<HTML><HEAD> <META name=GENERATOR content="MSHTML 8.00.6001.19019"></HEAD> <BODY> <H1 class="cN-headingPage prepend-5 span-11 last">Joy replaces GDP as China lets a thousand happy blossoms bloom </H1> <DIV class="push-0 span-11 last"><!-- cT-storyDetails --> <DIV class="cT-storyDetails cfix"> <H5>Keith Richburg </H5><CITE>May 18, 2011</CITE> <UL></UL></DIV> <DIV id=googleAds class="ad adSpot-textBox"></DIV><BOD> <DIV class=articleBody><!-- cT-imageLandscape --> <DIV class=cT-imageLandscape><IMG alt="China's new economic mantra: &quot;Be happy&quot;" src="ctsipad-art-wide-pg11-china-420x0.jpg"> <P>China's new economic mantra: "Be happy" </P></DIV> <P>BEIJING: After three decades of pushing ever-higher growth rates and exhorting their countrymen that ''to get rich is glorious'', China's Communist Party rulers have recently introduced a new economic mantra: be happy.</P> <P>The Premier, Wen Jiabao, laid down the new measure of progress this year, during the annual meeting of the National People's Congress.</P> <P>He said the government's goal would be to make prosperity more ''balanced''.</P> <P>Thus began a torrent of happiness campaigns, happiness surveys and measures to promote happiness.</P> <P>There was a serious purpose behind the new approach - lowering economic growth targets to a more modest 7 per cent.</P> <P>Chinese officials worry that years of ''GDP obsession'', as one of them put it, could cause a public backlash against rising prices, unemployment and other economic woes.</P> <P>But what has unfolded since Wen's speech has shown what can happen in China when provincial-level officials and the state-controlled media try to outdo one another in embracing a message from the top.</P> <P>On the May Day holiday in Beijing 17 giant screens and thousands of small televisions on buses and subways and in office buildings showed ''happy testimonials'' from workers. Beijing Television ran a series of short films called ''Happy Blossoms'', documenting the apparently contented lives of teachers, factory workers and others.</P> <P>At the local level, municipal governments are drawing up happiness indexes and competing with one another for the title of ''China's happiest city''.</P> <P>But a state-owned information portal, China.com.cn, polled 1350 people and discovered that only 6 per cent listed themselves as ''very happy'', as opposed to 48 per cent who were distinctly ''not happy.'' </P> <P>A news story reporting the unhappy results in the English-language <I>China Daily</I> was promptly deleted from the internet.</P> <P>This year the central government has embarked on a series of measures aimed at improving people's livelihoods, including an attempt to rein in the spiralling cost of real estate, including building more low-income housing. </P> <P>People with lower incomes were given a tax break, and the government announced a price reduction on 162 types of common medications. Also, taking direct aim at one of the largest sources of discontent across the country, the government announced restrictions on forced demolitions of homes by private developers.</P> <P>The happiness campaign coincides with a widespread crackdown on internal dissent, including the arrest of scores of lawyers, bloggers and activists. Restrictions on foreign journalists, academics and foreign embassies have been increased.</P> <P><B>The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times</B></P></DIV></BOD></DIV></BODY></HTML>