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Jul 23

Use Democracy to avoid a “Bottleneck Lake” in China

Written by Buxi on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008 at 6:58 pm
Filed under:General | Tags:, , ,
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In the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake, a “bottleneck lake” (堰塞湖) formed as a river was blocked by a landslide. Collapse of the dam posed a tremendous danger to those down-stream community, and the Chinese government spent huge resources and risked many lives to erase the lake.

Guangdong provincial party secretary Wang Yang started a mini-landslide of his own, when 3 days ago he spoke to a group of Communist Party cadres at a training course (连接):

We must make democracy a value to be pursued. In governing, we must make sure we use democracy, defend democracy, secure democracy, and develop democracy. We must be sufficiently respectful of, and also open up expressions of popular opinion. We absolutely can not block popular opinion, and form a “bottleneck-on-speech lake” (言塞湖). We must use democratic methods to continuously improve and expand democracy within the Party, and push forward social democracy. We must self-consciously nurture democratic habits, learn to listen and tolerate, and use democratic methods to unite people.

This is a small snippet of a longer speech that also talks about the importance of rule of law, of staying away from corruption. It’s the sort of long-winded government speech anyone in China is experienced with.

But this particular statement about the “bottleneck-on-speech lake” (and I’m really struggling for a better translation here) is some what exceptional because of the widespread coverage it’s been getting. Numerous newspapers have followed up with editorials explicitly supporting this message.

From the People’s Daily (连接):

It’s not that public opinion wasn’t being expressed early on in these crisis events, so how any of these events be described as “unexpected”?

In reality, the origin of these “bottleneck-on-speech lakes” usually comes from giving a cold shoulder to public opinion early on. This is what leads to “public discussion” in the middle stage, and “public anger” in the final stage. When a project affecting the interests of the public is started, or when a public matter is managed.. if the policy maker doesn’t consider things from the people’s perspective, if the people’s comments are ignored while a case is studied… the down-side risk of doing this can be forecast.

From Zhejiang Online, via Xinhua (连接):

This author believes that only through rule of law can the silt blocking speech be removed, and respecting the constitution is the first step towards opening up the “bottleneck-on-speech lake”. The 35th article of our country’s constitution states that citizens have the freedom of speech. The 41st article states that citizens have the right to criticize and offer advice to all government workers and government divisions. But how can these rules, superior to all others, be put aside by some holding public office? The root cause is some holding public office ignore or even abuse the law in order to avoid the advice and criticisms of citizens.

From the Beijing News, via Xinhua (连接):

From “bottleneck lake” to “bottleneck-on-speech lake”, the change of a single character has deep meaning. Public opinion is like water, only when every legitimate public opinion can be effectively expressed, only when every demand for rights can be quickly responded to, will the water of public opinion be kept from being blocked. This will also avoid the sudden flash-floods that risk society’s health.

From the Xinjiang Daily, via QQ (连接):

During a transitional period in society, interests are becoming diversified, and conflicts/contradictions are more concentrated. “Bottleneck-on-speech” will only magnify the conflict. Treating “bottleneck-on-speech” just like we treated the “bottleneck lake” is a key part of using the Party to serve the public, and ruling for the people. When the average people in a place are afraid to speak, afraid to render judgment, are infuriated by the inaction or negative activity of local cadres but still afraid to speak… and can only use a sudden “dam collapse” type of event to express their demands, then the management in that area must reflect: are we not lacking the basic environment that preserves the citizens’ rights? Are we constantly piling up obstacles that only raises the dangers of a sudden collapse of the dam to the “bottleneck-on-speech lake”?

From the Communist Party of China News Net (连接):

Where will advanced thinking come from? Only through study. We must study the advanced experiences in other areas and other countries. We can’t just blindly copy, but we must learn the essence of their policies, erase the fake and focus on the truth, and use it for our own purposes. We must learn from the people, we must be willing to act like little school-children, and feel no shame in asking people under us. We must keep smooth channels for requests, and widely absorb the thoughts, complaints, and advice from the people. We can’t not form “bottlenecks on speech”.

