John Lee's article on China has outlined some critical issues facing its rapid economic development. Lee pointed out that while some cities in China have seen some of the most amazing and modern infrastructures being built, the country is facing higher absolute poverty and illiteracy.
China's 'hukou' (permit) system has denied a large number of migrants proper medical and educational access in the big cities. This system was criticized in the past for causing lesser mobility of skilled workers to places/provinces where their skills were needed.
However, this is a dilemma and a limitation the central government had noted albeit with little action. China's huge population of 1.3 billion people and the growing congestion of these cities means that the control will have to be put in place to avoid overcrowding.
China's capitalist development may have created a larger middle class (400 million) but the intensification of material chase has reared an ugly culture of poor and unethical services. Malaysian tourists who had visited the middle kingdom would have encountered 'blood sucking' tour guides and salespersons who were looking to profit from them by overpricing their products and services.
From pearls, silk to tea, many who bought the products found out that they could be purchased cheaper outside of these nice looking shops, factories and retail outlets which were specifically built to cater for us, gullible tourists.
In China, it is obvious that development has outpaced its people's readiness to adapt and survive. That is why, according to Lee, the absolute poverty and illiteracy rates have increased in the cities.
Young Chinese graduates have found it increasing more difficult to find a decent job. China's development must not be merely physically centric. Unless the government works on correcting some of these social flaws and improve professionalism in the service quality of its corporations, its hope to emulate New York, London and some other great cities in the world will become a futile effort.
Here, our government can take a leaf from this lesson. Physical development alone is meaningless. Abdullah Badawi, the ex-premier who had quickly faded away from the public, was not entirely wrong when he said that the government must focus on building software and not merely hardware.
It is time for the current administration to ditch its slogans and get on with some serious work before the oil reserve runs out.