Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Monday, 09 October 2006
Tuesday, 10 October 2006 03:00

Building a Mobile Library in Chengdu

There are more than 100 thousand migrant children in Chengdu, they come with their parents who move to urban cities from rural villages and are trying to make a living. These children are luckier than those who are left behind in villages, because they could live with their parents in cities, but they are actually discriminated from the urban community. In the neighborhood they live, they are segregated from urban civilizations, not only in living conditions, medical treatment, but also in education.
Though the local government has made much progress in providing public education to migrant children, many of them still have no choice but to choose illegal migrant children schools. For owners of these schools, the most important purpose is to make as much money as they can, and as quick as they could, they are trying to cut every possible expense they could, leaking roofs, terrible latrines, poor faculty salaries... Among more than 50 illegal migrant children schools in Chengdu, almost none of them has a library for children.
These migrant children are innocent, they are eager for knowledge besides text books in class. The library is one of the things we could do for them. In the past 3 years, we have been working and organizing volunteers to help migrant children in illegal schools. We find that with less money, a mobile library will help them a lot by expanding their visions, knowledge, forming good habits, instructing nice behaviours, etc,.

Each week the library will be shipped to one migrant children school, a set of administration rules will be made, the school teacher and some migrant students there will be chosen as librarians and assistant to arrange books loans. Some training courses will be given to the students to keep records of these books. Also, some relevant lessons will be given to the children by the volunteers, such as how to make full use of books, how to deal with study pressure and variable readings, the right choice of books to read.
The project staff and volunteers will help to organize and to gain multiple sources of book donation:

This ongoing project aims at reaching:
20 migrant children schools, each benefit 2 weeks from the mobile library in a year
5000-10000 migrant children
More than 20 volunteers, 100 students trained
More than 40 lessons given to migrant children

During the past 4 years, each time we went to these schools, I felt deeply moved by the innocent faces and the eagerness in their eyes, we can sense the desire for a better future. These energetic children are the future of both our rural and urban communities, they need to be helped and guided. There must be something we can do, though what we can do is still far from what they need.

Attached media :
Monday, 09 October 2006 20:15

FORMOSA DIARY (Parts One and two)

I arrived in Taiwan the first time in September 1957. Coming from California, it was like entering a different world, a step back in time, a kaleidoscope of strange and exciting images, a fairy-tale land where one American dollar bought so much more than it ever could at home. Today Taiwan is still a kaleidoscope of colors and styles, but it is in many ways not so different from California and Taiwan is just as expensive as everywhere else.

I wrote several accounts of my impressions of life in Taiwan during my first few years there as I saw it through the eyes of an ignorant foreigner, not always assessing properly or understanding correctly what I saw. Since the Taiwan I encountered then in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was quite different in many ways from the Taiwan of today, here for your amusement and mine is an edited compilation of some of those impressions, which I have organized under three headings: The Place, The People, and Special Events.


I finally caught my first view of Taiwan (around noon from the deck of the Danish freighter M.S. Nicoline Maersk) sailing up the east coast of the island. There it was, a coastline of mountains that went right down to water’s edge all topped by low white clouds, no visible signs of life or habitation, just a pleasant postcard vista.

In Keeling’s outer harbor, all I could see were the edges of low hills about the water and some large rocks in the bay jutting out of the water. Keelung itself was obscured by the bend in the land and all I could observe of it was the long fortress like building about the pier and a lot of water breaks and sea wall. I was quite surprised to learn that the number of berths was so small, that we would not be able to enter until the next morning.

Keelung has 170 inches of rain a year. It rains 265 days a year. Friday, Sept. 13th, 1957 was one of those days. I stepped off the ship into the rain. Taipei has 100 inches. It seems to rain less in the rainy season, than in the typhoon season, so they say.

Msgr. Fahy brought me in his pickup truck to the Taipei residence of Fr. Ed. Murphy at Penglai New Village, not too far away from National Normal University to spend the night. That evening I had supper with the French Canadian fathers at Holy Family Residence on Hsin Sheng South Road. The foreigners call this street Canal Road because an open canal of stagnant water goes down its center.

I am fascinated by the sights and sounds and odors. Everything and everyone look so different from at home, the buildings, the streets, the people walking in them. If I close my eyes the sounds are strange and new: the strains of Chinese music; the staccato of foreign words I cannot understand; the clip clopping of wooden shoes on the streets; the shouts of children playing. But even in this symphony of unfamiliar noise, one can distinguish laughter and tears. At heart people are all the same. And then there are the new smells that assault my nostrils, the scents from smoking cooking pots, the whiffs of strange spices and sauces, the dust rising from unpaved paths. I marvel at every new sight, sound and smell, so happy to be here, not at all missing or wishing for what I left behind.

Taipei is a far cry from the cities of America. The most imposing structures are the Presidential Office Building and the Railroad Station built by the Japanese. On the whole, the island seems to owe much to the period of Japanese control. Taiwan seems to be a cleaner island and the people at least look like they live better, much better than in the Philippines. They are certainly industrious at any rate. The working hours extend to ten at night and they don’t have a Sunday to rest on. The holidays are the feast days, which coincide with civil holidays.

Downtown Taipei consists mainly of two and three story buildings with the upper floors overhanging the side walk. They are all equally drab colors. Somebody told me that it is government policy not to decorate or build anything ornate until the war with Mainland China is settled. There don’t seem to be any residential apartment buildings. Most residences in the city are old Japanese houses, single storied behind high walls. The floors are woven straw mats called tatami and the inner walls are sliding paper screens. It is necessary to remove your shoes before you enter.

The Japanese during their occupation from 1895 to 1945 made elaborate plans for Taipei laying out a grid of wide boulevards that crisscross the city, but mostly only on paper. Many of those intended wide streets are presently just long lines of squatter shacks down the middle with narrow lanes on each side for traffic. Most of the area to the East of the City is occupied by large military zones closed to the public.

Taiwan is on a war footing. It is expected that in the not too distant future the communists will be defeated and the Nationalist refugees who have come to Taiwan after the fall of China will return in triumph to their rightful place as leaders of the nation. In the meantime, the island is under martial law. On every wall are slogans denouncing the communist bandits and calling for restoration of the mainland. People are monitored very closely. It is a serious crime to listen to a radio broadcast from the Mainland or to have any contact with anyone in China. Anything that can be construed as dissent or disagreement with the nervous government is instantly silenced. The Catholic and Protestant missionaries are well received because they are openly and strongly anti-communist. But even they are closely watched. In the back of church during sermons and sitting in on meetings of parishioners are government political officers sent to make sure that nothing is said that might undermine the control of the government. Whenever Time Magazine arrives with an article about Communist China, it is cut out and all pictures of Mao Tse-tung or other communist officials are blacked out before the magazine is delivered.

I am staying temporarily with the American Fathers in Hsinchu on Shui Tien Street, in the second story of a rather large house, one of the biggest in the area. The people who own it live downstairs. The front door is ours exclusively, so they have to enter by walking around to the back. It is nothing to boast about so far as the interior decoration is concerned, but it is comfortable. The floors are cement and the rooms are 12 or 14 feet high. I was greeted on my arrival by seven kittens that live just outside my door. There is no running water inside. Every morning, the water has to be carted upstairs in buckets from the water faucet outside in the garden. The only toilet facilities are on the first floor and they are Japanese style. Instead of sitting on the throne, one has to squat over a porcelain depression in the floor.

We have a balcony on the side and can look down into the cemented backyards of all the neighbors. The houses seem to have overhanging porches where clothes can be dried when it is raining. Not all homes have chimneys, so there are holes in the roofs where smoke comes out. The roofs are of some sort of thin tile which apparently can be easily dislodged for in many places bricks or old rubber tires are placed on top of them to keep them from slipping down or falling off in a wind. Many houses do not have stoves inside. Often one sees a bucket out in the street with burning wood in it and an old woman fanning the blaze. It is for cooking the evening meal.

Electricity is not very dependable in the sense that it is liable to go off at any time, and fuses seem to like to blow out as often as possible. In addition, every night at 6: 35, the lights go out for several seconds, while generators are changed. The same happens in the morning. Sometimes, the electricians take a fancy to repair lines at night, so that the electricity will go off over a section of town.

Today, I went with Father Stevenson around the town and down to the river. The market place is something out of this world. Everything is placed out on display, including what normally requires refrigeration in the U.S. The strangest fish and vegetables are set out. Some of the fish are still squirming. Baskets of pale green goose eggs, or rather duck eggs, are piled there, and squid and many undesirables that look like mud or worse. On one counter, the fellow had lain down and was sleeping. He had sold out everything, so what else was there to do?

