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Jul 02

Weng’an Riots: How the state media hurts China

Written by Buxi on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008 at 10:28 pm
Filed under:media | Tags:, , , , ,
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The central government did many things right in response to the Weng’an riots. Beijing’s campaign to treat “sudden incidents” with more openness was also obvious; a full news conference revealing the government’s version less than 2 days after the riot is pretty unheard of by Chinese standards. Reporters from around the country and world flooded into Guizhou without limitation (according to one reporter on site, as many as 140 reporters were present for a banquet last night). Citizen blogger/reporters, like Zola, also reported from the scene. Senior provincial leaders were also sent to Weng’an to provide high-level attention; Shi Zongyuan, the Party chief for Guizhou province, was on the scene leading that first investigation team within two days.

By anyone’s standard, these should all be considered positive steps in the aftermath of this type of crisis. But it didn’t completely work; for many Chinese, online tempers still flared. Here’s one key, representative quote behind the public frustration:

Shi Zongyuan pointed out, “6.28″ incident started for a simple reason, but was used by a small number of people with ulterior motives along with the participation of evil, organized criminals.

This one little sentence has angered many Chinese. No one believes that “organized crime” is enough of an explanation for this riot; as many have said, a mob of Chinese don’t form up and stone a government building without some reason. In the mind of many, this one sentence is proof that the “cover-up” is on, that officials were now out to protect each other, and that the Communist Party had grown increasingly out of touch with Chinese society. Shi Zongyuan has been cursed with every slanderous name known in the Chinese language; many called him the “Shi Tiger” (in reference to the Zhou Tiger).

But what’s remarkable, what’s frustrating, is that this is all a crime inflicted by the state media itself. Here is what a Guizhou reporter, who also attended the meeting on June 30th (between 100 local political leaders) reported on his personal blog (连接):

… local political representatives first gave speeches with all of the standard political fluff: economic development had been disrupted, the great unity that had been established had been disrupted, calls for the government to severely punish the criminals, maintain social stability and harmony …

After listening to the comments of those attending, Shi Zongyuan said: Weng’an county has always had tense relations between cadres and citizens, police and citizens. Weng’an county has repeatedly had violent incidents of robbery, murder, rape which have gone unsolved. The people who live here lack a sense of security. The failures of the county public security ministry has made everyone in the local community angry. He advised that those responsible for county public security should be “dismissed from class”. Hearing this, all of the local political leaders (members of the people’s congress, political consultative conference) clapped in approval.

Shi Zongyuan also said that earlier this year (during the national party congress in Beijing), CCTV interviewed him for a program called “Peaceful Guizhou”. At the time, Shi Zongyuan gave Guizhou’s crime situation 60 points, a barely passing grade. After the incident on 6.28, he can only give Guizhou 50 points.

After this incident, all of the relevant departments in Guizhou must fully investigate this situation. If it isn’t handled properly and occurs again, he will voluntarily petition the central politburo and resign.

None of the Chinese media carried the story in this passage, very few in China has any idea that Shi Zongyuan said these harsh words. Basically, the state media couldn’t break its bad habits: the reports instead tried to obscure negative criticism, downplayed the scale of the problem, tried to distract attention away from the local government… ultimately providing an extremely one-sided interpretation of the events. The cynical and increasingly informed Chinese can sniff out the lies in a second. In providing this Disneyland perspective, the state media has only damaged the credibility of Shi Zongyuan and the government as a whole.

There’s more, from the same blogger:

In my work, I like to discover minor details. When Shi Zongyuan was about to meet with the local representatives, the local prefecture and county party secretaries met first with the representatives and gave them notice, calling on them to behave properly in front of Shi Zongyuan, etc, etc… In reality, everyone has their own opinions on the issue, why should they have been given notice? Shi Zongyuan has brains, as soon as the meeting started, he started reading out loud from a print-out of Internet comments. In these were some very explosive claims; everyone there listened attentively, but a few began to sweat more and more.

Sadly, that’s a fascinating detail that the vast majority of Chinese netizens are completely unaware of. This is the sort of government, attentive to the words and demands of the people, that many Chinese demand and expect… and when it actually happens, we don’t even know about it.

The blogger gives us many other details unavailable elsewhere: he talks about clear evidence that rubber bullets were used, a fact he claims was also hidden from Shi Zongyuan by local officials. He talked about the county government’s rather weak attempts to control what the media would be reporting; he talked about the inconsistent story being forced on them by the local government; he also interviewed a 7-year old boy in the hospital, one of the “rioters”; he talks about positive impressions of the alert armed police, in stark contrast to the lazy local police in riot gear.

I hope all of this is a wake-up call to the right-minded leaders in the Chinese government, like (apparently) Shi Zongyuan. Their righteous actions are being corrupted and perverted by others. When the propaganda ministry is in effect hurting the government, you have to conclude the existing propaganda system is truly broken.

UPDATE (07/03): The state media is now reporting Shi Zongyuan’s harsh criticism of the county-level officials. Two officials have been sacked, and others are being investigated for violation of Party regulations.


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96 Responses to “Weng’an Riots: How the state media hurts China”

  1. MutantJedi Says:

    Fascinating.

    Honestly, I didn’t expect the events to unfold as they did or as quickly as they did. I am especially heartened by the reporter’s blog relating to the actions of Shi Zongyuan.

  2. JD Says:

    The propaganda system is truly broken and doesn’t need fixing. It should be disbanded to allow good information and analysis to flow to the benefit of Chinese society. Freeing jailed journalists would be a good first sign that China wishes to do something about its media and information problem.

  3. jen Says:

    The interesting thing is, the official English media did report on the problems Shi Zongyuan mentioned: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-07/02/content_6811162.htm
    (see last few paragraphs)

  4. jen Says:

    also, did *any* chinese media report on this?

  5. opersai Says:

    Every time I hear or read the Chinese state media like Xinhua or People’s Daily, I just can’t stand them! Especially how they try to beautify all stories, good or bad. It’s so disgustingly superficial! I don’t know why they have to do this! Sometimes, a lot times, its not necessary to beautify the situation. What do I say? Habit?! It’s an awful one.

  6. snow Says:

    oprsai,
    “Habit?! It’s an awful one.”

    It’s the system. I believe many journalists within the system are tired of doing what they have to do. The watch-dog founction of Internet with millioms of netizens has made things change for the better.

  7. MutantJedi Says:

    Interesting article Jen… But it falls short of revealing that there is an understanding that a trusted media is important to social harmony. Trusted government, trusted police force, and trusted media are all needed. A mob is not needed when a calm voice can be heard.

    The problem, snow, with the netizen watch dog is also trust. Rumors spread like wildfire across the net. Accusations about being paid by this or that special interest are shot about.

  8. jen Says:

    i was certainly not claiming that the report can be trusted….i just found it interesting that the official reports in english and chinese were different.

  9. pug_ster Says:

    The problem with Chinese Media CCTV is that it is state owned. The content sucks and news programming is dumb and not believable. They should be privatized but strictly regulated by the government.

  10. Chinawatcher Says:

    @ Buxi

    Wonderful post! Can it be that Buxi is actually veering towards becoming a centrist? :-)

    But seriously, Buxi, I would argue that the Weng’an incident is pretty much a mirror of March 14 in Lhasa. It’s your perception – and, broadly, Chinese perceptions – of the two incidents that are vastly different. Allow me to elaborate, in a dispassionate way. I am open to debating this aspect in civil fashion.

    In both cases, an event (or a succession of events) happened at the local level, which inflamed local populace, who gave vent to their pent-up anger. Sure, a “young general” would argue that the people’s response was in both cases criminal/anti-national, wholly disporportionate to the events that triggered it and so on. In the case of Lhasa, millions of “young generals” did in fact respond in this knee-jerk fashion, without even beginning to understand that there might be a root cause that might explain this explosion of anger.

    But in the case of Weng’an popular perception (not proof, mind you) of a “cover-up” of an everyday crime has inflamed both the people of Weng’an and the broader constituency of Chinese Netizens, including you, to observe that:

    “No one believes that “organized crime” is enough of an explanation for this riot; as many have said, a mob of Chinese don’t form up and stone a government building without some reason. In the mind of many, this one sentence is proof that the “cover-up” is on, that officials were now out to protect each other, and that the Communist Party had grown increasingly out of touch with Chinese society”.

    I disapprove of violence – whether it’s in Weng’an or Tibet. But, purely as a social observer, I can understand why both incidents happened.

    What I find puzzling is that the same Chinese Netizens (“who are on the side of people of Weng’an”, to paraphrase a widely articulated Net sentiment) could not summon up the same empathy towards the people who rioted on Lhasa streets on 14.3, steadfastly refused to address the “root cause” of Tibetan anger, were quick to slam them as traitors and split-tists, and readily embraced the official (and state-media) narrative/propaganda.

    Why could not Chinese Netizens see that in Lhasa, as in Weng’an, “the state media couldn’t break its bad habits: the reports instead tried to obscure negative criticism… and ultimately providing an extremely one-sided interpretation of the events.” Why did they not question the official media narrative, and why did they allow themselves to be shanghai-ed by racial/nationalist chauvinism?

    You celebrate the readiness with which Weng’an was opened up to local and international media; why, then, do you find it hard to acknowledge that in a sealed-off Tibet, it is theoretically possible to “cover up” far worse crimes – and the answer therefore lies in greater openness?

    Do you think you have reason to reflect on March 14 happenings in the light of Weng’an? Do you think that if you did it honestly, it’s possible – just possible – that you will arrive at a different set of responses than you did earlier?

  11. Dave Says:

    @Chinawatcher: Incredibly well said. An excellent and balanced comment.

  12. Wahaha Says:

    @ChinaWatcher

    You comment,

    “Why could not Chinese Netizens see that in Lhasa, as in Weng’an, “the state media couldn’t break its bad habits: the reports instead tried to obscure negative criticism… and ultimately providing an extremely one-sided interpretation of the events.” Why did they not question the official media narrative, and why did they allow themselves to be shanghai-ed by racial/nationalist chauvinism?”

    Answer:

    Lot of Chinese went to Tibet as tourists or workers or businessman. I myself went to Tibet in 1986, the only university in Tibet, Lhasa university, was no bigger than a high school in New York. There was only on main street in Lhasa; the “highway” from Qinghai to Lhasa took two and half days, I had to help the driver to push the car out of mud.

    I went a temple, there were hundred of tibetans there and I was the only Han Chinese there, and one of them showed me the picture of Dalai Lama without any suspicion. They had absolutely no problem practicing their religions.

    Just ask yourself :

    there are less than 50,000 monks in Tibet, and 2.6 million tibetans in Tibet. why was there hardly any harsh complains by ordinary tibetans, almost all of the complains were by monks ?

    Also there are 56 ethnic in China, Han chinese had absolutely no problem with 54 of them, except two ethnic groups in Tibet and XingJiang, and both of them have separatists who are supported by other countries, coincident ?

  13. Buxi Says:

    @Chinawatcher,

    Appreciate the compliment, but don’t get too excited yet. I remain as enthusiastic about China’s long-term economic path as I’ve always been, and I remain as guardedly optimistic as I’ve ever been about China’s domestic reforms under the current Hu/Wen administration.

    I’ve always sympathized with the fate of minorities in China; as someone living as a minority overseas, I’ve always recognized how hard it can be for a minority to preserve culture and maintain equal rights. For years, I’ve worked in various direct ways to help Tibetans in China. I’ve read Wang Lixiong’s writings on the subject since the late ’90s, and I understand much of the logic of what he was writing.

    I can also accept that the Chinese state media was as one-sided in its handling of Lhasa. Many Chinese have been talking about the state media’s “formula” in responding to the story… 1) talk about how things were already stable, 2) get the people immediately involved to call for peace/stability, 3) find a rioter to tearfully explain how they were misled, etc, etc… and that applies as much in Weng’an as it does to Lhasa.