Wang Yang as party chief of Guangdong seems to have made political reform one of his personal missions. The fact that the Southern Metropolis media group has thrived in Guangdong is no coincidence; they’re benefiting directly from his support and protection. (Which in the opinions of some is also why they’re going lighter on political mistakes made in Guangdong…) Wang Yang also defined/started the “liberate your thinking” campaign, another buzz-word which is a key part of Shenzhen’s democratic political reforms. It seems the central government is increasingly making clear its own support for the campaign.

What does everyone think? Are we at a turning-point in “freedom of speech” in China? Is it possible for a government to provide free speech without implementing elections?


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54 Responses to “Use Democracy to avoid a “Bottleneck Lake” in China”

  1. FOARP Says:

    A true turning point will only come when the central government endorses this in their own policies, rather than simply allowing politicians in Shenzhen to promote themselves through the implementation of such policies. It would certainly cause problems if these reforms were only to take place in Shenzhen. I know that some like to characterise Shenzhen as a place where experimental policies may be implemented, but the special powers given to the SEZ governments to make economic policy has not been given to the rest of the country, not all the liberalisations in Shenzhen are intended for national implementation.

  2. deltaeco Says:

    Freedom of speech and elections do not necessarily go together.

    But it is usually very tempting for officials, in a system with no accountability procedures, to stifle freedom of speech to avoid criticism.

  3. FOARP Says:

    Yup – and also to rig elections.

  4. Buxi Says:

    @FOARP,

    Economic reforms of every type, have always been implemented in specific test areas before they’re rolled out nationally. This applies to everything ranging from pension funds to investment regulations.

    And of course the same is true in political reform. Villagers have been experimenting with direct elections in different formats for decades. Guiyang in Guizhou province used more democratic methods in choosing district party secretaries. In Chongqing, Bo Xilai recently held a number of televised policy debates between different government departments.

    So, you really can’t minimize this by saying it’s “politicians in Shenzhen promoting themselves”. Even if we ignore the fact that the People’s Daily and a number of other newspapers squarely under central government control is running news on this… Guangdong is the largest province in China in terms of GDP, and Wang Yang is absolutely not a small player.

  5. deltaeco Says:

    Will we ever see an election race so exciting as Obama versus Hillary in China?

    That would be interesting!

  6. Buxi Says:

    @deltaeco,

    Well, my personal response to that is… god, I hope not. An election race as personal, as devoid of issues, as determined by wealth as Obama versus Hillary?

    - What I see in local elections in the United States make me think elections are perhaps “a good thing” for China.

    - What I see in national elections in the United States make me think elections would be a horrible thing for China.

  7. wuming Says:

    “Will we ever see an election race so exciting as Obama versus Hillary in China?”

    As exiting as prospect of Obama become president is, American democracy is pretty depressing. In order to survive in the system, all political uttering have to be filtered through the latest political cliche, devoid of meaning, have very little to do with the reality of America or the world.

    I remember when Wen Jiabao talked to the press in Sichuan when UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon visited the quake zone. Without fanfare, he laid out clearly measures and priorities of the government, all without any political adornment, exude compassion and competence. The performance of any government system should be measure first of all by the effectiveness in delivering results desired by its people. By such a standard, current Chinese government is much better than the American one, with or without the label of democracy.

    Still, I hope America will elect Obama and, more importantly, Obama will be able to govern the country with the intelligence and pragmatism he seems to possess.

  8. wuming Says:

    May I add, to survive the election, Obama has to hide his intelligence and pragmatism. I don’t with this kind of democracy upon China

  9. deltaeco Says:

    @buxi

    What system would you propose to elect candidates at national level in CH, if any?

  10. deltaeco Says:

    @wuming.
    “The performance of any government system should be measure first of all by the effectiveness in delivering results desired by its people.”

    Wen Jiabao performance during the Sichuan crisis was stellar.

