A study in contrasts – is the way veterans are treated in China and the United States, and the way veterans are allowed to protest, if they wish, for benefits to which they are entitled. Three facts stand out.
First, a comparison of benefits provided to veterans in China and the United States is interesting. In the United States, a veteran is entitled to federal and often state-level benefits. This is as it should be.
American veterans volunteer, defend freedom willingly, and sometimes pay dearly for their commitment to the rest of us. They are provided less than they deserve, but typically receive disability compensation, a post-service lifetime pension (reflecting pay grade, time in service), medical care for physical, mental and emotional requirements (although varying by region), and educational benefits (transferable, but altered in 2018 to 36 months from 45, although with higher monthly checks).
Moreover, American veterans receive preferences in housing and loan guarantees, jobs and job training, small business loans and counseling to burials and memorials. If these seem inconsequential, they are the reverse – highly consequential to the veterans and their families. In America, we care about our veterans, appreciate what they rose to do, and try to remember throughout their lives and ours.
Notably, services earned by American veterans are typically of high quality – higher than one finds in China. Medical care and housing, counseling and educational opportunities are generally of a higher quality, with greater immediate access and consistent over time – even in rural areas.
By contrast, in China, veterans are often subject to the foibles and forgetfulness of a communist government, in which individuals count less than the “collective,” attention to individual veterans more likely to be impersonal and unaccountable than personal and important.
Specifically, although China relies on the armed forces to control its people, periodically suppressing the natural quest for individual liberty, recent reports note “many veterans say they have been left to fend for themselves, on meager pensions” and struggle with “little support.” On one hand, this is not surprising, since communist governments are hardly known for caring about the individual, especially once they have served the state’s purpose.
On the other, China is the second largest economy in the world, and one would tend to expect better. But better is not what Chinese veterans receive, at least by public accounts. Even on paper, their lot is not a happy one. China reports having 57 million retired veterans, not a small constituency. But many are older and retired when “China was poor,” so receive relatively little.
The Chinese government has been slow to respond, and worse, has dispatched troops to beat back protests by thousands of Chinese veterans, hoping only for basic rations – not disability coverage, not quality lifetime pensions, not American quality medical coverage, not transferable educational benefits. They simply want to have enough to survive, having done what American veterans did – served. But no.
So, fact one is that the benefits to which veterans are entitled differ wildly from America to China, and one is left quietly stunned that – having taken a man’s life and freedom away, put him in harm’s way and asked that he risk his life, the Chinese government seem to feel the debt owed is from individual to state, in perpetuity, not the reverse.
Fact two is even more arresting. When Americans are ill at ease with their government, or believe they are owed less of it, or maybe just a fair shake when it comes to veterans, they protest.
Thus, when educational benefits are legally owed but not paid, as in Illinois, under Democrat Governor J.B. Pritzker, who refuses to pay Illinois veterans’ tuition for public college under a 1967 law, the rails rumble. Veterans and the media speak up, and we will see where that comes out – but we are allowed to protest.
Not so in China. This week, after peaceful protests by Chinese veterans seeking just enough to live on – often accompanied by official suppression, individual beatings, media blackouts and intimidation of older veterans, the worst happened. The Chinese government, came down like a hammer on those who once stood and offered their lives to defend the country.
Specifically, “Chinese authorities in the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Shandong … handed down sentences of six years’ imprisonment” to 18 veterans “following mass protests in two cities.” Dozens more were also arrested and sentenced. Not surprisingly in a communist country, “proceedings …were shrouded in secrecy.” The veterans now pay for their “ask” of benefits with prison terms, for “disrupting public order.”