01/24/2011, 00.00
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"Happy Guangdong": new focus of the Chinese Communist Party

For the Guangdong CCP secretary, economic development in no longer main goal rather social welfare. Experts say change in development model needed, ensuring fair wages, health, education, but also justice and freedom. The case of the Foxconn suicides.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - "Happy Guangdong." Wang Yang, secretary of the Communist Party (CCP) of the rich Guangdong, has launched the slogan for the 12th Five-Year Plan, which lasts until 2015. Wang says they will not be focusing on economic development, rather on improving the quality of people's lives. Experts point to the suicides of the workers at Foxconn, alienated by inhumane working conditions, and say they must first change the model of China's development to ensure everyone, among other things, human working conditions, fair wages, social security, access to healthcare and education.

Wang believes CCP policies can no longer afford to focus solely on increasing economic wealth, for decades the yardstick for local politicians, instead a "Happiness Index" of the population needs to be established by which to determine the effectiveness of local authorities.

Analysts have applauded the innovation, some describing it as a great novelty, others the correct application of the principle of  the "Harmonious Society" preached by President Hu Jintao for years. Others still have commented that Wang, a member of the Politburo of the CCP Central Committee, is set to become a member of the Standing Committee and that the initiative is aimed at increasing consensus.

However, there is great interest and expectation. Chen Zaiqi, a researcher of the Academy of Social Sciences (Ass) in Guangdong, now says that the province "will have to change itself from a pioneer of economic development to a model example of taking care of people's livelihoods", which means social security, access to healthcare and education, all  immediate and compelling issues. Ding Li, also an Ass expert in Guangdong, said emphasis will be on factors such as social equity, justice, health, freedom.

Yuan Weishi, a Sun Yat-sen University scholar, recalls the words of Premier Wen Jiabao, “happiness also means respecting the dignity and rights of individuals. "

Guangdong is a wealthy province, a leader in the nation’s economic development. Here more than elsewhere the booming Chinese economy has been achieved with the intensive exploitation of workers in factories, often forced to exhausting shifts without receiving overtime pay, usually migrants from remote areas who live in dormitories, without health care or school for their children.

The population and experts have questioned the long series of suicides (over 11 in 2010) among the workers in Taiwan’s Company Foxconn factory in Longhua (Shenzhen), a leading electronic components manufacturer, which has 20 factories in China and over 800 thousand workers (see AsiaNews 21/07/2010, Wage hike fails to stop suicides at Foxconn). The sparked debate about the inhumane working conditions, for the exclusive benefit of the Western capitalist corporations which profit from low labour costs, and the CCP, which attracts foreign capital for developing industries (AsiaNews of 02/06/2010, The "new" Chinese working class, willing to commit suicide rather than bend to oppression, and 28.5.2010, Work-related suicides due to indifference, Hong Kong trade union leader says ").

Analysts explain that in order to change the social situation and the exploitation of workers in the factories the good will of some CCP leaders is not enough, instead greater democracy and freedom to criticize, for individuals and the media, is needed as well as allowing social groups and intermediates such as trade unions carry out their role to safeguard the rights of workers (AsiaNews of 31.5.2010, Foxconn suicides: capitalism and Marxism treat people like animals).

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