People were milling about, even dragging their bicycles with them. Down the aisle came people with poles over their shoulders carrying baskets at both ends. It is simply amazing the number of women who carry huge loads that way, especially large buckets of water, which I am sure would be too much for me even if I were to try taking just one. But these are a patient and hard working people. They never seem to mind the slow lumbering gait of the oxen and seem not at all jealous of the cars and jeeps that whiz by honking at them.

There are no department stores or supermarkets. Most stores are small rooms in the front of the buildings. The families live above them or behind them. Often there are rows of stores next to each other selling the same products. They usually stay open until late at night. Market places consist of rows of stands and booths, each selling just a few specialized items. There are many stands offering things to eat as well as many small restaurants. At any time night or day it is easy to find something to eat nearby. Often we see the young children sitting in the stores or behind the stands doing their homework or eating their bowls of rice while their parents work.

The Chinese use leaves in place of paper for wrapping meat, vegetables, and other commodities. Often when someone buys meat at the market, the meat will be wrapped with a single large leaf, then some string will be tied around the leaf, and a handle fixed in the string, so that the bundle can be held in the hand or dangled from the handle bars of the bicycle. Believe it or not, they often tie a string through the head of a fish and dangle it from the handlebars or even worse will simply put the string about a piece of fresh meat and dangle it from the handle bars.

The meat markets are very interesting to watch. In a Chinese market, the goods are spread out according to kind. In other words, all the sellers of meat will have their goods all in the same section of the market. The meat is not pre-cut, but a large side or quarter hangs from a hook, and the prospective buyer selects the piece he wishes and it is cut for him. Normally, there is no protection against flies, and the only precaution against the heat will be a huge chunk of ice close to the meat. The skin of pigs is sold separately from the pigs. It is made into a sort of crackle. The entire skin is hung from a hook, and people take the piece of it they wish.

There is almost one pig for every two people on the island, and pork, of course, the main meat item. The pigs come to market in huge trucks or slung across the shoulders of two men dangling on a bamboo pole between them. I have even seen a pig dangling from a pole strung between two bicycles coming down the street. The pig seems to know that it is going to slaughter and makes a terrific racket. Almost without exception, every morning at about 5:00 one can hear the pigs go by. They almost act as an alarm clock. After the slaughter, the meat of the pig is slung onto a cart, and this is dragged to the market place in the sun without any protective covering. The meat is seldom cured, but there are strings of sausages of different kinds and sizes. I haven’t yet seen any bacon or ham. Fish is also widely eaten.

At this time one American dollar is officially worth about forty New Taiwan dollars, though it is possible to get even more on the black market. The highest denomination paper money in circulation is only ten dollars (US$ 0.25), so to pay large amounts you can imagine how bulky your sack of money must be. There is even paper money for ten cents and fifty cents. And everything is relatively cheap. My first haircut in Taiwan was only NT$ 4.00. A penny or two can buy things to eat. Our Chinese teachers are paid ten dollars an hour. Room and board at the university is NT$ 150 dollars a month. To ride the city bus is 17 cents and my two hour trip to Taipei cost 15 dollars.

Everything is different over here. Traffic is mostly bicycles with few cars though there are many jeeps and army trucks racing down the streets without any regard for human life. There are very few private cars, only those used by officials or by the families of American servicemen who are very numerous here. There are many public buses on routes that go all over the city and suburbs. There are practically no motorcycles or scooters. There are some taxis, but most of the people use pedicabs. These are three wheeled bicycles. Over the two rear wheels sits a seat with a roof and walls of canvas. There is just room for two people to squeeze in. Last night I rode in one for the first time. They have no springs; and the back streets are not paved. It was about 8: 30 at night, pitch dark and raining. A huge piece of canvas was placed over the front of the seat, so I was completely enclosed in the dark with only a small slit that I could look out of. I was by myself and completely at the mercy of the tiny man pedaling through the dark streets.

Bicycle riding is an experience in itself. Most of the heavy traffic is jeeps and army trucks that speed by honking and slowing for nothing. Pedestrians also walk on the streets and cross them wherever they want. The bicycles just have to weave around them. The only way to get along is to ring the bell on the bicycle and just keep barreling along. At night, it is especially interesting, since many of the bicycles and none of the people carry lights. But everything seems to move along smoothly enough. There do not seem to be as many dogs or cats running around as there are in the states. Those that are in evidence do not seem to be bothered by the crowds or the traffic. This goes for the innumerable ducks which are in front of so many homes. It is really a marvel the way one can go anywhere on a bike and not have a dog barking or jumping at one’s feet. They are the best behaved animals I’ve ever seen.

The bicycles in Taiwan are very heavy without gears and one has to pump very hard, but they get us where we want to go, which is everywhere within a radius of ten or fifteen miles. One day a couple of us rode our bikes up the mountain to Ching Chuan about twenty-five miles from Hsinchu. It was hard going up on the winding unpaved road, but we made it in time for lunch. The most difficult part was in a long tunnel. The electric lamp on the bicycle is activated by a generator that presses against the rear wheel. Because there was water dripping from the roof of the tunnel, the floor consisting of two narrow strips of concrete was wet which meant that there was no traction to turn the generator. It was very hard to maneuver the bike in the dark through the puddles on the floor trying to stay on the narrow strip of cement.

Hsinchu is known as the Windy City. Often the wind is so strong that even going downhill, it is necessary to pedal very hard when the wind is blowing in my face. The first time I biked to Chutung about ten kilometers away, I had to buck a strong head wind, so I was looking forward to the return trip, but when it was time to go home, the direction of the wind had reversed, so that it was just as hard to pedal back. This is my common experience. The wind always seems to know the direction I will be taking and blows in the opposite way. But this never stops me from going anyway.

Lots and lots of heavy carting is done by oxen, big humpbacked animals whose hump pushes against the yoke. And in the city the most fantastic loads of market goods, household items or building materials are hauled on carts pulled by some frail looking guy straining to press forward one torturous step at a time, sometimes with another man pushing from the rear. Some flat bed carts are pedaled like bicycles. It is not uncommon to see a fragile looking bicycle with a big load of both parents together with two or three children and a baby tied on the back of the mother or a bicycle loaded front and back with a huge array of balanced goods.

There are few sidewalks and they are usually filled with parked bicycles and vendor stands so that the pedestrian traffic walks in the street. To move around town even on foot is an art of its own which I am gradually learning. I have already been run into by a bicycle. And last week I ran into a little boy.

I simply must say something about the ditches that the children play in, the animals wallow in, and the women wash the clothes in. All the streets in Hsinchu are lined with deep gutters, at least two feet deep. One must watch his step so as not to fall in, though they are not very wide. There is water running in them at all times. This is downtown. On the side streets, the ditches are twelve to eighteen inches wide and four inches or so, deep. This is water that is flowing from the most intricate irrigation system I have ever seen. All the fields are periodically flooded and all terraces at all levels seem to always have the necessary water. There are water ditches going everywhere. Outside of town, they often are like creeks. To this water are taken the family ducks and chickens. Almost everyone everywhere has some animals. The caribao are gazed in the water. The kids love to wade in it, the women take the family washing to the stream and with bars of soap on the rock, scrub the laundry.

The main tracks of the railroad go right through the center of town and there are frequent passenger and freight trains, so that city traffic has to come to a standstill many times an hour at all the train crossings, but since there really are not that many vehicles on the streets, nobody seems to mind.

Construction sites are amazing to watch, because almost everything is done by hand. All the scaffolding even for the tallest buildings is of bamboo poles bound together with wires with wooden planks for standing on stretched across them. There are rather steep ramps going from level to level. Sometimes you can see someone laboriously pushing a wheelbarrow of cement up a ramp then bouncing it from board to board until it is upturned and emptied. I have seen some ramps so narrow that a slight misplacing of the feet would cast down the poor fellow, but they struggle up just the same, with very heavy loads, sometimes not even able to look down at their feet. In Hsinchu, the new church on Bei Ta Road is being constructed and one day I accompanied Msgr. Fahy to climb up the bamboo scaffolding to the very top of one of the towers. It was scary.

When the workmen come to work, they really come. This means that once there are four walls up, a good number of them simply move in and live there until the building is finished.

Bricklayers and plasterers are usually men and they stay in place on the scaffolds while women laborers struggle up the ramps and over the scaffolds carrying heavy loads of bricks or buckets of mortar hanging from the two ends of poles across their shoulders. A woman digging a ditch is a common sight. Whether it is construction work or farm work, the ladies always have a woven wide peaked bamboo hat with a cloth hanging from the hat protecting the skin of their necks. Their arms and legs are covered with sleeves to protect their skin and complexions from the sun and from dirt and grime, preserving their feminine beauty and charm.