    Those are the similarities, and here’s the difference: the rioters in Guizhou (rightly or wrongly) were rebelling to defend a China that I want to see, while the rioters in Lhasa were rebelling to destroy the China that I want to see.

    We can talk about the failures in the media all day long… and we will do precisely that on this blog, because I personally believe media and law are the two areas within China today that demand immediate reform and improvement… but I’m never going to defend or justify the actions of people who attacked my national flag, who attacked people for being citizens of my nation.

  14. Buxi Says:

    @jen,

    The interesting thing is, the official English media did report on the problems Shi Zongyuan mentioned: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-07/02/content_6811162.htm
    (see last few paragraphs)

    Wow. Thanks for catching that. That’s remarkable… combined with the stories from the last few days, I can only assume that in Beijing, there’s a new English-language editor that’s ready to take more chances. Great for him.

    As far as Chinese news media covering the story… now, it’s time for all us “little generals” to be grateful that the Southern Metropolis group exists, because only it has the capability of restoring some face to our officials. Southern Weekend has come up with an article that repeats many of Shi Zongyuan’s comments:

    http://www.infzm.com/content/14136

    From a simple “civil case”, to eventually fester into a mass riot incident, just as Guizhou Party Secretary Shi Zongyuan said, there are many deeper levels of conflict here. What are the deeper levels of conflict? Shi Zongyuan raised three general types: the first are mining conflicts, the second are migration conflicts, and the third are forced eviction conflicts. These social problems have accumulated over time, and never received proper attention and effective treatment. “The people are not satisfied with our work.”


    Shi Zongyuan said it very well. The problems exposed by the Weng’an incident should stimulate reconsideration. We should use this incident as a mirror, as a force for action. The importance of social stability is something we all fundamentally recognize, but social stability must be based on stability within our hearts; that’s the only reliable form of stability, the only lasting form of stability. And fully protecting the rights of citizens, especially protecting the people’s rights to mutually negotiate over interests, that’s the basis of providing stability in the people’s hearts. This might be the most important lesson we have to draw from the Weng’an incident.

    Good. Let’s turn this around and learn from it.

  15. Buxi Says:

    By the way, the local government’s wall looks to be breaking down… more information from the blogger/reporter on site. Reporters (including those from the state media) are trying to get access to everything, and although the local government is trying typical methods to slow them down, I don’t think that’s going to happen. The local prefecture party secretary apparently broke down in tears while apologizing “to the people”, while claiming he didn’t even cry when his parents passed away… but I doubt that’s going to save him now.

    Oh, and the local public security department’s head has already been dismissed.

  16. snow Says:

    Sure, the state media didn’t break its bad habits in its Lahsa riots reporting. But this does not mean that the two events (3.14 and 6.28) are completely same in nature. For one thing, how can anyone ignore the widely publicized information on the complicated international context and factors that had played crucial roles in instigating and fanning the 3.14 riots? In fact most of those Chinese netizens who condemned 3.14 riots did pay attention to its root causes and were by no means less critical of Chinese state media usual approach to any politically sensitive event.

  17. EugeneZ Says:

    @Chinawatcher,

    Wow! A beautifully written piece you had – I have a lot to learn from you ! Your comment made me think too.

    Just when I was getting ready to address your questions, I notice that Buxi basically said all the key points that was circulating in my head. The main difference is the foreign influence. Namely, the Tibetan independance angle, the Dalai Lama, and the western media’s bent-out-of-shape reporting. Otherwise you made a very compelling case about the similarities.

    One thing the Chinese share regardless where they live – we want to see a united nation state, and we want to see our motherland developed towards modernity.

  18. MutantJedi Says:

    Chinawatcher (and Dave),

    As an armchair general, Lhasa and Weng’an are two very different events with very different causes. Sure, there is a thread linking the events. Absolutely, I agree with the idea that the traction found in Lhasa was helped by a population that felt alienated. But traction only helps get the car going. Something else was pushing it.

    Weng’an reflects a profound distrust in the people who are suppose to be the protectors. The death of a young girl is a difficult tragedy even in the most optimal environment, but explosive in an environment poisoned by distrust. At many points, the story could have been diffused. The simplest would have been complete reporting by Xinhua.

    3.14 was a political maneuver. It was calculated to embarrass the government. It was calculated to kill Han and Hui. The Lhasa riot wasn’t a localized event. It spawned anti-China protests internationally. It even inspired the assault on a wheelchair athlete.

    In my opinion, the lesson of Weng’an is Trust.

    The lesson of Lhasa is a bit harder to get to because of the separatists’ agenda. Let’s strip that away and look at the “traction.” My first thought was cultural identity. For a Canadian, this is a easy path to take. Any Canadian my age has lived through cultural identity crisis galore. After listening to the debate here and elsewhere, I would look more closely at how the government approaches religion, especially where parents want to pass on their religion/culture to their children. This isn’t a Tibet issue alone. It is a national issue.

    But, as pointed out by Buxi and others, the separatists are not looking at solutions as part of China. This is another point of departure between the two events. Nobody in Weng’an is calling for independence.

    The protesters in Weng’an want answers. But answers are not what the separatists want. The protesters in Weng’an hope for a better China. But a better China would counteract the separatist agenda.

    I do agree that reporters should have access to Tibet. In the West, denying access to reporters only serves the interests of the separatists. Nothing perks a reporters interest than the scent of a coverup.

    Curious. Where is the death of girl an everyday crime?

  19. Chinawatcher Says:

    @ Buxi (and others who critiqued my earlier comments)

    Appreciate your sentiments. To respond to some of your points….

    Buxi says: “The rioters in Guizhou (rightly or wrongly) were rebelling to defend a China that I want to see, while the rioters in Lhasa were rebelling to destroy the China that I want to see.”

    How did you come to the conclusion that the March 14 rioters were “rebelling to destroy the China I want to see”? I assume it was because they “attacked my national flag, attacked people for being citizens of my nation” (your words).

    The Guizhou rioters burnt down a police station and/or the local government office – apart from several other official vehicles. All of these represent the majesty of the state as much as the Chinese flag does. But it appears to me that you are more ready to accept these as manifestations of genuine grievance merely because it was perpetrated by “one of us”, not by an “other” (namely Tibetan, whose political cause has international supporters).

    To put it differently, would your empathetic sentiments towards the Guizhou rioters change if you learnt, for instance, that in the heat of the moment, some of them did in fact burn a Chinese flag? Would all their “legitimate grievance” amount to nothing – if they had “burnt my national flag”?

    @ MutantJedi
    Sure, there are Tibetan separatists, and I can understand that a whole lot of “young generals” (and armchair generals :-) ) don’t care for their cause. Yet, I’m not so easily convinced that March 14 itself was a carefully choreographed act of political intrigue.

    To my mind, the most proximate reason for the March 14 riots were reports (rumours?) that Tibetan monks, who had been demonstrating peacefully (even if they were observing the anniversary of the 1959 uprising, which might technically be considered an act of political dissent/act of high treason), had been beaten up / shot at by police.

    That’s similar (in terms of proximate circumstances) to Guizhou, where the local people were inflamed following reports (rumours?) that a 15-year-old girl had been raped and killed, and that two of the alleged killers were related to party leaders.

    If you look beyond the proximate reasons, in Lhasa it could be, perhaps, a perception of political and cultural subjugation. In Guizhou it was unchecked lawlessness / mining conflicts / migration conflicts / what have you.

    My bigger point: I’m not arguing that Weng’an and Lhasa are identical, I’m only saying that there’s more in common between them than many of us choose to acknowledge. It just strikes me as odd that seemingly reasonable people, who see the failings of the state apparatus and instruments of civil society (including the media) and take the “people’s side” in one instance can be so totally un-empathetic in the other case.

    @ Wahaha
    I too have travelled to Tibet (in 2006). And I too have met Tibetans who have (surreptitiously) flashed me pictures of the Dalai Lama. But I also met other Tibetans who told me they were not allowed to openly display images of the Dalai Lama.

    I met ordinary Tibetans who complained bitterly about Chinese “occupation.” But, then again, I also met Tibetans who said they had benefited greatly from the economic boom that Chinese investments had brought. I therefore know that the sweeping generalisations that you make – that “Tibetans had absolutely no problem practicing their religions” or “Only monks are complaining, ordinary Tibetans aren’t” – aren’t true, and Tibetan civil society is much more many-layered than you would have me believe. (If the monks feel particularly persecuted, it’s probably because they are subjected to the “patriotic education campaign” more rigorously than ordinary folks.)

    ‘Nuff said. This is my last post on this thread – but I’ll be back to follow the debate. Thanks for the space.

  20. CLC Says:

    @Chinawatcher

    You did not mention one major difference between the two riots. Lhasa rioters attacked innocent civilians while Guizhou rioters did not. Had Guizhou rioter gone on a rampage to loot schools and hospitals, burn down shops, kill migrant workers, Chinese netziens would not have been sympathetic to them.

  21. MutantJedi Says:

    Yes, as Weng’an demonstrates, the state media is so broken that it should come with a warning label “Spin at Your Own Risk!”

  22. yo Says:

    Great piece.

    To tell you the truth, I’m a bit confused with the structure of the hierarchy. Can someone provide a visual aid (like some sort of tree) to show the distinctions/barriers between the local governments and higher ups?

    As for the China Daily thing that Jen brought up, on the one hand, I’m surprised, but on the other hand not so much. My impression was for some ODD reason, they have more latitude in their stories then their counterparts. My GOD, papers like the people’s daily, as Opersai said, are so superficial. I mean some of the “sensitive” stories take up about a couple of vague sentences, which begs the question why the hell did they bother to write it up in the first place.

  23. Wahaha Says:

    Chinawater,

    I was talking about the HARSH complains by tibetans, meaning the complains about freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the words that appeared million times on west media, not other complains like in Weng’an.

    I never, never read on west media a complain by a tibetan farmer about how he/she had trouble to choose the religion or practice the religion. There are other complains, mostly about that Han chinese hold better positions and are paid better, or some Han chinese take away their traditional business (by bringing goods from inland), but this is not suppression, it is cuz the education level of tibetans are too low to hold the positions. I mentioned the Lhasa university was no bigger than a high school in New York, there are very few “good” jobs that Tibetans are capable of NOW, but hopefully in the future, it will change.

    About that Tibetans are not allowed to show DL picture publiclly, I dont see anything wrong. Who dare to publicly show Bin Laden’s picture in US ? If DL picture was allowed to be shown publicly, you bet that there will be riots two or three times every week by those monks in Tibet.

    About “patriotic education campaign”, I think this is not clever idea by chinese government. If they think it is necessary, they should hide it in histroy textbooks, in movie theaters, in TV, like attacks on Chinese government by west media, not so explicitly.

  24. Buxi Says:

    The latest news today: Xinhua is now giving us the fully harsh version of the story in Chinese. The two senior heads of the county public security ministry are being dismissed on advice of Shi Zongyuan. All of the senior officials in the county will be investigated for violations of Party regulations, which are more strict than criminal law if fully enforced.

    http://news.qq.com/a/20080703/003398.htm

    During the situation update conference organized by the Guizhou province government, party secretary Shi Zongyuan pointed out that the trigger for this incident, on the surface, was the death of Li Shufen. But the deeper reason is that Weng’an county in the development of mining resources, resettling migrants, and the demolition of structures violated the interests of the people.

    And in handling these conflicts and mass incidents, some officials were crude, simplistic, even going far as casually using police force. Their work was poor and inadequate, and whenever there was a problem, they pushed the public security forces to the front lines. The people had complaints, and this not only led to tensions between the people and the masses, but also people and the police.

