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Aug 11

The majority of Chinese people believe that prostitutes are more trustworthy than Communist Party and government officials according to a Xiaokang survey

Written by Allen on Tuesday, August 11th, 2009 at 9:23 pm
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Well … we’ve had several discussions (in the comments section recently) on political reform and the CCP.  Here is an interesting article I ran across today at Asia Times on people’s perception of government officials in China:

HONG KONG – “The majority of Chinese people believe that prostitutes are more trustworthy than Communist Party and government officials.”
If this were a viewpoint made by a report or commentary in overseas media, it would definitely have been furiously refuted by Beijing as “venomous slander” of the Chinese government with some “ulterior motives”.
But this is not a sensational bluff by some tabloid newspaper. It is the result of a recent survey on the respective credibility of various social groups by the Research Center of the Xiaokang monthly, a sister publication of the bi-monthly Qi Shi (Seeking Truth) – the mouthpiece of the central committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As such it must be taken seriously.
The nationwide online survey was conducted in June-July this year with the help of Sina.com and some other research institutions. The number of respondents totaled 3,376. Xiaokang started this annual survey in 2006. This year’s results show that, of the 49 social groups, the five most trustworthy are (in descending): farmers, religious workers, sex workers, soldiers and students.
Farmers and soldiers have always been among the five most trustworthy groups in the Xiaokang polls. “This is nothing strange. Chinese peasants are less sophisticated and behave more honestly than urban residents. Hence farmers are often bullied or cheated. Soldiers have impressed the public with their performance in disaster relief works, particularly with the Sichuan earthquake last year,” said a sociology researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
But this is the first time religious practitioners and prostitutes have been included among the most trustworthy social groups. Religious workers aside, sex workers being listed among the most trustworthy is quite shocking. In Chinese culture, a prostitute is viewed as being “shameless” and without affections.
This result has taken many aback. The official China Daily said in an editorial: “At a time when shamelessness is pervasive, we are often at loss as to who can be trusted … A list like this is at the same time surprising and embarrassing. The sex business is illegal and thus underground in this country. The sex workers’ unexpected prominence on this list of honor … is indeed unusual.”
However, as long as “doing business” is concerned, prostitutes may indeed be more trustworthy than those in other trades, said a Shenzhen small businessman surnamed Zhou. “You see rampant production of faked goods, frauds and cheats in commercial activities. But when you strike a deal with a prostitute, she’ll never breach the ‘contract’.”
According to the poll, the five least credible groups are (also in descending) real estate developers, secretaries, brokers, performance stars and directors. People don’t trust developers because they reap staggering profits while keep saying the “housing price is reasonable”. Secretaries, mostly young females, are often mistresses of their bosses. Performance stars and directors are laden with sex scandals.
While the Xiaokang report does not publicize the ratings of other groups in between, judging by the wording government officials are probably just a little more trusted than the last five groups.
The survey report says public confidence in the government dropped considerably in 2009. Nearly half of the respondents said that individuals, business firms and the government are all losing their credibility. But comparatively, they are more worried about the drain of the government’s credibility.
As an example, more than 91% of respondents said they no longer believe government statistics on social and economic development, saying such data is “all or mostly fabricated”. By comparison, in the 2007 survey, only 79% of the respondents said they don’t trust government statistics. The sharp decline manifests a “significant drain” of government credibility, Xiaokang said.
As if to serve as evidence to this, the National Bureau of Statistics said on July 27 that the actual per capita income of urban Chinese increased 11.2% in the first half of this year, far outgrowing the 7.1% gross domestic product growth, in spite of the economic downturn. The release of such “too-good-to-be-true” income figures greatly upset the general public as few actually made more money during that period. (China produces a wages miracle, Asia times Online, August 5, 2009).
“Multiple factors may be responsible for this. The Xiaokang Magazine Research Center named four – protectionism, unstable policies, dumb decisions and lack of transparency. All of which has to do with the low-level bureaucracy’s lack of respect for public concerns,” China Daily says.
In fact, government or officials’ credibility has always remained low in past Xiaokang surveys. This is no surprise at all, given rampant corruption, abuse of power by officials and the lack of transparency in government operations.
“Corrupt officials, before exposed, always pose as persons of high morality, giving sermons on how to build a clean government and to serve the people. But their true colors are shown after being caught. With more and more officials found corrupt and even some members of the politburo – the country’s power core -could become corrupt. How can you hope people will trust them in general? That ‘mass incidents’ now frequently happen across the country is a manifestation of people’s great distrust of officials,” said the CASS sociologist.
The government’s release of false or misleading information has also augmented public distrust. Not to mention the deliberately deceptive messages released by the government to cover up major incidents.
A recent and seemingly harmful episode is illustrates this. August 8 marked the first anniversary of the opening of Beijing Summer Olympic Games. In the run-up to that day, major newspapers in Beijing reported that, as part of a celebration, the municipal government of the Chinese capital decided to open major Olympic venues including the famous “Bird’s Nest” and “Water Cube” to visitors free of charge for three days from August 8.
Before dawn people began to queue at entrances to these sites. But security guards barred them from entering. Skirmishes occurred. Would-be visitors waved newspapers carrying the report about free visits, but the guards said they had not received any notice. Reporters then checked with the information office of the Beijing municipal government and were told that the notice was released “mistakenly”. On hearing this, some people who had been waiting for hours angrily shouted before TV cameras, “Who can trust this government? Who can trust these newspapers?”
Officials being less trustworthy than sex workers must not be taken just as some bitter joke or a piece of black humor. The message in fact rings a red alarm for the CCP.
“The CCP seized power 60 years ago largely because it won popular support. After 60 years of ruling the country, now people are expressing their dissatisfaction or even anger in various ways [such as in opinion polls or taking to the streets] over its governance. The party must address this problem seriously and quickly,” said the sociologist.
In October, the CCP will mark the 60th anniversary of its rule of China. It may not be coincidental that Xiokang publicized its survey right before National Day. It serves as a reminder to the party that whether it can continue its rule as it wishes entirely depends on whether it could win back popular support again.
In the survey, 95% of the respondents said: “Only a government that is sincere and responsible in serving people can ensure the country’s stability and development.” Echoing this, the China Daily editorial said: “Even for stability’s sake, efforts must be made to restore the governments’ credit record. The first step, however, is to put an end to public servants being alienated from public interest.”