The language school is being enlarged. The men and the women laborers are there until late at night. The wall of the dining room was taken out and it is being refinished. No one seems to find it strange having all the workmen plastering and pounding right there even during the meal.

Frequent sights on the rooftops are elaborate wooden structures placed there for colonies of pigeons. All day long you can see flocks of pigeons everywhere flying in circles following some leader. Unlike the pigeons of San Francisco that congregate on the ground begging for food, these stay in the air returning to their roosts only for food and rest. One often sees trucks on the highway piled with cages full of pigeons. These are, I am told, birds on their way to be released at some distant point in contests to see which birds return home the quickest. Perhaps they are Taiwan’s version of the Philippines’ fighting cocks.

At night bats come out. We like to throw pebbles in the air to bring them swooping down to investigate, but they never seem fooled by the bait. Though supposedly blind their radar accurately tells them it isn’t food. Occasionally a bat flies through an open window into the chapel or some other room. If it does not finally discover the way out by itself, it has to be captured and liberated. One evening near the ocean at a beach in northern Taiwan we stood at the entrance to a cave in the cliff where millions of bats live and watched as wave after wave of flying bats emerged from the entrance for their nightly search for flying insects.

In summertime many trees are homes to crickets who spend all the daylight hours chirping with a constant clicking sound. Young boys and girls like to capture them and play with them in their hands.

The warm humid climate is a boon for mosquitoes. It is necessary to sleep with netting around the bed carefully tucked in to prevent being kept awake all night fighting off mosquitoes. The best way to keep them away during the day and also at night is to light incense coils that slowly burn down and have to be continually replaced.

One thing that keeps the indoor mosquito population down are geckos, wall lizards, who race around on the walls and the ceilings. They are very good at sneaking up and gobbling mosquitoes and flies who come too close. They are cute little things. I enjoy watching them. They never bother us. Every once in a while one of them, especially the little ones, loses its footing on the ceiling and falls down to the floor or onto my desk. They never seem bothered by the drop. Once I put out my hand near one and it climbed up my arm and across my chest. It paused and looked up at me then went on its way down my other arm onto the desk and back to the wall. In Hsinchu geckos are silent, but every once in a while there will be one up from the south where they have a characteristic clicking sound.

One thing I wish would disappear is the cockroach. They are everywhere. Even in the cleanest environments they manage to show up from time to time. The first time I went to Mass on a Sunday the lady tidying up the pews was dressed most elegantly in her Sunday best. She appeared to be a gentle, delicate woman, so I was very surprised to see her pick up a big cockroach, tear it in two with a quick twist of her wrists and throw it down on the floor.

The trains are pulled by steam engines billowing black sooty smoke. They seem to be of five or six car lengths. For the fast trains, it is necessary to get tickets well in advance as they are very crowded. The lesser trains too, are always crowded, which means many have to sit on the steps or stand in the aisles. There are even passenger cars without seats in them so more people can be crowded in with all sorts of baggage. I have also noticed that the mail car rides the end of the train.

I enjoy taking the slow trains that stop at every station. It is a great way to observe the life of the towns we pass through and the countryside. There is no air conditioning and the windows in the hot weather are all open, so that whenever the train goes through a tunnel, and there are several quite long ones, the smoke begins to fill the car with its acrid odor and clothes become all coated with a fine layer of soot, because the fuel for the engines is soft coal from the coal mines we can observe on the route from Taipei to Ilan on the east coast. The train service on the first class trains is very gracious. There is a stewardess in uniform and in addition, there are glasses at each place for tea. The moment the train starts, a boy goes down the aisle with a kettle of boiling water. It is amazing to see the way he pours the water with the rocking of the train, without spilling too much.

Taking the bus is fun too. But first you have to buy the right ticket and get in the right lane for boarding. The fathers told me the line for buses to Hsinchu was at Gate No. 1, but they forgot to tell me where to buy the ticket. So I went to ticket window #1 hoping to find a correspondence between window and gate. It was the wrong window, but fortunately the lady spoke English, so I finally got the right ticket. There were eight or ten gates and lots of activity. Buses were coming and going all the time. So was a man selling magazines and newspapers. With all the people waiting for buses there were no seats in the whole place. And there were the usual number of people running up at the last minute, just barely catching their bus. There is no time lost. The bus does not back into place until about five minutes before it is to leave and when it is time, it goes. On the road, it speeds as fast as conditions will allow.

When I got off the bus in Hsinchu, I had my first victory bartering. There was a battery of pedicabs waiting to be hired. I gave the first one the address of the language school and held up my fingers to show that I wanted to pay only three dollars. He wasn’t impressed and pressed for five. Finally, he relented and said four, but I shook my head and sadly walked away. Down the whole line I marched, showing the address and pleading for three. No success. So I just picked up my bag and started across the street. I’d rather walk than pay four. Thirty seconds later, a pedicab was at my side willing to take me for three. I have subsequently learned that they are usually always paid four for the trip!

Going up into the hills, one sees lots of terraces. The people don’t want to waste anything. One very amazing thing about all Formosa’s green fields, which stretch for miles, is that every blade has been planted by hand. They are a tireless people. One can see them working in their shops until ten at night. The children run around until late too, even the tiny ones.

Taiwan is blessed with fertile land for agriculture. Two or three crops a year of rice are common. Sugar cane, bananas, rice are major industries. Farm work is all done by hand with water buffalo pulling the plows and foot power operating the threshing machines that remove the grains from the handfuls of stalks that have all been cut by hand. The planting is all done by hand also. It is possible to travel from north to south and observe in a single day almost every phase in the growing cycle, the stumps of the harvested stalks being burnt and then plowed under, the paddies flooded with water and all the families and neighbors wading in the water inserting the new plants into the earth, the thin new stalks poking out of the water, the ocean of green blowing in the wind, the appearance of grain on the stalks, the army of workers moving through the paddy cutting all the ripe grain by hand, then holding them over the threshing machines, the tied up bundles of stripped stalks, the grain being tossed in the air to remove the chaff, the carpets of yellow grain spread out in courtyards and on the sides of public roads to dry before being put into sacks and hauled off for milling.

On the boat coming from the Philippines I experienced the heavy seas due to the aftermath of a typhoon, but not the storm itself. I finally had my chance. A big typhoon came up the east coast of Taiwan while I was in Suao which was feeling the direct force of the gale and the heavy rain. So I donned a raincoat and walked out right into the storm, marveling at the bent over trees, hearing the tinkle of breaking glass. I was drenched at once. Struggling forward against the force of the wind was quite an effort, but I was happy to be enjoying the new experience. Actually, it was rather a stupid thing to do since I could easily have been hit by flying debris, but I’m still glad I did it, though I did feel a little guilty to be enjoying something that was obviously destroying property and injuring people.

The winter weather takes a bit getting used to. Temperature-wise it is not that cold, the mid to low 50s Fahrenheit, with occasional dips into the 40s and 30s at night and up to the low 60s during the days. But it is humid. I have heard visitors coming from sub-zero weather in Europe complaining they felt colder here than at home. Once the weather turns cold everyone bundles up with wool lined jackets or several layers of sweaters like people heading outdoors in a snow storm. There is no central heating. When it is cold outside, it gradually becomes just as cold inside, so that you have to keep bundled up to stay warm. The walls of the language school are brick covered with plaster and the floors cement covered with polished terra cotta stones. Once the cold sets in, the house becomes a refrigerator. If the weather warms up suddenly, it takes several days for the house to warm up and sometimes water from the warm moist air condenses on the walls and the floor.

In some parts of China, the people like to eat dog meat. It is supposed to help keep you warm when the weather is very cold. It is not a normal part of the Taiwanese diet, though it is possible to find an occasional restaurant that serves dog meat. I tried it once. It wasn’t all that different from beef. People are generally advised to keep a close watch on their pets during winter, because sometimes they disappear into some thief’s pot. Once on a cold day I passed an empty field where a number of men were gathered around a fire on top of which was a skinned puppy on a spit slowly being turned to a toasty brown. There is a story told of an American family who asked their Chinese cook if the dog had been fed yet. The cook misunderstood, so that later when the family asked her where the dog was, she replied “You’re eating it.”


I am told that there are two main groups of Chinese, those who are native to the island, the Taiwanese, speaking the Minnan or Hakka dialects, and the Mainlanders, who recently came to Taiwan fleeing from the communists. They usually speak Mandarin, though many of them do so with heavy accents due to the local dialects of their native provinces. Many students complain that they cannot understand the Mandarin of some of their Mainland teachers. It does not matter if children are born in Taiwan, they are officially listed as belonging to the province of their father.

