为 配合胡锦涛19日访美，中共政府1月17号开始，在美国电视频道和纽约时代 广场电子屏幕上高频率播放“中国国家形象片 -人物篇”宣传片。那么，西方人到底怎么看待当前的中国？怎么看待中国的经济“繁荣”呢？加拿大《全国邮报》1月22日刊登著名国际环保组织探索国际 （Probe International）创始人劳伦斯•;;所罗门（Lawrence Solomon）的评论《中国即将崩溃》（China’s coming fall）指出：像前苏联一样，在很大的程度上，中国的所谓繁荣是虚幻的，随时可能崩溃。
1975 年，当所罗门为期两个月的苏联之行来到西伯利亚时，苏联的崛起是个虚幻的想法成为不言而喻的事实。当时在苏联的各大城市中，城里看上去很现代，可以与北美 的城市相媲美。但是，从闹市中心步行20分钟就揭示了另一个世界–人们拿着水桶在街角的公用水泵接水。苏联可以把一个男人送入太空，还有很多其它的成就 令世界眼花缭乱，但它却不能满足本国公民的基本生活需求。
今 天的中国经济与末期的苏联非常相似–巨大的成就与巨大的失败共存。在某些方面，中国今天的情况比前苏联崩溃之前更加摇摇欲坠。中国的穷人比苏联的穷人更 穷，而且人数要多得多–13亿人中有10亿穷人。此外，苏联也没有庞大的中产阶级–几乎所有人都比较穷，大家都一样艰难，那种情况还可避免出现（贫富 不均造成的）不满情绪。
怎 么会有这么多人一下子变得如此富有？绝大多数是通过腐败。二十年前，共产党决定打出“致富光荣”的旗号，给非法资本主义开绿灯。中共统治者开始打着私有化 的幌子，将国家资源据为己有，或让自己的家属占有，并通过出售许可证和其它经济利益给自己的亲信来换取贿赂。制度性的腐败公众已经司空见惯，现在更趋普遍 – 甚至政府很小的官员现在也能够堂而皇之的充实自己的腰包。
这种腐败的风气在中国的一首流行歌曲中可见一斑，这首歌的名字叫做 “ 我要嫁给一个官”（I want to marry a government official），歌词解释了为什么官员是个好的结婚对像：“他有权力、汽车和房子；工作时，他只需要喝喝茶，看看报纸；他从不需要自己花钱买香烟和 酒；他每天都可以享用免费的食物；他只要拍拍他领导的马屁就可升官。”
腐 败延伸到健康和安全的监管标准，在这一点上中国尤其很少人相信（政府）。近年来中国已经经历了毒奶粉丑闻和血液污染丑闻，其中每个事件都牵扯到 官员腐败造成大面积的死亡。在2008年的汶川地震中，大约9万人丧生，其中三分之一是被活埋在7000间因抽工减料而造成的劣质“豆腐渣校舍”之下的孩 子。就在这些坍塌的校舍附近，为精英们建造的满足建筑标准的楼房，包括一个富人的子弟学校，都安然无恙。
中 国是一个火药桶，随时可能爆炸。一旦爆炸，骚乱会接踵而来。因为中国都十分清楚地知道，在这个国家有过野蛮屠杀的历史。出于这个原因，中国数以万计的腐败 官员们早早为自己准备了应急计划，取得外国护照、在国外购买第二套住房，在国外建立自己的家园和企业，或以其他方式准备随时逃离中国。也因为这个原因，许 多中产阶级支持政府日渐加剧的镇压行动。
什么有可能成为导火索？有可能是高失业率，无法控制的通货膨胀或房地产泡沫破裂。它也可能 是另一次自然灾害（如2008年汶川大地震）催生了民众 的愤怒，迅速通过政府难以控制的手机和互联网组织起来。也有可能是一个人为的灾难–许多人担心的 “豆腐坝”可能会失败，导致下游数十万人受灾。
【作者简介】劳伦斯所罗门是能源探索（Energy Probe）的执行董事及其姊妹组织探索国际（Probe International）的创始人。
Lawrence Solomon: China’s coming fall
Lawrence Solomon ;January 22, 2011 – 12:27 am
Like the Soviet Union before it, much of China’s supposed boom is illusory — and just as likely to come crashing down
In 1975, while I was in Siberia on a two-month trip through the U.S.S.R., the illusion of the Soviet Union’s rise became self-evident. In the major cities, the downtowns seemed modern, comparable to what you might see in a North American city. But a 20-minute walk from the centre of downtown revealed another world — people filling water buckets at communal pumps at street corners. The U.S.S.R. could put a man in space and dazzle the world with scores of other accomplishments yet it could not satisfy the basic needs of its citizens. That economic system, though it would largely fool the West until its final collapse 15 years later, was bankrupt, and obviously so to anyone who saw the contradictions in Soviet society.
