Since we entered the digital age, the phrase “user-friendly” has surrounded us. Remember when you had to insert a crooked steel rod through the front bumper of a car and rotate it ever harder to start the car and sometimes it did recoil! In that era, nobody knew “user-friendly” and every car owner was cranking-happy. It had one big advantage; it prevented kids from taking the car out, hitting someone and as a follow up, the poor dad who, according to the papers, owned the car, spending time behind bars. So, the kids may not have liked it but for the dad the crank-rod was very user-friendly. That is the trouble with this phrase; it is meat for one and poison for another. Take the case of war; it is always user-friendly for the one who has bigger army and bigger weapons. They party, as Putin is doing in Moscow, while the fireworks for the celebration are over Kiev. Mothers of martyred soldiers, ambivalent initially, changed their opinion after receiving a medal and then having coffee with Putin. So, user-friendly is real, though not absolute and varies with the user and the time.

The Party-controlled media in China is very user-friendly, the best in the world. It does not parade anything that is disconcerting to the people in the slightest degree. You watch the TV or read the printed word after having a serious tiff with your boss or your spouse, both meaning the same in case of men. Within 15 minnutes of immersion in the Party-approved news, new or old, you will feel more refreshed than with coffee with its dozen spoonfuls of sugar. UK’s Daily Mail says, “a caramel fudge hot chocolate contains 24 teaspoons of sugar, an eggnog latte has 17 teaspoons, a gingerbread latte contains 12 teaspoons and a sticky toffee latte has 18 teaspoons of sugar.” China’s media gives the same kick to its people without hurting their health, if you do not count mental health. In China, mental health is very user-friendly; it lets the party lock up and inject with drugs anyone who is not user-friendly for the Party. The drugs soon make the person a threat to society and justify the arrest proving that Gandhi was so wrong because in the real world ends justify the means.

China has a National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the law forbids altering its data, making its ouput as true and inviolable as the Gospel. Everything in China is big; the NBS has 100,000 employees and all employees of the state are loyal Party workers. They work hard and when the subject is critical for the Party, they work even more thoroughly. They are still working on the number of dead and injured during the trouble created by the students at Tiananmen Square in 1989. It may take a few more decades before the toll is finally compiled and the effort may be abandoned midway as even the Western world shall lose interest in it by then. Work is going on about computing the self-immolations in Tibet and the people detained in Xinjiang. Yet, we can rest assured that NBS will finally come out with the exact figures, some day. The NBS ensures that if some numbers make people unhappy and thus are not user-friendly, these should be compiled and released only if and when there is no adverse impact on the Happiness Index.

Western governments and their people, obsessed as they are with wealth, give more importance to economic data than to human data. See how they failed to warn the Chinese Communist Party that the one-child policy will result in demographic disaster and now they snigger, “We knew it.” They kept warning about the economic toll of the lockdowns and did not worry about the boost to the Party’s image of being able to lock down. Still, China paid heed to their advice and now they are talking of economic toll of lifting the lockdowns. The Economist is a prestigeous magazine and there is no magazine called “The Humanist” with corresponding clout among intellectuals and policy makers. This magazine repeatedly criticized the lockdowns and even accused Xi Jinping of painting himself in a corner. The Party rose to the challenge and starting relaxing the restrictions and the ungrateful magazine lambasted the Party on December 7, “China is dismantling its zero-covid machine even as the virus appears to be spreading.” On December 8, it carried another warning against opening up, “What is the plan? China is loosening its covid restrictions at great risk. The government has not done enough to prepare.” It said that people will suffer because, freed from lockdowns, they will splurge at the malls causing inflation! Now talk of “Heads I win, tails you lose.” Though the West has been using many Chinese products, it appears that China-made fentanyl has more effect on them.

The West says Chinese data is not trustworthy and so they use alternative means to test its veracity. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis published a report in three parts lamenting that the patriotic NBS data is not reliable and counted the light pixels in night time satellite images. Based on this salt-and-pepper-hair-brained method, they concluded that during 1992-2006, the GDP growth of China was 57 per cent against the official figure of 122 per cent. Obviously, the hawk-eyed Party is not amused with this night-owl approach of seeking the truth in the dark and has declared this Bank as well as the methodology as not user-friendly. Western students cannot recite multiplication tables while the Chinese 7-year olds use air-abacus, that is, they use an abacus when it is not there and these Westerners have the gumption to find fault with user-friendly Chinese statistitics!

The Americans agree that their kids are not as good at numbers as the Chinese kids. Yet, they point out that the world believes America more than it believes China in spite of the fact that the Chinese, particularly those who visit the Western countries with the patriotic aim of charming the policy makers, are very successful in their endeavour. The Westerners pejoratively label this difficult task of winning over the enemy with a smile as “honey trap”. The NBS is compiling the success rate of these charmers but the preliminary results do show that the policy-makers are charmed but somehow that does not make their nations user-friendly for the Chinese Communist Party. Maybe, Hollywood can start a training course for these charmers, picking up from the success of their movies and “The Belles, Riches Et Celebres” in Beijing.

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