    But there were many other shortcomings during the rescue operations.

    http://tinyurl.com/59b79y

    And before the earthquakes: Poor construction of School buildings…

    No matter how good the guy is, CH needs more than just good old Wen to fix those problems.

  11. wuming Says:

    @deltaeco

    China had 30 years of real development, out of which only last 16 was uninterrupted. Given a couple of more decades, China will be able to systematically address issues such as enforcement of building code, specialized emergency relief capability, environmental destruction, corruption … When I compared Chinese and US government, I did so based on the context of the current state of each nations development.

    If you think about it, China was lucky enough to have a series of prime ministers that did great jobs given the circumstances (the only exception is probably Li Peng.) Additionally, the post-Mao Chinese government is basically ran by a collective leadership, where competent technocrats tend to rise to the top level. If we don’t view this through the colored lens of ideology, it is not that bad, is it?

  12. Buxi Says:

    @deltaeco,

    It’s easier to say what I don’t like in a certain system, than to propose a system myself! Isn’t that always the truth?

    I’m not ready to take the responsibility of designing a comprehensive solution here. I do have certain rough ideas, though:

    1) in order to restrict officials from always strategizing for “campaign season”, I think we should eliminate fixed terms of office.

    So, how about allowing officials to serve until they’re explicitly recalled, perhaps requiring a 2/3rds margin? Or, maybe requiring a 2/3rds margin 4 years in a row?

    2) I believe those most qualified to “vote” for a candidate are those directly familiar with them and the issues. (This is why I think local elections make sense.) When you have too much distance, you end up with advertising campaigns (we might as well be voting Coke versus Pepsi)… not true electoral campaigns on issues.

    So, those selecting the national leadership should be the next layer down that works directly with them. For example: the national parliament, the provincial parliaments, experts from different fields.

    3) everyone knows Obama won his preliminary partly because of his ability to raise money. That’s not the kind of “democracy” that should be embraced.

    I think campaigning should be tightly regulated to prevent the wealthy from having too much influence over the process. All campaign funds should come from taxpayer dollars. There should be tightly implemented laws on slander and defamation during the campaign season, similar to what (I think) Singapore has implemented.

    But no matter what the process is, an open media is critical.

  13. FOARP Says:

    The one thing that makes the American system rather artificial is the way in which the president serves fixed 4 year terms. This means that the election can be planned for years in advance, and there is an election when there is no obvious need for a change in leadership and the outcome is easily predictable, and at other times an obviously incompetent president may remain in office for years. A system in which the president may be deposed by a vote of no-confidence and fresh elections called would have avoided this. Likewise, an election may be used as a referendum on a particular issue, and the mandate thus given may be used as leverage in this. If, say, the president is attempting to pass a law and the congress is opposing him, he may resign his position and fight for re-election on this very issue. However, none of this is possible in the American system, as the only way in which a president may be removed from power is if he has committed an actual crime or he (and, for at least the next four years, it will be a he) decides to step down – but even these do not force an election.

  14. Buxi Says:

    Let me pose another question too. At different periods from 1911-1949, China had both open media and freedom of expression. Did that help…?

  15. deltaeco Says:

    @buxi
    “It’s easier to say what I don’t like in a certain system, than to propose a system myself!”

    My boss use to say that to me each time I complain about a problem ;-)

  16. deltaeco Says:

    @buxi
    “At different periods from 1911-1949, China h”ad both open media and freedom of expression. Did that help…?”

    Do you think it did not help then?

    You could still be ruled under the Qing dinasty! ;-)

  17. deltaeco Says:

    @wuming
    “where competent technocrats tend to rise to the top level.”

    The problem with technocrats, and also engineers, is that they tend to let themselves to be taken away by their own grand designs. Not a few times are these grand designs so grand that their are… crushing.

    It is always convenient to have some check, balances and accountability in places to prevent a system to run amok.

    Some company owners says “do not trust 100% an engineer, sometimes they have a different agenda” (their own wild dreams), same applies for societies and technocrats.

