Wednesday, March 2, 2011

China's Prime Minister Orders Officials to Make People Happy

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. From The Telegraph.
Continuing last week's China coverage, today The Telegraph reports that Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao plans to judge officials on how effectively they make people happy. He says that citizen happiness in each official's province is more important than "how many high-rise buildings and projects [the official] had been involved in." These statements are a prelude to China's version of parliament, the National People's Congress, which convenes this weekend.

However, before you start thinking that China is sincere in turning a new leaf with Bhutan-like Gross National Happiness measures, consider that this new "focus on happiness" is largely a cynical reaction to the current protests in the Middle East; a tactic meant to stop the protests from spreading. In fact, China has actually ramped up its online censorship and harassment of the foreign press, recently arresting around 100 protesters.

But that doesn't stop Chinese officials from ACTING like they care. As one official put it, "It's all about making people happy these days. Happy, happy, happy, that's the only word that counts at the moment." Communist newspaper The People's Daily also gets in on the act, writing, "Let happiness take off among the masses." The Communist Party has repeated "happiness" so often that it has replaced their previous favorite buzzword, "harmony."

So we'll have to keep an eye on China and see whether these new policies have any effect. Chinese citizens can usually see through propaganda campaigns, so Chinese officials may want to start delivering on their promises.

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