[Ed note: This is an original translation by ChinaGeeks, h/t to the WSJ China blog for the link to the original. The original was published in Outlook Weekly, a magazine published through the state-run Xinhua news agency.]
(Original text by Huang Huo, translated by C. Custer)
“A small group with ulterior motives”, “the people unaware of the truth”, “evil instigators behind the scenes”…Recently, shortly after large “mass incidents” one can always see the local government hastily determining [the “truth” of the incidents] in this way. Guizhou’s “Weng’an Incident”, Yunnan’s “Menglian Incident”, as well as Gansu’s recent “Longnan Incident”: early on in all these incidents one can see this kind of “determining phenomenon”.
“The masses unaware of the truth”, it’s as though the masses are taken for people without independent personalities: the freethinking “ignorant masses” and the “obedient citizens” who have resigned themselves to adversity, their dissatisfaction is definitely because they have been hoodwinked, puzzled, incited, and stirred up. On the other side of things, officials and policy makers know the real facts, grasp the truth, and are very unlikely to make mistakes.
This kind of “determining” is completely out of touch with the times. Netizens mock “being unaware of the truth”, saying this “not only insults the peoples’ [moral] character but also their IQ.” They mockingly summarize: “the people are always ‘unaware of the truth’, those making trouble always ‘have an ulterior motive’, ‘evil groups of instigators’ can always ‘incite the masses’, and the family members of those who died always have ‘stable/neutral feelings'”…
After thirty years of reforms and opening up, China has already entered a time when a “golden development period” and a “magnification of contradictions period” coexist. Transformation and restructuring of the system and the reformation of society have already influenced the economy, politics, and culture everywhere in China, more deeply, it has influenced people’s specific economic interests. The adjustment of these interests has magnified a new contradiction; problems like employment, allotment and corruption have become problems that people pay close attention to. Contradictions in society can quickly become a “fuse” that easily explodes into large-scale “mass incidents”, appearing suddenly, resisting fiercely, posing socially destructive power and equally difficult to deal with.
The frequent occurrence of mass incidents has its own deep social background. The vast majority of mass incidents arise because interests directly affecting people have been violated and their appeals are processed slowly and treated as unimportant.
Analyzing the most influential mass incidents in recent years, nearly all follow this pattern: the initial issue is small, but the local [government] reaction to it is slow, it escalates to a mass incident, the local government cannot control it, the higher levels [of government] are shocked, it is rapidly dealt with, and the issue subsides. When the conflict is just beginning and people are starting to gather, the local government/Party committee frequently displays a “system of slowness/stupidity” — their response is slow, their judgement is faulty, the way they deal with things is inappropriate, this leads to “small things becoming big, big things exploding”, and reveals for all to see the weak and frail abilities of those who hold power.
Giving this “system of slowness/stupidity” even more trouble, officials in some areas’ responses to mass incidents increasingly go to extremes, continuing the “search for enemies” mode of dictatorial thinking, haphazardly “labeling and stigmatizing things, seizing on shortcomings, and making unfounded criticisms.” When faced with crisis, what they first think of is not attentively resolving the conflict, it is “rising to a new height in politics”, to lead in “determining the nature” of the incident, calling the people’s appeals to their interests “attempts to flood the government”: let’s say it’s a “small group with ulterior motives inciting trouble”, let’s call it “being controlled by a dark, violent group”, then bring the police into it and use high-handed measures to solve the problem.
This kind of approach, many officials will feign ignorance to, wanting to make excuses and not take responsibility for their own dereliction of duty. Therefore, in a sense, some officials are actually the people involved in mass incidents who really “have ulterior motives”.
If we say, at the time of China’s founding, since there were powers inside and outside China’s borders threatening, inside there were bandits, spies, and some other problems, the use of dictatorial thinking was rational, then, after holding power for 60 years some officials thought and action still is “dictatorial” and inert, then it shows they still do not understand the transformation of the CCP from a revolutionary Party to the Party that holds power, furthermore, they have failed to understand and execute the fundamental purpose of the Party: to hold power for the people. [emphasis added, we just couldn’t help ourselves -Ed.]
During the “Weng’an Incident”, local government/Party officials hurriedly complied with orders to deem the incident as having been “organized and premeditated”, it was evil instigators stirring up the people and attacking the government from all sides, and the local large-scale media’s “People of Weng’an Condemn Lawless Individuals” and other similar stories aroused further disgust and suspicion from the populace. Afterwards, it was Guizhou’s provincial Party Committee secretary who pointed out the “truth” of the incident: social contradictions that had been accumulating for a long time failed to receive the attention they should have and be settled by the appropriate authorities. Relations between people and the Party are tense, the environment for public security is bad; some places, some departments ideologies, some cadre’s style and work methods still have many problems, the people are not satisfied with our work.
At the same time “seeking enemies”, some officials are still used to blocking off news and dominating public opinion, creating the “people unaware of the truth”. For a long time, when public events [like mass incidents] occur suddenly, remaining silent and dodging the media has been a conditioned reflex of local government and Party officials’ “self-conscious behavior”, but with the means of broadcasting [news] and the broadcasting of the opposing people’s situations increasing, this kind of “aphasia” at critical junctures is sure to lose [them] the right to guide public opinion; it seems the hazard of refusing to take responsibility is that practically, [one] slips into passivity and increases the difficulty of settling the situation.
The people not understanding the truth is a result of officials’ dereliction of duty. The people have a right to know the truth, if “the people are unaware of the truth”, that is the failure of people holding power somewhere. Because of this, some places are attacked by the “people unaware of the truth”; officials must first and foremost turn and examine themselves.
What “people unaware of the truth” exposes is that some officials consider the will of the people and the people’s strong opposition to the policy of ‘those in power must take bribes’ insignificant. In the brains of a few officials the fundamental rights of the people are ignored, not to mention the “right to know the truth”. The Public Record of Government Regulations was published and implemented long ago, but much of the news the public wants to know, needs to know, and should know is often impossible to make known. For example, recently Shenyang citizen Wen Hongxiang requested that government administrative, travel, and entertainment expenses, etc., be made public, but officials replied that it would “extremely sensitive and difficult” [to do so].
One aspect is that people have no way of knowing the truth, another aspect is that some things promulgated as “truth” are obvious “fake truths” that the public could not possibly accept. Reading the wire reports of mass incidents, I often want to ask the writers who drafted them three questions: “If the person who died was your mother, would you be able to keep your emotions stable?”, “Why are the people going along with a ‘sinister gang’ instead of going along with the government?”, “Exactly who is the person with ‘ulterior motives’?”
While building a harmonious society, those who govern should change their thinking, change “controlling society” to “playing chess with society”, and finally go along with the social contract. During the Chongqing taxi strikes, officials used interaction, negotiation, and consultation to settle the matter satisfactorily; doesn’t this prove China is ready to leave the “Dictatorship period”?
[Note: This text is an original translation by ChinaGeeks and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the translator or anyone else other than the original author, although in this case, the translator would like to note that he thinks this article is freakin’ great. For further discussion of this article and its significance, see the WSJ China’s excellent blog post about it. -Ed.]