  18. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – Fairly obviously it did help – to an extent, as it allowed movements such as the May the 4th movement to come into existence, nor should you blame the division of that time on the loosening of state controls on freedom of speech – the warlords came out of the old Qing army and seized power after the collapse of the Qing state. Of course, freedom of speech is not only about the freedom to publish whatever you like, but also the freedom to do so knowing that you will not be assassinated on the orders of someone you have criticised, or that five or ten years down the line you will not be executed by a vengeful government for what you have published. Today I read this quote in an article on Russia’s famous mud-raking website Kompromat.ru:

    “Kompromat.ru continues to attract readers, even though it’s hardly an objective news source. In Russia, nothing is. “It is a known fact that here, many newspaper articles are written to order,” Vladimir Semago, a former deputy in the country’s parliament, tells me. “Real reporting existed for a few years in the early ’90s; it stopped as soon as journalists started dying because of it.””

    This also goes for much of the what was written in the Republican period in China.

  19. Netizen Says:

    Is it a turning point for free speech in China. I don’t think so. It will take a while to get there.

    This Wang Yang guy, I’ll wait and see. It’s like when a new boss comes to town, he lights three fires. What are his policies, what are his goals, and what are the processes? It’s not clear yet.

  20. deltaeco Says:

    @buxi
    I see the logic in your point 2).

    But I prefer to have the system short circuited, at least at some points.

    If no direct election of some of the top positions is allowed, the system could suffer the typical malaise of a pyramidal power structure, where the top echelons can thwart the system to their own advantages by controlling/manipulating the lower levels, preventing in fact any accountability.

    Yes, there is the problem you pointed out: too much distance, and all ending in a publicity campaign. But I consider this risk more acceptable; also not so many “simple” people are dumb.

    I would not mind to be able to vote for Pope election! (Catholic Church being one of the more pyramidal power structures I know)

  21. MutantJedi Says:

    FOARP, that’s one of the strengths of parliamentary system we have. Also, we can have the same Prime Minister until the cows come home. As long as the party has the mandate of heaven, so to speak, they can continue to be the government. If the government loses the confidence of the house, they can be brought down with a vote of the members of parliament.

    Of course, this is just the sort of thing that the Americans were trying to avoid, methinks.

    I agree with Buxi’s comment on national elections. Even in Canada’s parliamentary system where you don’t vote for the Prime Minister directly but for your Member of Parliament, it degrades to a horse race between the leaders or a battle of the parties. The candidates can argue local issues but what does that matter if the guy you like isn’t riding the winning horse? The race that really matters is for who becomes the candidate of the party you hope will represent you. … If I’m around for the next Federal Election, I think I just might join both the Conservative and the Liberal parties (NDP who?) so that I can have a vote that matters – in the selection of the party candidates. ;)

  22. Wahaha Says:

    @Buxi

    “I think campaigning should be tightly regulated to prevent the wealthy from having too much influence over the process. All campaign funds should come from taxpayer dollars.”

    You are asking too much, ask those riches giving up power ? That is replace the engine of a BMW with a Toyata engine.

  23. deltaeco Says:

    @Wahaha
    “That is replace the engine of a BMW with a Toyata engine.”

    Lexus!

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

  24. Wahaha Says:

    deltaeo,

    There is no “Lexus” avalible, not invented yet !

  25. AC Says:

    @deltaeco

    The US presidential election (or the US system) is a sham. The US system was designed by a few people (now controlled by a few interest groups) to loot the public treasury. These interest group may not be able to decide who gets to be the president, but they are just powerful enough to make sure that people who challenge this system will not become the final candidate. This way, they will only have to wait 4 or 8 years for their turn to be able to loot again. That’s why people like Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and Ron Paul who want change never had a chance. Obama is just another guy inside the system.

    “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

    The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

    -From bondage to spiritual faith;
    -From spiritual faith to great courage;
    -From courage to liberty;
    -From liberty to abundance;
    -From abundance to complacency;
    -From complacency to apathy;
    -From apathy to dependence;
    -From dependence back into bondage.”

