Why Shanghai Doesn't Want To Talk About GDP

Why Shanghai Doesn't Want To Talk About GDP

SHANGHAI — The most important recent piece of economic data in Shanghai is the number that's missing. At the annual new year session of the Shanghai Municipal People's Congress, the megacity chose not to set an annual GDP growth target, an unprecedented move for a country where local governments' political performances are largely tied directly to economic growth statistics.

Last year, Shanghai registered the lowest Growth Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate since 1991, at 7% — an enviable number in most parts of the world, but not in China that has been booming for more than two decades.

On the national level, China's National Bureau of Statistics recently released the country's 2014 economic growth total, at 7.4%, which was lower than the originally set objective of 7.5%. Though not dramatic, it is nevertheless the lowest national growth figure in 24 years.

Thus, Shanghai's decision not to set annual GDP growth projection for this year has generally been interpreted as a symbolic first step for China's initiative of adapting itself to the "New Norm" — a phrase that Chinese media has latched onto after President Xi Jinping used it last May, to refer to the fact that the country can no longer count on the double-digit economic growth of the recent past.

Xinhua News reported that the ongoing regional People's Congresses, held each January by various local governments around China, were a "showcase" for gauging Chinese officials' "new mindset in adapting to the New Norm.”

As most provinces, regions and municipalities all failed to meet their domestic product growth last year, they have all lowered their projections for this year.

"Economic performance shouldn't be the only factor of local government's assessment. GDP is no longer to be the supreme pursuit,” You Minjiang, Shanghai's CPPCC member told Xinhua News.

“The government should give more consideration to people's well-being in urban life and comfort."

Still, no one should mistake Shanghai’s decision not to forecast GDP as a sign that it has given up pursuing economic development. “Shanghai enjoys a relatively more mature economy than some others,” Liu Rui, Professor of Economics at Renmin University told Caixin. “So the city is better positioned to contribute more to improving people's well-being and thinking about issues like environmental protection."

Photo: Peter Dowley

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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