What Has My Country Done For Me?

(Southern Weekend)  What Has My Country Done For Me?  September 28, 2008.

(Guangzhou commentator on current affairs)

The best thing that the country has done for me is to make sure that our generation did not experience war.  There were no foreign invasions, no warlords fighting wars and no bandits looting the people.  Compared to our parents who lived through times of war, we are too lucky!  For several thousand years, our ancestors could not achieve the minimal dream of being "peacetime dogs."  Of course, this feeling has to do with the fact that our family were "poor peasants."  We did not have the anxiety-filled lives of the "five bad elements" and their children.  For the three decades after the end of the Cultural Revolution, "class struggle" is not longer the main theme and the people of the nation enjoy peace together.

(Shanghai human resources manager)

My country let me live in a peaceful era and I have lived safely for the past thirty years.  I was also fortunate to seize the grand opportunities that came with the reforms.  I realize that money is not everything, but it is also not possible without money.

(Beijing CCTV employee)

I was a university student in the 1980's and I was assigned to a state enterprise upon graduation.  During the university period, I got food coupons, I received supplementary food supplies, I attended university for free and my work unit provided me with housing and pension.  It was very admirable.  But before 2008, I never realized what the country has done for me.  As a contract, the organization constrains why you can do and therefore it must also protect you.

But this year there were many major social and economic incidents, which cause the white-collar workers in the urban centers to reflect on the purpose of the country.  In the past, the most important thing that the country offered me -- as inseparable from me for even a single moment as air and water -- is the "sense of security" provided by the entire system.  The state system allows us to live and work in a stable manner.  I think about Deng Xiaoping first and foremost.  He has never shook my hand, and he has never spoken to any of my friends and neighbors.  But his policies have benefited the vast majority of the people.  He let those smart, ambitious and hard-working people prosper.  He provided wealth, opportunity and security for the small folks.

(Henan province government worker)

In recent years, I look at the parts of the "same world" which live under the shadow of war and their people which are trapped in battle fire.  I am most grateful that I and my compatriots have been able to avoid the tragedies of war, because I happen to live in an increasingly powerful country.

(Hong Kong university professor)

Before I left China in 1984, I felt that the country did a lot of things for me.  I came from a very poor rural family.  As a student, I did not pay a cent for my tuition, room and board expenses (but I had to buy textbooks).  In the early 1980's, the state even paid a living expense subsidy.

After I went overseas, I found out that most nations with legal political power and basic social welfare would not refuse to provide basic social services.  It would be abnormal if they did not do so.

There is something else that is unforgettable to me.  I went overseas with government approval but self-financed (with an American scholarship award).  Between 1984 to 1988, my work unit sent my 60+ RMB basic monthly salary by post to my mother.  This allowed her to live decently even though she was illiterate and had no work.  Of course, in today's view, this is something that a modern welfare state ought to be doing.

(Shenzhen civic research society leader)

I am a lucky Chinese person.  My parents had eight children.  I was supposed to be number 3.  Numbers 1, 2, 4 and 6 all died.  I survived and I became the eldest with two younger sisters.  My mother ordered me to take the number 7 sister before she was even a month old to the nursing home.  I have never heard any news about her since.

My uneducated father supported the family with great difficulty.  My mother sent me to school early on in the hope that I could get an office job.  In 1958, I fulfilled their dreams by entering the journalism department of Fudan University.  During the three years of hardship when hundreds of millions of farmers lived on the edge of starvation and many people died, I received special privileges as a citizen of the largest city Shanghai and a student at a famous university.  I was not threatened by the famine.

(Beijing university lecturer)

I came from a poor village in Henan province.  From elementary school to my doctorate degree, the state provided basically free education.  During my university year in 1990, the state began to collect tuition fees at 450 RMB per annum.

Presently, the state provides a basic and safe social order and it guarantees economic development.  The state-run university is the source of my income.  The state provides benefits such as medical insurance, housing, pension and so on.

I grew up on this earth.  This is my motherland.  The love for this earth and its people is a seed that was planted deep in our hearts.  If we love China, we should work hard to make it even better.

(Chinese student studying in Paris, France)

The progress in China over the past 30 years allowed me to escape the harsh fate of my father's generation.  In particularly, I feel greater respect from outside China.  Unless you live overseas for a few years, you cannot experience the importance of the country for the individual.

