A Minor Inconvenience

While we were up in dongbei shooting a documentary last month, we ran into this situation completely unintentionally. We walked to this street, Kedong’s main thoroughfare, in the hopes of catching a cab, only to discover there were no cars on the road. We shot a good bit of it; here’s what happened:

Passing of the Governor from ChinaGeeks on Vimeo.

I didn’t bother editing this video for color or anything, but it’s not going into the documentary, so I thought it might be worth sharing and discussing here. Obviously, as official transgressions go, this is quite insignificant. And it wasn’t a huge hassle for us to wait half an hour before being allowed to cross the road, since we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be anyway.

I’m posting this because I think it’s indicative, more than anything, of an attitude that plagues Chinese officials. How much of an inconvenience would it really have been for the provincial governor to drive through town with other cars still on the road? Surrounded by an army of police cars and with police standing guard up and down the street, he certainly wasn’t in any physical danger. And it’s not like Kedong, which has remarkably wide streets for its tiny population, was going to have a traffic jam at three in the afternoon.

I’m also wondering what people think. In the evening, I mentioned this to the family that I was staying with, some of whom are devout government supporters, expecting them to say that the governor deserved special treatment. To my surprise, not a single one of them said that. “You should have filmed it so you can post it online and expose him,” someone said. Everyone agreed that closing the road for hours so that the governor could drive through Kedong (a process that took about 30 seconds, as you can see in the video) was ridiculous, and they wondered why I was told not to film it (it’s not like they were trying to travel undercover, after all…)

So what do you think?

0 thoughts on “A Minor Inconvenience”

  1. Out of interest, how do you know that it was the provincial governor? Where was the standard black Audi A6?

    Nice to hear that old favourite, “It’s just like in your country.” Genius move. Nice reply, too!


  2. This is a little bit ridiculous even in China though it’s true that having a provicial governor visiting is ‘big’ thing at all for a little town like ‘Kedong’.

    I just feel amused as the governor is just passing and cant help imagining that local traffic in Kedong maybe kind of mess with bikes, tri-bikes, cars, trucks all on the same road.


  3. Well, if the governor didn’t have all this fuss for made for him he wouldn’t be important would he? Nor would he have to be paid so much or live in such a nice compound (just speculating).

    Reminds me of something that happened to a factory boss I know. He was hit by a truck driving his Audi A8. Over a million Yuan car. It took over a month to get a new tail light and rear quarter panel. What otherwise would of been a day or two in the States. Provided they had the part in stock or even air shipped it, it seems quite long for this kind of repair.

    What I suspect happened was the car was fixed within a week. But the body shop put the car in a warehouse or hide it for an extra week or two to make it seem like it was a a great deal of trouble to fix it. Because really, why would they need so much money for the repair if it was easy and took only a few days?

    I’ve learned that perceived value is a good asset to have within China.


  4. @ Alex: We heard it was the governor from a cab driver shortly after, and then it was confirmed the a few days later by Kedong officials when someone from the family went to get some paperwork processed and discovered they couldn’t–everyone but the receptionist was gone, hanging out with the governor somewhere else, apparently.

    As for the bus, I obviously can’t confirm 100% that he was in that particular vehicle, but I have a friend who worked in the Heilongjiang P.D. for years, and he told me once that high level officials generally travel in those brown buses with the tinted windows when they’re on official business. In this case, he’s probably got a delegation of assistants and local cling-ons; perhaps too many to fit in the Audi?


  5. Yeah, got to love the “跟你们外国一样儿”, because, yes, ‘外国’ is a country, and when its provincial/state/territory/county/regional/department/etc. level leaders go on tour the authorities really do close the roads to all traffic half an hour before they pass along them. Which is odd, because here in my patch of ‘外国’, David Cameron cycles to work.


  6. Also got to love the reaction of the family you were staying with. On the internet, it seems like every one of the fenqing is 110% behind everything the government says and does. In reality, however, people are speak in favour of the government and make excuses for them on a theoretical level, but concrete and undeniable examples of government abuse will always bring censure.

    Meantime, I’m thinking this footage could really come in handy if you ever decide to make a Chinese version of Entourage.


  7. Just because the Chinese do not like their own government officials does not mean that they enjoy your average Western visitor telling them how their country should be run and how Chinese should live their lives. In other words, just because someone complains about his own problems doesn’t mean that he wants you to force your opinion on what’s the best solution to solve his problems.