HONG KONG – “The majority of Chinese people believe that prostitutes are more trustworthy than Communist Party and government officials.”

If this were a viewpoint made by a report or commentary in overseas media, it would definitely have been furiously refuted by Beijing as “venomous slander” of the Chinese government with some “ulterior motives”.

But this is not a sensational bluff by some tabloid newspaper. It is the result of a recent survey on the respective credibility of various social groups by the Research Center of the Xiaokang monthly, a sister publication of the bi-monthly Qi Shi (Seeking Truth) – the mouthpiece of the central committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As such it must be taken seriously.

The nationwide online survey was conducted in June-July this year with the help of Sina.com and some other research institutions. The number of respondents totaled 3,376. Xiaokang started this annual survey in 2006. This year’s results show that, of the 49 social groups, the five most trustworthy are (in descending): farmers, religious workers, sex workers, soldiers and students.

Farmers and soldiers have always been among the five most trustworthy groups in the Xiaokang polls. “This is nothing strange. Chinese peasants are less sophisticated and behave more honestly than urban residents. Hence farmers are often bullied or cheated. Soldiers have impressed the public with their performance in disaster relief works, particularly with the Sichuan earthquake last year,” said a sociology researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

But this is the first time religious practitioners and prostitutes have been included among the most trustworthy social groups. Religious workers aside, sex workers being listed among the most trustworthy is quite shocking. In Chinese culture, a prostitute is viewed as being “shameless” and without affections.

This result has taken many aback. The official China Daily said in an editorial: “At a time when shamelessness is pervasive, we are often at loss as to who can be trusted … A list like this is at the same time surprising and embarrassing. The sex business is illegal and thus underground in this country. The sex workers’ unexpected prominence on this list of honor … is indeed unusual.”

However, as long as “doing business” is concerned, prostitutes may indeed be more trustworthy than those in other trades, said a Shenzhen small businessman surnamed Zhou. “You see rampant production of faked goods, frauds and cheats in commercial activities. But when you strike a deal with a prostitute, she’ll never breach the ‘contract’.”

According to the poll, the five least credible groups are (also in descending) real estate developers, secretaries, brokers, performance stars and directors. People don’t trust developers because they reap staggering profits while keep saying the “housing price is reasonable”. Secretaries, mostly young females, are often mistresses of their bosses. Performance stars and directors are laden with sex scandals.

While the Xiaokang report does not publicize the ratings of other groups in between, judging by the wording government officials are probably just a little more trusted than the last five groups.