    —– Alexander Fraser Tytler

    Freedom’s Eleventh Hour
    http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/2181

    Bankruptcy? No problem, we will bale you out! Tax break, anyone?

  26. deltaeco Says:

    @AC

    Still… they have to put a good show to get elected, and there is a higher degree of accountability than in CH’s current system.

    No system is perfect. You have to choose among different levels of imperfection.

    Those who pursue to the last consequences a system which is ideological/conceptually pure usually end in the worst nightmares.

  27. AC Says:

    @deltaeco

    Don’t worry about China, the Chinese will figure it out. Every American owes the Chinese and Japanese 34k dollars, and you worry about them?

    Save America first. Boycott the US election, why are you still validating a system that is destined to collapse soon?

  28. Buxi Says:

    @AC,

    I believe deltaeco is Portugese, if my memory is right.

    Again, in contrast to the bail-out for the rich in the United States… look at my comment in the Shenzhen housing thread about “freezing the pests (speculators) to death” in China.

  29. deltaeco Says:

    @AC
    “Every American owes the Chinese and Japanese 34k dollars, and you worry about them?”
    When you own some money to the bank, you have a problem. When you own a lot of money to the bank, the bank has a problem!

    “why are you still validating a system that is destined to collapse soon?”
    Time will tell. We can bet on it. How about a couple of beers?

    Time to go to sleep here. Have a good night AC ;-)

  30. AC Says:

    Boa noite, deltaeco. :-)

  31. David Bandurski Says:

    Buxi:

    Thanks for the great post. You beat us to the punch on this one — I had these all lined up and ready to translate yesterday morning as a follow up to our Monday piece (http://cmp.hku.hk/2008/07/21/1118/).

    I absolutely love this new and emerging term. It will be interesting to see where China’s media runs with it.

    “Bottleneck lake” certainly works, although I personally prefer “language barrier lake” or “information barrier lake,” both of which make a clearer reference to the proper English term for 堰塞湖 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barrier_Lake).

    Best,
    David
    China Media Project

  32. Qrs Says:

    In answer to the original question, I think I have to point to the Zhejiang Online article:
    “This author believes that only through rule of law can the silt blocking speech be removed, and respecting the constitution is the first step towards opening up the “bottleneck-on-speech lake”.”

    Freedom of speech can only truly blossom when the rule of law is enacted. It’s noted the the Southern Metropolis Daily benefits from his patronage/protection, so that implies that such freedom of speech as seen in that paper is owed to an individual, Wang, and not to anything systemic in society. Remove Wang, and the SMD’s free speech goes away too? Systematize free speech by backing up the various articles in the constitution with official support from the highest levels, and you’ll see some meaningful change.

    Anyway, we’ll have to wait and see if Wang Yang prevails and becomes the new Hai Rui 2008.

    @ Buxi: I’d just forget about a literal translation, toss the lake part, and simply call 言塞湖 “bottleneck on free speech” or “impediment to free speech”. Oh, and free speech during the Warlord Era, Civil War and Anti-Japanese War? Surely you can do better than that! :D Having Lu Xun around must not have counted for much, I guess…

  33. David Bandurski Says:

    Buxi:

    Just one more point to add in response to your piece.

    According to my database search, which includes more than 300 mainland newspapers, there have only been 18 articles total dealing with Wang Yang’s wonderful new term. This is not necessarily “widespread coverage” or a “mini-landslide” — although these articles have been pasted across the Web, which suggests you are possibly right to spot an upsurge, or “mini-landslide.”

    Personally, I hope media continue to use Wang Yang’s statement to open up discussion of these issues (借题发挥).

    Four of the 18 articles were the original July 20 reports (identical “tonggao”) of Wang Yang’s speech in Guangdong newspapers: Nanfang Daily, Guangzhou Daily, Shenzhen Special Zone Daily and Yangcheng Evening News.

    On July 21, there were four more articles (one from Hong Kong’s Sing Pao, the only outside China so far), including from the Information Times, Daily Sunshine and Changjiang Daily (which CMP translated at http://cmp.hku.hk/2008/07/21/1118/).

