【Viewpoint】Will China Return to the Era of Ration Coupon?

Author: Liu Wen 
Editor: YiZu
Translator: Steve
Proof-read: Janyvo

Image source:Sohu

A planned economy is a type of economic system where resource, production and the allocation of capital goods takes place according to a comprehensive economic and production plan.  Since almost all planned economic systems rely on governments’ mandates, the planned economy is also called a mandatory economy.  The planned economy is based on the government’s formulated “ideal” policies and measures, and executing major economic activities in a plan-determined manner, guiding and adjusting the economic direction in order to achieve their desirable social and economic agenda.  It was not until in the early 1990, China began to abandon this backward economic model in which every element of an economy is fully controlled and regulated by the government.

The Chinese who were born in the 50s, 60s, and 70s should still have clear memories of their bitter days under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s planned economy and the ration coupons.  I vividly remember throughout my childhood, there were extreme shortages in food and all basic supplies.  The planned distribution system was an integral part of people’s daily lives, and coupons were one of the essential means to secure their basic survival.  Locals holding their “precious” coupons queuing up in front of food and vegetable stores was a common sight in every Chinese city.  And at the peak of the planned distribution system, a single household had to keep up to 100  types of different coupons.  The harsh reality was that even if you had money back then, you still could not purchase any food or daily necessities without the prescribed coupon from the government authorities.  It was indeed a dark era, where those coupons limited your choices, restricted your freedom, and ultimately shattered your imagination.

In the 1950s and 1980s, there were all kinds of coupons such as oil, meat , sugar, textile materials, cigarettes, industrial (restricted purchase of bicycles, sewing machines, etc.) allocated to residents in every city.  In addition, only upon presenting the household registration certificate, each household would then be allocated with “daily necessities coupons” in order to purchase daily consumption items like soap, light bulb, match, cotton thread, tahini, vermicelli, tofu, tobacco, alcohol, salt, alkali.  The list of couples was endless.  Whatever goods you can imagine that you need, there would be a prescribed coupon in place.  Occasionally for Chinese New Years and certain festivals, special subsidy coupons were issued for “special treats” like eggs, fish, tea, peanuts, melon seeds, cooked meat products, soy products, white sugar or brown sugar, etc.  Although there seemed to be quite a variety, the rationed quantity was always limited.

In addition to the requirements of a range of existing coupons, and a purchase booklets for grain and oil supply, many urban households were also issued with three other supply booklets to purchase three categories of daily necessities: (1) industrial goods; (2) non-staple food; and (3) coal.  In effect, the government controlled the supply of all food, drink or daily consumption of any kind to individuals through these coupons or booklets.  The sweeping slogan in China at that time was “Develop the economy and guarantee the supply.”

At the time I was born, the concept of nutrition was unheard of.  People would be considered lucky if they could be allocated to purchase the basic food supply within the plan.  I remember when I was in junior high school, a friend of my mother often visited us.  She has three sons and they were going through their puberty, her household never had enough food coupons to meet their basic needs.  Since our family was composed of 3 girls, and naturally consumed a bit less so we could manage to set very few surplus food stamps aside every month.  My mother would then send some food stamps to her for their emergency needs.  Sometimes the aunt would also bring other types of coupons, such as cloth or briquettes to exchange for food stamps so her sons would not go starving.  

Even though our lives were heavily regulated by coupons, we must say that urban residents were still the fortunate ones in China because peasants did not even have those ration coupons in order to get some basic supplies at that time.  I often saw some neighbors’ relatives brought rice and local products all the way from their rural villages when visiting the city, and my neighbors would then gave their relatives some food stamps or other coupons.  Some peasants had to “smuggle” the eggs from the chickens they raised and the vegetables they grew in their own little land to the city to exchange for some coupons and cash, but all these must be done secretly, otherwise they would be arrested on the basis of market-speculation and detained at the police station.  Also during that period, for family gathering events like weddings or funerals, it was a common practice for neighbors and relatives of that family to take out some food and other different coupons they saved, and put them together to help the family to hold the event.  Under the planned economy, contributions from relatives and friends were what the family in need mainly relied on.

In the late 1980s, the number of coupons gradually reduced as the supplies from the open market became more abundant.  China’s economy has also experienced three to four decades of rapid growth.  But at the same time, the CCP began to print money and issue bonds on a massive-scale, whilst local governments in every region frantically sold land to develop real estates, combined with the frenzy of the Kleptocracy, these perverted economic developments over the years led to the unsustainable “booming” and largely fabricated economy as of today.  Since early 2020, many industries have been hit hard and collapsed due to the impact of the epidemic, and the Chinese real estate and financial industries will also be facing a huge wave of bankruptcy and closure next.  

As the U.S. has designated the CCP of committing genocide and crimes against humanity, and also the truth about the origin of the virus is being revealed step-by-step, the U.S. will impose further sanctions on China.  This will inevitably accelerate the downfall of China’s financial and real estate industry and various export industries, and eventually destroy the economic lifeline of major cities.  The food crisis will certainly follow as food shortages occur across China, the Chinese people will once again return to live under the dark era of the planned economy under the CCP regime.

My predecessors and I had once lived on food stamps and experienced the planned economy and its horrendous coupon system.  At that time, all “human beings” seemed to be just a higher class of animals raised in captivity, incapable to think or to doubt.  So everyone believed and simply accepted that such was the way of life and the only way for us to survive.  However, today when we look at our younger generations, most of them are of the single-child family, they have been so extremely well cared for and pampered by their family members, can this generation known as “a generation soaked in sugar water”, accept or even bear the kind of harsh life in accordance to the “state’s plans” but with no guarantees on their well-being?  The Chinese people should grasp our own destiny, we must wake up and stand together to overthrow the evil CCP.  That is the only way to save ourselves, our children and to ensure our future generations will have bright days ahead.

(The content of the article only represents the author’s opinion)

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