The survey report says public confidence in the government dropped considerably in 2009. Nearly half of the respondents said that individuals, business firms and the government are all losing their credibility. But comparatively, they are more worried about the drain of the government’s credibility.

As an example, more than 91% of respondents said they no longer believe government statistics on social and economic development, saying such data is “all or mostly fabricated”. By comparison, in the 2007 survey, only 79% of the respondents said they don’t trust government statistics. The sharp decline manifests a “significant drain” of government credibility, Xiaokang said.

As if to serve as evidence to this, the National Bureau of Statistics said on July 27 that the actual per capita income of urban Chinese increased 11.2% in the first half of this year, far outgrowing the 7.1% gross domestic product growth, in spite of the economic downturn. The release of such “too-good-to-be-true” income figures greatly upset the general public as few actually made more money during that period. (China produces a wages miracle, Asia times Online, August 5, 2009).

“Multiple factors may be responsible for this. The Xiaokang Magazine Research Center named four – protectionism, unstable policies, dumb decisions and lack of transparency. All of which has to do with the low-level bureaucracy’s lack of respect for public concerns,” China Daily says.

In fact, government or officials’ credibility has always remained low in past Xiaokang surveys. This is no surprise at all, given rampant corruption, abuse of power by officials and the lack of transparency in government operations.

“Corrupt officials, before exposed, always pose as persons of high morality, giving sermons on how to build a clean government and to serve the people. But their true colors are shown after being caught. With more and more officials found corrupt and even some members of the politburo – the country’s power core -could become corrupt. How can you hope people will trust them in general? That ‘mass incidents’ now frequently happen across the country is a manifestation of people’s great distrust of officials,” said the CASS sociologist.

The government’s release of false or misleading information has also augmented public distrust. Not to mention the deliberately deceptive messages released by the government to cover up major incidents.

… … …

Officials being less trustworthy than sex workers must not be taken just as some bitter joke or a piece of black humor. The message in fact rings a red alarm for the CCP.

“The CCP seized power 60 years ago largely because it won popular support. After 60 years of ruling the country, now people are expressing their dissatisfaction or even anger in various ways [such as in opinion polls or taking to the streets] over its governance. The party must address this problem seriously and quickly,” said the sociologist.

In October, the CCP will mark the 60th anniversary of its rule of China. It may not be coincidental that Xiokang publicized its survey right before National Day. It serves as a reminder to the party that whether it can continue its rule as it wishes entirely depends on whether it could win back popular support again.

In the survey, 95% of the respondents said: “Only a government that is sincere and responsible in serving people can ensure the country’s stability and development.” Echoing this, the China Daily editorial said: “Even for stability’s sake, efforts must be made to restore the governments’ credit record. The first step, however, is to put an end to public servants being alienated from public interest.”

Well – this is an interesting story that needs to be taken seriously. Does anyone know what are the most recent steps the CCP is taking in fighting corruption – to restore the governments’ credit record? As Raj has pointed out before, Wen has pronounced – among other things – last year:

We will continue to promote political restructuring and reform in other aspects. People’s democracy is the lifeblood of socialism. Without democracy, there can be no socialism. We will not only improve people’s lives by developing economy, but also protect their democratic rights by improving democracy and the legal system and achieve social equity and justice. We will build a socialist country under the rule of law and run state and social affairs according to law. We will create conditions that allow people to criticize and supervise the work of the government more effectively, and foster a lively political environment in which everyone feels happy and the society is harmonious.

I like the talk.  Have there been any specific actions or proposed actions?


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14 Responses to “The majority of Chinese people believe that prostitutes are more trustworthy than Communist Party and government officials according to a Xiaokang survey”

  1. Sonia Says:

    There are many many things to be said about this issue, and it’s not something that can be summed up in one thread. But I’ll start with a couple of things.

    1) One thing that hopefully the CCP will do soon, and I think it’s probably the easiest thing to do, is to hack, or at least restructure, the propaganda machine. In many ways, the propaganda, in its use of sweeping majestics and moral absolutes, and in its belief that touts political big-shots will save its own neck, make the party appear more fake and insincere than it actually is. And this is especially true for events that really matter. I was watching CCTV during the earthquake-aftermath. It’s description of Wen Jiabao’s visits was total overkill, and destroyed the image of what I believe was a truly genuine gesture.

