. I have somewhat different views on the Tibetan question. I think you're absolutely right in saying a Chinese state - Are you going to do that right and wrong thing again? We're stuck in that today, somehow. This is not my constant reaction but let me just say, yes, the narrative of the Chinese state imposed on Tibet is warped and is not, you know, something I agree with. But I think on the other side, the West has also imposed a narrative of nation state. And a very simplistic one. Very simplistic. It's a mirror image of each other in some ways because in history, Tibet - China was an empire and it has a tributary system with Tibet and with lots of nations in Asia.

And that's not to be fitted in the simple modern framework-nation. And it's become so polarised between the two. Yeah. And it's a very fluid and murky relationship between Tibet - To say, Tibet has always been a part of China is bullshit. And to say Tibet is never a part - is totally independent is bullshit too. That's absolutely true. Yeah. So I think we need to get beyond the simplistic quarrels based on false assumptions and frameworks, to begin with. And false dichotomies. Just this whole China bad/China good thing. You know, Communist Party good/ Communist party bad.

All of that stuff is just not helpful in understanding what's an extremely complex situation. And it is currently, I think, at a quite depressing stage which I agree with you on saying all this massive migration and assuming that just supporting Tibeten economy, by pouring a lot of money into it is not going to solve the problem.

This is a very devote, religious people who care more about money. I mean, they have their god. And the Han people are just so thick about it because we're so secular and materialistic. And especially at the moment. So, we're not sensitive to that. That's not helpful. Yeah.

But again, I wanted to put this in perspective, to say, there is hope in time, because there are many Han Chinese, not the government, not the government, again, among my friends, Chinese friends, who feel very sympathetic about the plight of the Tibetans. There were really brave intellectuals,

Han Chinese intellectuals, who advocate and speak up about the Tibetan issue. And it is moving towards, hopefully a better future. Just like you have - it takes time for you to deal with the Aboriginal issues it takes time for the Chinese to work out its relations with its, you know, minority communities. OK, we have gone beyond time, have we? I'm so sorry to the ladies that were at the microphone. Um, terribly sorry. We've just gone beyond our time and we're being asked to vacate. But I'd like you to give our two panelists, Paul French and Zha Jianying, a very big hand. (Applause) That was the China discussion with moderator, Linda Jaivan, writer, Zha Jianying, and economist and writer, Paul French. The panel was part of the Adelaide Writers' Week.

You can find that discussion on our website. And you can always follow us on Twitter and Facebook. That's all for Big Ideas today. I'm Waleed Aly. See you next time. Closed Captions by CSI

This Program is Captioned


Evictions in the park -

police move against a

long-running tent embassy in Brisbane You've got to answer

to the elders. You've got to

answer to these people. You've

got to answer to South

Brisbane. Greece down for the

count - new elections needed

and the Eurozone fears the worst.

TRANSLATION: Some have chosen

in cold blood to play party politics rather than do what's

best for the country. Another

milkshake-up for dairy farmers

- production is booming, but

prices could drop further. And former News International chief Rebekah Brooks says she will

fight conspiracy charges. I am

baffled by the decision to

charge me today.