    On July 22 there were editorials in both Guangzhou Daily and Legal Daily.

    On July 23 there was a news article from China News Service, and five editorials from: People’s Daily, Southern Metropolis Daily (Xiong Peiyun), China Business Times, Jinri An Bao and The Beijing News.

    Today there is another editorial in Southern Metropolis Daily, and finally one in Shanghai, in the Shanghai Morning Post.

    Best,
    David

  34. deltaeco Says:

    @buxi & AC
    “I believe deltaeco is Portugese, if my memory is right.”

    Well… Close.

    I am Spaniard. From a region which lies north of Portugal. Besides Spanish we speak a local language similar to Portuguese.

    “Boa Noite” — “Boas Noites”

    Both regions belonged during Middle Ages to same kingdom, later divided by inheritance issues. North went to Spain, South became present Portugal.

    Also I am also 50% South American. Not unusual here.

  35. deltaeco Says:

    For your information.
    I lived the transition in my country from single party authoritarian regime to multiparty democracy. With all its challenges and problems. Have the honor to receive at my parents home the first democratically elected president. An exceptional person. A case of the right person at the right time.

    Was able to visit East Europe just before the fall of the Iron Country. The DDR, East Berlin, Czechoslovakia and former Yugoslavia (Croatia) Could see the differences between political system and economies. Was able to speak with persons who lived there. In Prage could see directly the increasing frustration of the people with the system.

    Have young Ossie(former DDR citizes) German friends and also from Romania and Bulgar.
    I get interesting opinions about how it was then and how it is them now. There were advantages and disadvantages in the system. But no one I of those East Europeam know want to go back that system.

  36. Buxi Says:

    @David,

    Much thanks for your posts. I consider it high praise indeed, to get compliments from someone like you, who does this so well and so professionally. I’ve never used/heard of the English term “barrier lake”, and wish I had; I think “speech-barrier lake” sounds much better to my ears than what I’ve been working with.

    As far as whether this is really a “mini-landslide”… again, you’re really the expert here, but isn’t it relatively rare to have a provincial official’s comments be quoted and referenced so widely, within 2-3 days? You probably have access to what’s actually in print, but when I search 言塞湖 on news.baidu, I come up with a really large collection of references to Wang Yang’s terms. And is the People’s Daily editorial about the subject be… I don’t know, significant? I’m working off of beliefs and feelings, so let me know what the facts/statistics really are.

  37. Buxi Says:

    @Qrs,

    Having Lu Xun around must not have counted for much, I guess…

    Well, I mean, it didn’t count for much… in the sense that he didn’t stop the Civil War, he didn’t help strengthen the country, he didn’t help the country prosper. Instead, he inspired a whole generation of revolutionaries who ended up doing all of those things, while also erasing the freedom of speech in order to do it.

    That’s sort of a cynical view, but hopefully you get my point.

  38. rory Says:

    Personally, I find it truly heartening to hear these sentiments being expressed by government officials and the media. I have long thought that freedom of speech and rule of law are the two most important requirements for China to maintain its course of development and to improve the lives of its people; it seems that tentative steps towards both have been made in recent months.

    That said, I hope that this is not just some form of lip-service. It’s not as if the notion that preventing free speech can be dangerous to society is new to Chinese culture and philosophy: the chengyu 防民之口,甚於防川 (to take an example which seems particularly apt in this case) dates back to the warring states period. However, this is one lesson that has rarely been adhered to in the course of Chinese history. If you think I am being overly cynical, then consider this: I used to write a monthly column explaining Chinese idioms for an expat magazine in a second-tier Chinese city. One month, I decided that 防民之口,甚於防川 would be a perfect example of how a so-called ‘Western’ concept such as ‘freedom of speech’ actually has deep-rooted precedent in Chinese culture as well. Needless to say, I did not explicitly bring up this point in the article itself: all I had in the article was a translation of the passage in the 国语 where the phrase originated, and then a brief explanation of how it is used in modern Chinese. This, however, proved too much for the censorship bureau to handle: our helpful government ‘proofreaders’ told us to remove the article just as we were going to print.