    2) I also believe that smart PR can influence policy. For example, Chinese officials have the tendency to speak in absolutes: “we’ve got everything under control!”. This is dangerous, because rarely does anyone have anything completely under control. So they’re just asking for humiliation when things go wrong. When things do go wrong, in order to save face, and save their own necks, they have to “cover up”, which is often the root of a disaster. Thus, I think that officials should speak in less absolutes (which honestly isn’t that hard to do), and then they’d be less committed to their image of perfection, and can afford to get into the nitty-gritty details of reality. Perhaps I’m being naive here, but I think if we can get smarter (not “better”) PR in China, then we can at least give it a cosmetic face lift…which is better than nothing, and at least a concrete step.

    There are many other things that I’d like to change, but have no solutions for, so I won’t burden y’all with random speculation.

    But on another note, it really saddens me to see any kinds of generalizations like this. And I’d warn people against CCP-hatred, or any kind of hatred for that matter, including developer-hatred and entertainer-hatred.

    1) There are plenty of people born to privilege, who work hard in life, but always have their achievements reduced to “relying on their parents”. I’ve seen it wear on my mother’s self-esteem, and I’ve also seen it in the vicious cyber-attacks on Bo Guagua, who is just a kid, my age in fact, enjoying college life in the same way many of us would enjoy it.

    2) There is a danger in this kind of hatred, in that it mirrors all kinds of hatred, and thus terrors, of the past. The things I see written about the communists today is not much different from the things I see communists used to write about landlords and the bourgeois and their other victim/enemies (depending on which side you’re on). I can understand disillusionment and disappointment with the CCP, but I’d rather seek reform rather than revenge.

  2. TonyP4 Says:

    No matter it is East or West, prostitutes are more trustworthy than politicians.

    * Prostitutes provide basic, human service, esp. in Chinese society where there is a big imbalance in male and female ratio. Politicians do not.

    * Prostitutes provide the ultimate basic value (after food and shelter). The entertainment value has no match. Politicians do not.

    * Both lie and tell you what you want to hear, but sooth your body more and drive your ego to the roof when it is from the prostitutes.

    * Prostitutes work hard for your money, while politicians cheat hard for your money.

    * Both work for cash only and usually under the table.

    * Only politicians’ wives want to sleep with the spouse, but not so for prostitutes – ask Clinton for verification.

    The above is my observation, and not from my personal experience. 🙂

  3. Allen Says:

    @TonyP4 # 2 – hahahaha!!!

  4. Allen Says:

    This piece from the China Digital Times ( Senior Official: The Governing Party Needs to Establish Fundamental Political Ethics) be relevant – thanks to Sonia for the link.

  5. TonyP4 Says:

    On a related topic (sorry most is in Chinese).

    This is a Chinese exam. The teacher provides the left-hand side, and the student fills in the blank on the right-hand side.

    上句 下句

    頭可斷,血可流 …… 靚女不可不追求!
    生不入官門 …… 死不鎅豬扒!
    相嗌唔好口 …………夠薑就隻揪!
    天地有正氣 …… 冇錢冇天理!
    開門七件事 ………… 吃、喝、玩樂、飲、蕩、吹!
    男人大丈夫 ……… 流血不留堂!
    人為財死 ………… 女為仔亡!
    夕陽無限好 ……… 唔及裙底春光好!
    忍一時風平浪靜 … 下一步準備劈友!
    不在乎天長地久 … 只在乎索女受媾!

    睇到啲咁嘅嘢,真係好嬲,唔係嬲佢壞,係嬲佢無聊,乜而家啲人搞到咁嘅地步,啲咁嘅嘢,拎去屎坑都會臭過啲屎,但班香港嘅衰仔衰女仲喺網上大叫「好笑呀,好正呀!」,有冇搞錯?食著豆咩,唔知個醜字點寫。我以前喺「模範中學」隔籬聽過有個模範仔唱「粗口歌」,都比呢啲好得多,人地起碼唱得順口,冇黐脷根丫嘛,上下句仲有埋對聯添噃,乜乜『一介寒儒、攀龍、攀鳳、攀丹桂;三個和尚,玩手、玩腳、玩XX。』,哈,Any thing that can be read without any trouble was probably written without any trouble。民間嘅嘢,文者謂之文,淫者謂之淫,我叫阿文,冇有怕。講咗咁耐,都係咸豐年嘅事,真嘥氣,嚡!時至今日,我都好落後囉。

    The above funny addition is by Bai Ding. Some words in Cantonese are saved by Bai Ding over years. Have fun with our Cantonese!

