Americans need to lose the Cold War image of China as people in Mao jackets riding bicycles holding little red books. People in China struggle with the same issues we do in America, including local government officials and developers trying to take your house so they can build a shopping center. Sound familiar? This issue is especially important in light of the new private property law passed by China’s legislators last week.
Local residents look at a two-storey home, which is now the only building left standing atop a mound in a 10-meter-deep construction pit in Chongqing March 22, 2007. [newsphoto]
There is a great story in today’s China Daily, Defiant couple stave off wrecking ball, about a family in Chongqing that is refusing to give up their 2000 square foot house even after the local authorities cut off their water and electricity. Worth noting: 1) the story is being reported by reporters from all over China, 2) the couple has a banner on the house reading “Rights to legitimate private property shall not be infringed upon,” 3) the issue is the price–they want to be paid the fair market value in the hot property market so they can relocate, and 4) my friends at Sina.com took a poll yesterday showing that 86% of the 83,175 people interviewed supported the couple’s decision. Every one of these points flies in the face of the stereotype shown in the U.S. media.
I’m not saying it’s Kansas in Chongqing. Chinese institutions are not just like ours; they are evolving in a healthy direction. There is not yet rule of law, although they are working on it. But people are people everywhere.
Suggestion: set up an automatic search on Google for all stories with the words “National People’s Congress” to be delivered to your email every day. You will see a dozen or so stories each day so you can track the changing legal and regulatory climate in China yourself.