Thursday, August 27, 2009

Farmers, Sex Workers, Religious Workers, Soldiers & Students Can Be Trusted Best

This has to be the article of the year, and from China's China Daily no less :

At a time when shamelessness is pervasive, we are often at loss as to who can be trusted. The five most trustworthy groups, according to a survey by the Research Center of the Xiaokang Magazine, are farmers, religious workers, sex workers, soldiers and students.

A list like this is at the same time surprising and embarrassing. The sex business is illegal and thus underground in this country. The sex workers’ unexpected prominence on this list of honor, based on an online poll of more than 3,000 people, is indeed unusual.

It took the pollsters aback that people like scientists and teachers were ranked way below, and government functionaries (i.e civil servants / politicians), too, scored hardly better. Yet given the constant feed of scandals involving the country’s elite, this is not bad at all. At least they have not slid into the least credible category, which consists of real estate developers, secretaries (this one is weird but I think it has to do with access to the bosses and/or philandering with the bosses), agents (that's right, anyone with a job title that has the word "agent" to it cannot be trusted), entertainers and directors.

Yet given the constant feed of scandals involving the country's elite, this is not bad at all. At least they have not slid into the least credible category, which consists of real estate developers, secretaries, agents, entertainers and directors.

What is more worrisome in the findings is the dramatic drop in government credibility ratings. Which happens in the context of what pollsters term as "mild improvement" in public perception of society's credit conditions.

Drain of credibility

In spite of a continuous, though very slow, tilt to the positive in the public's perception of society's credit records, researchers detected a converse trend when it came to the government.

More than 91 per cent of the respondents admitted that they would take government data with a pinch of salt. The same proportion was 79 per cent in 2007. The steep decline, pollsters concluded, reflects a "quite severe" drain of government credibility, which is obvious in recent "mass incidents". In most recent cases of mass protests, distrust of local authorities turned out to be a powerful amplifier of public indignation.

Multiple factors may be responsible for this. The Xiaokang Magazine Research Center named four - protectionism, unstable policies, dumb decisions, and lack of transparency. All of which has to do with the low-level bureaucracy's lack of respect for public concerns.

This may sound strange, because, geographically, local governments and their staff are closer to local realities; and, politically, they are there to take care of the citizens' day-to-day concerns.

But since local cadres report only to their superiors, and their appointment, promotion and removal has little, or nothing, to do with the community they are supposed to serve, it is only natural that they are preoccupied overwhelmingly with pleasing their bosses. In contrast to the people-friendly image of the central leadership, local cadres, as a collective, share a much less desirable reputation for their indifference to, if not disregard of, citizens.

Even for stability's sake, efforts must be made to restore the governments' credit record. The first step, however, is to put an end to public servants being alienated from public interest.

It is obvious that the survey yielded some angry responses, the general public would vent their inner frustrations indirectly by naming unlikely groups. But I tend to believe that there is more truth to the final verdict. It is the public absolute abhorrence of protectionism (against foreign influence, against the internet access), unstable policies, dumb decisions, and lack of transparency. May I remind the people in power in other Asian countries (hint-hint) to read between the lines as these very same sentiments seem to be applicable in varying degrees for most other Asian countries.

They have highlighted farmers, sex workers, students, soldiers, civil servants, teachers, secretaries, religious workers, scientists, teachers, real estate developers, entertainers and directors (I believe these are board of directors of listed companies and not film directors ok) ... let's add a few more and see where they rank in your country: ruling politicians, opposition politicians, lawyers, judges, police, army, architects, engineers, doctors, economists, remisiers, analysts, mamak stall owners ... etc.. I guess my final word on this is that each profession comes with it certain elements of integrity, expected professionalism and some element of serving the people's needs or rather putting the needs of the nation before yours - when these elements are eroded deliberately or otherwise, you lose the respect and dignity that come with those positions, ... at least the sex worker will do what he/she says he/she will, not overcharge, satisfaction (usually) guaranteed.

In recent years, China has already paid a high price for the prevailing credibility crisis. The annual losses caused by bad debts have reportedly amounted to about 180 billion yuan, and the direct economic losses induced by contract fraud each year is also up to 5.5 billion yuan. Besides, shoddy and fake products contribute to another great loss involving at least 200 billion yuan. Generally, credibility crisis would cost China as much as 600 billion yuan every year. The shortage of credibility is not only seen in the market transactions, but in the officialdom as well. Corruption in any form is about to erode the faith of the general populace in authorities and officials at different levels.

Perhaps, the survey result can just give a restricted description on China’s credibility status, or people can take it with a grain of salt. But it did portray a picture of the spiritual outlook of today’s Chinese society, with money as the overriding motive. It is this that especially deserves attention.

If we were to do a survey in our country, wah-lau-eh ... (I am also sensing the PAPs shaking in their boots..).

p/s photos: Zhang Xin Yu (wanted to write "nice pussy" but thought that might be misinterpreted as rude or offensive)

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