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Thursday 19 April 2012
Letters: Don't expect China to be like us
I would like to see The Independent break away from the general media tendency in the UK to perpetuate a hostile view of China. The charge you make, that China is a state in which "superficial prosperity cloaks endemic corruption and ruthless politicking" (leading article, 17 April) is one that, to judge from The Independent's own recent reporting, could quite easily be applied to Britain or the United States. In fact, as far as corruption is concerned, China performs better than several European countries, according to Transparency International's 2011 rankings.
China is a culture with a 2,200-year tradition of centralised, one-party government. It is very probably evolving toward a one-party "democracy" like the government of Singapore. Whatever its eventual form of government, we can be sure that it will not look like that in Britain or the United States, and we would be presumptuous to think that it should. They have been in the business of government much longer than the West.
The case on which you base your editorial is an example of criminal activity and personal corruption rather than ruthless politicking. China's politicians may indeed be ruthless people, but that they are taking advantage of a political opponent's apparent downfall is not unusual.
The judgement that China's current prosperity is superficial deserves more explanation than is offered. The disappearing prosperity of the leading Western economies, based on cheap loans and imaginary financial products, is certainly superficial. China's current prosperity is based on manufacturing.
Westerners need a much greater understanding of the complexity of modern China and of its accomplishments. It seems possible that this may yet turn into a "Chinese century" and whether or not that frightens us we will have to adapt to it.
Taxes and the generosity of the wealthy
Dominic Lawson misses the point ("It's a myth that the rich profit from donating to charity", 17 April). What charitable donors who claim tax relief are doing is, in effect, forcing the Government, that is the taxpayer, to make a contribution to the same charity.
That may be justifiable in the public good as a way of encouraging charitable giving. However, using the same mechanism, the super-rich can force the Government to give very large sums to the charities of their choice. The arguments for that are less strong.
We should all regard charitable giving as a good thing for society, charities and donors themselves. The super-rich should learn to give away wealth without requiring the rest of us to contribute handsomely to their choice of charities.
Mark Steel ("Shall we let the rich decide who's cured?", 18 April) characterises philanthropists as selfish, overweening, whimsical attention-seekers who do no real good and whose donations are wholly funded by the tax payer.
This is just vulgar inaccuracy and insult. Gift Aid may be a flawed system, and I agree with his point that charity should not replace state provision, but this kind of tarring of generous and engaged donors with the brush of greed and self-aggrandisement is loathsome, and plays into the hands of the government PR machine as they try to find ways of making themselves look good.
The proposal by this government of spin to limit the tax relief on charity donations, which is supposed to allow the decision on its use to be made by an elected government rather than by the individual donor's whim sounds laudable. However, do not be deceived, the extra tax will be used to reduce the deficit to get their friends the bankers off the hook and provide funds for vote-winning tax reductions. Public services will continue to be cut, as this is Tory ideology.
R E Hooper
Stratford upon Avon
Care services for the old face cuts
For a long time the system of care in this country has been an embarrassment. Now once again we are hearing that this is getting worse. ("Crisis in care of elderly as £1bn cuts bite", 18 April). Costs are increasing, services are being cut and people are being denied the care they need because eligibility criteria are being squeezed.
People with dementia are some of the hardest hit. They face a "dementia tax", with families paying tens of thousands of pounds for essential care.
With an ageing population, and 800,000 people now living with dementia in the UK, something has to change. Unless we find a long-term solution to social care we can never have a sustainable NHS. So far the Dilnot Commission has put forward the best solution, recommending that social care costs be capped. Good quality care at a fair price cannot come soon enough.
Chief Executive, Alzheimer's Society, London E1
Stop knocking the Olympics
Now is the time to project positive stories about the London Olympics. There are less than 100 days to go and still the negative headlines appear. The media has an obsession with running down the greatest world event this country has had the privilege to host for many years.
There seems to be a lack of patriotism or national pride among the media which ordinary Londoners like me find baffling. Tube drivers want to blackmail the public and so-called anti-capitalists plan maximum efforts to create chaos. What has the Olympics to do with anti-capitalism? Sportsmen and sportswomen from every corner of the world from rich and poor countries (mostly the latter) will come to our shores to fulfil their once-in-a-lifetime dream and see their flags put on the international scene.