There is a tension between the Taiwanese and the Mainlanders who took over the island pushing aside the local population and requiring their children to speak only Mandarin in school. I have heard rumors, stoutly denied by Mainlanders, that there was an angry uprising of dissatisfied Taiwanese in 1947 and many thousand Taiwanese were killed when they stood up against the new Nationalist Chinese rule. No one dares to openly tell us what really happened. Any Mainlander who wants to marry a Taiwanese is almost sure to face vehement opposition from both sets of parents.

Not only is there an obvious division between the children of Mainlanders and those of Taiwanese origin, I have also noticed two kinds of Mainland students. Some very vocally proclaim their belief in the superiority of everything Mainland, while others seem content and satisfied with life in Taiwan. One day there was an exposition of photos showing famous landmarks, temples and historic sites in Mainland China and I had the good luck of being guided by a boy whose father was a military officer from the Mainland. How proudly he pointed out the places his father had been and how eager he was to go see those glorious places for himself. There were other boys attentively following with interest and admiration everything their fathers were explaining, but I couldn’t help noticing the sadness and disappointment of a few fathers whose children were obviously unmoved and bored by what they were seeing and hearing.

There are also ten tribes of aborigines, descendents of the natives who were already on Taiwan when the Chinese first arrived. They have since been pushed back into the mountains or remote valleys where the government has set up special areas for them. An outsider needs a special permit to enter. This supposedly is for the protection of the tribal people who might otherwise be cheated out of their land and livelihoods by crafty, unscrupulous Chinese businessmen. The natives, at least for tourists, wear elaborately woven colored costumes and perform ceremonial dances. The older women folk have tattooed faces and seem to enjoy smoking cigarettes with the lighted end in their mouths. This, of course, is just a tableau painted for tourists. Each tribe has a rich tradition of culture and language. I hope that they will be allowed to prosper in the modern world without having to lose their unique identities or cultural heritage.

Chinese is a beautiful language to listen to. Its grammar is apparently much simpler than that of western languages and it does not have syntax, that is, there are no variant forms of words. There is no singular or plural form of a word. There is no future or past form of a verb. Distinctions of persons, and number, singular and plural are made by context and the grouping of words.

But it has its difficulties. The first is pronunciation. Chinese unlike the Western languages has tones. A tone is not so much a pitch as a change of pitch. It is these pitch changes that accounts for the sing-song quality that many people associate with spoken Chinese.

The second difficulty is the written characters. Each character represents a concept and is pronounced monosyllabically. In the whole of the Chinese language there are only about 400 different sounds, but adding four tones to each brings about sixteen hundred variations in all. Since the twenty thousand plus Chinese characters share only 1600 pronunciations, many characters are pronounced exactly the same.

In speaking the context and juxtaposition of words gives the meaning. This means that if you want to give someone your name or an address, it is not enough to pronounce it, you have to tell them which characters are used. It is amusing to watch two Chinese talking to each other. Sometimes one of them will put out his hand with palm up and write a character on it with the movement of his fingers. It doesn’t leave any mark on the hand but one can still visualize the character that was written. And even though it leaves no mark I have seen people make an erasing motion before writing another character. One of my Spanish language companions once fell off his bicycle because he lost control while trying to write a Chinese character in his hand.

One of my favorite leisure time activities is walking around the streets and market places. Since there are few cars, the only thing you have to worry about are the bicycles which dart around everywhere including on crowded sidewalks. The streets are especially alive at night when the heat of the day has tapered off and whole families stroll around greeting each other and shopping in the markets.

Walking around the streets is a great way to observe the lives of the people and hopefully get in a little practice conversing with my faltering Chinese. One thing we like to do is to negotiate with the shop keepers, as though we want to buy a painting or a book. They quote one price, we drop the price to half and they of course argue for something higher. Finally after exhausting our fund of Chinese, we say the price is too high and leave or that we will come back later if we decide to purchase the article.

I had my first experience of a benevolent thief. I took a city bus to visit the American Fathers in Taipei. On my way home I had taken out my wallet to buy the bus ticket. The wallet was still on my lap. The next thing I knew, the man standing next to me suddenly got off the bus at the next stop. By the time I realized my wallet had been stolen it was too late to do anything about it. In it were all my identification papers and my alien card. I never saw the money again, but the thief after taking out the money, dropped the wallet in a mail box and a couple weeks later I got my wallet back in the mail together with all my papers. I offered a prayer of gratitude for an honest thief.

Since there is no air conditioning, a common sight in the evening is a whole family sitting in front of their home on little stools they carry out from inside, fanning themselves with cardboard or bamboo fans. The men are sometimes clothed only in their shorts. Another sight before meal times are the pots filled with pressed cakes of soft coal or charcoal that are placed on the streets in front of homes with the housewife or an older child fanning them to increase the heat for boiling water or cooking the rice.

Early morning scenes are different from those at night. The food markets open very early. That is when most housewives go to buy the freshest vegetables, fish, and meat for the day’s menus. The best produce is sold in the mornings. Very, very few people can afford iceboxes, so they have to shop every day for perishable goods.

In every market there are vendors of caged canaries, song birds, parrots. In the early morning one sees elderly men on their way to a park or courtyard carrying birdcages encased in cloth covers. When they finally sit down somewhere they remove the covers to give their birds fresh air.

Another scene witnessed every morning is people, especially the elderly, performing their morning exercise, usually some form of Chinese martial arts or Taichi. These are slow, controlled movements of arms and legs combined with deep rhythmic breathing. In every park you can see groups of both men and women exercising together often with a leader. Sometimes you just see them in front of their homes going through their routines by themselves.

An evening attraction are sidewalk stands set up by sellers of various kinds of Chinese herbs and medicines. To get attention they present performances of acrobats or martial arts. They advertise the benefits of their goods with detailed posters often graphically illustrated with horribly explicit pictures.

Nearly everyone is poor. Few school children have shoes. Even grownups wear wooden clod hoppers, thick wooden sandals that are fastened to the feet only by a strap over the toes and the clapping of the wood on the ground as people walk around sounds like a parade of animated clocks. When boys do wear shoes, they are tennis shoes, but without stockings.

When the people work, they wear every ragged and patched and holey clothes, but the rest of the time, they are very clean. All the men wear western style clothes. The majority of the women wear Chinese dresses with the slits up the sides. Many dress in western style clothes. School children all wear uniforms, long pants in cold season, short pants in warm season. Often their clothes don’t fit as they outgrow them or are stuck with hand me downs from older siblings. All school boys have to have crew cuts and girls all have their hair cut in a straight line at the lower level of their ears as though someone had put bowls over their heads and cut away everything that stuck out. All the children carry book cases slung over their shoulders by straps. And many of them take plastic canteens with some sort of juice in it.

My room in the language school in Hsinchu is on the second floor and I can look right down onto the busy little back street which goes on its unpaved way about fifteen feet from the house. I also hear the street, that is, its children who cry and play in front of my window in great numbers; the flock or two of ducks, about two dozen or so; the uncertain number of turkeys in full pomp and plumes; the hens with their tiny chicks; and peddlers crying out their wares as they come by at regular times throughout the day. The first, a woman, with a rather weak voice is very faithful to arrive in front of my window at 5:30 every morning where she makes a sale or two with the people across the street. The man who follows right after her, at around 5:45 chanting in a loud strong voice is not always lucky to make a sale, so sometimes he retraces his steps a half hour later. Then there are the ones without routes, who have each a peculiar whistle or bell or yell, a situation that makes street traveling very pleasant, since no matter where in town one goes, there are lined all along street, little walking shops with an amazing quantity and variety.


The street under my window is also the playground for the neighborhood children, and I just counted about 30 of them running around noisily in the midst of the turkeys, ducks, and chickens. It is easy enough to figure out which children belong to whom, I suppose, but how the families ever agree on who owns which chickens is a mystery to me. Animals have complete run of the street and wander from yard to yard. The favorite games with the children seem to be a type of hop-scotch, marbles, and a card game, played with round multi-colored cards which they throw at the ground, and winning depends on which side of the card falls face up. They also seem to enjoy basketball very much. There are many basketball hoops. The small children while they play do not bother to take time off for lunch. When it is time to eat, they run home, get a bowl of rice with a smattering of fish or meat or vegetable on top of it, and run back to finish their game while eating from the bowl of rice perched precariously in one hand while they throw a ball with the other.