    In addition, some government leaders and police have over a long period of time been derelict in their duties; they didn’t pay close attention to or confront organized crime and those response for other serious crimes, they ignored the people’s complaints about public security. The crime rate was high, while successfully resolved cases were low, leading to a poor public security environment. The people’s reaction to this situation has been extremely intense.

    Cheers to the Hu/Wen administration for the right move. Glad to see that the “point” of this blog post is made meaningless by the new harsh, candid discussions in the press. There’s no good reason for anyone to protect the incompetents and corrupt officials that made this confrontation possible.

    Like Mao said, trust the people, rely on the people, motivate the people.

  25. Buxi Says:

    @Chinawatcher,

    First of all, let me clarify and say that even if I sympathize with the people of Guizhou, and am excited to see government officials punished for their roles in allowing this to happen… I believe any rioter, any where, should face full legal consequences for what they did. Those behind the riots must be prosecuted.

    To put it differently, would your empathetic sentiments towards the Guizhou rioters change if you learnt, for instance, that in the heat of the moment, some of them did in fact burn a Chinese flag? Would all their “legitimate grievance” amount to nothing – if they had “burnt my national flag”?

    There have always been two different issues in Lhasa: 1) what I would call “legitimate grievances”, and 2) the specific political cause of a “Free Tibet”. (And you can’t ignore the obvious causal link between the political cause of a Free Tibet, and the government’s oppression leading to these legitimate grievances.)

    So, “legitimate grievances” absolutely should be addressed… like concerns about being marginalized economically, or even dislike for a Communist Party secretary who talks about the Communist Party being the Tibetan people’s “Buddha”. You’ll have to dig into another blog (PKD) to see my comments on 3/14; I was very critical of the government for having failed to address some of these grievances in previous years.

    But the other issue behind Lhasa is “Free Tibet”. I think it was Nimrod that said it well; if it was “Freedom in Tibet”, I’d have been more sympathetic… but we’re not children, and we know exactly what the “Free Tibet” campaign itself signifies.

    The Chinese national flag is both a symbol of the government and of the country, which are absolutely not the same thing. In Lhasa and Tibetan regions, as rioters chanted “Chinese out of Tibet” and “Tibet for Tibetans”, they were assaulting the country. In Guizhou, they were assaulting the government. Governments will always come and go depending on how well they do their jobs, but I have no intention of supporting those looking to destroy the country.

  26. JD Says:

    Even I can top Mao’s wisdom. How about: trust the people, rely on the people, and let them vote for good government so they don’t have to burn police stations to seek justice for rapists and murderers.

  27. Buxi Says:

    @JD,

    Right, because in countries where the people can vote, they never need to burn government buildings.

    For more discussions on the relative merits of democracy, I’d suggest you stay focused on one of the other numerous threads on that topic.

  28. yo Says:

    ChinaWatcher,
    In regards to your “bigger point” in #19.

    You make an interesting point. But as you said, you make the assumption that the Lhasa riots weren’t planned which is the pretext of your point. However, I do not believe that many people who are “sympathetic to china” in this blog absolved blame from the local tar government, but they can speak for themselves. My opinion is close to what MutantJedi said (#18) but slightly different. Looking at the evidence, I believe there was planning and political motivations behind the riots and other protests.

    However, I would say there were ALSO aspects that were from people trying to vent out some rage because of some personal grievances(e.g. burning of a Mosque, what does Islam have to do with the government).

    Now, IMO, that aspect is lost because of the political maneuvering and actions from factions within Dharmsala and that is where the difference is from Wengan for me. I said this earlier in another post and I’ll say it again, I really disagree with the actions of Dharmsala when every issue/problem in the TAR is framed with their own political purposes(“I don’t like the way my Han barber cuts my hair, we need independence!”). I feel such myopic views are counterproductive because in fact, social ills and flaws in the TAR happen everywhere in China.

  29. somebody Says:

    I think people shouldn’t try to mix everything together, I think that most people don’t even know anything from that area and try to make sense of all of these stuff. Maybe it is best people not involve or not from these be patient and let everything these surface before just jump toward all of these things about what is right and wrong.

  30. somebody Says:

    Can you actually believe these blog that can hold key information, that is not true, there is no way you can varify anything right now, let along form a conclusion!

  31. Qrs Says:

    Wow, is that Mao, is he just misquoting Sun Yat-sen’s “Three Principles of the People (民族主义,民权主义,民生主义— ‘Government by the people, government power for the people, government for the people’) ?

    As for the main point of the original post, that ‘entral government did many things right’ while the media is ‘resorting to bad habits’, it seems like too confused and fluid of a situation to claim that progress has been made. I cite Roland @ EastSouthWestNorth:
    “In the case of the Weng’an mass incident, the major portals were deleting the related posts as quickly as possible. At Tianya Forum, it was estimated that a Weng’an-related post has an average lifetime of 15 seconds before being deleted by the administrators. That was supposed to be a record speed. The same thing was happening at Sina.com, Sohu.com, Baidu, etc.”

    He then goes on to point out:
    “So this was building massive dams all over the map which builds up a tremendous pressure. Where was the pressure release point? You may be amazed that it was over at the Xinhua Forum. The webmasters posted the official Xinhua news story on the forum. That does not help in itself because Chinese netizens think that this Xinhua story was vague and misleading. However, the webmasters allowed the comments to run freely. This meant that the Xinhua posts became the meeting points of all those who want to talk about the Weng’an incident but could not do so elsewhere. Although that post did not contain any news information (such as photos and videos), it was a place for people to vent their outrage. As a result, Xinhua got a record-setting number of visitors who were very appreciative. Is this the plan for the future? You’ll find out at the next mass incident (and there will be many).”
    http://zonaeuropa.com/20080701_1.htm

    So, I’m with Roland on this one– time will tell if things have changed for the better. Has the Party changed anything, or is Shi Zongyuan just a single upright and conscientious official? Is the media response anything but contradictory at best? Only time will tell. For now though, we’re all reduced to looking and hoping for positive patterns to emerge. Going beyond that is really just putting the cart before the horse.

  32. Qrs Says:

    BTW, – just as an aside- I happen to be listening to Hu Zhongxin’s 胡忠信 program on BCC in Taiwan right now, and he’s talking about the failure of Chinese intellectuals since Tiananmen 1989.

    He pinpoints a key reason for this as being that Chinese intellectuals have generally accepted the Party’s framework that puts development and social stability first and social justice last (or at least after development and stability concerns.) As a result he maintains that Chinese intellectuals have become unable to maintain any useful sort of critical distance from this framework.

    I don’t know if Hu is right or wrong about that, it’s worth debating. But seeing how questions of social justice are addressed will as always remain interesting. More patterns to watch for… though of course a systematic change in the legal realm and in the relationship between the Party and the People would render all of that moot. That’s what I’m hoping for.

  33. Nimrod Says:

    Qrs wrote:

    Has the Party changed anything, or is Shi Zongyuan just a single upright and conscientious official?
    +++++
    Interesting question. The thing is, there are upright and conscientious officials, certainly not just one. They just need to be unleashed to do their work. The Party doesn’t need to “make” any changes so much as somebody with authority needs to set the direction of the winds right. If you hear of more and more upright and conscientious officials speaking and acting frankly, that’s a sign of change. Of course that by itself is not enough but it should get the ball rolling.

  34. somebody Says:

    Alot of people here act as if you are god of understanding of China or something, I don’t think there are many or even any of you even understand currently what China is like. How do you even know if it is like this or something you hear had mislead you about what China is like, I don’t think there can be many people form any good understand of China than the leader that is currently leading China. I don’t think people should just jump to conclusion of the government or the media, maybe there are things that not understand easy by most people.

    I am not saying that they are not wrong or cannot do any wrong or anything. Sure some media freedom and elected leaders can really help making the connection between the government and the people. That I been in the US for sometime and I do feel there is a lack of connection between China’s leader and its people. I just pray for the best in the future.

  35. Qrs Says:

    Maybe Shi Zongyuan is the new Hai Rui. But you’ve still got a million Yang Ruis to deal with.
    What’s needed is a change of the entire system specifically in order to ensure comprehensive and meaningful change, so that honest and upright officials are promoted and the corrupt weeded out. The need seems clear enough, but I don’t hear that case being made here or elsewhere, and I find that very sad.

  36. JD Says:

    Buxi, I’m uncertain about your tendency to defend the status quo in China through comparison to the worst situations abroad. That’s setting the bar very low. Your ambitions should be higher.

    Still, it’s obvious that in Wengan the only positive developments (to take an optimistic perspective) have come from disobedience from the populace, whether by action in the streets or by posting – just a bit faster than they can be deleted – unacceptable commentary on line. Overall, that’s a very poor way to encourage stability yet in this situation there was no other option available to obtain results.

    A legitimized voting process wouldn’t require such acts of disobedience. If there were any accountability in the system, the problems in Wengan could have been addressed before they reached the present sorry state. There’s no top-down authority that can set the direction of the wind straight but trusting the perspective of the majority through a bottom-up authority pays big dividends.

    Trust the people, rely on the people. There is no more certain way of ensuring responsiveness of ruling officials to the people than through a vote.

  37. Charles Liu Says:

    Not sure if this is relevant to discussion, but here’s the latest autopsy result in this case:

    http://hk.news.yahoo.com/080703/60/2wqiy.html

    The parents as well as a village elder has witnessed the 3rd autopsy. Cause of death was drowning, and the victim was sexually assulted.

  38. Buxi Says:

    @Charles Liu,

    Woah woah woah, I think you meant to say the victim was not sexually assaulted! Very important word. :)

    Other Chinese news reports (eyewitness was a reporter from Caijing) mention the autopsy was conducted openly in the village (kind of a ghastly scene) where the family resides, a long distance from the county town via almost inaccessible roads.

  39. Charles Liu Says:

    Yeah, missing the “not”. So why was there a riot? I don’t think you can blame this on the media. Again I think the problem of citizenship and China’s “roadside news” snowballing rumors had a lot to do with it.

  40. Buxi Says:

    @Qrs,

    We talked about Roland’s post, and the online media in an earlier thread here. I was also surprised at how open/unfettered the discussion on the Strong Country online forum (run by the People’s Daily) has been so far… look back at the first entry on Weng’an we did here.

    No one knows if/when these reforms will be maintained. After the cap was lifted off of the discussion, the sort of slander on Strong Country and Xinhua forums was all uniformly angry, mostly unreasonable, and really not a promising demonstration of what quality Internet discussion should be. (Unlike Fool’s Mountain, I mean.) But when you look at the longer trend, it’s all really pretty positive.

    What’s needed is a change of the entire system specifically in order to ensure comprehensive and meaningful change, so that honest and upright officials are promoted and the corrupt weeded out. The need seems clear enough, but I don’t hear that case being made here or elsewhere, and I find that very sad.

    As far as Shi Zongyuan, well, who knows? It’s interesting that he was so decisive, and it’s especially great that he used Internet postings as a way of confronting local officials. But who knows whether he’s Hai Rui or not…?

    As far as a comprehensive and meaningful change, I’m in favor of the idea of “promoting honest/upright officials and weeding out the corrupt”. So… how do you do it? What are the specifics of what you’re proposing? How do you find a honest/upright official in Weng’an today, and how do you guarantee that he/she will stay honest/upright, and how do you distinguish between the truly honest/upright and the false honest/upright?

    That’s the real question.

  41. Buxi Says:

    @Qrs,

    Oh, and 相信人民,发动人民,团结人民,依靠人民 has been a core part of Communist/Mao ideology since the 1930s. To be honest, I recommend Mao’s little red book as reading material for anyone interested in learning what he actually said.