  39. David Bandurski Says:

    Buxi:

    I certainly agree with you that there has been a burst of activity following Wang Yang’s speech and use of this catchy (and potentially very versatile) term. I was really responding to the notion of “widespread coverage,” which suggests to me that the term has already gotten broad coverage across regional media.

    My list of coverage wasn’t meant to gainsay your statement so much as to supplement your post — dumping on you a list of articles we would have put on the CMP site had you not beaten us to the punch.

    Yes, the People’s Daily article is certainly significant. Now we have to wait and see if Wang’s term starts rolling off the tongues of other officials . . .

    Another related issue here (with intra-party democracy) should be the recent release of the hongtou wenjian on a “standing system” for people’s congress delegates, the idea in theory being to make them more active on the policy-making side and not just rubber-stampers. Perhaps someone mentioned that elsewhere.

    Best,
    David

  40. Buxi Says:

    @rory,

    One month, I decided that 防民之口,甚於防川 would be a perfect example of how a so-called ‘Western’ concept such as ‘freedom of speech’ actually has deep-rooted precedent in Chinese culture as well.

    If it’s any comfort… at least one of the editorials I translated above used that saying. The fact that it’s transitioned from the red-flag list to something major newspapers are saying in their editorials is very hopeful!

    Especially when it doesn’t appear to be individual editors pushing the boundary on this issue… but the central government intentionally loosening the reins. As long as the Hu-core remains in power, as long as there are no major shocks to Chinese society… this should absolutely continue.

    @David,

    I’m not familiar with the “standing system” document… are you talking nation-wide basis? A link would be much appreciated.

    If I remember right, I think the outline for reform in Shenzhen mentioned this particular change..
    http://blog.foolsmountain.com/2008/05/28/shenzhen-aims-for-major-political-reforms/

  41. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Interesting post. The guy does go on and on a bit with the flowery language. If he truly strives to attain 10% of what he spoke, that would be a great start. Maybe Shenzhen will be democracy’s Juno Beach in China. (but let’s be clear, obviously no one is invading China).

    But unless and until such concepts are truly embraced by the Central Party members (and I’m not sure how you would ever know that), it remains a local experiment tolerated at the whim of the Party, which could be reversed as quickly as it started.

    However, and I’ve asked this before, but at some point, these advanced urban areas with their special status in various aspects of life will become more and more disparate from the rest of the country, particularly the rural backwaters. How do you unite people when some are living, say, in 2015, when others are still stuck in the early 80′s?

  42. The Trapped! Says:

    Hi Netizen,
    You are always so negative on everything that now the word “netizen” seem to me only means negativism–or Negative Empowerment Team of Intelligence-Zeroed Emerging Nationalists–NETIZEN.

  43. BMY Says:

    People are born with differences.
    People are majored in different area: science, engineering, social philosophy. history. political science etc with all different language backgrounds are all talking same topics here in English.
    People should not be looked up or down via the ability of making comments here. one made a comment here might be the one who engineered the space rocket for NASA.
    Who knows.

  44. AC Says:

    @deltaeco

    “I get interesting opinions about how it was then and how it is them now. There were advantages and disadvantages in the system. But no one I of those East Europeam know want to go back that system.”

    The Chinese don’t want to go back to that system either. :-)

  45. MoneyBall Says:

    China shall hot have a national election before the Elite Politics fully established.

    Hillary v Obama might not be a perfectly ran compain, but it’s a perfect example of elite politics, the smartest to the top. In China if you hold a national election today I can guarantee you some anti-rich anti-west ultral-nationalistic nut-job running on popularism will rise to the top. Even in US regular John Does buy into that crap, got Dubya elected in 04, China absolutely can not afford that, and believe me the rest of the world would not want that too.

