Due to propaganda and censorship, many people in China are not aware of how prevalent poverty is in the country, The New York Times reported. Recently, a video of a retiree went viral that showed what groceries she could buy with 100 yuan, or USD 14.50, roughly her monthly pension and sole source of income. The video was later deleted by Chinese authorities.
A singer vented the widespread frustration among young, educated Chinese about their dire finances and gloomy job prospects, like gig work. “I wash my face every day, but my pocket is cleaner than my face,” he sings. “I went to college to help rejuvenate China, not to deliver meals.” His song was banned and his social media accounts were suspended, as per The New York Times.
Last year, a migrant worker labouring hard to support his family, gained widespread sympathy and attention after he tested positive for COVID-19, and officials released extensive details of his movements. He became known as the hardest-working person in China. Censors blocked discussions about him, and local authorities were stationed outside his house to prevent journalists from visiting his wife. According to China, it is a socialist country that aims to promote common prosperity. In 2021, its top leader, Xi Jinping, declared “a comprehensive victory in the battle against poverty.” Yet many people remain poor or live just above the poverty line. With the country’s economic prospects dimming and the people’s increasing anxiety about their future, poverty has become a taboo subject that can draw ire from the government.
The Cyberspace Administration of China in March announced that it would crack down on anyone who publishes videos or posts that “deliberately manipulate sadness, incite polarization, create harmful information that damages the image of the Party and the government, and disrupts economic and social development.” It bans sad videos of old people, disabled people and children. According to The New York Times, behind the ban is a government eager to keep all talk about China positive.
The Communist Party brags about how many people it lifted out of poverty in the past four decades, while refusing to mention how it had thrown the entire nation into abject poverty under Mao Zedong. Poverty alleviation is a medal the party flaunts to claim its legitimacy. But despite China’s rise as an economic power, it has a drastically inadequate social safety net, and the government is eager to block any discussion of the conditions poor people face. Searching the Chinese word “pinkun,” or poverty, on the country’s biggest news portal, qq.com, the top news item is about research that shows poverty is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. The news media seldom report poverty’s systemic causes in China, as per The New York Times.