    The man didn’t rule through terror alone… even today, maybe I should say especially today, he’s remembered fondly in the hearts of many Chinese.

  42. Buxi Says:

    @JD,

    Buxi, I’m uncertain about your tendency to defend the status quo in China through comparison to the worst situations abroad. That’s setting the bar very low. Your ambitions should be higher.

    I highly question the use of the word “ambition”. Any sort of political reform is, in my opinion, equivalent to major surgery; it might be absolutely necessary to saving the patient, but it might also kill (or at least severely wound) the patient.

    I can’t imagine a surgeon walking into my hospital room and telling me: “I have a great operation in mind for you. Now, sure… every other patient who’s had this operation in the last 50 years has done very poorly, and in fact the guy lying next to you is in critical condition… but you should be ambitious. Don’t think too much about the bad examples.”

    Maybe Mongolia is a “worst” example, and not a fair comparison. So, help me out. I’ve already repeated this challenge numerous times. Where are the democracies with a comparable level of economic/social development, that can act as a positive role-model for China? Are there any successful patients within the last 50 years? Even one?

  43. Qrs Says:

    Buxi: you miss my point about Mao vs. Sun entirely– I am suggesting (in a sarcastic way) that maybe Sun was more on target than Mao. Instead of ‘relying’ on the people, give the power to the people.

    As for “the man didn’t rule through terror alone” I can only guess that you mean 70% “Quotations of Chairman Mao” and 30% terror. Isn’t that the official formulation?

    My suggestion for getting the corrupt out is to relinquish the Party monopoly on power and have them compete with other political parties in the marketplace of ideas. That might change things a little. And while you’re at it, establish a professional civil service where hydrologists work only in the bureau or land management or the like.

  44. JD Says:

    Buxi, the surgery analogy isn’t very helpful but yes ambition is the right word for reform. It’s odd that the frame of discussion in China is often “yes, we have terrible problems, but other’s are worse so the status quo is fine”. Are China’s carmakers trying to build the world’s worst cars? Do China’s airlines think safety is only somewhat important? Of course not. Why is politics different?

    Despite reform, China remains relatively poor (and its new wealth highly concentrated) but it is an advanced civilization. It has high technology, huge financial resources, amazing human capital, and broad social cohesion. It’s politics which lets it down and where reforms are not keeping apace. That’s not something to celebrate.

    Human rights, rule of law, and – yes – democracy are the hallmarks of the globe’s most successful countries. Nobody is perfect, but all countries need a high level of ambition to better human development. China’s no exception and much more can be done.

  45. Buxi Says:

    @JD,

    Buxi, the surgery analogy isn’t very helpful but yes ambition is the right word for reform. It’s odd that the frame of discussion in China is often “yes, we have terrible problems, but other’s are worse so the status quo is fine”. Are China’s carmakers trying to build the world’s worst cars? Do China’s airlines think safety is only somewhat important? Of course not. Why is politics different?

    I think surgery is a better analogy than these engineering projects. What happens if a Chinese automaker launches a product line that fails? Usually, not much; the company itself probably wouldn’t even fail, it’s just back to the drawing board. When you look at history, what happens when *political reform* fails or struggles? You end up with political coups, election violence, civil war… often in a constant cycle that’s almost impossible for the country itself to break out of.

    Your characterization of my point of view is completely wrong. It’s not an issue of accepting the status quo because “others” have it worse… it’s accepting the status quo because EVERYONE else has it worse. Do you understand the scale of what I’m saying? I look at every other developing democracy on the planet within the last 50 years, and I see none of them as being a desirable model to be emulated, I see none of them as being examples of a superior path to where China currently sits.

    The point here, is that the only successful cure proven to work is being patient and focus on building the proper foundation and conditions for truly revolutionary political reforms. Youzi and BMY talked about this earlier; Youzi would describe my position as “learning to swim before jumping in the water”… I think it’s different. I see it as a matter of “being fit before learning to swim”.

    If you want to talk about long-term goals, absolutely, ambition is the right word and attitude. But there’s ambition as a direction to aspire to, and then there’s recklessness and pragmatism. China’s carmakers have always been ambitious, and would love to own the world market. But without the right technology and manufacturing base, it could never launch a competitive hybrid/SUV/anything; it’s still 5-10 years away from even trying to launch a competing product. You mention airlines… China has an incredibly ambitious plan to build large jets, but even that simple project (been done in the West for more than 60 years) is on a minimum 20 year timeline. In other words, ambition as long-term direction makes absolute sense, but not for talking about what’s happening today.

    You criticizing the Communist Party for today’s corruption is, in my opinion, is similar to criticizing Chery for not building an inexpensive performance sports car. That’s not to say both Chery and the Communist Party couldn’t (and shouldn’t) do better, but it’s important to recognize that it’s not just a lack of desire.

  46. Nimrod Says:

    Qrs wrote:

    My suggestion for getting the corrupt out is to relinquish the Party monopoly on power and have them compete with other political parties in the marketplace of ideas.
    +++++
    Having competing ideas is good, but why necessarily at the level of parties? I’m serious. I never get what’s so great about lumping ideas randomly into very few (say, two) pre-determined “happy meals”. You can have two parties that rarely generate any new ideas like the US that relies on “third parties” (that never win elections) and thinktanks for that. So why can’t you have zero (or one) party that has internal debates about policy informed by its thinktanks?

    Clearly this isn’t about the marketplace of ideas at all. The ideas are there. It’s the accountability that we need, and that means holding individual party members accountable, not having more parties.

  47. JD Says:

    China has an advanced civilization yet is 105th in the world in terms of GDP per capita and 81st on the human development index. I’m sure everybody would like to do better, including the Communist Party.

    Luckily, Chery can benchmark itself against other Chinese auto manufacturers domestically as well as those abroad. Competition makes it stronger and it will soon produce cars of global quality, if it doesn’t do so already.

    Politically, there’s no point of comparison and not even good info on the performance of the existing machine. Apparently riots are the only indicator of a serious problem. How does that promote stability and harmony? If you want to look for a medical example it’s like telling someone “this is the best medicine in the world, but you can’t have it because you’re too sick. Try this instead, it doesn’t work but its what we always give patients before they die”.

    In terms of timeframe, sure you can’t have it all at once. But let’s see the plan. Now, permanent media reform, at X intervals specific political reforms culminating in a popular endorsement. What’s wrong with discussing it openly and trying to find good ideas from the people?

  48. demin Says:

    I never understand why democracy (whatever it is) is an automatical solution to problems. Somebody can explain where does this theory (or ‘truth’) come from? For me, it is only a symptom of a good society. By far, the western kind of democracy in general seems to be the most recognized version of that tymptom.

    @JD,
    Nobody is saying the status quo is fine. In contrast, everybody, even a farmer in remote area of China believes that China is going to change. And also, If you focus on “problems” in developing countries, ‘democracy’, with its institutional arrangements, would actually ’cause’ problems, while of course solving ones. China has gone a long way to learn that ideology doesn’t serve everything. And anything could become an ideology, if it is out of touch of real problems. JD, I believe nobody here would reject democracy or freedom. Some people, like me, are just very concerned about how problems could really be solved. You should help us see ‘how’, instead of just claiming that democracy ‘could’ somehow immediately solve such amount of problems.

  49. Charles Liu Says:

    JD nobody’s perfect. After US-installed Shah of Iran was overthrown, Ronald Regagan gave chemical weapon to Saddam to check Iran. Then George HW Bush had a Kuwaiti Princess lie in front of Congress to get the first gulf war going (while he sent Iraq ambassador April Glasby to give Saddam the “green light”.) George W Bush made up the WMD thing to invade Iraq, as we all have witnessed.

    All this is bigger deal than a mob torching police station on a “roadside news” rumor – none of the people linked to the case have connection with any party offical, and 3 autopsy have confirmed the girl was NOT sexually assulted.

  50. CRT Says:

    Buxi,

    I have enjoyed reading your insightful comments. Clearly, you’ve given these issues much thought.

    Your comments about the difficult transition to democracy in the last 50 years…well I fail to see the problems with:
    1. South Korea
    2. Taiwan

    Both of them were ruled by military dictatorships, and both have made strong transitions to democracy without tearing the nations apart. In both cases, the resulting democracies are nations that are strong industrial powers. Although both have noisy public protests, so what? I would characterize both as more stable and more prosperous than today’s China.

    Finally, even if one were to concede that the transition to democracy in countries as large as China in the last 50 years has not worked so well, why should China pick a model to emulate? Why does China always have to follow someone else’s model?

    Why not lead the way and show the rest of the world how to do it?

    Those are serious questions.

    Thanks again for providing this forum.

  51. JD Says:

    Demin, resolving problems first and foremost requires good information. China’s penchant for information control and disinformation is an outdated and destructive practice. For example, does the state have any credibility in saying the girl in Wengan was not raped? Of course, it does not. The media should be allowed to perform a true watchdog function and normal citizens should be allowed to speak their minds and share information without being charged with subversion or labelled as dissenters.

    With better information will come a better understanding of the challenges and better ideas. Instead of government being a reactionary force against information control and transparency, it should be a leader in promoting it.

    Democracy has numerous advantages though of course is neither simple nor can it be instantly implemented. More can be done, however, and a feasible plan can be considered. Democracy isn’t a solution, I would argue, but a secure and supporting foundation for a more stable society. There is also inherent value in improving the lives of citizens through participation in the political process.

    In terms of transition to democracy, what about the examples of Chile, Argentina, Brazil? All three have democratized in recent memory.

  52. Bob Says:

    Did you guys see the latest news on wenxuecity? Both the party and the civilian leaders of Weng’an county were sacked.

    There is also new detail coming out of the investigation concerning the death of the girl, as you can read from this link:
    http://news.wenxuecity.com/messages/200807/news-gb2312-644533.html

    I am now leaning more towards the “official” (whatever that means) reports.

  53. MM Says:

    Just wanted to copy someone’s post online on this riot that I thought relates to the issues with respect to the discussion of the role of media in China and more perhaps. But the author of this post didn’t want it to be posted elsewhere thus the link below:
    http://www.50mm.cn/post/342/#blogcomment213205

  54. Buxi Says:

    @CRT,

    Your comments about the difficult transition to democracy in the last 50 years…well I fail to see the problems with:
    1. South Korea
    2. Taiwan

    Thanks for your compliment! I have thought about these topics over the years, but I try to maintain an open mind. My point, after all, is about being pragmatic and practical. So, I personally am always monitoring the status of development in countries like Mongolia, India, and Vietnam. (Vietnam is very interesting because, despite the fact it’s still a Communist “dictatorship by the people”, it has over the last 2-3 years implemented a number of political reforms within the Party itself.) If other successful models show up, I hope I (and China) will have the wisdom to recognize it.

    As far as Taiwan/South Korea, I’ve talked about both of these examples repeatedly. I absolutely agree with you that they have made the transition into successful democracies. These two are critical for thinking about mainland China, I think… culturally and politically (and now economically), we’re very similar. And these two are why I think China should be patient.

    If you look at the wealth and education levels in South Korea (which become a democracy ~1990) and Taiwan (also around 1990-1996)… they’re approximately 3-6 times higher than where mainland China is today. (South Korea gdp per capita was ~$7000, Taiwan was ~$12000.) When mainland China reaches a similar level of development, then I think China will be ready for a similar type of reform.

  55. Buxi Says:

    @JD,

    In terms of transition to democracy, what about the examples of Chile, Argentina, Brazil? All three have democratized in recent memory.

    All three of these countries have GDP per capita about 3+ times that of China. I think their relative success (and I stress relative) just confirms that patience for another 10-15 years, when China’s GDP per capita will approach their levels, is the right thing. 10+ years ago, all three strugged tremendously with coups + election violence.

