Zhu Rongji's Dream

It had been a long day, a very long day. Meetings, interviews, press conferences, phone calls. Now bed at last. Mr Zhu was quickly asleep. But also quickly dreaming. Bad dreams at first. Nightmares. Millions of unemployed people knocking at the door of his home asking for a meal. Then he was in the shower which became the Yangtze River Dam project and he was being swept downriver towards a giant hydro-electric turbine. This was followd by N.A.T.O. planes bombing his Beijing office.

"Please, Heaven, let me have a GOOD dream!" his mind groaned. And his groan was processed. Confucius appeared and had a cup of tea. They asked each other many polite questions and then got down to the serious stuff. Mr Zhu asked how he could improve the economy, reduce unemployment, make the dam project work etc. Confucius said he wasn't into dams, but he did have a few ideas for the economy.

 "Man who knows where he is going, finds the way" was his first Pearl. To which Mr Zhu scratched his head and asked for an explanation. So Confucius downloaded two examples  from recent U.S.A. history: "About 50 years ago, the USA listened to a wrong forecast which said that the car, not public transport, was the way to go in the future. Now America has a hopelessly inadequate rail system - and a hopelessly polluted road system which make some cities a health hazzard to live in. On the other hand, also about 50 years ago, the USA took the correct road which said that computers were the way to go. Now America has an almost unassailable lead in computer technology".

 "Do you want me focus more on computers and  railways?", asked Mr Zhu. "Not on railway", said Confucius, but "The Way". "That sounds like Taoism" said Mr Zhu. "Should I force everyone to be a Taoist?"

 As Confucius sipped some more tea Mr Zhu tried to read between the leaves. "What Way are you talking about?" he asked. "The Way to go" said Confucius. "Go where?" said Mr Zhu. "To where you're going" came the 360 degree reply. "If you know where you are going, you'll find the right way. IF YOU KNOW WHAT SOCIETY WILL BE LIKE IN THE FUTURE, IF YOU KNOW WHAT THE ECONOMY OF THE FUTURE WILL BE LIKE, THEN YOU CAN MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS NOW. IN FACT, THE SOONER AND THE BETTER YOU SHAPE YOUR ECONOMY ACCORDING TO THE REALITIES OF TOMORROW, THE FASTER AND THE EASIER YOU'LL SOLVE THE PROBLEMS OF TODAY?"

 Mr Zhu nodded in agreement but immediately asked the 64 Yuan question: "And what will tomorrow's society and tomorrow's economy be like?". "Well", started Confucius, "it will be a society with lots of leisure time, where factory work and even routine office jobs are increasingly done by machines and computers, where people will have a lot more time for recreation, education, sports, arts and music. Time for travelling also. Tourism will be the number one industry in the world."

 "But how does that affect decisions now?" asked an increasingly sceptical Mr Zhu. "Simple", said the Sage. "To take one example: if you think you'll solve unemployment by going down the way of building more human- run factories, while the traffic is going the opposite way towards a time of machine and computer factories, you're going the wrong way. Your human factories soon won't be able to compete financially with computer factories. You'll finish up with a hopelessly inadequate factory system. Instead, concentrate on developing 'People industries' - jobs that machines will never do".

 Mr Zhu was now beginning to feel that Confucius had lost the plot. "Dear Sage", he sighed, "if we don't have human factories, what will all the workers do for a job. You're increasing, not decreasing, unemployment!"

Confucius decided to  run a sample set-up program: "Let's take one city as an example, say Fuzhou in Fukien, where I was recently. It's a prosperous place in a way, but problems abound: unemployment is hurtling up like a Long March rocket (over 50% of young people out of work), investment and tourism have been hit by the Asian economic downturn,  police are unable to keep up with flourishing crime - like so many parts of China, Fuzhou is a social time bomb which will explode in the next millennium.

"Tell me about it", said a laconic Mr Zhu. "But what more can I do to improve things?"