I went from the rural area into a city, and then I went overseas to study.  I paid for my own expenses, but I am grateful to the country for the stability and openness.  If China had not set up an effective administrative system and framework, it is hard to imagine that people could live so tranquilly.  Although there is a lot of room for improvement, China is doing well compared to many other countries of the world.  It is a grand human rights project to let more than a billion people rise out of poverty.

(Hanzhou university teacher)

When my son first entered elementary school, my strongest reaction was the free education.  I no longer had to pay the expensive kindergarten fees.  Personally, I could say that I was fortunate to be born at the right time for my education, so that I completed all the education through my doctorate without any fees.  My mother said that it would be impossible today for the four children to complete their university educations based upon the meager monthly salary of several hundred yuan that my father made.  My father is filled with gratitude towards the country.  It is his favorite refrain to thank Deng Xiaoping for his economic policies.

(Beijing military serviceman)

My parents are illiterate farmers.  When I was young, I had many siblings and we could barely avoid going hungry.  The state spent money so that I became a university student who hopec to contribute to society.  At university, I read many western books about personal struggles.  I once described myself as an anarchist.  But it was the Party and the Army that turned me into a true Communist Party member, who is willing to sacrifice myself in the pursuit for truth.

(Chengdu university history professor)

The country has done a lot for me.  If I had to think about what is more important, it is probably the fact that the university had a useless course subject such as history (at least, that was how I treated it) so that I could bring together my hobby with the needs of the country.  The only flaw is that our "country" (it is not accurate to use that term here) sometimes seems to forget that it has such a long history.  A country with a long history can see farther ahead and even common folks can accomplish grandiose things.

(Hanzhou housewife)

One slogan: To get rich, fix the road first.

When I was young, goods were hard to come by.  Throughout the year, we only had a bowl of salted vegetables every day.  We only got to eat meat around the Lunar New Year, when we wore new clothes (compared to the old, worn and under-sized clothes that we normally wore).  The roads were mud roads.  Even when electricity became available, we used oil lamps in the evening.  When we bought stuff, we had to queue up.  We had to put on smiling faces, because the shopkeepers may ignore us otherwise.  If we attended school, it took all the earnings of our parents.

But today, meat is just decorative on the dining table.  Our clothes fill our cabinet drawers.  The roads reach everywhere.  The nights are lit up like daytime.  The shopkeepers put on smiling faces to draw our patronage.

The market economy is lively and people are living more exciting lives.  Transportation is well-developed.  The globe is getting smaller.  Government is payaing for free education.

(Beijing university professor)

Thanks to the economic reforms, I was among the first wave of university students who got admitted through the open entrance exams.  I also became a graduate student at the first national humanities research institute (the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences).  I graduated at the end of 1984 to go to the China Renmin University.  In 1990 and 1994, I became the youngest associate and full professor at that university.  In 2004, I became a member of the university affairs committee.  In 2008, just before national day, I received the new work permit that lists me as a second-grade professor (even though there is still much room for improvement in the classification system for professors).  Without the public products provided by the state (such as social stability, group harmony, market order and international standing), everything that I now have is unthinkable.

(Beijing state enterprise worker)

The reforms brought economic development and material wealth, so that I did not have to learn how it was to lack food and clothing at youth.  The country gave me the opportunity to choose for myself and to take my own fate into my own hands, so that I was able to move from a remote mountainous village to live in Beijing.

(Guangzhou IT company employee)

The state has spent quite a bit on me.  Each year, they introduce new campaigns and slogans so that I can be a good person who does right for the country.  It repeatedly demanded that I do the "honorable" thing by paying my taxes, adhering to the family planning laws, obeying public morality, trusting the government and listening to their calls.  I cannot deny that the country taught me to become an obedient person.

Objectively speaking, when my mother had to stay at the hospital this year for her operation, 50% of the expenses were paid for by the state.  This is the biggest thing that the state has done for me.  My son will not have to pay tuition fees beginning this year, as free education gets implemented.

(Chongqing doctoral student)

I am a Tujia ethnic group student born in the 1980's.  In 2000, the universities awarded additional points to ethnic minority students at the entrance exams, and I was therefore able to enter the Department of Chinese Literature at an ethnic minority university.  In 2004, I benefited from the state regulations concerning ethnic minority students from ethnic minority areas and I was able to enter a masters program for ethnic minority education, without having to pay the 7,000 RMB annual tuition fees and even receiving 200 RMB in living subsidies per month.  In 2007, I entered Southwestern University under the "Ethnic minority senior level talent nurturing program" to study for a doctoral degree.  I did not have to pay the 12,000 RMB annual tuition fee and I receive more than 700 RMB in living subsidies per month.

