Guest Post: Let’s “Occupy Chang’an Avenue”! (Translation)

The following article is a guest translation by Alec Ash. You may remember him as the man behind the excellent (and wholly unique) blog; these days he’d prefer you check out his new writer’s colony, the Anthill.

This is a translation of this article by Wu Yun.

Translation: Let’s “Occupy Chang’an Avenue”!

by Wu Yun

Wall Street used to be full of cash, stocks and bonds; now it is full of tents and banners. America clearly has a problem, but that problem is far from simple. Weak financial supervision, inequitable distribution of wealth, inhibited class communication and the failure of democratic coordination are all the nation’s blight. There are some who look at this and point to America’s decline, but that isn’t my concern. I want to address those who think the turmoil on Wall Street shows up the failures of democracy. I think that’s over the top.

Democracy clearly has its flaws, but OWS shows not the defects of democracy but its advantages. That protestors do not “go missing” is thanks to the benefits of democracy, and the lack of violent conflict or loss of social order is an example of its accomplishments. The US government has not condemned, suppressed or sympathised with the movement, nor have the crowds challenged the legitimacy of the government or the democratic system itself. Rather, OWS is happening precisely within that democratic framework.

In other words: we must change our perspective and see this demonstration as a rational expression of democracy, and the normal activity of a healthy society rather than the upheaval of it.

Anyone with a little knowledge of American history knows that mass demonstrations have been occurring for a long time, and American democracy has never died, only progressed. The women’s suffrage movement in the early 20th century allowed women to vote. The black civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s paved the way for Obama to become president. And marches against the Vietnam war, the Iraq war, abortion, anti-gay prejudice and so on are too many to count. So the Occupy movement is certainly no big deal.

When people feel their votes, petitions and appeals are so useless that they can only make their point with demonstrations, it’s clear that democracy is far from perfect. But experience shows that if you oppose democracy from a utopian or excessively moralistic perspective – treating demonstrations as the enemy of society rather than as giving society a much-needed shock – it is all too easy to become a dictator and create social disaster.

Just because China has no demonstrations like this, it doesn’t mean it has no problems. After the subprime mortgage crisis, the US government had no choice but to bail out the banks – if they hadn’t, the consequences would have been even more disastrous. Some say the bailout was in collusion with financial oligarchs, but we have no cause for complacency because the Chinese economic stimulus cost us just as dear. The difference is: how much money we paid out and where and how it was used was not approved by Congress, let alone made accountable to the Chinese taxpayer.

If you look at the data, of the CCP’s four trillion RMB stimulus, two trillion was invested in northwest rail, roads and airports, more than a trillion in high-speed rail, and another sizable chunk in state-owned enterprises. This is not to say that, considering the economic situation of the northwest, large-scale investment into infrastructure is a waste of money. But even if national strategy is difficult to decide democratically, the people should have the right to express their opinion when it comes to how their own money is spent. Yet we do not.

On Wall Street, angry young men protest the market monopoly of a few capitalist bigwigs, condemning these oligarchical as predators of the economy. Unfortunately, China’s oligarchical establishment far outdoes America’s. The state-owned enterprises that monopolise the Chinese market are for the most part controlled by so-called “princelings” and their relatives. Publicly-owned enterprises nominally belong to the people but in reality, besides raising consumer prices as they like, they have no connection with the people whatsoever.

State-owned banks lent fourteen trillion RMB for the rescue package, which was in turn injected into state-owned companies or private companies with government backgrounds. Some of the US stimulus money was recalled after the economy improved, but the Chinese equivalent is unrecoverable. If it didn’t fall into the hands of the bigwigs – through the well-known efficiency of bonus distribution in state-owned enterprises – it returned to the coffers of government profits.

Financial supervision may be weak in America, but at least the public can protest and Obama can do something about it. In China, the bad debts of banks and levels of corruption among regulators and executives are so dreadful that we daren’t make them public. The inequality gap may be large in America but it pales in comparison to China’s. America may have scant social security but China has virtually no social security at all.