"Change things according to how they need to be for the future" came Pearl No. 2. "Put your emphasis on the things that are going to matter in the future: education, leisure, tourism, sports, arts, crafts, music etc. Build many more schools (kindergarten, primary, secondary), more technical colleges and universities, centres of adult learning.  Reduce class sizes to a minimum to provide better education and to generate the need for more buildings and teachers. As you yourself said at an education conference in June 1999: 'Speeding up the development of education will raise the quality of our people and stimulate spending on education, and that that will spur domestic consumption and promote continuous economic growth'. Speed up other sectors, too:  build up your tourist industry, set up more hotel management and hospitality classes and courses, improve existing tourist accommodation and travel structures, develop more tourist attractions. China is a tourism gold mine that has barely been touched. Make it more accessible. Build many more sports facilities, arts centres, music halls, craft centres. Increase the time given to these subjects at school so that when students leave school they will have a wide range of leisure pursuits - instead of just hanging around the pinball parlours enroute to triad crime. Make a big push on health education - to reduce the huge sums now needed for avoidable illnesses. Likewise a push on environmental awareness".

The calculator in Mr Zhu's right brain by now had run out of digits, programing its owner to exclaim: "Great idea, Sage, but who is going to pay for all this?!!"

Keeping both feet firmly on his native country, Confucius displayed a not-so-inscrutable smile and uttered Pearl No. 3: "Chinese history teaches us:  enlist one enemy to fight another enemy. No need for you to fight. One enemy is unemployment etc. Another "enemy" (in a friendly sense these days) are all the peoples who live outside the Middle Kingdom. Let the "foreigners"  fight for us!  Invite them to help build schools, sports and leisure centres, universities and technical colleges. All over the world there are national, state and local governments, charitable organisations, overseas Chinese communities, universities, schools, community service groups - who would be most willing to help China! Let one overseas university sponsor one university in China - pay much of its costs, have a teacher and student exchange program, mutually enrich each other. Let each school in China likewise find a sponsoring body. Let the same be done for sports clubs: overseas big and little clubs be invited to "twin" with and sponsor a team or teams in China - with interchange of coaches, staff, players.....with overseas clubs helping revamp sports stadiums and facilities, setting up town and provincial sports academies. Each year would eventually see hundreds (thousands?!) of overseas clubs (plus their supporters!) visiting China (...tourism!!!).
Let the same be done for culture: invite overseas groups to help sponsor orchestras, arts and crafts centres, conservatoria of music. Each town to have a full complement of arts/music/crafts centres. These subjects to be given great emphasis in primary and secondary schools. In a word (Pearl No. 4): a new spring of Chinese culture, as in the time of the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907) when an enlightened leadership fostered foreign contacts and when the arts, especially poetry and sculpture, flourished in China. Indeed, some historians say that Tang China was culturally ahead of Europe. Let there be a new rivalry  with the rest of the world, not an arms race but a culture competition!"

Mr Zhu began to smile as his nimble mind brought up Links with other possibilities: overseas friends sponsoring not just education, sport and culture, but also hospitals, old peoples homes, small business, transport...

Confucius continued the  rapid copy and paste from his mind to the brimming brain of Mr Zhu: "Not long ago, China very successfully introduced its Special Economic Zones. A great idea. Use this method to implement the above ideas: introduce Special Culture Zones! And watch them take off and spread".

Mr Zhu's sleeping smile was now so pronounced that his wife was becoming suspicious about the content of his dream. But before she got round to  planting  her elbow deep into his ribs, Mr Zhu delighted in a final serving of Confucian congee: "China is now making a genuine Great Leap in the field of communications: straight from 'not many homes have phone and t.v.' to 'every place has phone and t.v.' - thanks to satellites. No need to go through the stage of millions of kilometres of telephone wires and cables. Satellites have let China and other developing countries by-pass the expensive and out-of-date technology that developed countries still have. Well now, China can make a similar Great Leap in the field of Culture and Leisure.  Go straight to the future and by-pass the present! And as regards  the problems and difficulties you'll meet on the Way, just remember (Pearl No. 5): Go the right way and doors  will open (as they did for the USA when it followed the way of computers). But if you go the wrong way, doors will shut (as they are now doing for the USA because it followed followed the way of the car). I hope to see you soon in the future, not in the past! Sweet Dreams!"

As Mr Zhu awoke rubbing his bruised rib, all he said to Mrs Zhu  was: "Tell the secretary I want to be on a plane to Fuzhou straight after breakfast"!