Chinese to English: The Plight of America’s Welfare Populism (source: dfdaily.com; author: Xiao Gongqin) General field: Social Sciences Detailed field: Government / Politics
Source text - Chinese In the early days of May 2012, I attended a two-day conference at Penn State University. On this trip, I visited Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Princeton and New York and saw a group of old friends from 20 years ago. I attended a Philadelphia Orchestra concert, visited West Point Military Academy and saw New York's 9/11 Memorial and Manhattan Square.
On the surface, the United States is a pretty nice place, but looking at it from a long-term perspective, I feel that America has already entered a fundamental trend of decline. This seems to be completely unrelated to capitalism, but rather to a common contradiction facing both Europe and the United States. I call this illness "Welfare Populism Syndrome."
It can be said that social welfare, coupled with populist politics, is the root cause of the predicament faced by developing countries in the 21st century. The proletariat is always a majority; social welfare policies turn them into a vast number of beneficiaries. Universal suffrage has allowed the ballots in their hands to become the majority voice in deciding the fate of society. When the economy sinks into hardship, if the people want to reduce social welfare and affect their actual benefits, they will then use their ballots to take down the candidates advocating reform and let those who support a welfare state rise to power. If one desires enough votes to come to power, then he must pander to these people; however, in so doing there is ultimately no way to resolve social contradictions.
The enormously high welfare expectations of the proletariat have already generated a huge impact on the middle class. While in the United States, I stayed at a Chinese friend's home. Both he and his wife are university administrators. They settled the account for me: After Obama assumed office, their family, under the pressure of high taxes, has been closing in on becoming part of the poor class. In reality, the “big rice bowl,” or the extreme egalitarianism of Western welfare populism, has already taken a different form to create social inequality.
Greece's current crisis is a classic manifestation of this sort of predicament. America's welfare populist problems are further aggravated by racial and immigration issues. In America's current situation, Hispanic Americans make up 15 percent of the United States’ total population, while African Americans account for 12 percent. Of Asian descendants, the Chinese population has grown from more than 1,000,000 people 10 years ago to 4,000,000 today, not including illegal immigrants. Americans themselves have even said that if things continue like this, in 30 years’ time Caucasians could very well become a minority.
While the social status of America's ethnic minorities is overall not very high, their population growth is extremely rapid. Pluralist democracy's tenet of “one person, one vote” allows vulnerable groups to control partisan states, and politicians do not dare to offend them. Freedom, human rights and social democracy all incline toward vulnerable groups; this originally was a good thing, but the burden of this on the middle class is heavy. A friend told me that one-third of his salary is paid to the government in taxes. America's overall competitive strength has been crippled because of this; the United States is tied down by social welfare and the heavy burden of insurance.
But no one is willing to touch upon this sensitive topic. Of course, America's current success is historically built upon the tribulations, sacrifices and contributions of minority groups; Caucasians also hold the complex emotions of a guilty conscience. Amongst these lie the difficult "politically correct" issues that concern protecting vulnerable groups....
My overall opinion is that American civilization lacks a self-protection mechanism. If a civilization is excessively open to the outside world and allows large numbers of mixed groups to enter its borders, yet does not have the integrated efforts of an institutional culture to integrate them, then the special qualities of this civilization will be watered down, and in the course of time it will turn into another thing entirely. This mode of thinking seems to be not quite politically correct, but it is the reality of the situation.
Perhaps you may think that my realistic impression of the United States is a bit pessimistic. A letter from my friend said that even if elite immigrants are flocking [to the U.S.], the venerated American paradise of "democracy peddlers" will inevitably decline; where is the paragon of social development then?
The weakening of America's national power is no good thing for China. As most people know, the continuous weakening of the U.S. dollar causes China's large share of U.S. bonds to continuously depreciate. Once America becomes unable to repay this debt, it will generate a devastating blow for the global economy, and the injury to China will undoubtedly be extremely grave. Thirty years' worth of hard-earned money belonging to the ordinary people of China has been exchanged for U.S. bonds; today, it could very well become a source of funding for Obama's national health reform and a stepping- stone for Obama to make his place in history. To think of it makes the heart ache.
Every type of system has its own problems. Americans are currently sinking into "the prisoner's dilemma," wherein nobody wants to influence their own interests, yet nobody is willing to fundamentally resolve the new inequality borne out of brotherly love through stimulating social competitive strength. The president is also a beneficiary of this trend.