    Even so, these countries are still struggling. All have horrible wealth distribution problems (worse than that in China), and higher relative poverty rates. Economic growth is significantly slower. Brazil is pretty infamous for the violence and poverty in its slums, where random killings are a daily part of life.

  56. Buxi Says:

    @Bob,

    Interesting, I hadn’t seen that story yet. (Been busy with family.) Just quick catchup for others, (independent) reporters have been able to get in touch with the boys accused of rape, and they’ve filled in the gaps. Just goes to show again how open media is helping the government make its point.

    By the way, any interest in writing entries for the blog…? Translate an article you find interesting, etc, etc?

  57. perspectivehere Says:

    @JD

    “China has an advanced civilization yet is 105th in the world in terms of GDP per capita and 81st on the human development index. I’m sure everybody would like to do better, including the Communist Party.”

    Where was China on the GDP per capita rankings 30 years ago when the economic reforms started? The reforms have lifted 300 million people out of poverty, when these people can start thinking about how to build a better society, and get a legal education so they can write better legislation and build better legal institutions.

    Compare that with the Philippines, a vibrant democracy with free press (except where the reporters are killed by who-knows-who), 46% of the population lived on less than $2 a day in 2001.

    http://www.unsiap.or.jp/participants_work/cos03_homepages/group8/philippines.htm

    How capable are people living on less than $2 a day of exercising democratic rights?

    Frankly, no one expects the poverty situation in the Philippines to change in the next 10 years.

    On the other hand, is there a likelihood that China will continue to lift an increasingly number of its population out of poverty in the next 10 years? If the last 30 years is a guide to the future, then yes.

    Maslow’s hierarchy of needs points to the physiological needs as having to be met first, followed by safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization, in that order.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslows_hierarchy_of_needs

    The kind of democracy you’re talking about is at the top of the pyramid, where people complain if they can’t access their favorite blog on their wireless broadband because of The Great Firewall.

    Call me a socialist, but to me, that need is much less of a priority than getting jobs for the vast migrant worker population, or building roads to rural areas, or hospitals, or feeding the rural poor.

    I think a good government should help the poorest of the poor before it addresses the needs of the well-off. If the Chinese government thinks the way to accomplish that is to keep a tight lid on dissent, and they’ve done a good job of improving wealth of the population overall while also spreading the wealth so far (what after all are fuel subsidies and restrictions on fuel prices – putting people’s needs for cheap fuel over oil company profits) who am I to be so quick to say that it’s wrong?

    Unfortunately, the system they have doesn’t work so well (corrupt and insufficiently skilled officials), but a wholesale destruction of the existing system in favor of a democratic system which has failed to lift a single developing country’s people out of poverty in any other Asian countries is hardly the right answer.

    Is democracy always better? Where’s the proof of that, or is it just ideology that we’ve been indoctrinated to believe?

    Besides, the CCP is looking at democracy. See http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20080101faessay87101/john-l-thornton/long-time-coming.html.

    On the transition to democracy point, I completely agree with Buxi that Taiwan forms the best example of a transition from war-ravaged (and economically poor) dictatorship to middle-class society to democracy.

    I believe that Chinese people want democracy, but they are also practical enough to realize that democracy will not satisfy the needs of the whole population (again back to Maslow) unless they follow the same path that Taiwan and Korea took.

    In Japan (whose history I admittedly understand less of), democratization occurred under American disarmament and occupation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupation_of_Japan#Democratization

    But it comes with some untidy realities, like the tendency of the occupying power to brutally subjugate the population, e.g.:

    “Negative Impact of the Occupation
    Rapes
    The dehumanization of the Japanese people during the war, as well as several other factors, led to thousands of rapes[20] by US military personnel during the years of the Occupation.

    These incidents were particularly numerous during the early years. In the first 10 days of the occupation, over one thousand rapes were committed in Kanagawa prefecture alone.[21] An Okinawan historian estimates that over 10,000 rape incidents occurred within a three month period, many of them in the private homes of the victims.[22] According to John W. Dower, there were around 40 reported rapes a day until the spring of 1946, when the figures rose to over 300 reported rapes a day due to the criminalization of prostitution.”

    We in the U.S. often look to the model of Japan as a successful democratization via occuption, to be applied to Iraq and other places.

    Frankly until I googled this just now, I had not heard about the rapes. Dumb, idealistic American I am, we’re the good guys dammit! It must not be true. Must be propaganda. Or these were just some bad apples, because our intentions are good. Democracy is worth it, right?

    Sorry to be so bleak-sounding, and this is not meant to be an attack on you personally, but my government’s noble efforts to bring democracy to Iraq is generating too much cognitive dissonance for me right now.

  58. yo Says:

    Buxi, or anyone else,

    I’m not sure if it’s mentioned in this thread or another, but did anyone find the Wengan story in “western” sources. I haven’t seen it on the U.S. outlets like MSNBC or CNN. Just curious, thanks.

  59. JD Says:

    Take a look at the relative numbers and you’ll see that China’s performance has been less amazing than it’s giving itself credit for. The Philippines is growing at about 8% so yeah, it’s somewhat slower than the 9% in India and 9% in China. Number 105 is nothing to celebrate and no big improvement over 1950 or 1975. Relative to many others, it’s actually worse.

    China’s poverty stats aren’t so spectacular either. Moving from $1 to $2 per day fits an arbitrary definition, but let’s be honest, it’s still dirt poor. And of course the number lifted out of poverty was recently estimated down substantially! And who do you think pays the worse price for environmental degradation (particularly air and water) and inflation? So let’s not be simplistic because it’s not the poor or even the middle class who are driving reforms and reaping the major rewards. It’s the folks in charge and their kids.

    I take the references to Maslow’s hierarchy as an attempt to be facetious and not worthy of serious comment. Is a majority of China’s population really incapable of understanding and making a decision on a relatively straight-forward concept? Of course not. Democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s better than a paternalistic system which imposes important decisions to the benefit of the ruling elite. Mainland China really has some work to do compared to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Mongolia, Nepal. In contrast, it’s doing very well compared to North Korea.

    Buxi, it seems you’re just against democracy because you’re worried that popular support isn’t on your side. There’s a window of opportunity now to make some real change, but China’s shooting itself in the foot by resisting and retracting. Step back, take a look at the facts, and do something positive to help. As the economy turns, the range of reform options will quickly narrow and no one will win. If stability, a harmonious society, and technological innovation are real priorities then something real needs to be done to achieve them. Democracy is not a panacea, but one of a series of real reforms that are indeed necessary.

  60. demin Says:

    @JD
    “Democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s better than a paternalistic system which imposes important decisions to the benefit of the ruling elite. Mainland China really has some work to do compared to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Mongolia, Nepal.”
    By far is there anybody here against this point?

    “Democracy is not a panacea, but one of a series of real reforms that are indeed necessary.”
    I think you should really make clear what do mean by “democracy”. What exactly “a series of real reforms” are? Because China is already and has always been doing some reforms. And I believe a lot of people here, including me, are supportive of some ‘real reforms’, apparantly ‘more real’ than the current government
    seems to be affirmative of. All this said, I still think your logic has some serious leaks. Economy is basically about wealth. But democracy is politics. I would say politics concerns a lot of things, economy is just one of them. What exactly do mean by the ‘causation’ between ‘democracy’ and economic development? So far you haven’t made this clear. All that I can conclude from your posts is a general judgement: China seriously needs democracy. Well, that I am not against.

    “Buxi, it seems you’re just against democracy because you’re worried that popular support isn’t on your side. ”
    I am not speaking on behalf of buxi. But this seems to me really ridiculous, and somewhat self-contradictory: isn’t ‘popular support’ just what ‘democracy’ is generally about?

  61. JD Says:

    Yes Demin, I suspect the people of China would support democracy if given the chance. All of these excuses as to why democracy isn’t right for China are just that, excuses. This isn’t a real analytical discussion and the criticisms are not real arguments but excuses to justify the status quo. In a certain way, it is all ridiculous. I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on.

    This discussion would be far stronger if it were occurring openly across China – online, in the media, on the street, at universities, and in official circles. The best ideas and analysis surely requires the broad participation of the Chinese public, both formally and informally. Unfortunately at present such a debate is considered subversive and carries serious consequences. The debate is stifled through censorship and further confused through misinformation and officially-sanctioned analysis which support prevailing government policies.

    What do I mean by democracy? Start with any version of one-person-one vote and see where it goes. The best answers will come from a healthy, open debate and analysis from within China. The leaky logic is on the side of the 1001 excuses as to why it wouldn’t work.

    So, Demin, glad you support the idea that “China seriously needs democracy”. So, when do you think it needs it – earlier than the 100 year target set by the Premier? Why not start right now with a simple referendum asking the populace to endorse such a significant reform? Why not encourage a broad national debate on how it should be approached and develop a timeline with key milestones? Why is this discussion subversive and worthy of jail time in China? The fact is, democratic reform is not occurring in China and the small steps of 30 years ago – when there was a true vision to reform – have been rendered largely insignificant. An official endorsement of discussion and debate on the topic would be a good sign that there is some interest in actually seeing it happen sometime earlier than never.

  62. demin Says:

    @JD,

    I have to say, I agree a lot with you on this point, as I have always said. I wish China would have genuine, harmonious democracy overnight, but it isnt’ going to happen. The “excuses” are just excuses to you, because you are not the one who are facing the problems popping up on spot in China. Instead, you are only responsible for your ‘vision’ of democracy. Revolution, violence, chaos, economic recession, separatism, and even war. They are not just ‘excuses’ for ordinary people living in China. They are about lives and death. No, I don’t think China needs democracy 100 years later, I think this country needs it now. But I also know that something I need won’t come true immediately. To attain it, I have to put it aside a little bit, for a little while, and focus on my job right now, and try do it well. It takes pain to do this, and induces a lot of moral charges, but for me, it is a better way to go than marching for a revolution and shouting for lofty moral ideals. And again, my friend, I am not saying these ideals are not our ideals, they are. But you know, ideals can conflict with each other. There are other ideals called being honest and standing on earth.

    By they way, you don’t have to put the charges against the government deeds on me. I am not with the government on enormous things.

  63. demin Says:

    @JD,

    I have been thinking, what exactly is the difference between you and me, since I agree on so many things with you. I just realized that maybe it’s just that I am not so indignant as you. I am frustrated by all those bad things happening in China. But I am not indignant, while you seem to suggest that I, and many others, should be.

  64. Buxi Says:

    @JD,

    Yes Demin, I suspect the people of China would support democracy if given the chance. All of these excuses as to why democracy isn’t right for China are just that, excuses. This isn’t a real analytical discussion and the criticisms are not real arguments but excuses to justify the status quo. In a certain way, it is all ridiculous. I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on.

    I don’t have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. I’ve been working pretty hard at this analytical discussion, and I’d like to hear a better response from you than a wave of the hands and a firm comment that this isn’t “real”, and that these are just “excuses”. It sounds to me like in the absence of convincing logic, you’ll revert to your version of the little red book and start simply insisting that you’re right.

    Read back your paragraph, and tell me which one is the zealot selling dogma and faith here, and which one is trying to have a good-faith debate in an attempt to understand the world as it actually exists.

    What do I mean by democracy? Start with any version of one-person-one vote and see where it goes.

    Wow. If this is reflective of your thinking, then you really haven’t thought about what democracy means and is in the real world.

    Many Chinese, including myself, who debate this issue ultimately end up with one conclusion: yes we need “democratic” political reforms, especially in the areas of open media and rule by law (both themes I’ve hammered repeatedly on this blog); and no, “one person one vote” should be the item that waits until the end of the reform process, because it’s the most dangerous, most difficult to get right.

    I wish you’d make the effort to step back and re-examine your own values and believes, and exactly what they’re grounded in.