Many Chinese, when they heard of their government’s stimulus package, waxed lyrical about China’s abundant financial resources and strong sense of responsibility – but didn’t call into question its rules of financial regulation or the end results of that stimulus. And now they mock American protests against just such injustices. I find that baffling.

It was American democracy which enabled their problems to be recognised, taken seriously and have the potential to be solved. In China things are murkier. In reality, China faces more serious problems of financial oligarchism, corruption and inequality than America. But “Occupy Chang’an Jie” is no more than a fairy tale – in China a jobless, homeless protester would not reach Beijing before disappearing mysteriously.

The freedom to assemble and demonstrate exists in almost every country’s constitution, but it’s only a few countries where the people can genuinely protest against the government without being quashed. If the OWS movement is a sign of a flawed democracy, I hope China can have some of that flawed democracy too. Because China’s calm is by no means fortunate.

At the time when the American civil rights movement was sweeping the nation, the Soviet Union was calm too, emphasising the disorder of capitalism and democracy in their propaganda, and saying that America was in deep distress. But not long afterwards, American democracy reached a new level and the country is a superpower, while Soviet citizens erupted against the suppression of their voices, to the USSR’s ruin.

0 thoughts on “Guest Post: Let’s “Occupy Chang’an Avenue”! (Translation)”

  1. OWS is peanuts to the massive cracks in China’s system starting to surface. This piece does a great job explicating that. I found it baffling when CCTV initially touted OWS during the standard “foreign countries are in chaos” segment. And that they implicitly gave the “No Protests in China = Everyone is Happy” narrative. It’s pretty clear China has all the problems OWS is protesting to a much more critical degree.


  2. “On Wall Street, angry young men protest the market monopoly of a few capitalist bigwigs, condemning these oligarchical as predators of the economy.”

    Predators of the Economy? It’s a Pro-democratic protest. That’s why they’re not protesting to the Politicians. They did that for years. They even voted in a black guy. A landslide victory. And still the same laws get passed, and there’s no Health Care, and the tax rates for rich keep coming down, as the country sinks deeper into debt (to a third-world country, no less).

    I dont know who Wu Yun is, but his argument is childish and naive. As ever, once you get past the difficulty of the Chinese language, the content is somewhere around the high school level. Just how the Government likes it.


  3. Nice article by Wu. And fantastic translation job by Mr. Ash. America no doubt has its issues. But when it come to accountability, transparency, rule of law, and constitutional protection, CCP China has much to learn and a long way to go.


  4. …and you say this because….of what exactly? Oh, right, you disagree with him, so naturally you try to shoot the messenger rather than telling us how he misconstrues American democracy, how he’s mistaken about the purposes and nature of OWS protests, and how he fails to grasp Chinese economic problems.

    If nothing else, you are stereotypically predictable like Pavlovian test subjects.


  5. Micheal and pug_ster: I am curious as to why you dislike this little article by Wu Yun. I find the basic message to be fairly accurate, but maybe you see something here that I missed. Could you please explain which parts of it you think are untrue or incorrect?


  6. @ Michael A. Robson:

    China doesn’t have demonstrations like OWS, and it hasn’t since 1989. There are plenty of protests now, to be sure, but they’re always about local issues like land repossession. Find me a large-scale protest for democracy in China, and I’ll find you a bunch of dudes who are in jail.

    (Just look at how the government responded to the Jasmine “protests”, which no one even showed up to in the first place).


  7. Pingback: Occupy Beijing?
  8. @Joseph Lemien,

    When Wu Yun speaks about ‘changes’ in the US because of protests, IE women’s movement, Iraq War, Anti-gay, etc… Did those ‘changes’ happen over in the course in a few weeks. No. In fact, when people in the US protest, the very first response of the US government is suppression, including this OWS movement. Until some guy overreacted, in some crazed incident like a few people died, then maybe the US government reacted. In the Spring 89 protests in China, protests happened in many cities. The local governments did reach out to these protesters and eventually was able to talk them out of protesting, except Beijing where for a few hardened protesters don’t want to compromise and wants to overthrow the government.