I certainly do not think that America's future will necessarily be a bleak one. This mighty nation, having experienced so many tribulations, having offered so many great contributions to humanity, will also explore new routes out of this predicament.
However, for us Chinese people, this matter can allow us to more completely and rationally understand the difficulties and prospects of the United States and the West and it is beneficial to our own self-adjustment; from it we can derive inspiration. From observing this shift, we should search out the elements that cannot emerge in China and look for those that are worth preparing for. We must set aside the century-old romantic thinking of Chinese people, namely that we must find a direction and a model in foreign countries and then blindly follow suit. Often, we first have a blueprint to carry out construction accordingly. The results are neither fish nor fowl; our study of the Soviet Union in the 1950s is a case in point.
This article was written on May 23, 2012. On Oct. 15, 2013, the author added:
Before sending this article for publication, I learned from televised news sources that an English housewife can receive 900 pounds a month in subsistence allowances, through which her family can live a very comfortable life. According to British welfare standards, her family will soon move into a new apartment valued at 500,000 pounds, built through the money of taxpayers. This has caused a public outcry. This type of occurrence is all too common in Western countries. More than a year ago, I discussed the plight of welfare populism. My predictions have unfortunately been realized, and are moreover worsening.
The author is a professor in the history department at Shanghai Normal University. This article has been chosen to be included in the 2014 publication "My Thought Journal, Volume II"; it was originally sent in a letter to a friend.
Translation - English 2012年5月初，我在宾州大学开了两天会，走了费城、华盛顿、普林斯顿、纽约四个地方，见了一批二十年前的老朋友，听了一场费城交响乐团的音乐会，去了西点军校，还看了纽约九一一纪念遗址与曼哈顿广场。
Chinese to English: Political Commentary (WRIC website) General field: Social Sciences Detailed field: Government / Politics
Source text - Chinese Zhejiang Lawyer XXX has been awaiting a response to her July 2013 letter to the family planning and finance departments of 31 provinces requesting the publication of information related to the revenue and expenditure of social maintenance fees. As of August 30, she has received the publication of the annual social maintenance fee collection sums for 2012 from 17 provinces, totaling 16.5 billion yuan. The remaining 14 provinces either would not grant a response or stated outright that they could not publicize this information. As for the whereabouts of social maintenance fees, not a single province has provided this information.
"Social maintenance fees", previously known as a "fine for having more than one child", began implementation in the early 1980's. On September 1, 2012, China's State Council promulgated the Measures for Administration of Collection of Social Maintenance Fees, in regards to which the national Population and Family Planning Commission has explained that the fee is "an economic compensation from those who have had more than one child towards society, not a fine. This is due to the fact that the extra population uses up more of society's public resources."
On July 5, 2012, 15 domestic legal and demographic scholars sent a joint law amendment proposal to the National People's Congress and its Standing Committee calling for a complete revision of the Population and Family Planning Law, including the nullification of the restrictions on citizens’ reproductive rights and the abolishment of the birth approval and social maintenance fee systems.
The Constitution and the Administrative Licensing Law should clarify that reproductive rights are a basic human right, and on this basis the birth approval system and social maintenance fees should be abolished. This will not only demonstrate the protection of reproductive rights as a basic human right, but also avoid the unfair phenomena that occur during the collection of social maintenance fees.
So far, in regards to fee collection, not only has the information publicized by local governments been insufficient, but the Audit Office has also failed to perform a specialized audit.
Translation - English 浙江律师XXX等2013年7月致信31个省份的计生、财政部门，申请公开社会抚养费收支等相关信息，到8月30日收到了17个省份的公开的2012年度社会抚养费征收数额，共计165亿元。其他14个省份或不予回复，或直言不能公开。而对社会抚养费的去向，则无一省份公开。
Chinese to English: Newspaper: Biden’s Visit to East Asia Tests the United States’ ‘Balancing Act’ (Source: Haiwai News) General field: Social Sciences Detailed field: Journalism
Source text - Chinese As the year comes to a close and winter thickens, another storm of change sweeps across the Asia-Pacific region. China's demarcation of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea has incited a heated reaction from Japan and has successively pushed the United States, Japan and South Korea closer to a trial. At this sensitive moment in time, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's tour of East Asia largely serves to test the United States' "balancing act."