My fellow students are envious but I say that I am an authentic "Made-in-China brand."  It is the country's policies on ethnic minority and higher education which let me progress to this point.  The country has done so much for me, and I ought to repay the country.  During my studies, I actively promote the ethnic minority policies.  I conduct many field studies and I study/research the direction of higher education so that the motherland can be more prosperous and powerful.

(Suzhou retired cadre)

The country has given me a plentiful leisure life.  I love singing, traveling and writing.  I have written three volumes of observations and commentaries, which record the memories of my personal life.  From my words, you can discern a portrait of the thirty years of economic reform.  They also establish the extent to which the liberation of thinking, democracy and freedom have traveled.  Thirty years ago, all this is unthinkable.  My collection of the greatest Chinese and western books was confiscated during the Cultural Revolution and ended up with an unknown fate!

(Southern Weekend website user)

The country provides me with a stable living environment, particularly in Guangzhou.  I will admit frankly that I am homosexual, and I can be intimate with my lover openly in certain places.

(Fuzhou former overseas student)

When I was in school, China was still in the era of Soviet Russia-style socialism.  I enjoyed certain benefits that no long exist, such as food subsidies, scholarships and free housing.  I am full of gratitude.  At the same time, the state controlled people's right to choose their destinies (such as assigning people to their jobs after graduation instead of allowing them to choose freely).  Each person was just a small cog in the state machinery.  You have to do whatever you are ordered to.

Following the opening of the reforms and the implementation of socialism with unique Chinese characteristics, I enjoyed more of the individual freedoms.  For example, I was a visiting fellow in American with my entire family.  I have been to almost twenty countries in Asia, Europe, North America, Africa and Australia.  I have a keen sense of being a "global person" that is a privilege previously limited only to diplomats.

(Shanghai financial analyst)

The country has done many things.  They established the elementary schools, secondary schools and the universities which provided me with more than 10 years of education.  They established the social science institutes and newspapers which provided me with a job.  They turned housing into a free market, which was better than squeezing in government dormitories even though it is more expensive.  They gave the impetus for everybody to seek wealth, so that I can be at the same level as rich people.  They established the banks and the capital markets to help me and many friends to find jobs that interest us.  We learned about the K-curve graphs, the American stock market and the global economic trends.  We increased our insight while making money sometimes -- even though the newly listed companies took away a lot of money.

(Nanchang university teacher)

The country did at least three things for me -- the long-lasting culture, the precious peace and the dignified self-pride of a people.  But the safety provided by the country is imperfect, because I almost lost my life during a Beijing robbery and I ate unsafe dairy products.

(Shanghai university professor)

Compared to what I have done for the country, it has done a lot more for me.  By designing the university entrance system, it enabled me to switch from a "rural village household registrant" to a "Shanghai resident."  If not, the most I could be is a migrant workers wearing glasses and squatting down to eat a bowl of rice in a work shed somewhere.  My secondary school classmate is like that too.  But he does not think that this was due to the good work by the state.  Since he does not have a "government job," he could have a son and daughter and be treated the same as movie stars just by paying a small fine for breaking family planning regulations.

(Lanzhou university student)

Basic income: Three scholarships during four years as an undergraduate.  I am not a student that qualifies for poverty, so I am not eligible for the state scholarships for students in those conditions.  I have received Grades 1, 2 and 3 scholarships totaling 3,000 yuan.

The basic living subsidies from the state is 31 yuan per month (of which 1 yuan is withheld for class fees), so that the four year total is 1,440 yuan.

The total amount spent by the state on me is 4,440 yuan.

I come from an ordinary family.  I study hard and my grades are decent.  At university, I studied for myself and also for the state.  Afterwards, I am left with a total debt of 45,520 yuan.  I see the fellow students who graduated from high school with so-so grades are able to win big scholarships at American universities with plenty to spare after paying for tuition.  I am wistful, but I have no regrets.  I will stay in China and continue my studies, because this is the greatest contribution that I can make towards my country.

(Shanghai lawyer)

I have clothes to wear (at discount prices), food to eat (at fast food restaurants), a house to live in (rented) and a vehicle to drive (the two-wheel variety).