I like to say that the main crop of the island is children. Many children in one family is common, especially in rural areas where many hands are required for planting and harvesting. The children are just like any kids in America. They play just as much, make mud pies and wade in the ditches. One seldom sees a child by himself. They congregate and play together, the older ones taking care of the smaller ones. Often a bigger tiny one will carry the tiniest, a five or six year old struggling under the weight of a baby brother or sister. Mothers carry their babies on their backs in a sling, which leaves their hands free. It seems a very comfortable ride for junior though he often falls asleep with his head backward or sideways in the most absurd angles. Toddlers do not wear diapers, but pants split across the middle so they can squat down wherever they are to relieve themselves.

The children are always friendly. They point to us foreigners and say “meiguo ren” which means “American.” I never mind this, but some of my Spanish companions do. I went with them the other day to Chutung where the only foreigners are the Spanish fathers and the children pointed at me and said “hsibanya jen”, “Spaniard” and I realized why the Spaniards don’t like to be called American.

We have plenty of opportunities to practice Chinese with the children who crowd around us. A few of them collect postage stamps and always pester us for stamps off our letters from home. One in particular surnamed Ho comes around so persistently we call him “Little postage stamp.”

Junior and senior high school kids like to hang around the missionaries to practice English. Recently two of my Spanish companions were sitting together on a bus talking Spanish to each other. Right behind them were some middle school students listening carefully. When the Spaniards got up to get off the bus, I heard one of the students say, “Weren’t we lucky. We just had a free English lesson.”

Early in the morning the streets are crowded with children on their way to school with backpacks full of books and classroom materials including metal containers filled with their lunches of rice and whatever else their mothers pack in it. They first congregate in the school yard in rows every class together to sing the national anthem, listen to announcements and get a pep talk from the principal. Some times they do some group calisthenics before marching off to their classrooms.

The schools in Formosa are quite numerous though only about 1 in 10 students goes on to high school. Very often in my wanderings off the beaten track, I run onto small country school houses made Japanese style. The children take off their shoes on entering because the floor is woven straw.

The school system is quite involved. To go beyond the early grades, one must pass a competitive examination. Each school has its own standards, the city school naturally being higher standard than the country schools. The result of this is that often country children who are brighter migrate to the cities for school, whereas city children who cannot meet the requirements of the city schools travel to the country for school, if they cannot afford a local private school. Thus, every school day the buses and trains are full of school children commuting back and forth. Those who do not go on to junior high school or high school start earning their livelihood right away. For those in the country, it will mean working on the family farm. For those in the city, it will mean working in shops or on a construction gang or starting somewhere as an apprentice.

During the school year in the evenings around ten o’clock the streets fill up with middle school students on their way home from evening cram course classes. Advancement in school depends on examinations. To go from grammar school grade six to junior middle school, from junior middle third year to senior school, and from senior middle school third year to college requires achieving passing marks in joint examinations. Those with the top grades are accepted by the best school, those with second best grades are admitted to the second best school, and so on until there are no more schools with empty seats.

Since the ultimate goal is to get into a good university, it is important to get into a good high school. Schools are measured by the percentage of graduating students who advance into the next level, so it is important for one’s future to get into the best possible junior and senior middle schools. In addition to public schools there are many private schools that promise better preparation for college or a chance for further education to those who do not pass the joint exams.

In such a competitive system, students believe that they can increase their chances by enrolling in cram classes at night that repeat the classes of the day and help them to understand and retain better. This is a boon for their teachers who then have a chance to add to their meager salaries. Students are not forced to attend their teachers’ cram classes, but some unscrupulous ones reserve the most important lessons for the cram classes. Students feel trapped. If they have to compete with others who have the advantage of cram schools, then they had better even their chances by attending themselves. In addition to three or four hours every school night, cram classes are also held Saturday afternoons and on Sundays during the day, so the poor kids have no time for extra-curricular activities or leisure.

Those who do not make it into the next level in the regular exams have several choices: they can sign up for the examination for night classes, enroll in special schools set up precisely for helping them do better in the next joint examinations, or just go look for work or job training. In any case, the boys will all eventually have to undergo a period of military service sometime after their nineteenth birthday or when they finish college.

It is impossible for someone to enroll directly in the college or course of his or her choice. The best one can do is to choose which one of four joint college examination categories one wants to take and then make a list of all one’s choices for universities and departments which fall into that area. Only those with the highest scores get their first choice. Those with lower scores have to be content with whichever of their other choices is still available or refuse it and wait until next year and take the exam again. Sometimes instead of signing up for the courses they really want, students calculate from the results of previous exams which one of the four joint examinations they are most likely to succeed in and sign up for that.


Another favorite destination of mine is going to the temples. There are temples everywhere. Some are mainly Buddhist or Taoist of Confucian, but many have elements from all three traditions like the traditional folk religion. Usually a temple is dedicated to some specific hero who has been deified or to some particular spirit or god. Temples are easy to spot with the corners of their roofs pointing up to heaven. Often there will be elaborate carving on the roofs painted in bright colors. The columns are usually carved with stories from religious legends. To prevent children from climbing on the columns fences of metal rods are usually placed around them. There will always be a furnace outside where people can burn special symbolic paper money they buy at the temple or in shops nearby.

The altars have offerings of wine and fruit and flowers. There are pots filled with sand in which to insert burning incense sticks. Behind each altar is the image of some god or spirit flanked by scrolls of Chinese characters written in elaborate styles of calligraphy. The worshipper (more often a woman than a man) stands in front of an image and drops two half moon or kidney shaped pieces of wood, smooth on one side humped on the other. If both land face down on the smooth side, it is a sign the god is listening. Sometimes they have to be dropped many times before they land right. Then the worshipper puts her hands together with lighted sticks of incense which she waves up and down while identifying herself and making her request. Then she goes to a container holding slender sticks with numbers on them. She chooses one blindly, checks the number and goes over to the place where slips of paper identify the message corresponding to the number. I am sure that the God who listens to our western prayers listens just as attentively and favorably to temple prayers as He does to ours.

Many temples have courtyards in which there are usually old men sitting around passing the time of day. Some have fortune tellers waiting to be consulted. Usually there doesn’t seem to be many monks or nuns about, if any. A few have raised stage platforms where traditional Chinese operas are performed. And the biggest temples have next to them large areas crowded with food stands of every kind.

Another interesting feature of Temples is the fact that often, in connection with religious festivals, there are puppet shows and sometimes light opera. Very often these productions are put on with the aid of microphones and will be on so loud that you can hear everything that is said for five or six blocks away. Often, as late as 11:30 at night, we can hear the opera and the puppet show coming from the temple six blocks from our residence. One of my foreign companions says that we should go and complain to the temple and ask them to be more quiet, but I don’t agree. We have chosen to live in the midst of a new culture and should respect and accept the local ways of doing things even when it seems to disturb us. If the locals don’t seem bothered by the noise, neither should we.

Every once in a while, a temple will celebrate a special feast or the deity of some particular areas will have a special holiday which will be the occasion for a special parade and maybe also a big neighborhood banquet open to all. Some temples have bigger than life size replicas of religious deities and historic figures. On these feast days men are chosen to carry the huge figures twice as high as they are. They are hidden inside its clothes with a hole cut in the stomach so they can look out and see where they are going. They march around the streets accompanied by drums and traditional musical instruments.

On Formosa, a Temple is not merely a church. It is often more, for instance, a gathering place for medicine sellers and lunch wagons and all sorts of salesmen. When a salesman sits in front of the Temple, he usually spreads out a blanket and on it places the items he has to sell—usually medicine. Then he starts talking with the people and arguing until he has gathered a big crowd; then he works on a certain individual until finally he convinces him to buy. Once the sale is completed, he leaves the money from the sale lying in the open on the blanket. So far as I can determine, this is an indication of how much business he is doing and perhaps the more money the better the product since obviously more people are buying it.

Very often, the salesmen, particularly of medicines having to do with the prevention of tuberculosis will dress in Western style suits and will have public address systems so that everyone is sure to hear everything they have to say. They have very colorful photographs and x-rays and other propaganda to attract attention.

Often the Chinese doctor, for instance, a herb doctor, will hold office hours in front of the temple with his collection of herbs and salves spread out in front of him. Then, if anyone needs treatment, the person comes to him right there in public and everyone seems to get great enjoyment from watching the treatment. I once witnessed a doctor setting a dislocated knee. It was a small boy, and for all of his pain, he showed not a trace of it. He did not even cry. After the doctor pulled, tugged, and twisted, he spread some very dark brown salve over the knee. He then took a banana leaf or some other kind of leaf, bound up the wound, collected money from the mother, and that was the end of the treatment. On another occasion I witnessed a man having a tooth pulled. Everyone was crowding around, and the man stuck a pair of pliers in the mouth without any apparent anesthetic. The man said nothing but remained impassive.