It should be observed that the dispute between China and Japan over the East China Sea air defense identification zone is merely a tactical dispute. The United States' chief strategic interests lie in how to coordinate its Asia-Pacific allies and seek an avenue for peaceful coexistence between China and the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific, thereby ensuring its dominant status in the region. America's “balancing act” in the Asia-Pacific is no easy task. It must focus on four key factors.
The first is the strategic balance between China and the United States. This is a matter of whether the two countries can realize the goal of building a new major power relationship. A strategic balance between China and the United States does not indicate that the two countries are equally matched, but rather questions how the U.S. and China can gain mutual satisfaction through mutual understanding. Preventing conflicts and controlling crises play especially critical roles in this question. To that end, while the United States is continuously pressuring and testing China, it will also seek to mitigate issues. This goal of mitigation, however, is not only intended to avoid conflicts, but also to develop principles that promote the systematization and transparency of bilateral relations. Although Biden will consider how to harmonize the conflicts between China and Japan on this visit, realizing the Sino-U.S. strategic balance will remain one of his major objectives. Sino-U.S. relations are wide-ranging and complex; there are many issues that need confronting. In addition to strengthening cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, China and the United States must join hands to combat many issues on a global scale. The two countries cannot lose sight of the big picture over a minor air defense identification zone incident.
The second is the balance between the U.S. and its Asia-Pacific allies. America's Asia-Pacific allies are the important backbone of its implementation of rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific. Nonetheless, the differences in strategic objectives and divergences in strategic interests between the U.S. and its allies have also led to incessant quarreling amongst themselves. Japan is using China's air defense identification zone demarcation to launch an attack, utilizing the old maxim "the crying baby gets the milk." On his visit to Japan, Biden will consider appeasement, but more importantly how to strengthen the United States’ allies, coordinate responses and thereby ensure stability in the East China Sea.
Simultaneously, the United States also intends to bring together its Asia-Pacific allies to strengthen cooperation, thus propelling the transformation of the U.S. and its allies into a fan-shaped net across the region. Among Northeast Asian countries, its cooperation with Japan and Korea is the most crucial. However, over the course of the past 60 post-war years, Korea and Japan have lacked sufficient internal power to strengthen security cooperation; the outlook is not promising. Aside from this, the United States must also coordinate with its allies on a multitude of other issues, including security and the economy. How to provide security appeasement in exchange for economic concessions presents further difficulties.
The third is the United States' internal strategic balance. The crux of the U.S. strategy to rebalance the Asia-Pacific lies in whether it can realize a balance between its own objectives, means and resources. Prior to this, Obama’s absence from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit due to domestic issues revealed that the United States is sometimes inadequate to the task of rebalancing the Asia-Pacific. That Biden's visit is focused on China, Japan and South Korea suggests that he is by no means making up for the regret of Obama's absence. Fundamentally, America's formidable strength is its cornerstone for the rebalancing of the Asia-Pacific. If the United States blindly persists in holding China as an opponent or an enemy, it will forfeit the strategic initiative in the implementation of balance. In fact, there are too many difficulties for the United States to cope with in rebalancing the Asia-Pacific. The majority of the issues lie within the United States itself and not within China; the U.S. must do some self-reflection.
The fourth is promoting the balance between China and the United States' Asia-Pacific allies. The United States' rebalancing risks are amplified in the face of China's accelerating development and its allies' increasing anxiety. On one hand, the United States will need to rely on its allies to implement rebalancing and push them to the forefront; on the other hand, the U.S. worries that in so doing it will accidentally set off an explosion between its allies and China, plunging everyone into a difficult predicament. Therefore, the United States’ interests in promoting balance between its allies and China are enormous. America plays the role of an honest broker to strengthen the dialogue and cooperation between its allies and China, integrating both sides and hedging risks. South Korea's recent deliberations on promoting strategic dialogue between China, the U.S. and Japan can be seen as a type of test; Biden's visit to Korea may thus strengthen consensus.
Translation - English 年终岁末，冬意趋浓，亚太地区依旧风波诡谲，中国划定东海防空识别区引发日本激烈反应，美日韩更是接连逼近试探。值此敏感时刻，美国副总统拜登的东亚之行更是考验美国如何施展“平衡手”。
Bachelor's degree - University of Florida
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