    What I find is that when the Western folks get too assertive about what they think should be good for China politically, that’s when the ordinary Chinese start to side with the Chinese government. This is because too often Western idealist’s goal is not to be get the truth out but rather to sell his own ideology. Often this means the Western idealist exaggerates the positives of his ideals while completely downplaying anything good happened in China in the last few decades. By the end of the conversation the same Chinese, who starts off neutral, defends his country’s progress and gets to be called a “fenging” although the same Chinese may not be happy with the government either. The Western idealist feels that no one understands and appreciates him, goes onto to complain about the “raise of nationalism in China” on the interwebs.


  8. Why is FOARP so bitter? Somebody from a small town said something stupid and he goes on a rant. Really?

    And the bizarre comparison of fenqings and ordinary people in real life. That family supports the government, so they’re all fenqing ranting on the Internet?

    Either he intentionally collapses distinction or he really is confused and believes Chinese people are all alike.

    Kai over at Chinadivide is right. His sweeping generalizations of the Chinese people do display a race-based bias.


  9. What’s the collective noun for black audis? A gang of audis? A mafia of audis? A corruption of audis? A storm of Audis? An oil slick of black Audis, a politburo of audis, a sinister of audis?

    Some friends and I started playing this game after I’d spent ten times too many stuck in a traffic near Beijing’s east second ring road (only the most important of roads in the entire city), stopped dead waiting for some official (local or foreign) to zoom by. Often at peak hour. It was 30 minutes for Medvedev the other day.

    I mean, what happens in other parts of the world? Shouldn’t there be traffic diversions or something?

    I figure it’s because the Audi-passengers HAVE to be given the tour down Chang-an Jie, past all the important places. Can’t be taking them through no dingy back alleys. Hmph.


  10. @LOLZ: Sorry, we (The West) just can’t help it! You’re just too…proud!

    I’m curious…

    If we (The West) tried reverse psychology on your proud mind and said how much we love China’s corruption, censorship, etc., would you be forced by pride to argue against us (The West) and support the polar opposite of what you believe in–“Western idealism?”

    If a Westerner tells you his 地三鲜 is too salty, will you be forced to side with the chef?

    If a Westerner criticizes China but no one is there to hear it, do fenqings around the world still become more nationalistic?


  11. LOLZ is an a$$hole, but in this particular case he makes something of a reasonable point.

    That being said, I look forward to FOARP’s reply.


  12. canrun, I hope he doesn’t reply. Lolz and keisaat are just trying to bring the conversation down to the “Westerners vs China” level again.


  13. I find it odd that I get to be accused to the one who is trying to bring down the conversation to east vs west, when I am not the one who started the conversation about fengings in China.

    Also, if you look at my posting history in general I try to stay on topic and stay off the personal attacks (on this website anyway, though I do enjoy them in general). Sadly, the same cannot be said of the more ardent China-bashers regulars on the china related blogs.


  14. And now for something more related to the topic itself. The first thing which I thought after watching this video and the commentary was, if I post this on say tianya or mop, would it catch on fire?

    The answer is no, because first of all there no sex and violence which would attract far more attention, but also because on the Chinese forums you can find posts which speak of far more injustices. If there is one thing which gets Chinese netizens upset it would be tales of politicians blatantly abusing their power in the face of others, and/or pictures of supposedly kids of the 2nd generation politicians/rich buried in luxuries.


  15. LOLZ to be honest I don’t understand you. Sometimes you post really mature and well thought out stuff (such as the post immediately above), and then sometimes you post stuff that’s almost pure fenqing. You’ve posted a number of posts now blasting “China-bashers” and “western idealists” with no context in the original article or any other hint of what set you off. Can you give us a concrete example of what you’re so angry about?

    As it happens yesterday I got two PMs/mails from two (normal, non-english speaking, non-dissident) friends in China (one guy actually wanted me to become a moderator in a Chinese forum…yikes!) and both wrote something to the effect of “Fu@k the great firewall”. Why are they telling me this? What am I supposed to reply? That as a western idealist it’s a forbidden topic and that I can’t comment because it will be “selling my own ideology”?


  16. haha petty local council officials pander to their superiors like this the world over, at least the cops in this town have the sense to be embarrassed about it


  17. @LOLZ: Sorry, we (The West) just can’t help it! You’re just too…proud!

    I’m curious…

    If we (The West) tried reverse psychology on your proud mind and said how much we love China’s corruption, censorship, etc., would you be forced by pride to argue against us (The West) and support the polar opposite of what you believe in–”Western idealism?”

    If a Westerner tells you his 地三鲜 is too salty, will you be forced to side with the chef?

