Wednesday, August 31, 2016

CHINA’S First G20 SUMMIT: The Good and the Bad

This coming September 4 to 5, the Chinese city of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province will have the distinguished honor of being host for the 2016 G20 Summit. With luminaries like US President Barack Obama (on one of his last major international conference appearances) and British Prime Minister Theresa May flying in, Chinese officials have this week to make the necessary preparations in Hangzhou to receive their many state guests, and at the same time trumpet the country’s unstoppable ascendancy as a world economic superpower.
Needless to say, China has gone about their cleanup and beautification efforts with much gusto and Communist Party fervor. The Guardian relates such an example in a Hangzhou neighborhood, where a red banner from local Communist Party officials spurs the residents to wage a war of extermination against the four regular house pests: flies, roaches, mosquitoes and rats. It commands: “Contribute to the Summit by wiping out these four pests!”
Such a stunt is but a drop in the bucket of a drive worth billions to transform Hangzhou into what amuraladvertising the G20 Summit has described it to be, a “Paradise on Earth”. Trees have been planted, new roadways built and opened. Not far from the city’s International Expo Center that will be the main conference hall of the G20 leaders, the Mantoushan neighborhood sees construction workers repaving the roads, creating new sewer systems, and most importantly to most of its estimated population of 6,800, buildingnew 3-storey houses to replace old cramped homes.
But there is a flipside to the efforts of beautification in Hangzhou. Take for instance the bright blue skies. That’s thanks to a total closure of all factory complexes in the city for this week and the duration of the summit. But as a result hundreds of factory workers have no work and are earning nothing at the moment. To dramatically cut down on traffic, the government is offering other residents some vacation time and encouraging them to leave the city for at least seven days, even providing travel tours at discount prices to make them bite.
Not included in these special packages is the migrant working community. They’re practically being bullied out of town with no perks, a simple task given that nearby stores and markets have also been closed. And the city has been placed in virtual lockdown with an intensified police and military presence. Even international news crews navigate the streets with some difficulty, being accosted by security personnel at every intersection demanding credentials and a stop to taking video footage.
As the most powerful leaders of the world gather in China’s own Silicon ValleyHangzhou is home to some the country’s major tech firms like Alibaba –the government is dead set on giving them an unforgettable experience. Some of the locals would benefit, others would be inconvenienced. That’s how it always is with hosting international events.

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