    All the other points that he made are so wrong that I have to write an essay twice as long as his to refute his points.


  9. Asking people such as “pugster” to elucidate their disagreements with articles such as Wu’s is a fool’s errand, because anonymous posters like pugster are paid propagandists for Beijing. Their job is not to address issues – they either don’t have the facts, or the facts are too inconvenient to discuss – but to malign and, more significantly, point up the faults of China’s critics. It’s like keeping a badminton shuttlecock in the air: as long as the insults are hurled back and forth, focusing everyone’s concentration on the discourse, nothing is settled, no one loses face, everything seems relatively equivalent.


  10. To da Pug,
    so changes did occur after protests in the US, like women’s rights etc, but now your complaint is that those changes didn’t happen fast enough? When Iraq war protests broke out, what acts of “suppression” did the US engage in? How were OWS protests suppressed?

    Now, since you need to compare, let’s compare. Besides TAM, what other national movements/protests have been allowed to occur in China? What changes resulted from the TAM movement? How quickly did those changes occur, and how long before things reverted back to the old way? Most level minded people will acknowledge that TAM in fact made the CCP rededicate themselves to clamping down on democratic protests thereafter, but I realize you don’t qualify as a level-minded person. Now, it’s true that the CCP did tolerate TAM for some time. However, when suppression finally came, TAM makes the removal of OWS protesters look like a walk in the park. As usual, your comparisons are groundless and retarded.

    “Why don’t you refute my points ”
    —how the hell can someone refute your “points” when all you say is “All the other points that he made are so wrong that I have to write an essay twice as long as his to refute his points”. You haven’t said a damn thing, and certainly made nothing even remotely resembling an argument. There is really nothing to refute except your highly questionable behaviour.


  11. To JB:
    you’ve hit the nail on the head. Alas, CCP apologists are people too, but this is what we’re left with. My personal approach is that if people don’t mind sounding retarded, I don’t mind pointing that fact out to them.


  12. JB: I am willing to take up the quixotic mantle (temporarily, at least) of attempting to debate civilly on the internet. I am sure that my foolish idealism will fade as I age.

    Pug_ster: You state that changes in the U.S. did not happen over the course of a few weeks. Wu Yun never makes that claim. In fact, the cases which he cites (The women’s suffrage movement in the early 20th century and the black civil rights movement) specifically took years to bear fruit. He specifically mentions that “The black civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s paved the way for Obama to become president,” which is a quite a long-term consequence, separated by decades from the protests.

    You also state that ” the very first response of the US government is suppression,” but this seems to be inconsistent with the facts. Although many institutions initially have a defensive reaction to anything that is perceived as threatening (which is basically anything which is perceived as different), the suppressing party is often not the U.S. government, but rather local or state government/institutions. Look at the civil rights struggles in the Unites States: state governments suppressed desegregation efforts, while the federal government had to go so far as to send in the national guard as a way of protecting black people from aggressive whites. Similarly, the OWS protests in New York have faced antagonism from New York police, but not from federal forces. The infamous pepper spraying of protesters in California did not occur by the hand of the U.S. Government, but rather at the hand of campus police, a local force controlled by a local institution.

    As for your statements about Spring of ’89 in China, my knowledge extends only as far as the protests in Beijing, and I am fairly sure that (unless you are using “overthrow” in a VERY broad sense) there were no major efforts to overthrow the government in ’89. I am under the impression that the major push was for reform and representation (and coke and nike shoes, from what I saw in the interviews). Am I wrong on this? Can someone correct me if I am? I am, however, curious about what you say concerning the government talking people out of protesting in other cities, however. I have never heard of this, and it would be very interesting to me, and it would definitely change my view of the events of ’89. Could you link to some sources so that I could read about this?


  13. Joseph Lemien,

    State and local government is not part of the US government? Right….

    I think you should read up more about the Spring 89 movements and not the BS Western propaganda version.


  14. There is not a US or Chinese issue under heaven that has not been grossly misinterpreted or willfully distorted by pug_ster, a sad specimen who has fallen through the cracks of two societies he does not understand, but pretends to. I’d be extremely reluctant to trust him to correctly tell me the time of day while standing in a clock shop. He would get my vote, though, as the most predictably dumb commenter on the Internet.

