Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Not With A Bang, But With a Whimper

China has decided to abolish taxes on its farmers, ending a 4,000 year-old tradition.

I'm happy for Chinese farmers, but unhappy about what this says culturally. This policy shift indicates the havoc globalism is wreaking upon Chinese culture -- that the agrarian sector is a) so insignificant revenue-wise that the government can afford to eliminate the taxes but also b) that the government also wants, desperately, to avoid a mass exodus from rural areas to urban and, relatedly, wishes to keep a certain amount of farmers in their professions so that China will be guaranteed a definite supply of grain.

It had better.

I dislike it that an alien ideology can destroy a 4,000 year-old tradition in a matter of a few decades, even if the tradition is as quotidian and unpleasant as a specially-targeted tax.

Nearly the worst possible thing that can happen to a country so over-populated as China is mass migration from rural to urban areas. Yet as the government's action indicates, the threat is taken seriously as well it should for the process is happening before everyone's eyes. And it's more than a food-supply security issue; do people really wish for a Beijing of 40 million people, all of them owning a car and otherwise consuming like Americans? If this happens, not only will it be the deathnell for China's ecology, but also for the world's resources. Yet we in the West are hypocrites if we wish to deny the Chinese what we, after all, consider a right.

India is going through the same thing, though is further along than China.

What such cultural shifts, the threats of which are nearly immeasurable, should elicit are radical reappraisals of how we live, and the morality and practicality of allowing global capitalism to take root not only in authoritarian countries, but in delicately balanced cultures whose massive populations depend on sometimes spartan self-sufficiency, especially among its rural classes.

Only a true misanthrope would wish to introduce macro levels of "conspicuous consumption" to these societies.