The Chinese in general seem rather impassive. Once when I was going around a corner too rapidly on a bicycle, I ran over a boy about five years of age. He just sat there and looked up at me with a blank expression. It would have been much better if he had cried because I did not know what to do, but then he got up and went back to his game.

Grand sights are funeral processions which are often very long. The coffins of wood painted red are huge and heavy, carried by eight or sixteen bearers using an elaborate system of poles supported on their shoulders that distributes the weight. Following the coffin on foot are the family and close friends of the deceased dressed in sackcloth. Preceding the coffin is a truck or pedicab with a blown up picture of the deceased. In the front will also be a band of musicians in uniform playing mournful western songs. Following the mourners sometimes comes a procession of flat bottomed trucks with musicians playing typical Chinese melodies on Chinese instruments. There will usually be one or two long horns playing a succession of alternating high and low tones. Hearing this sound is the signal that a funeral is passing by. Depending on how religious and important the family is there will be a group of bonzes or monks in long robes chanting, paid mourners wailing, images of deities and/or round panels of flowers with a message in the center from the donors carried on pedicabs or trucks, and finally a long line of friends or associates of the family. The longer the procession, the more elaborate the appearance, the more face the family gains. Following the burial will be a great feast for all the participants cooked outdoors under a big canopy set up on the street in front of the family residence.

At Chinese New Year and religious feasts or sometimes just to celebrate the opening of some new enterprise there are lion dances or dragon dances. A lion dance consists of two men dressed like a lion. The front man holds the head and the back one has to stoop down and hold onto the back of the front one. Then they perform a dance in which they prance around and sometimes do remarkable acrobatic feats to the sound of big pounding drums. The dragon dance is a long dragon costume draped over many men who hold it up with poles forming a long line. The front man holds the head, which often is capable of spitting out fire. A leader with a pole stands in front of the head leading it in many directions while the others follow in gyrating motions so the dragon looks like a fierce snake coiling and uncoiling as it twists and turns. The same drums keep beating as long as the performance lasts. Whenever they stop in front of someone’s home or shop, it is customary to present the head with a red envelop containing money. Then they usually move on to another location and start again.

A common feature of weddings, shop openings, lion dances, celebrations of all kinds are firecrackers. They are strung together and hung from the roof of buildings in strings at least fifteen feet long. When the bottom one is lit they make a terrific noise which lasts a long time while the lighted wick slowly makes its way up from firecracker to firecracker. Those close by put their hands over their ears, the children especially, who stay as close as they dare, looking afraid in that mock reverence of fear that children have toward things they really enjoy. And then they search eagerly through the carpet of paper debris from the firecrackers in hope of finding some unexploded ones.

Weddings are occasions of elaborate celebration. Formal engagements are usually confined to immediate families and closest friends, but the marriage itself is a very public affair. The more tables of guests at the wedding banquet, the more expensive and desirable the hotel or restaurant, the more the family gains face.

Christians are married in their churches, non-Christians are married before a government official or the ceremony is done right where the banquet is held. When it is in church, there is usually some semblance of silence and attention. When many non-Christians are present, there is usually a lot of talking, but conversations end or are muted once the ceremony begins. The major distraction is the taking of pictures as the photographers move back and forth taking their shots.
Whether it is a church wedding or a private wedding, it ends with the signing of the official document. The bride and the groom and their witnesses must affix their official seals to the document before it becomes valid. Then they turn around and bow to their parents and then bow to all the participants who all bow back. In a church they process down the aisle and people pop little containers that spew confetti or streamers on the couple. If it is at a church then there are often buses waiting that have been hired to bring everyone to the banquet.

When guests arrive at the banquet site they are first expected to sign the wedding guest book and hand over a red envelop with their gift donation if they haven’t already done so. If the wedding ceremony is taking place in front of the banquet hall, no one seems to pay any attention to it. They are all too busy greeting friends they haven’t seen in a long time. Once one is seated at the round tables and the married couple have not yet arrived or the ceremony is still going on and the banquet has not begun, one drinks tea and nibbles on sunflower seeds. Only when the couple enters to clapping or the ceremony finishes does the banquet begin. Often there are speeches by the person designated as the matchmaker or marriage broker, then various special guests say kind words about the bride and groom and there might be a slide show showing pictures of the bride and groom when they were small and growing up and first going out together.

When the meal starts the newly weds are wearing the formal western style suit and wedding gown. The bride is specially made up with elaborate hairdo, so that I do not recognize her at all. Then after a few courses the bride disappears and returns in a new outfit. At the very end when the couple greets everyone as they leave and presents them with pieces of candy, the bride might be in yet a third attire, this time ready to leave for home or the honeymoon. During the meal the couple and their parents come to every table where they toast the guests. They are accompanied by someone keeping their glasses full. For those who cannot take much wine or liquor, what they drink is tea that looks like wine.
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Monday, 09 October 2006 19:44

Ethics and Finance in a Globalizing World

Beijing, November 2005

I - A few lessons from 13 years at the IMF

My three mandates in the IMF (1992-2000) have coincided with the time when globalization has accelerated its pace and became the dominant feature of the time.

What was taking place was -at its beginning- difficult to identify as the major phenomenon now well analyzed. The only evidence was that something was taking place which was very different from what the founding fathers of the Bretton Woods institutions in 1944-1945 had foreseen. Things were moving so rapidly nevertheless and affecting so deeply the international community that international institutions had to move, to adapt themselves and to suggest new orientations to the membership. Globalized finance was one of the features of the change going on, but not the only one by far.

One of the first things I had to perceive was that in this new world, problems became so complex and intertwined that no institution -and even the IMF, in spite of the high technicality of the problems it had to address- could remain strictly technical, trusting the markets automatism to solve the human problems of our world and in particular the “ultimate systemic threat facing humanity ”, poverty. As an unacceptable level of poverty was to my judgment also the ultimate market failure, we had to obey an ethical sense of solidarity to find the way to assist the countries in need.

A second lesson derived from the uneven success of our programs for stabilization, growth and reduction of poverty in developing countries; it became crystal clear that their effective implementation and lasting success was tightly linked to the quality of the participation of all segments of the population to their preparation, adoption and implementation. This new ethical dimension had then to be introduced in the strategies of the IMF, and indeed it was, at least each time governments accepted to go that far.

Then came the Mexican and Asian crisis -the true first crisis of the XXI century- as they were so different from the crisis of the first 40 years of existence of the IMF which were mainly external payment crisis, often exacerbated by unsustainable debt. The Mexican crisis and much more evidently the Asian crisis were unlike any seen before. Crises of this new type explode on the open capital markets, arise from complex dysfunctions, particularly in the financial markets, and are much less exclusively macroeconomic in nature. They quickly take on systemic proportions, and can be checked only through the immediate mobilization of massive financing. Take the three major Asian crises, for example: Thailand, Indonesia and Korea. Dealing with them meant dealing with a three-dimensional problem: a dimension, obviously, of macroeconomic imbalances, along with massive outflows of short-term capital; an acute crisis in the financial sector, reflecting institutional and banking practice weaknesses; and a much more fundamental crisis in the prevailing economic management model. I am thinking here of unhealthy – I would even say incestuous – relations among corporations, banks, and government. This third dimension of corruption, collusion, and nepotism was making obvious that un-ethical behaviors in such a great scale could have dramatic systemic consequences and implied that fundamental reforms were immediately required. The financial universe could no more think, at least from that very moment, that there is such a thing as sound economics and finance, without solid ethical behaviors of the main actors in the public and private sectors.

But there is more. We had soon to acknowledge that -important as they may be- there is not such a thing as financial ethics in isolation. At the moment we were discovering the importance of ethics for finance, we were de facto invited to turn our attention to global ethics for the sustainability of a world were finances were leading the globalization.

Taken together these four lessons have contributed to the progressive emergence of a new paradigm of development. Let me emphasize two of its key features.

First, a progressive humanization of basic economic concepts. It is now recognized that the market can have major failures, that growth alone is not enough and can even be destructive of the natural environment or precious social goods and cultural values. Only the pursuit of high-quality growth is worth the effort. What is such growth?

• growth that can be sustained over time without causing domestic and external financial imbalance;

• growth that has the human person at its center, that is accompanied by adequate investment, particularly in education and health, to take full advantage of the tremendous leverage of human capital for future growth;

• growth that, to be sustainable, is based on a continuous effort for more equity, poverty and inequalities reduction, and empowerment of poor people; and

• growth that promotes protection of the environment, and respect for national cultural values.