The Chinese economy today parallels that of the latter-day Soviet Union — immense accomplishments co-existing with immense failures. In some ways, China’s stability today is more precarious than was the Soviet Union’s before its fall. China’s poor are poorer than the Soviet Union’s poor, and they are much more numerous — about one billion in a country of 1.3 billion. Moreover, in the Soviet Union there was no sizeable middle class — just about everyone was poor and shared in the same hardships, avoiding resentments that might otherwise have arisen.
In China, the resentments are palpable. Many of the 300 million people who have risen out of poverty flaunt their new wealth, often egregiously so. This is especially so with the new class of rich, all but non-existent just a few years ago, which now includes some 500,000 millionaires and 200 billionaires. Worse, the gap between rich and poor has been increasing. Ominously, the bottom billion views as illegitimate the wealth of the top 300 million.
How did so many become so rich so quickly? For the most part, through corruption. Twenty years ago, the Communist Party decided that “getting rich is glorious,” giving the green light to lawless capitalism. The rulers in China started by awarding themselves and their families the lion’s share of the state’s resources in the guise of privatization, and by selling licences and other access to the economy to cronies in exchange for bribes. The system of corruption, and the public acceptance of corruption, is now pervasive — even minor officials in government backwaters are now able to enrich themselves handsomely.
This ethos of corruption is captured in a popular song in China, I want to marry a government official, whose lyrics explain why an official makes for a good matrimonial catch: “He has power, a car and house; He only needs to drink tea and read the newspaper during work; He never spends his own money on cigarettes and alcohol; He can get free food every day; He can get promoted by only kissing his boss’s ass.”
If the corruption were limited to awarding contracts to friends and giving mines, power plants, and other public assets to relatives, the upset among the poor, who would realize some trickle-down benefits, would be constrained. In fact, the corruption deprives the poor of their homes, livelihoods, health and lives.
Take golf courses, a status symbol among China’s new rich. To obtain the immense tracts of land needed near urban markets, developers have been cooking up deals with local officials that see land expropriated and typically tens of thousands of residents and businesses evicted per golf course, generally with unfair compensation. Although the construction of new golf courses is officially banned, thousands more are expected to be built in the next few years.
Golf courses aside, countless other real estate developments abetted by officialdom likewise wipe out entire communities. Then there are resource projects such as hydro dams that can displace numerous people and businesses — the Three Gorges Dam alone displaced several million people.
The corruption extends to the enforcement of regulatory standards for health and safety, which few in China trust. In recent years China has endured a tainted milk scandal and a tainted blood scandal, each of which implicated corrupt officials in widespread death and debilitation. In a devastating 2008 earthquake, some 90,000 perished, one-third of them children buried alive in 7,000 shoddily built “tofu schools” that skimped on materials. Nearby buildings for the elites that met building standards, including a school for the children of the rich, were largely unscathed.
The government tries to tamp down the outrage over the abuses inflicted on the public by banning demonstrations and censoring the Internet. But it is failing. Year by year, the number of demonstrations increases. Last year alone saw 100,000 such protests across the county, directly involving tens and indirectly perhaps hundreds of millions of protesters.
China is a powder keg that could explode at any moment. And if it does explode, chaos could ensue — as the Chinese are only too well aware, the country has a brutal history of carnage at the hands of unruly mobs. For this reason, corrupt officials inside China, likely by the tens of thousands, have made contingency plans, obtaining foreign passports, buying second homes abroad, establishing their families and businesses abroad, or otherwise planning their escapes. Also for this reason, much of the middle class supports the government’s increasingly repressive efforts.
What might set off that spark? It could be high unemployment, should China be unable to control inflation or the housing bubble that now looms. It could be another natural disaster such as the 2008 earthquake which spawned outrage — rapidly organized via cellphones and the Internet — that the government had difficulty containing. It could be a manmade disaster — many fear that a “tofu dam” might fail, leading to hundreds of thousands of downstream victims.
Whatever might set off that spark, it is only a matter of time. The government shows no interest in relaxing its grip on power — if it did so, the officials in power might face retribution.
Meanwhile, we in the West see a China that by all measures is becoming stronger and stronger, not realizing that it is also becoming more and more brittle. The Soviet regime, when it fell, went out with a whimper. China’s will more likely go out with a bang. No regime can contain the grievances of a billion people for long.
Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and a founder of its sister organization, Probe International.