Please lead the way and stop the negativity. After September you can criticise to your heart's content.
A T Noorani
You reported (12 April) from east London about our group of businesses planning to sue Locog, which has neither consulted sufficiently, nor properly thought through proposed road restrictions in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, and around other Olympic venues. How can we be expected to plan properly if we simply do not know which roads will be closed, or when their status may change?
We also await a decision from Hackney Council on possible hours restrictions. The tripartite clash between Locog, Transport for London and local councils is a right dog's dinner. The Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening, has been urged by a fellow government minister to intervene to bring some direction to the chaos.
Managing Director, Essex Foodservice Group, London E9
Rubbish? No, that's art
Thank you, David Lister, for telling us that "art is in the eye of the beholder" (6 April) and that if I say something is art, it is art. When crockery on my dresser had to be arranged just so to please my eye I thought I simply needed to get a life. When I admired the skein of cobwebs lightly covered in dust in the corner I thought only that I had better things to do than upset spiders. But now I say it is art! How do I make money from it please?
South Nutfield, Surrey
Having read your article "Her bright materials" (17 April) I'm convinced that Karla Black is a nice person, but is that a good enough reason to give her an exhibition at Tate Britain?
The comments about her work aren't very persuasive. Children love it; she takes ages to get her colours right; her work is an "escape" from something or other; and it bothers her that "her beautiful work might become old and ugly" so she takes great care to make sure it isn't "decaying". All fine and dandy but still only qualifying it as the work of a rather exclusive interior decorator. So how does it end up in the Tate?
Could it be that she qualifies as a fashionable practitioner in the bouncy castle called postmodernism, where you can have fun all day, playing at being an artist? Has she stayed there, "exploring" materials and ideas? Has she shown no signs of asking what her activity has got to do with what grown-up artists have been doing for the previous few centuries? Yes, on all counts.
Am I the only one who finds it hard to contemplate the idea of another non-exhibition rubbing shoulders with the work of giants such as Picasso, Matisse and Moore?
In her 1968 book Risinghill: Death of a Comprehensive, Leila Berg describes how, in response to residents' complaints about a piece of modern sculpture that had been placed in front of their new council estate, the progressively minded architect brought the sculptor to a meeting with them to explain what the sculpture was all about.
At the end of the meeting one of the tenants said: "We like modern sculpture. We understand very well the satisfaction of using everyday materials that belong to this area as a statement of art. What we're annoyed about is being stuck with a rotten piece like that when the estate up the road has got one that's really good."
Horses killed at Aintree
I'm not sure which race D Peacock was watching (letter, 17 April) but National Hunt jockeys do not to wear spurs. Was there a Western on the other channel perhaps?
Also, injuries to animals are a tragic, and far from inevitable, consequence of National Hunt racing; not, as in the case of dog-fighting, badger-baiting, fox-hunting and cock-fighting, its primary purpose.
Without the Grand National, Cheltenham Festival and the sport of National Hunt racing none of the horses that took part in last Saturday's event would have ever come into being.
Michael R Gordon
In a burst of apparent openness, government ministers and others are offering to publish their income-tax returns, but this is a PR exercise which is totally useless. The whole point of legal tax avoidance is that certain income and capital gains are so arranged that they fall outside the normal UK income tax net. This being so, they do not have to be included in tax returns.
Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire
Deborah Ross is right (If You Ask Me, 17 April). Why fight a battle you've no chance of winning? Besides which, when Armageddon comes, we hoarders of knotted string, used stamps and single earrings will rule the world, as we will be the only ones with plenty of whatever it is that everyone else wishes they hadn't thrown away.
A bit rich
Your correspondent complaining that "The 50 Best Menswear" was not for anybody over 15 (letter, 18 April) has missed the point. Look at the prices: short-sleeved shirt £314; sweater £550; jacket £1,238. The item was clearly aimed at millionaires aged 15 and under.
You report that proposed legislation in Mississippi would "effectively end abortions in the state" (18 April). I don't imagine anyone believes that, though it might end lawful abortions.
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