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History needs to be told to benefit all

Comments on Richard Rigby “Can China embrace its history and Zhao Ziyang’s memoir?” 24/05/2009, http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2009/05/24/can-china-embrace-its-history-and-zhao-ziyangs-memoir/

Zhao Ziyang's book will be a valuable aid in assisting historians as well as for many others to fully understand what really happened back then in China and what lessons can be learnt from that particular event in China's long history, including its current modernistic reforming era, although it is very likely to remain a taboo in mainland China for some time to come. I suppose that it is paradoxical for many Chinese - they may be curious to want to know what the book has to say, yet they might also be resigned to the thinking that the time may yet opportune for the book to be allowed released in the mainland. I may be wrong, but I am eagerly waiting to see what will happen in the mainland in the wake of the book's release outside China and the potential availability from the web.

History needs to be told. But as many things, there may be a matter of the best timing. In China, stability and development have been the top priorities, it seems. People in the West talk about human rights. The Chinese also talk about human rights, with different emphasis. It is like different government in Australia or the US for that matter may talk about what is the best policy for the society, some may say we should tax the rich even more to make the society fairer, while others may say we should provide incentives for private entrepreneurs and indeed everyone to enhance efficiency and productivity. There may be differences in the value system. There are differences even in one nation. It is no wonder there are more international differences. But who can be the judge of who is right and who is wrong on such matter as to value system?

I am a Chinese Australian. While I have said I am interested in reading the book and in knowing what will happen in mainland China, I am more interested in Australian government budget deficits and ballooning government debts, the strategies the government spins out to turn the deficit into surplus in 2015-16. The respected Treasury appears to have got its forecast of economic growth for the next few years in Australia badly wrong with many economists and commentators saying they are too optimistic. My critique of the Treasury forecast has been that they just either conveniently ignored the Lucas critique, or most of the Treasury officials may be too young that they don’t know that critique, because it is more than 30 years old. The worst thing was that the Treasury changed its traditional forecast methodology for budget that is another reason people are suspicious of its forecast.

To just illustrate the relevance of the Aussie budget to Zhao’s book, the Aussie government in this budget introduced means testing to private health insurance rebate, contrary to or broke the Labor’s and Rudd’s election promise. Their excuse has been that the rich should contribute more in the current recession since they have the capacities to do so. Besides, they increased the age pension by $30.49 a week that translates to a rise of more than 10%, in the middle of the great recession and what Rudd/Swan have been saying a tough budget. Some background information to that is that Rudd may have promised age pensioners during the still good time before the recession set in a rise in pension. The two measures prove that it is the Labor in government now – a traditionally high spending and high deficit party. But don’t you worry, the Liberals will probably fix Labor’s deficit with a more flat tax structure sometime in the future. Different values in one society, that is!

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