  46. Buxi Says:

    Is this really possible?
    http://digitalwatch.ogilvy.com.cn/en/?p=295

    Reports from Twitter pals around China are still coming in, but for at least many of us living here. a huge litany of hitherto verboten sites are now accessible this morning. For me, at least, the list includes a number of controversial Chinese-language sites ordinarily off limits: Apple Daily, Boxun, Radio Free Asia’s simplified Chinese site even.

    Some of the comments below suggest it’s only true in Beijing. I think it’s kind of a major leap in any case… especially Boxun and RFA, which I voluntarily self-censor myself from. :)

    For China to really open up to outside media, my suggestion would be taking it gradually. Start with completely unblocked access to Phoenix TV.

  47. Old Tales Retold Says:

    Great post—and a great discussion below it.

    One thing I’m curious about in regards to Secretary Wang Yang is where he’s going in terms of social reforms, not just political reforms. I was very encouraged by the new Shenzhen draft regulations on labor relations, which give the ACFTU many new responsibilities.

    See: http://laborrightsblog.typepad.com/international_labor_right/2008/07/wal-mart-signs.html#more
    and http://sztqb.sznews.com/html/2008-06/02/content_198604.htm

    Any ideas?

  48. Old Tales Retold Says:

    By the way, is that really true about censorship being down? That’s incredible!

  49. Wahaha Says:

    Old Tales Retold,

    Can you start a blog here about the following comment ?

    ” But it’s true, I think, that what frustrates Americans and Chinese about each other is not some vast cultural gulf but that we’re so remarkably similar. “

  50. Wukailong Says:

    moneyball: “anti-rich anti-west ultral-nationalistic nut-job running on popularism”

    Even though some people suspect me of being a CCP agent, I have to say, I blame CCP for much of this ultra-nationalism. They don’t “brainwash” people with it, but they nurture that thing because they lack ideological vision and need something to keep people together.

  51. BMY Says:

    @Wukailong

    I am sure I am the only one suspects you of being a CCP agent. :)
    please don’t worry about what a nobody like me thinks

  52. David Bandurski Says:

    Buxi:

    The link from Xinhua News Agency about the “ren qi zhi” (任期制) is here:
    http://news.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2008-07/16/content_8556621.htm
    This is part of the overall push for “intra-party democracy,” which is worth watching but not getting overly excited about.

    Qian Gang wrote about some of these issues during his pre-17th Congress series. See here: http://cmp.hku.hk/2007/10/05/676/

    And here:
    http://cmp.hku.hk/2007/10/08/623/

    Best,
    David

  53. Karma Says:

    @Buxi

    I think campaigning should be tightly regulated to prevent the wealthy from having too much influence over the process. All campaign funds should come from taxpayer dollars.

    The role of $$$ in gov’t is complicated. At what point does $ hijack gov’t and at what point is $ simply enabling governance?

    Consider (in addition to campaign financing) the role of money in lobbyists and media .

    Recently, I attended a talk by Henry Waxman (a U.S. Congressman) – and when I asked him what is the proper role for lobbyists in a democratic gov’t – he said that lobbyists play very important role in the gov’t – such as by focusing the issues and educating the legislators. But he admitted that since there was no real control on the lobbyists, money can easily hijack the democratic process…

    The role of media is also important to the democratic process. But left uncontrolled, the gateways of information that is so important for a properly functioning democracy can also be easily bought and controlled by narrow money interests…

    But we need money to finance campaigns, special interest lobbyists to work with legislators, and corporate media to disseminate information – all of which require money. What role should $ play in a properly functioning democracy? Is the answer really just in requiring all these activities to be “publicly funded”?

  54. BMY Says:

    @David,

    I just had a look at the link of “ren qi zhi” (任期制) I wouldn’t say any thing exciting.

    the system of Party delegates and party congress on every level have alway been there and had never had any authority or regulation of the corespondent centre committee ,have never had any real political power inside the party. From the text, nothing really new.“ren qi zhi” or not is not the core if party congress has no power at all. If the party congress has the real power to elect the local member of certre committee just like what it says on the paper then that would be a big step.

    QqianGang’s articles are interesting.

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