    If a Westerner criticizes China but no one is there to hear it, do fenqings around the world still become more nationalistic?


  18. @someguy

    I usually write whatever is on my mind. Though I sometimes like to argue I am typically not angry simply because I don’t think its worth the effort to be angry about people on the internet.

    I write alot about China-bashers because I think they are extremists whose views are mostly naive and unrealistic. They are not much different than the real fenqings and functions the exactly same way. If people write about fenqings I don’t see why I shouldn’t write about China bashers; there are plenty of posts mocking fenqings, why they are bad, etc, but not nearly enough mocking the China bashers who are equally poisonous. If mocking China bashers ever becomes popular then I may switch to a different role.

    One thing to keep in mind though; Real fenqings and China bashers sometimes do make valid points. As much I like to mock the China-bashers I do enjoy thinking about they posts when they do make sense. What ticks me off is when people write stuff like “Oh that guy said something good about the Chinese government and thus must be a fenqing and dismissed”.


  19. lolz, hmm, I agree wholeheartedly with that comment. Criticizing one anti-intellectual nationalist group and not another is like saying you like steamed rice but hate 米饭. I think the reason I was upset is because I self-identify with the term “Western idealist”.

    I dunno if they qualify as “China bashers” but two Western journalists have ticked me off recently. The guy in the Ai Weiwei Economist “interview” – he did like 70% of the talking and wouldn’t let Mr Ai get a word in edgewise. Then there was the BBC reporter who couldn’t even pronounce Liu Xiaobo’s name properly – like I’m going to believe anything he has to say about “Liu Xiaobao”….


  20. @keisaat, Lolz: My point was that the fierce defence of whatever the Chinese government says or does that you see from commenters on the internet is not even representative of the mainstream of pro-government sentiment in Mainland China. That much of it is merely theoretical patriotism-as-a-display (of which much is seen on this discussion thread), but then when concrete examples are brought up (such as the closing of roads for half an hour to flatter a mid-high-level official) real life reasserts itself.

    As to my reaction to the “same as in waiguo” comment, I found it representative of a very common phenomenon even amongst educated people in Mainland China – the tendency to see all foreign countries as part of an indistinguishable (mostly white-skinned and/or Americanised) mass. Yes, amongst certain commenters outside China unfamiliar with the country there is a similar tendency to see Chinese as a homogeneous body, but this is marginally more forgiveable given that China is at least a (relatively) unitary country, whereas ‘waiguo‘ is made up of the remaining 5 billion people living in 180-odd countries outside China.

    As for “we have to support [insert despicable CCP act here] because you guys criticised it”, asides from its pure illogicality (already sufficiently discussed by Zhuge Jiong above), I don’t even think most of the people who say this are being honest with themselves or us. Chinese critics come in for just as much bashing from Pug_ster et al as ‘western’ ones do (although usually the insult-of-choice for them is “traitor”). It seems that, far from merely being opposed to foreign criticism, these people are opposed to any criticism whatsoever.

    But then, the opinions of such people, who, it seems, are mostly the long-term residents of the United States, Canada, and Australia (or should I use lolz’s term and describe them as ‘visitors’?) are not representative of the opinions of ordinary people living in Mainland China. Most Mainlanders are neither knee-jerk pro or anti-government, but merely know wrong-doing when they see it.


  21. I guess I should also say, the objectionable thing about what happens in this video is not only that the road is closed for such an excessive amount of time merely to impress a provincial official, but that the police tried to stop Custer filming. Judging by the angle, would I be right in saying that the final segment was filmed discretely with the camera slung low?

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with pointing out that such behaviour is objectionable. My American friends are often annoyed when politicians in their country attempt to avoid being filmed (Sarah Palin being a classic example), and I see nothing wrong with people in the UK judging the state of US politics based on such behaviour. So my question is: why the butt-hurt?


  22. hi all
    try going to thailand the roads are full of cars and when one of the royal family travel all the roads along the route are blocked all bridges over the roads are stop of cars and people to cross over untill all the cars are passing this is because the royal family dont like people above them ??? and all the police hace guns ready to shoot if you try to get to close to the cars passing


  23. I’ve had this happen to me in Tianjin 4 times, and Beijing once.

    In Tianjin, the police used their radios and confirmed the time the motorcade would pass and let people cross the road for a minute or so, then blocked everybody for a few minutes. They did this for almost an hour up to about 10 minutes before the motorcade passed, and then blocked everybody for 10-12 minutes until the motorcade passed – most people grumbled, but I didn’t hear any loud complaints.


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