Second, at a deeper level, we observe in recent approaches a striking and promising recognition of a convergence between a respect for fundamental ethical values and the search for efficiency required by market competition. Yes, you can see now a far wider recognition:

• that participatory democracy – that major conquest of the 20th century – can maximize the effectiveness of sound economies;

• that transparency, openness, and accountability are basic requirements for economic success;

• that combating collusion, corruption, and nepotism must be a major concern for the international financial institutions;

• that systematically dismantling the state is not the way to respond to the problems of modern economies; rather we must aim for a slimmer yet more effective state, able to provide the private sector with a solid framework in which the rule of law could prevail, on a level playing field; and

• that there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between macroeconomic stability and structural reform on one hand, and growth and the reduction of poverty and inequality on the other.

Stability and strong institutions are clearly essential for growth, and hence for poverty alleviation. But the converse is also true: popular support for stabilization and reform cannot be counted upon, unless the whole population, including the poorest—and by the poorest I mean those that not only are out of the loop, but even more are unable to contribute their experience—is able to participate in the formulation of the policies and, of course, in the benefits from those policies.

In short, a new economic paradigm is emerging. The new opportunities for growth created by the revolution in information technology and the opening of markets, combined with more resolute efforts to promote opportunities for all to share in the benefits of growth, will amplify the positive effects of macroeconomic and monetary stability. All of this together can transform globalization in a great opportunity for humanity provided that the emerging new paradigm is firmly rooted in fundamental human values and ethics, and here is where the contribution of the Chinese world will be essential.
(Image: C.P.)

II - What are these basic ethical values for a world of financial globalization?

Which values must we promote if we are determined to make sense of our history? Which values to guide us as the new century unfolds? This question has been with me all along these thirteen years in the IMF and I raised it with many interlocutors. When trying to draw the conclusions of so many conversations. I end up with three values: a sense of global responsibility, solidarity and of worldwide citizenship:

- a sense of global responsibility for each countries and for all including us as enterprises or us as simple citizens, to contribute to the human success of globalization;
- solidarity to alleviate and ultimately eradicate poverty; and
- a new sense of citizenship to back a new global governance.

1. Sense of responsibility

In our globalized financial world, whether a country is large or small, any crisis can now become systemic through contagion on the globalized markets. Domestic economic policy therefore must, now more than ever, take into account its potential worldwide impact; a duty of universal responsibility is incumbent upon all. Every country, large or small, is responsible for the stability and quality of world growth. When I say large, I must add that the responsibility is in some way in proportion with the size.

This adds a new dimension to the duty of excellence that is required of every government in the management of its economy. I use the word “excellence”; I could also say “absolute rectitude”. Globalization is a prodigious factor in accelerating and spreading the international repercussions of domestic policies – for better or worse. No country can escape, and all should be fully aware of the central importance of:

- rigor and transparency in overall economic management;
- growth that is centered on human development, social justice and respect of the environment; and
- government reform, seeking public sector efficiency, appropriate regulations, emphasis on the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, anticorruption measures, etc.

All of that is tantamount to recognize that economic progress is strongly dependant on the basic value of responsibility: the sense that each is responsible for the advancement of all, and on the harmony of social relations at national level and peace internationally. This should, in the end, allow each country to play a greater positive role for the prosperity of the global economy and to accept also the responsibility to contribute to the correction of what goes wrong in the working of the international financial system, and to start with, the inadequacy of financial information, and the failure to respect the rules of transparency so central for policy credibility and market stability.

In the face of a proliferation of increasingly sophisticated forms of financial intermediation, the delays in imposing the required discipline on international markets, which have been kept at the anarchic stage that the domestic markets of the industrial countries were at a century ago, has been particularly detrimental. Reforms of course have been adopted, but here we are in a field where, beyond the initiatives of governments and regulators, the ethical sense of individual actors and private companies can and must make a major difference. They must understand that in a medium to long term perspective, there is not any better way to care for their business than to care also for society and the common good. Yes this role of other actors -frequently from the private sector: enterprises, financial institutions and all components of civil society: labor unions, NGOs, religious organizations, etc. can be decisive. All of them, by their responsible behavior, can play an important role for the success of the newly emerging paradigm in humanizing globalization.

Here I would like to mention the growing conviction in the business community -exemplified by the “global compact” of the UN- that business has the ability to contribute more and more to building a better world. A new generation of globally responsible leaders is emerging whose decisions rely both on their awareness of principles and regulations and on their determination to follow guiding principles such as fairness, freedom, honesty, humanity, tolerance, transparency and of course, embracing all the previous ones: responsibility and sustainability.

These people as good businessmen are result oriented and so attach the highest importance to key action areas through which corporate global responsibility can be nurtured and developed. They include:

- tuning into societal and environmental business context,
- overcoming key organizational, regulatory and societal barriers to change,
- developing stakeholder engagement skills such as careful listening and the ability to engage in dialogue,
- transforming the culture of the firm by changing attitudes and behaviours,
- understanding the purpose of change,
- designing change management processes, and,
- rewarding globally responsible behaviour through improved performance measures and systems.

Under such an inspiration, they see as of the highest importance every effort to initiate to business ethics of the students of business schools around the world.

2. Solidarity to fight poverty

When considering all the positive dynamics at work in our world, the slowness of progress in reducing poverty appears all the more unacceptable. I need not describe in graphic terms the extent of present human deprivation-you know them at least as well as I.
The widening gaps between regions and rich and poor within nations, and the gulf between the most affluent and most impoverish nations, are morally outrageous, economically wasteful, and potentially socially explosive. Now we know that it is not enough to increase the size of the cake; the way it is shared is deeply relevant to the dynamism of development. If the poor are left hopeless, poverty will undermine the fabric of our societies though confrontation, violence and civil disorder. If we are committed to the promotion of human dignity and peace, we cannot afford to ignore poverty and the risks it entails for peace. We all must work together to relieve all this human suffering. This is what solidarity means as an obvious central value for a unifying world. But the fight for peace in the world and solidarity must go hand in hand as peace is an inescapable precondition for durable economic progress. When considering the tragic situation of an impressive part of Africa, where so many countries are directly or indirectly involved in military or civil or ethnic tribes conflicts, how could we entertain any illusion that progress in human conditions is achievable if these conflicts are not brought to an end? At least there must be a major effort – well beyond what we see today –to reduce tensions and to prevent new wars from being started. If through a diversity of initiatives better prospects for peace can emerge, then good windows of opportunity for development could appear. But many other conditions will have to be put in place for its process to become effective.

Here, the poor countries themselves are on the front line, and we have learn that their success on the fight against poverty depend crucially on their own sense of responsibility in promoting good governance and sound policies, in making poverty alleviation the centerpiece of economic policy, together with a renewed emphasis on rapid growth led by the private sector. But for them, also, success lies in national “ownership” of the policies, through a participatory approach that engages civil society in a constructive dialogue. If this is the case, the rest of the world should then be ready to move promptly when these countries indicate that they need support. But then, how can development partners support the efforts of the poorest countries? Let me point to four areas.

First, on the trade front, by assigning the highest priority to providing unrestricted market access for all exports from the poorest countries, including the heavily indebted poor countries, so that these countries can begin to benefit more deeply from integration into the global trading system.

Second, by supporting policies that encourage the inflows of private capital, especially foreign direct investment with its twin benefits of new finance and technology transfers.

Third, by contributing financially. Here we are dealing with an issue which goes beyond – important as it may be – the simple provision of badly needed financing. It is an issue closely related to the basic fabric of a unifying world community: the mutual trust among its members which implies that giving one’s word means just that. Over the past decade, we have witnessed two rather paradoxical phenomena. On the one hand, while the industrial countries have happily been collecting their peace dividends, they have steadily reduced their official development assistance, falling further and further short of the target of 0.70 percent of GDP which all – with the exception of the United States – had pledged to achieve for the year 2000. At the same time, at one world conference after another, they committed themselves, along with developing and transition countries, to promote measurable and achievable human development objectives now encapsulated in the MDG.

Fourth, by being faithful to our pledge, in the occasion of the Monterrey (Mexico) Finance for Development Conference in 2002 to establish, from now on, our cooperation for development on the basis of partnership.

But what does such a substitution should entail: words or substance? A major change indeed. Partnership is dialogue among equals. It implies that your partner in that dialogue makes himself his own choices and defines his own priorities. It implies also total frankness on both sides and full acceptation of the critical judgment of your counterpart on your own policies; and equally a deep respect for the ethical demands, the culture and the traditions of the other, including in the organization of the public life. It requires that no one beg his neighbour and fulfill his full share of responsibilities. It means full acceptation of a join walk on the new trails of globalization, each taking care of adapting his steps to the walk of the other… Partnership as understood in Monterrey doesn’t limit itself to government’s policies. It is a multidimensional concept associating on both sides, enterprises, financial institutions and civil societies, all being invited to enter into this new kind of relations beyond their national borders.