  65. CRT Says:

    Demin,

    I think I understand what you mean by “Revolution, violence, chaos, economic recession, separatism, and even war. They are not just ‘excuses’ for ordinary people living in China. They are about lives and death.”

    All we have to do is look at the Republican era to see that. Clearly just writing a constitution and then saying “let’s have a legislature” isn’t enough. I agree that no one in their right mind wants to go back to warlordism and foreign concessions.

    However, what is the metric for failure by today’s Chinese government? 10,000 to 30,000 people rioting in the street and setting fire to a government building sounds like chaos and violence to me. And we know that it is not the only mass incident– thousands and thousands of incidents happen every year, by the admission of the Chinese government. And as far as chaos, look at all the collusion between local government and organized crime. Remember that governor a few years ago on Hainan Island? Or the local mob boss who was driving around in the armored car of the militia, before it got out on the internet? JD raises a good point too about air and water pollution.

    To me, that looks like chaos. What is the solution? I would say, the solution is to have a better feedback process between the needs of people and the decision making process of the government. Focusing on one-man-one vote and establishing an elective legislature is , I think, focusing too much on the form but ignoring the basic principle of feedback. If the legislature is just a bought and paid for puppet of a few oligarchs, then the institution is a failure. We should focus on making sure any reform focuses on the principles of feedback and accountability, and not on the forms/shapes. The forms are meaningless if they are empty.

    Thus, the issue is, what steps are necessary for the Chinese government to be more responsive to the needs of the Chinese people? For a start, there has to be some kind of open discussion. The internet is an excellent place to do that, yet, the Chinese government continues to employ internet watchers to police what topics and be discussed. This is foolishness, because it destroys people’s trust, which is why rumors spread so quickly, and why people do not believe the mouthpieces of the government. Why should they believe anything they hear from the government when government members say ridiculous things? For example, the Shaanxi tiger incident is simply embarrassing.

    Buxi,

    I read more pages on the blog after posting my comment, and I see that you have already addressed the issue of Korea and Taiwan. That’s a good point you make about the GDP growth. Also, Korea and Taiwan are much smaller countries than China. So is Singapore. To my mind the question remains, is authoritarian government going to be successful in improving when the country is as large as China? Authoritarian government (and that is what China is, let’s be honest) depends on wise people making decisions, many of whom may not be accountable to anyone who actually has to live with the impact of the decisions. In a small region like South Korea or Taiwan, an authoritarian government minister can easily traverse the entire country, and

    Rising GDP sounds great, yet if people are dying because of air pollution and tainted food, then how is that a good thing? A few years ago (as I’m sure you know) there was a push to measure the costs of such things, the “green GDP.” It failed. Again we’re back to metrics.

    The fact that China is so much larger than Taiwan, Korea or Singapore, also means that there isn’t a clear model for development. Thus, as I mentioned previously, it seems likely that China will have to find it’s own path forward.

  66. demin Says:

    Yes, CRT, agreed. (As the 19th century French philosopher Tocqueville said,) the most important feature of democracy is not vote, otherwise it could not be differentiated from popularism. It is basically about representation. Vote is just a form. And feedback process (I would understand it as representation) is what should really be going on under that form. Though this ‘should be’ is what a real-life smooth and mature democracy looks like, for transitional democracy or democratic revolution, vote is not always identical with satisfactory representation. And this is where conflicts and failure come from. (For example, think about the Argentinal’s husband and wife president, with their presidency apparantly supported by exploiting popularism)
    For me, democratic transtion has no immediate happy ending, especially for such a huge and heavy-historically loaded country like China. It is painstaking journey. During this journey, you are not entitled to choose something definitely ‘good’ out of God-damn ‘bad’. Rather, you have to choose something that is less bad, while hoping something good comes along. And yes, to establish trust and better representation would be the first step. And one-man-one-vote would have to wait a little while.

  67. Buxi Says:

    @CRT,

    Appreciate your well considered comments. Just like Demin, I agree with it basically entirely in full. I’m very tempted to make it a top-level entry, because I think it’s the perfect summary of what we’ve been talking about on this blog.

    Would you like to clean it up and submit a complete version with your thoughts, or can I just repost this version?

  68. perspectivehere Says:

    @JD

    Will one-person-one-vote yield an answer TODAY to complicated (but extremely significant) questions like, if your objective is to reduce state control over the economy, what is the best method of privatization of a major state owned enterprise that is a pillar of the industrial economy and employs hundreds of thousands of workers and also provides supports with its educational and health infrastructure?

    How do you have an orderly process to (a) maximize the value of the sale to the State, (b) prevent wealthy foreigners from coming in and dominating the economy, (c) ensuring some measure of protection for laid off workers, (d) putting in place good corporate governance, (e) creating a self-sustaining enterprise that can compete in the global marketplace as responsible and efficiently run corporations?

    How do you do this when (as was the case in 1979) you have (a) very few commercial laws, like bankruptcy, company, contract, securities and property laws; (b) ineffective judicial system; (c) very few legally trained personnel; (d) lack of experience in market-based economies; (e) an unskilled workforce that assumes that they are entitled to an “iron-rice-bowl”; (f) a banking system that does not have a credit culture or expertise because its traditional function had been merely to act as a cash manager/fiscal agent for government policy, rather than market based lenders; (g) ineffective means of enforcing debt collection; (h) no clear laws on shareholder rights?

    Does this system of rights and procedures just materialize out of nowhere? Or do you just “see how it goes”?

    After one-man-one-vote, who gets to decide these questions? The elected officials? The ministries that run the the SOEs? The workers? Consumers?

    What if there is no stock market, how can you maximize the value of the sale of shares?

    What if there is no securities regulator, who will monitor and regulate the functioning of the securities market?

    What happens if opposition populist politicians decide to protest the result of an election by rioting and burning down government buildings, and even destroying the government ministries that are engaging in the privatization process? Do you think private investors would think twice about participating in the privatization, or perhaps paying less for the assets given political uncertainty?

    Consider the Mongolian election as a recent example, where the government’s plan to put in place a foreign investment program for its mineral wealth is now in jeopardy due to the post-election violence led by opposition politicians.

    What if, after one-man-one-vote, the government that comes in decides to overturn the sale process that occurred during the previous administration, because of allegations of graft and corruption, and cancel all the transactions? There are dozens of such examples across Asian democracies (again the Philippines comes to mind).

    These are not trivial questions – every dollar less paid by investors is a dollar less for pensions to support retired workers, or to support laid off workers. Every day of delay in economic reform is a day of lost opportunities.

    In the Philippines, the opening of a new airport terminal, completed by German contractors about 4 years ago, has been held up after a change of administration (which came about due to a “people power revolution” against the elected president Estrada) and has sat unused all this time. The missed opportunities for productive activity as a result of this are immeasurable. The people suffer as a consequence.

    If you want to reduce state control over the economy and allow market forces (meaning giving freedom to individuals and private institutions and to make decisions about money, jobs, housing, food, clothing, medical care and so forth on their own rather than having these decisions made by bureaucrats), then you need to have a set of rules. Until you have a set of rules that defines this, how do you reform the economy’s productive assets away from Maoist collectivist central planning/state control towards private international norms (market based industries with effective governmental oversight and regulation).

    The system you describe where ‘one-man-one-vote’ is simplistic (I want to say ignorant, but this is not meant to be an ad hominem attack) to the level of absurdity, because it assumes that you already have a system of laws in place that tells people what they can and cannot do after the votes are taken. If that is not already in place, you wind up with, at best, gridlock and an energy sapping demoralizing moribund corrupt system without possibility of reform, and at worst, civil war.

    My observations of China is that in the last 30 years, it has steadily put in place the system of laws and legal institutions necessary for a democracy. But we are not there yet. One of the biggest issues is rural land rights reform. It’s a biggie and it will take time to work out the best solution. Watch this space, but it ain’t going to happen soon.

    But looking back, they have put in place in the last 20 years laws on contracts, corporates, bankruptcy, trust, labor, property, securities, administration, IP rights….the list goes on. We can see the results, with a flourishing urban property market (along with the same boom and bust cycles we see in the rest of the world), a flourishing stock market, and privatized state companies that seek to buy into global multinationals.

    China’s pace of change is estimated at four times what a typical American experiences.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601039&refer=columnist_pesek&sid=aVGMdPlSsRvE

    The changes are dizzying. I would not put democracy as a high priority right now if it puts all of the current reforms at risk.

    One might say that I believe democracy will have the best chance of success in China if it puts in place an effective system of defining and enforcing legal rights first. And I believe China is doing that.

    I also agree with Buxi that you will not have an effective system of defining and enforcing legal rights without a standard of living for the greater majority of people that is well above the poverty line.

    When you’re worried about where your next meal is coming from, and there is no road that connects you to the market town, and you have no phone system because your home is too remote, and all the young people in your village have gone off to work in the city, you’re really not in a good position to take effective action against a corrupt government official other than getting your fellow villagers together and attacking with farm tools. In developing democracies, the local officials will just stay in power by vote-buying (see Philippines again).

    On the other hand, if you’re driving a tractor on your farm with multiple cash crops and receiving royalties from mineral rights which your family corporation has given to a mining company, and your local county government decides to divert your water rights, then you have resources to hire a local lawyer to sue the county government. Or you can run against him in the next election.

    Democracy is fragile. It stands a much better chance of functioning as it should and surviving with a system of laws and a means of enforcing such a system.

  69. Eric Says:

    Just reminds your guys that the officials in village level authorities is fullly elected by the voters.

    It seems whether this system works depends a lot on whether the village votes could understands and take advantage of it. A case I have learned is a rich person who promised to cover the people’s wired TV fees get elected.

    Even voting system is going to be applied on national scale, it should be taken real care with a plan that has a long time span. Some tests should be taken out at, say, hongkong, shenzhen, or some other cities to make sure that mistakes could be avoided in a larger scale.

  70. Eric Says:

    Democrazy stands a better chance of growing the society, it means dictationship still stands a chance. Taiwan’s best development performance happens in a dictator’s leadership.

  71. CRT Says:

    Buxi,
    I should clean that up and clarify a few things first. I will do that and let you know.

  72. perspectivehere Says:

    @JD

    “Take a look at the relative numbers and you’ll see that China’s performance has been less amazing than it’s giving itself credit for. The Philippines is growing at about 8% so yeah, it’s somewhat slower than the 9% in India and 9% in China. Number 105 is nothing to celebrate and no big improvement over 1950 or 1975. Relative to many others, it’s actually worse.”

    ****

    With all due respect, what is your basis for saying that?

    No less an expert than nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has written:

    “China’s success since it began its transition to a market economy has been based on adaptable strategies and policies: as each set of problems are solved, new problems arise, for which new policies and strategies must be devised. This process includes social innovation . China recognized that it could not simply transfer economic institutions that had worked in other countries; at the least, what succeeded elsewhere had to be adapted to the unique problems confronting China.

    Today, China is discussing a “new economic model.” Of course, the old economic model has been a resounding success, producing almost 10% annual growth for 30 years and lifting hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty. The changes are apparent not only in the statistics, but even more so in the faces of the people that one sees around the country.”

    http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/stiglitz86

    There may be some small countries that have done better, but that is like comparing someone turning around a corporate behemoth like General Motors with a small private company, or steering a VLCC oil tanker compared to a speedboat.

    Besides, the point we’re getting at is that, for a developing country starting at a low level of per capital income, China has achieved much more than democracies that started from the same level.

