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How Will The ‘OWS’ Movement Change?

 

  How Will such Social Movements as "Occupy Wall Street" Change? -- An Interview with Professor Huang Ping

On December 28th 2011, the CASS Academic Division of International Studies (a group of institutes in the fields of international affairs and regional studies under CASS) held the “International Hot Issues Seminar” in Beijing. Scholars from 8 institutes of international studies of CASS discussed topics such as the world economic situation, the development trends of power politics and regional hot issues. During the seminar, Liu Yue (LY), reporter of CSSN, interviewed Huang Ping, Director of Institute of American Studies, on how to see the issue of “Occupying Wall Street.” The following is the text of the video made from the interview. — Interviewer: Liu Yue / Photography by Zhang Guochan / Video Produced by Zhao Yue and Zheng Jiali

  LY:How do you think of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement?

  Huang Ping: I think this is some kind of social movement, which we haven’t seen for quite a long time in the US, if we don’t include Seattle and also the campaign against the Iraq war, then we didn’t see such things since the Sixties. In those years we had the movement against the Vietnam War, student movements and the social movements led by Martin Luther King. So for the US it’s a quite extraordinary thing. Of course there are many causes and roots, social, economic and financial, especially the current high unemployment rate, the quite unusual polarization of political parties, the ongoing financial crisis, and therefore people have feel badly about the current status quo. But also there are some special features, for instance we didn’t see any kind of organization behind the movement, we also didn’t see a sort of political agenda for the campaign, and of course it is still going on, we don’t know how long this will last, and some say that because of Christmas, because of winter or because of the coming elections, it may quite soon disappear. But others argue it’s not just occupy Wall Streets, it is going on in many cities in the US, especially in the weekends, and even in some cities in other parts of the world, especially in Europe. And you can also easily trace it back to North Africa, the middle east, from Tunisia to the Egyptian phenomena, so it’s a kind of social and political challenge to the current not only national but also the international order, monetary, economic and financial political order, so as social scientists, we should definitely pay our attention because this is quite an interesting phenomenon.

  LY: Could you evaluate the Obama administration’s conducts during the U.S. financial crisis? Have its related policies eased the crisis?

  Huang Ping: The crisis was there before Obama got into the white house, so to this extent Obama didn’t have good luck, because when he became the president he had the first problem, which actually almost put a stop to many of his other agendas, such as handling the climate change, and also making use of new sources of energy, more sustainable recycling and such, and in particular also how to deal with reforming public health, medical care etc.. It’s not his fault that we had the crisis, and secondly it’s not easy to handle the crisis, whoever is the president, and thirdly Obama and all his team were not really prepared for the crisis, so in the early stage before they got into the White House, they didn’t’ really see the deep structural reasons, so in the first years when he was in administration, he might have thought this was more to do with policies then with the structure within the US and internationally. Fourthly people had less experience with this kind of issue, and I am talking about the whole generation. The last time we had such a crisis was the early seventies, when Obama and his colleagues were quite young or even children, and you can even go back to the Great Depression, when people were not born yet, so people have very little or even no experience. Now you see some kind of recovery in terms of growth but you don’t see any real change in terms of both unemployment and also in how to structure improvements or change in the system which is the real cause for the crisis, so in terms of policies you now see many short term or one sided policies or approaches instead of a solution.

  LY: Which are the biggest problems the US faces right now? Do you think that US people have generally lost the confidence in their society because of the gap between rich and poor?

  Huang Ping: Well I would say that if you look at the continuous opinion polls by the PO center, since the sixties or even since 1945 there were only very short periods of time during which the US majority had a higher confidence in its government and society. For already more than 50 years it is actually going down in terms of people’s confidence in their future, in the administration’s capacity, so they have this kind of feelings towards if not the whole society, at least the federal Government. In recent years you can also see that especially during the Bush period, people felt unhappy with many policies, both domestic and international, so they had quite high expectations from Obama and the new administration. That is why he had such a lot support and voters, but like I said, in front of so many difficulties, not only economic but also social, people felt quite disappointed including those supporters. It goes beyond just the indicators on how many jobs lost, and the gap. These things are true, they are some of the reasons why people feel unhappy or disappointed, but there is a general feeling towards the current status quo, and this will be more difficult to handle. How can people recover their confidence as well as their trust? I think this will be a problem for quite some time, if you look today at Europe and some other major countries, which people took as a model especially during and just after the cold war. There are some new challenges, and the existing system does not work well in handling the new challenges, but we also have some very old challenges such as unemployment, so how to handle this? Let’s see, sometimes events can also change people’s attitudes. Like September the 11th, on the one hand it was an attack, but on the other hand over the short period people felt quite united, so let’s see what happens next year, there will be even more events, not just the elections, but events in the whole world.

 

  

  

Editor: Du Mei     Source:Chinese Social Sciences Net     2013-12-23 11:50:00

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