It is much, much easier for people to leave China now. I can’t remember the last time I heard of someone asking for “political asylum.” I’ve known quite a few Chinese nationals here in Thailand who come and go to and from their home country as they please. Even as recently as 15 years ago, maybe just 10 years ago, citizens had to show a compelling reason why they needed to leave, such as for school.
BTW: I know a middle-aged Chinese national here in Bangkok who is hands down one of the nicest people I have ever known, bar none. They simply don’t come any nicer than he is. Seriously.
He is also an ardent, die-hard communist. His name is Chao, and we call him, to his face, Chairman Chao, which delights him no end. He remains a fan of Mao. During our riots and other political troubles here these past few years, Chao’s kept expecting “the people” to rise up and take over and seems bemused why that’s not happened yet. A funny old guy, the irony of his working here in this capitalist society as a proofreader and of the forces that have worked to allow him to make his frequent trips back home and return here again is completely lost on him.
This article makes (among several) the argument that the intellectuals of 20 years ago are now some of the rising powers within the government today and that the change that they and their experiences bring may be less than revolutionary but is inexorable.
the Chinese economy has more than doubled - twice since then. The old neighborhood watch system has largely broken down. 200 million peasants who have been tied to the land since time immemorial are part of a migrant labor force and there is real income (not much) and wealth accumulation for the first time ever in Chinese history in the countryside. With that wealth accumulation people can leave, buy lawyers, buy a form of justice, or just eat better and not have a flood and/or famine at least once a decade wipe them out. You have to look hard to find someone wearing the old proletarian one size fits all blue suit these days - and shops don’t sell them in the major cities, yet 20 years ago that’s all anyone wore. There was no food 20 years ago beyond low grade rice and whatever vegetable is in season (and for 3 months a year in winter that meant napa cabbage). College students 20 years ago lived on the verge of malnutrician, as did much of the country. State owned enterprise and the government economy is less than 20% of the total economy and shrinking. There are still vestiges of state planning and the iron rice bowl, but these are vestiges.
Now the deal is the government generally is pretty laise faire as long as you don’t question the right to rule. “To get rich is glorious.”
Seriously, the change in the world of China today versus 20 years ago is huge. The top level government is largely the same. The local and lower level government has experiements with democracy and more accountability to the masses.
check out any evolution of economic power and the government has to adapt.
A bit less than 20 years ago my girlfriend was recommended to a boarding school for advanced students and I went back there with her this year. She told me how they went hungry all the time so she would bring food from home when she could. They had no hot water or even running water so washing up meant a trip across the road to the river side with small tub in hand.
Today the trip to Guangzhou is a couple hours by bus but then there were hardly any passable roads or buses and the trip to Guangzhou was a whole day by boat.
The changes in China in the last 20 years are amazing.