Imagine for a moment that these pledges were actually fulfilled: what a giant step this could be toward a better world, what a giant step it would be toward improving the lot of the most disadvantaged among the poor – women and children! But many of the world’s top leaders have been losing sight of these pledges. Let’s use all our influence including as private citizens to make sure that, particularly after the New York Summit of last September, the OMD are given the highest priorities by our governments. This worldwide mobilization of public opinion will be only a small step, but it is important in view of the fragility of our collective commitments. We must make the first decade of the new century one of fulfillment of past pledges. If we allow cynicism to prevail in this area, we may as well give up the dream of progressing to a more fraternal global society. This is a matter of great urgency. Yes, we need a jolt of responsibility and solidarity.

Having touched upon the key aspects of a poverty reduction strategy, let me underline that what I am referring to here is not our obligation of generosity toward a world much poorer than ours, but our contribution to strengthening the very fabric of a world which is now one; a fabric the solidity of which is crucially dependent on the elimination of war, the respect for pledges and the active support for those who want to stand on their own feet.

3. Participatory democracy and subsidiarity in world governance

This being said and beyond the poverty problem, we know only too well that in today’s world, many people suffer from a lack of control over their own destiny and fear that there is no legitimate authority to deal with problems that are increasingly taking on worldwide dimensions, such as threats to the environment, increases in the use of drugs, widespread corruption, crime, money laundering, etc. For all these issues as for poverty, I fail to see any satisfactory solution without introducing in all places where human issues are addressed more democratic participatory governance.

In the context of globalization, the whole issue of governance must be revisited not with the view of setting up some sort of world economic government; but with two more limited ambitions:

- in the one hand, to offer to all human beings a say on their own destiny, and
- on the other, to find a global response to inescapable problems of worldly dimension.

The task is, nevertheless, formidable. We are the first generation in history to be confronted with the need to organize and to manage the world, not from a position of power such as Alexander’s, or Caesar’s, or the Allies’ at the end of World War II, but through a recognition of the universal responsibilities of all peoples and citizens and of a universal duty of solidarity and cooperation through partnership.

The challenge is, of course, primarily to introduce more and more citizens participation at all levels of national governance. It is also to find mechanisms for managing the international economy, which would at the same time (1) preserve the sovereignty of national governments; (2) help smooth the effective working of markets; (3) ensure international financial stability; and (4) offer solutions to problems which transcend the boundaries of the nation-state, and to which we are responding unsatisfactorily now by over-stretching existing institutions. A tall order indeed! To understand this, we need merely compare our world to the world in 1945. Each country has now achieved sovereignty, each wants to shoulder its full responsibility in the face of global problems, and we know that the effective participation of each country in managing the “global village” is key to the future of the village. Furthermore, while globalization has until now operated at the whim of more or less autonomous financial and technological forces, it is high time that we put in place the appropriate mechanism so that progress towards world unity can be made consistently and in the service of humankind. What is required are institutions which can facilitate joint reflection at the highest levels, whenever needed, and which are capable of ensuring that globalized strategies are adopted and implemented when it appears that those problems can be dealt with effectively at the global level. The problems are serious and many. I would like to point out just three of them: (1) lack of appropriate institutions in new fields of major global concern; (2) respect for the old principle of subsidiarity; (3) fair representation in international economic decision-making.

The founding fathers of the United Nations system made a good job in 1944-1945 to solve the problems they were foreseeing. But of course, sixty years later, we must confront issues at that time unexpected, such as environment and migrations. This calls for the creation of institutions properly equipped to help governments to face them in a proper multilateral spirit.

Whatever our reluctance to add to the bureaucratic apparatus of the UN, it is crystal clear that the world will have – the sooner the better – to face this unjustifiable lacuna, a lacuna on which public voices remain generally silent and which is only brought to our minds, but so far to no avail, when a major environmental catastrophe takes place.

Together with the environment, anti-trust and migrant-worker issues would also justify the creation of freestanding bodies at a global level. Needless to say that the cost of establishing such institutions could be offset at least partly by further streamlining the system in other fields.

This being said, multilateral institutions must be exemplary in their respect of the subsidiarity principle, formulated centuries ago we are now rediscovering. It means that the worldwide institutions must tackle and solve problems of an economic, social, political or cultural character, which are posed by the universal common good. But without intending to limit the sphere of action of the public authority of the individual state, much less to take its place. On the contrary, its purpose is to create, on a world basis, an environment in which the public authorities of each state, its citizens and intermediate associations, can carry out their tasks, fulfill their duties and exercise their rights with greater security. This suggests that the more we see the need to consolidate or to grant new responsibilities in world bodies, the more it is also necessary to let them know that their contribution can only be subsidiary. Everyone must understand that nothing can be accomplished at the global level unless it has been taken up at the grassroots level and supported by initiatives of the entire institutional chain from the local to the global level. Responsible citizenship at all levels must be one of the key values of the 21st century.

The more we recognize we must give more leverage to global and regional institutions to tackle worldwide problems, the more we must promote fair representation in their decisions-making bodies. The situation, at this stage, is unsatisfactory. Talking about the financial institutions, I would insist on the following.

The legitimacy of the Bretton Woods Institutions is increasingly questioned. The mounting universal demands for more participatory governance at all levels of governance in society, apply of course also to them and particularly to the way in which they must accommodate the growing role of new players, particularly from Asia. A lot is at stake for the international climate of the next decades, depending on whether they will be invited soon to share global responsibilities or they will have to fight for them. Progress so far has been slow, to say the least. Knowing pretty well the hesitations, I suggest four measures that could distinctly strengthen world governance in a participatory direction.

1/ Make more explicit who does bear the real political responsibilities in these institutions

2/ Reopen the debate on the size and composition of their Executive Boards

This reform would simultaneously respond to the situation newly created by the progress of the European Union toward its integration, the growing importance in world economic terms of the emerging markets and the difficult issue of “voice” for Africa which still awaits a convincing response.

3/ Reform the procedures for the selection of management

The rules and practices for the appointment of the Managing Director of the IMF and the President of the World Bank should also be changed and the new system enacted on the next relevant occasion. Both Europe and the United States should renounce their present “privileges” in 2004.

4/ Contribute to a more participatory world governance

To gain increased relevance, the G8 must continue opening itself up. Drawing the lessons of the experiences of recent years, we could propose, in this regard, that each G8 summit be coupled with an “extended meeting” to which all heads of State and Governments from the countries represented in the new Council should be invited. This would be a way to put in place a “global governance group”, whose orientations would carry much more credibility, legitimacy and influence than the G8 and G-20 today.

These few remarks on participatory governance, including at world level, are in my view another illustration of the mutually reinforcing character of the initiatives for making ethical principles to prevail and of the efforts to make national and international institutions more efficient, while promoting a needed climate of partnership.

Ethics in a globalizing world where international finances are gaining so much importance: what is needed is to identify the values that men and women today can use to make sense of their history. Our history has not yet been fully written -it is still in our hands- and notwithstanding its risks, globalization is an opportunity to move toward a world economy that is more worthy of the human race. This implies that we take action on the three values to which I have been referring and that many around the world can recognize: responsibility, solidarity and at all levels, participatory citizenship. Thanks to them we could go a long way:

- from disorderly and instable markets to better regulated ones,
- from a world dominated by self-interest to one where gratuitousness would be recognized,
- from a world exclusively nations-centered to a multilaterally-oriented one,
- from a world where governments see themselves as exclusively in charge of the common good to one where a dense network of partnerships would associate enterprises and civil society to the common objective of the humanization of the world.

Monday, 09 October 2006 18:39


成都市有10多萬務工者子女隨父母移居到城市。 這些孩子和留在農村的留守兒童相比是幸福的,因爲他們能與父母同住在城市裡。但他們在城市却是同城市文明隔離的,不僅在生活、醫療方面,在教育方面也是如此。儘管當地政府在這方面已經取得了很大的進展和成果,還是有很多務工者子女無法獲得公共教育資源,許多人不得不選擇非法民工子女學校。然而這些學校最重要的目的是賺更多的錢,他們會儘快收回投資,减少各種費用,所以經常可以看到漏水的屋頂,衛生條件很差的厠所,很低的教師工資,在成都市的幾乎所有民辦民工子女學校都沒圖書館。


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