    The teacher gave 0 to the student. It is quite unfair to me. The score should be:

    110% for imagination (do not say all Chinese students have no imganination),
    0% for political correctness,
    90% if the teacher is a male,
    0% if female (in this case unfortunately),
    -10% if for spinster,
    150% if sexy, young teacher.:)

  6. Raj Says:

    Wen has pronounced – among other things – last year….

    Wen’s very good at talking about change. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to follow through on it. Change is always in the future, not in the present.

    It would be nice to hear specific policy changes that will be made in relation to democracy, civil rights, the legal system, etc. However, I guess he won’t do that because that will mean committing to specifics he and the Politburo can be pinned down on.

  7. Wukailong Says:

    Just my two cents: even though most people don’t believe government statistics and propaganda, they might still think that the government is doing a good job. It’s not mutually exclusive. Also, sex workers might be doing something illegal, but that doesn’t mean they’re insincere…

  8. huaren Says:

    Hi Wukailong, #7,

    Hilarious! Only if all citizen/government intercourse could be as swift and satisfying. I suppose that’s the model. But, don’t forget about STD’s and other consequences. Not sure if you would want to trust the prostitute on that.

  9. Charles Liu Says:

    If someone asked me I would say the same thing about Republican Party and government officials. Just look at the health care townhall bullying organized by the Republicans.

    And look at the likes of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith. These people are chiefly responsible for an unjust war and crime against humanity (had we the courage to apply “command responsblity” doctrine to ourselves) unmatched by anything we accuse the Chinese of.

  10. hzzz Says:

    Oh please, you need to a poll for this?

    Here is how most prostitution works in general: You pick out who you want. You discuss a price. Prostitute delivers the said services. You pay the money. Under this process it’s hard for the prostitute to scam you because for the most part they have already delivered the services before you even paid a penny. Their pimps (or mama-sans as Asians call them) would also prevent them from not delivering services.

    Politicians tend to work in reverse. Individuals and companies pay the politicians first in the forms of bribery or lobbying dollars as they call it here in the US. Then the Politicians are supposed to deliver the services they promised. The risk of not getting your money’s worth is high when you pay before you receive the services. This is because due to political pressure from either public or political rivals, often politicians will NOT deliver the services they promised.

  11. Wukailong Says:

    @Charles (#9): Thanks for the comment, I wasn’t actually sure what you thought about the Republicans and Bush. Glad to know we’re on the same side.

  12. vmoore55 Says:

    With so many bastards living in China, may be that’s a true statement. I mean if their mother is telling them something bad about their fathers, yeah why not.

  13. TonyP4 Says:

    @hzzz, #10.

    Some prostitutes ask money before the service. Again, it is not from my personal experience. 🙂

  14. Sonia Says:

    @TonyP4

    You just made me LOL.

    @vmoore55

    There are as many bastards anywhere as there are in China. Of course, because of the size of the Chinese population, it may just seem that there are many more in China than elsewhere.

    @hzzz

    One of my friends had commented that this is a rather a misleading survey, because trustworthy and “good” and “welcomed” and “of high repute” are not all the same thing. Prostitutes may not be regarded as “of high repute” but may indeed be very trustworthy. Also, I think that when they’re talking about the trustworthiness of an official, they’re not referring to how well they deliver on “bribes”, but how well they can resist “bribes” and demagoguery, and deliver on public interest.

    @Raj,

    I agree that it’d be nice if someone can come up with some concrete policy changes, but I’m opposed to guessing at people’s ill-intent. But if you’re up for some pure speculation on people’s good-intent, my mother thinks that Hu and Wen has put aside immediate reforms for now, and is instead setting up a network of reform-minded next-generation leaders, who straddle the CYP/reform/Heir-party/Shanghai/Beijing factions so that when their time comes, they will be able to “legitimately” counter the conservatives without splitting the party line. Specifically, it means the promotion of several key symbolic Heir-faction figures, like Liu Yuan, son of Liu Shaoqi, who will hopefully bring a reform that mirrors that of the KMT in Taiwan. It’s perceived that Taiwan became democratic largely because of the tolerance and reforms of Jiang Jingguo, but that he only had the power to relinquish power because he was regarded as “legitimate” via his father (Chiang Kai-Shek) by the authoritarian KMT old-guard. There are similarities in some other power-transitions, ie. Spain under Juan Carlos. Anyway, pure ungrounded speculation, and rather arguable history, but I thought it would be interesting to share.

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