From a place that loves quantifying the unquantifiable, such as happiness (congrats Haikou!), and numerical rankings of everything, and buzzwords such as “harmony,” it’s no surprise that a Chinese academy has reportedly mastered the science of measuring collective “honesty and mutual trust,” among other things. Here’s Xinhua with an explanation:
A top Chinese institute for rural studies has released an index on social harmony in China’s rural areas, the first of its kind in the country.
What is the index at now?
According to the Center for Chinese Rural Studies of the Central China Normal University, the rural social harmony index stayed at 59.2526 on the 100-point rating system.
A few more please and thank yous and we’ll hit the 59.2530 mark!
The index is based on six factors, namely democracy, justice, honesty, vitality, stability and harmony between humans and nature, which come from the definition of a harmonious society from the report delivered at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
Of course, it’s not the absolute numbers that matter — they seem, pardon my skepticism, a bit arbitrary — but how they compare across categories. As Xinhua points out:
Such scores indicate that farmers today still maintain a relatively high level of honesty and mutual trust, but environmental pollution, such as excessive use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides and random disposal of household garbage, has become a serious problem in rural areas, Xu [Yong, head of the institute,] said.
The problem with these indices, of course, is how inadequate they are in explaining what’s actually happening in these areas. Life is complicated, filled with hardships, not to mention accomplishment and joy. How would you rate that? 6.3256 one day, 1.5259 the next, for a monthly average of…? The overall number will likely get higher — China is making progress, as you may have heard — but what does that ultimately tell us? Isn’t it just another “key indicator” for decision-makers and local cadres to hang their hats on?
Individuals in this utilitarian society have, since the beginning of time, found themselves screwed over for the greater good, whether that means relocating for the Three Gorges Dam or being silenced in the name of economic progress. These indices help you ignore their plights. Numbers talk, but don’t protest, or scream.
We’ll probably soon be calling Lhasa the happiest place in China. (Note: that’s already happened.)