Sunday, April 6, 2008

NYT Archive 1989: Second Thoughts On Reform

Foreshadowing on things yet to come, on April 6, 1989, Nicholas Kristof wrote on New York Times that "after 10 years in which ordinary Chinese citizens were the greatest cheerleaders for change and helped tug the country toward the market, there are signs that they could switch sides."

He explained: "inflation and corruption, along with fear of unemployment and resentment of the newly wealthy, seem to be fostering a reassessment among Chinese farmers and workers about the benefits of sweeping economic change. Some Chinese officials and foreign diplomats are growing concerned that the Chinese people, instead of helping the market economy along, will become an obstacle to it."

Kristof reported that the official rate of inflation was running at 27 percent at the time. It should not be a severe problem since China's economy had been surging more than 10 percent a year. But "it is an unexpected affront to a society where prices scarcely rose during the first three decades of the Communist rule."

The resentment of inflation and corruption would become one of the major factors for city residents and the like to cheer and support for the student movement that year, much more so than the ideals of liberty and democracy advocated by the students.

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