    Here is a comparison of China and India from the 1970′s to 2005:

    “Level of Economic Development

    In the 1970s, per capita GDP in China and India were at about the same level, but the gap between the two has continued to widen, and in 2005 China’s per capita GDP stood at $1,703, compared to $723 for India. When we compare the “Human Development Index (HDI)” released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (Human Development Report, 2006), which combines per capita GDP (in Purchasing Power Parity terms) with other factors such as life expectancy and education levels, China ranked 81st among the 177 nations covered in 2004, while India languished in 126th place. When comparing the HDI, India cannot even draw level with Guizhou province, where per capita income is the lowest in China, a country with huge regional disparities. In addition, India’s level of development in 2004 was generally on a par with that of China in 1986, and there is a roughly 18-year difference between the two nations.”

    http://www.rieti.go.jp/en/china/06112802.html

    Please can you show us an equivalent example cutting the other way?

    ******
    Comparing the Philippines, the country is currently undergoing a growth spurt after more than two decades of underperformance, and for its people’s sake I hope it continues – nothing would please me more than to be proven wrong here.

    However, you should remember that the Philippines relies on remittances from its overseas blue collar and white collar workers to keep its economy afloat. The thousands of Filipina maids in Hong Kong and nurses in the U.S. (not to mention sailors in international shipping and all kinds of entertainers around the world) send money home to keep the economy going.

    According to this article, there 8 million Filipino workers overseas.

    “This attention given to migrant workers can be best explained by the dollar remittances they send to the country. High dollar remittances keep the Philippine economy afloat, as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that the raise in the OFW remittances last year with a total of $13.1 billion also confirmed the increase in the number of Filipino migrant workers abroad (Philippine Star, 2008).”

    http://fvdb.wordpress.com/2008/03/18/the-future-of-ofw-remittances/

    China has historically relied on remittances from overseas Chinese as well, and more recently on transfers of technology and investment capital. However, China has done a much better job of attracting investment capital and export earnings from other sources and so is much less reliant on remittances than the Philippines.

    *****

    Let’s compare a place where economic development has reached a very high level – without democracy. Hong Kong is a place that has not had any form of one-man-one-vote democracy in its 160-odd year history, most certainly not under the British colonial system and now slowly developing after the 1997 handover. The most recent discussions have put universal suffrage within the next 12 years.

    Yet Hong Kong has a high per capita GDP (PPP basis) (ranked 14th, ahead of Switzerland) according to the CIA World Factbook (but it drops to about 27th on a nominal basis).

    The reason is that Hong Kong has had a system of laws and good judicial enforcement.

    In addition, the creation of the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) in 1974, which is independent of the civil service and answerable only to the Governor (now Chief Executive), was an entirely anti-democratic measure. One might even have called it tyrannical, as the ICAC has far-reaching powers that probably would violate separation of branches in places like the U.S. Yet its creation has been seen as central to the establishment of Hong Kong as a transparent and corruption-free place to live and conduct business; many developing countries look to the ICAC as a model for anti-corruption body to be emulated.

    Democracy is by no means essential for economic development.

    **********

  73. JD Says:

    Demin, you may be right. I find cases like Yao Lifa – a preschool teacher! – and Hu Jia rather shocking (and I’m sure so many more no one knows about). Add to that the situation in Sichuan, Tibet, Wengan, surging corruption, a devastated environment and indignant is probably the right word. I’m also further shocked by the growing chasm between propaganda and reality. Who wins with the status quo? Only a very small privileged few.

    Buxi, your post doesn’t add anything. If you choose to accept the naive CCP view that democracy and economic growth are equivalent to a “chicken and egg” situation then there’s no hope of a reasonable discussion. It will indeed be a ridiculous. There’s no escaping that the world’s most successful nations are built on democracy, rule of law, and a market economy (including private ownership). All three are mutually reinforcing, and when an advanced and educated society like China has a 2nd rate economy and a 3rd rate political system, it’s clear there is work to be done. Ignoring the propaganda, the work is not being done.

    Perspectivehere, you raise some good points but a large macro-reform doesn’t depend on a detailed micro-plan. Before going to the moon there has to be a decision to go to the moon. Why isn’t there analysis, debate, discussion, and the semblance of an overarching plan for both democracy and privatization? A wide range of problems will arise and need to be addressed, and it would not only be always smooth. However, the status quo is also not smooth and faces critical challenges. Full, open, informal and formal analysis and discussion needs to take place. Unfortunately for China, a full and open discussion on key issues is impossible.

    As an aside, are village-level elections are legitimate? Let’s be serious. A country where you can’t even discuss, debate, and advocate for democracy does not have a vibrant local-level democratic system.

    So why is it subversive and worthy of jail time in China to advocate for democracy? Why does the country need to devote such vast resources to information manipulation and control? No point looking closely at the nitty-gritty of important issues when the big picture is so crooked. The first step in arriving a good answers is raising good questions and having a good debate. The current authorities have no intention to allow any of it. 1001 excuses for not progressing, all of them a cover for the one true question of control.

  74. perspectivehere Says:

    @JD

    I don’t think I fundamentally disagree with you that market economy (buttressed by property rights) and rule of law are key to successful economies.

    Democracy is important but if you read the Federalist Papers carefully, you will know that the U.S. Constitution is all about reducing all the negative effects of democracy by a system of checks and balances and also avoiding the dominating power of factions and making it hard for the mob passions of democracies to express itself (so that’s why we have staggered elections for president, senate, and house, and also why there are two houses in Congress, and also why federal judges are appointed for life and not elected). So even our demigod Founding Fathers did not trust democracy.

    However, in the U.S. today, do you really believe that you have real democratic political rights – or do you think they are all illusory? Some believe that our republic is on its last legs. Read Chalmers Johnson’s Nemesis series to understand that the executive power overseas, unrestrained by the checks and balances in the Constitution, is bankrupting the nation in favor of the MIC. Not sure this is exactly the model you’d want China to follow….

    As for China, the Property Law was passed in 2007 after a huge amount of discussion and debate. Much of this debate took place in academic journals and within governmental and party circles.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Property_Law_of_the_People's_Republic_of_China

    The type of debate we see here is an example of “intraparty democracy” that is now being heavily put forward. Read the Thornton article in the CFR that I cited previously. One step at a time.

    Even a better example is the recent Labor Contract Law, which was passed after many years of discussion and debate. A public comment period saw almost 200,000 comments being submitted.

    The WSJ reported:

    “But the process shows how China’s government is increasingly seeking to involve interest groups and the public at large in the formation of laws. The cautious steps toward greater transparency reflect both the state’s desire to retain popular support of its rule and its need to tap a wider base of expertise to ensure laws are suited to the ever-more-complex economy and society.”

    See http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB117849173259593852-iksPXSVyWmuECE4t646qC0rO0P4_20070514.html?Mod=regionallinks

    I think that you see a “status quo” only because you are not looking carefully enough, and keeping deliberately ignorant or dismissive of the incremental improvements that are taking place.

    Face historical facts. Many revolutionary movements go through a period where there is a cult of personality built around the revolutionary leaders. China thankfully has moved past that phase. Surprising to many, China has weathered several successful transitions of government leadership at the top, from Mao to Deng to Jiang to Hu. Does anyone believe that Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji secretly run the government behind Hu and Wen? I don’t think so. China appears to have institutionalized the succession of power at the top among people who are not family members, without needing a rebellion. This is unprecedented in 2000 years of Chinese dynastic history (if you don’t count the ROC). To understand where China is going, you need to consider where China has been. This is really significant stuff.

    Also, China has been steadily putting in place a market economy. Where have you been for the last 30 years? What does a stock market or real estate market mean to you? The Regulation on Derivatives was passed in 2004. How “market economy” can you get?

  75. perspectivehere Says:

    @JD

    “Perspectivehere, you raise some good points but a large macro-reform doesn’t depend on a detailed micro-plan. Before going to the moon there has to be a decision to go to the moon. Why isn’t there analysis, debate, discussion, and the semblance of an overarching plan for both democracy and privatization?”

    The Five-year plans and the Party Congresses offer pretty detailed directions for where they are going. Study the last few and you will see that they do in fact telegraph where the government is headed.

    They are like corporate mission statements and strategy setting and budgeting processes, not to mention appointment of key personnel.

    No – it is not like a democratic election process where you have media campaigning. But then again, you don’t have all the fluff of a nationwide popularity contest. Also, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on getting out the messages of the candidates.

    You ask, “Why does the country need to devote such vast resources to information manipulation and control?”

    Isn’t that what the Republicans and Democrats do during every campaign, is spend vast resources on information manipulation and control? And during the last eight years of Rovian influence, hasn’t it been a constant election campaign? No policy, just campaigning, spinning, manipulating and controlling the message via talking points 24/7? See Scott McClellan’s new book on this.

    “Full, open, informal and formal analysis and discussion needs to take place. Unfortunately for China, a full and open discussion on key issues is impossible.”

    I think you assume too much about democracies like the U.S. How much full and open discussion is going on about real issues in the U.S. presidential campaign? How come the biggest issues have been (1) whether Obama’s pastor is anti-american; (2) whether Obama is muslim; (3) whether Hillary really cried tears or not….

    The latest study on Americans knowledge of political events found that there is maybe 1% that know a lot about the issues, and the rest of the population know little. So I don’t see how the mere availability of the information means that it is being adequately processed and understood and discussed. These are very big idealized assumptions you are making here about the actual state of democracies, if the U.S. is an example.

  76. perspectivehere Says:

    Just a correction in my last post to the sentence,

    “The latest study on Americans knowledge of political events found that there is maybe 1% that know a lot about the issues, and the rest of the population know little.”

    I exaggerated the 1%. It is actually small percentages, but these vary depending on the issue.

    The source is this: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174951

  77. Buxi Says:

    @JD,

    Buxi, your post doesn’t add anything. If you choose to accept the naive CCP view that democracy and economic growth are equivalent to a “chicken and egg” situation then there’s no hope of a reasonable discussion. It will indeed be a ridiculous.

    You’re echoing the exact same “argument” (it’s a stretch to call it that) made by Youzi, a Chinese government official. Interesting, no?

    And I will give you the same answer. The fact that the CCP shares this view doesn’t make it invalid; the fact that you call it “naive” doesn’t make it so; the fact that you call it “ridiculous” doesn’t make it so. If you want to be taken credibly, then try making a convincing argument. Sticking your head in the sand and fingers in your ears is not a convincing argument.

    It’s not a “chicken and the egg” scenario at all; Taiwan, South Korea, Spain were all authoritarian governments with what you’d call “third rate” political systems. They grew their economies to the $6000-$13000 GDP per capita level, and only then modernized their political system. Why do you insist this model isn’t appropriate for the PRC?

  78. JD Says:

    Buxi, of course phrasing the question “when will China be prepared for democracy” as a chicken and egg question is naive. Which comes first, an arbitrary GDP per capita target of wealth or democracy? It’s downright silly.

    The right question is why can’t the issue be discussed in China? That an obvious example of oppression. Jail time for thinking against the party.

    Even internet discussions on the topic are wildly skewed by the ridiculous efforts of the authorities to misinform and stifle debate. Sound familiar? See http://www.feer.com/search-feer?search=Bandurski for enlightenment.

    Perspective here, I’m quite familiar with the five year plans. Where do you see the five year plan to introduce or discuss democracy and liberalize the media? The official policy is “not for at least 100 years”. You should familiarize yourself with it if you wish to discuss it. If the Chinese government believed your argument on information to be true, it wouldn’t devote such massive resources to misinformation.

    So, keep arguing for the status quo. When control is the only objective, no real discussion matters. Just take a general scan of media/blogs headlines and discussions and you’ll see that no one is buying the lines being pushed.

    And sorry, a market economy doesn’t have the state as the backbone of everything. You’ve been sorely fooled and it’s time to open your eyes.

  79. Buxi Says:

    @JD,

    Buxi, of course phrasing the question “when will China be prepared for democracy” as a chicken and egg question is naive. Which comes first, an arbitrary GDP per capita target of wealth or democracy? It’s downright silly.

    You’ve already said that several times, but repeating yourself is not the same thing as making it an argument. Why is it silly?

    The right question is why can’t the issue be discussed in China? That an obvious example of oppression. Jail time for thinking against the party.

    Is there really only one “right” question?

    To my eyes, both are equally right and important. I do think this is an important question to ask as well, but I don’t understand why you insist we should ignore the first, equally critically important question.

  80. JD Says:

    It’s silly because one is not dependant on the other. There are democracies with higher and lower GDP per cap than China. The chicken-and-egg analogy is obviously false. What is true, is that democracy is correlated with rule of law, human rights, and high GDP. For any large economy, it’s a package deal.

    Here’s an interesting article on how the state media and propaganda at large hurts China: http://cmp.hku.hk/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/garden-of-falsehood.pdf

    And of course all topics and all questions should be open for discussion, debate, and disagreement informally and formally. It’s pro-development, pro-growth, pro-stability. For China right now the big question and missing-link appears to be high quality media/information. All it takes is a vision.

  81. Wahaha Says:

    JD,

    Your comment “of course all topics and all questions should be open for discussion, debate, and disagreement informally and formally. It’s pro-development, pro-growth, ” is not true, as it is clearly proved that under the system of market economy, economy improved much faster under authoritarian than under democratic system.

    Prostability ? only in a highly homogeneous society. Not even true in America.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1992_Los_Angeles_riots

    In addition to the immediate trigger of the verdict, many other factors were cited as reasons for the unrest, including extremely high unemployment among residents of South Central Los Angeles, which had been hit very hard by the nation-wide recession; a long-standing perception that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) engaged in racial profiling and used excessive force……

    Clearly, NY media learned from that and didnt talk much about the similar incident last year.

  82. JD Says:

    Wahaha, there is no market economy in China as state ownership remains the backbone of the economy. Economic growth in China isn’t the result of massive planning, its the result of state planning being reduced. Unfortunately, planning and control are presently making a comeback along with rising instability. Planning, control, and repression are causing instability, I would argue.

    Of course democracy is pro-stability. People will always have grievances, but when there’s no outlet to air them legally, illegal actions will result. It’s a great demonstration for the value of democracy that you look to a 1992 incident in the US as a comparison for the thousands of riots in China each year.

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/08/opinion/edminxin.php

  83. Wahaha Says:

    JD,

    I see, you dont want to give chinese government any credit for economic growth. In case you dont know, your comment “state ownership remains the backbone of the economy.” contradicted your claim.

    Democracy is not pro-stability in Africa, mideast, Russia, Mongolia, I was not talking about the developed countries.

  84. JD Says:

    Actually, Wahaha, state ownership is the backbone of the economy, true in substance and consistent with party policy. Growth from reform has come from the introduction of global technology, global markets, and global capital which has boosted domestic investment and productivity. It’s not plans or price controls which bring growth, but openness. So yes, the government gets credit but it goes to Deng Xiaoping. It’s too bad his vision for the economy has been lost.

    Certain countries have stability problems, of course, however you can’t blame their lack of stability on democracy. Democracy is a pro-stability force, though trying to manipulate democratic processes – in truth or in impression – brings instability. Zimbabwe and Mongolia are two recent examples.

  85. Wahaha Says:

    JD,

    I dont undrestand your logic. Please explain to me why India have trouble attracting FDI. You know, Chinese economy is built on FDI.

    How on earth is democracy a pro-stability force in a country when 25% of people want to go east, 25% want to go south, 25% want to go west and last 25% want to go noth ?

  86. JD Says:

    I’m sure India can do more to improve its business climate and permit FDI to enter, but that’s not really relevant. FDI in China is important, but overstated (up to half is not foreign at all) and increasingly dominated by hot money. It has also been largely export-oriented. In effect, China contracted out manufacturing labor to international markets over the reform period. I wouldn’t call it the foundation of China’s economy, however, as the technology and know-how it brings are probably more valuable than the capital itself.

    Democracy offers a fair and easily understandable process to chose leaders and make major policy decisions. If you don’t like a certain decision/leader,but you’re confident in the process, you always know that you’ll have the chance to positively impact the process in the future. Participation, transparency, legitimacy, accountability. It’s a good combination but of course it’s not perfect.

  87. Wahaha Says:

    JD,

    This is getting ridiculous.

    I’m sure China can do more to improve its democratic climate and allow more freedom, but that’s not really relevant. Freedom is important, but overstated and increasingly dominated by economy. It has also been largely a failure in developing countries. In effect, China has improved a lot on political reform. I wouldn’t call freedom the foundation of China’s economy, however, as the planing and know-how-to-do-what-is-necessary is more valuable than freedom.

  88. Qrs Says:

    @ Nimrod:

    Hmm, you equate democracy with weasel words like “happy meals”. You suggest that new ideas are not available from a two party/multiparty system, that one Party is enough, and that it’s just as good to outsource the thinking to think tanks before dismissing the whole thing by saying it’s not about ideas at all, but about accountability. That’s a very circuitous and unpersuasive chain of ‘reasoning’!

    You are right that it’s about accountability but refuse to recognize that elections are the mechanism to enforce it. That’s why democracy is so beneficial. Compare if you would the recent anti-U.S. beef demonstrations in South Korea– they’ve effectively killed PM Lee Myung Bak politically, only months after being elected, forced him to back down on the whole issue (punishment for him negotiating the deal without informing the people) and to reshuffle his entire cabinet. Not bad, eh? I’d argue that public opinion held sway here in a peaceful and effective way and oh, yes, we can’t ignore the role of the opposition party in orchestrating the whole thing. No US beef in their happy meal, right?

    The other obvious example of democracy in action is no further than Taiwan, and since Taiwan is a part of China, it proves that democracy works in practice in China. QED. Happy meals for everybody.

    But just to recap the whole point I’m making, a quote from Mr. Hai Rui 2008 himself, Shi Zongyuan, might help (courtesy of the WaPo):
    “This incident may appear to be random, but in fact it was inevitable,” Shi Zongyuan, Guizhou’s Communist Party secretary, told reporters. He said officials had lost the citizens’ confidence because they had used “rude and roughshod solutions” to handle residents’ anger over mining development, the relocation of families to make way for a reservoir and demolition of homes for public projects. So when officials, after investigating for less than 24 hours, announced that teenager Li Shufen had drowned herself, few believed them.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/07/AR2008070702546_pf.html

    So the key to the whole situation in Weng’an is that the power and authority of the local government was unchecked. Did Mr. Shi, in his capacity as a superior in government to those at the Weng’an level, know this ‘inevitable’ situation in advance? Or, did he come to this conclusion only after reading some inflammatory posts in online forums? We will likely never know. Do you think he is about to write a self-criticism on the matter? I think not. So even when it comes to the “good guy” there’s no accountability *built into* the Chinese political system.

    Build accountability into the system through multiparty elections (and and independent judiciary and media, I might add) and you’ll likely have more SK-style protests than Weng’an-style protests. Which do you prefer? To answer your rhetorical question, that’s why you don’t put all your political fortunes, rights, liberties, etc. into one Party (the CCP) and expect them to be able to effectively police themselves. Anyone who thinks that they can do that is either a fool or a liar– or both.

    Anyway, if the KMT can transition to multi-party rule, why can’t the CCP? What are they afraid of??

  89. Wahaha Says:

    Qrs,

    I think we have explain lot of times.

    Democracy is built on wealth and good education, democracy never work well (economically) in a country with lot of people.

    South Korea and Taiwan were authoritarian until their income was at least 3 times higher than current average income in mainland China, and there were few people living in poverty.

    There is good side about democracy, there is also dark side about democracy.

    and you wont see the dark side unless there are lot of poor people in country.

  90. Wahaha Says:

    Sorry,

    I mean “Democracy is built on wealth and good education, democracy never work well (economically) in a country with lot of POOR people.”

  91. JD Says:

    Wahaha, planning and the planned economy is the basis for many of China’s greatest failures. And I agree with you, China can do a lot more to promote democracy and respect for rights (freedom, as you say). The country would be better off.

    China has done a lot for political reform? It’s not apparent, and if it’s true, its clearly not working.

    Also, its easy to say wealth and good education are built on democracy but we’re back to a naive chicken and egg argument. The real answer is easy: mutual reinforcement – transparency, rules based decisions, accountability (democracy), legitimacy (democracy). Democracy is pro-stability.

    One thing is certain, if the people of Wengan could vote for their leaders they’d have a better, more accountable government.

  92. perspectivehere Says:

    @JD #82 You wrote:

    “Wahaha, there is no market economy in China as state ownership remains the backbone of the economy. Economic growth in China isn’t the result of massive planning, its the result of state planning being reduced. Unfortunately, planning and control are presently making a comeback along with rising instability. Planning, control, and repression are causing instability, I would argue.”

    Consider this:

    Ha-Joon Chang is regarded as one of the world’s foremost heterodox economists.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ha-Joon_Chang

    A heterodox economist is one who “thinks outside the box”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterodox_economics

    He has an interesting observation in his new book “Bad Samaritans, The Guilty Secrets of Rich Nations & the Threat to Global Prosperity”

    http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Samaritans-Secret-History-Capitalism/dp/1596913991

    What is consistently ranked as one of the most successful and profitable airlines in the world (and probably the most pleasant to travel on)?

    Singapore Airlines.

    See:

    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/globalmostadmired/2007/snapshots/8155.html

    http://www.worldairlineawards.com/Awards_2007/AirlineYear-2007.htm

    If you have ever flown on Singapore Airlines, you will know. Many people actually look forward to flying on Singapore Airlines – how many airlines can you say that about?

    Yet, who is the majority owner of Singapore Airlines? Warren Buffet? Blackstone? Branson? Public Shareholders?

    No.

    It’s the Singapore Government.

    It owns 57% percent through Temasek, the government investment corporation.

    Yes, Singapore Airlines is an SOE.

    It is neo-liberal economic dogma that only private companies can be successful and profitable. How true is this in practice?

    Chang offers other examples, most notably POSCO, now the third largest steel company in the world.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/POSCO

    This was an SOE, and became successful globally BEFORE it undertook a privatization program in 2001.

    It is important to keep in mind that state ownership in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing.

  93. BMY Says:

    @JD

    “One thing is certain, if the people of Wengan could vote for their leaders they’d have a better, more accountable government.”

    I won’t see that very certain. It might be one of outcomes and I would think it might be the one of the unlikely outcomes.

    What if the rich mine owners just buy out the votes?
    What if mafia threat the voters?
    What if the rich and mafia work together to get the votes?
    This has happened in many other democratic countries and happens very often in the village level elections in China.

    What if one candidate wins the election and the opposition leader calls for a recount and street protest. What if they both have guns?

    I would say your guess would have a more successful rate in a place like shanghai with huge educated mid class.

    But WengAn, mine owners,mafia with guns run the street, too many people have no idea of how democracy should work, no idea of how to respect different opinion ,no idea of how to act by following the law, how not to so easily influenced by rumors etc. My guess would very likely happen .

  94. Buxi Says:

    Phoenix TV has come out with a 10 minute feature on Weng’an. It mostly takes the government’s position, but includes interviews with the boys, the uncle allegedly “beaten to death”… and also shows some really, really deeply disturbing and tragic images of firefighters being beaten, etc.

    http://bbs.youzin.net/showthread.php?p=1264

  95. mike Says:

    This is getting to be a long time after the event, but I’ve just come across this post and would like to offer my own take on the Weng’an mass incident, which includes a positive appraisal of the role of Shi Zongyuan:
    http://mike-servethepeople.blogspot.com/2008/07/wengan-incident-harbinger-of-mass.html

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