    Whether paid by the CCP or not, pug_ster’s main goal is to derail threads and the pattern plays out like this:

    -The first response to a post dismisses the author’s credibility, based solely on an appeal to pug_ster’s own (non existent) authority.
    -The folly of his viewpoint is swiftly pointed out, usually by the estimable SK Cheung, whose exchanges with pug often resemble an Olympic boxer beating the shit out of an armless 6-year-old.
    -Hilarity ensues as Custer and the acerbic King Tubby join the fray.
    -The defiantly clueless Pug_ster then counters with a non sequitur, which, aside from its lack of pertinence to the thread, is by itself is derived from a questionable grasp of the example he raises.
    -Rinse and repeat as a frustrated pug_ster starts randomly calling people who are obviously better informed than him morons, trolls or maggots.
    -After stinking up a thread with thought feces, pug_ster will complain that everybody is talking about him instead of the issue he has done his best to avoid discussing.

    Did I miss anything here?


  15. “Wade through this drivel. Its like swimming through wet cement.”

    “China” could be easily substituted with “North Korea” throughout that Orwellian speech.


  16. Pug_ster, the guy above asked you to explain what you said about other local governments talking people out of protesting. I’m curious to learn about this too. Please explain! Thanks.


  17. @Pugster LOL. You’ve excelled yourself.

    A Commenting Legend reaches his arc.

    Its all downhill for you from now on and a hard landing as an office boy in the Guizhou Daily, where the girls will smirk when you are not looking.


  18. Why labor on at a “hate site” when you can nest in the loving Bosom of Harmony — Hidden Harmonies, that is.

    Think about it.

    HH has none of the attributes of a “hate site” in your unique definition: No pesky logic, no annoying facts, no critical analysis, nobody to point out your fallacies or show how you incorrectly read a post.

    HH has none of the things you hate and everything you love: PRC sycophants, knee-jerk uninformed criticism of “the West”, the blocking of critical comments and commenters and the overall blissful vibe of the willfully ignorant.

    Make it a 2012 resolution to trade daily humiliation at China Geeks for the warm embrace of the Bootlickers of the Motherland.


  19. To be very slightly fair to pug, I do recall that a number of cities in China in 1989 handled their (minor) protests without gunning down people, as was done in Beijing. But the identifiable protesters in second-tier cities were not spared the crackdown and punishment that came down nationwide, so pug is ultimately largely off the mark.


  20. If you occupy Chang’an Avenue, you will end up the same way the students ended up in Tiennanmen Square in 1989. You will be shot, you will be run over by tanks, and you will disappear in black jails.


  21. So the pug is reduced to this. He says something stupid. He gets called on it. He whines about it. Apparently this is a “hate site”, but it’s a hate site he chooses to frequent. To each their own, as I always say.

    Then lo and behold, someone like Joseph comes by and extends da pug every courtesy he could possibly deserve and several that he doesn’t. It’s pug’s chance to shine, where he can serve up an answer of substance and demonstrate that he capacity doesn’t start and end with character assasination and derailing of threads for the CCP’s benefit. And what do we get? “I think you should read up more about the Spring 89 movements and not the BS Western propaganda version.” And pug wonders why he gets pounded like a Whack-a-mole.

    This is a “hate” site. People here tend to hate stupidity, crappy logic, and incalcitrance. Those do seem to be the Pug’s prevailing qualities. So the results should surprise no one.

    Puggy, this is your lot in life. Live it loud, and sing it proud, buddy.


  22. Hey guys. I’m new to this site and have just finished reading my first article and the above comments. Apparently, this “pug” person is quite eccentric. The way I see it, internet trolls like this don’t deserve our valuable time and attention. People like pug thrive on the decency and attention from others. Let’s just have a civilized debate and give pug a chance to spit out whatever he wants to say. After all, that is what free speech is all about.


  23. Actually, let’s be perfectly clear here so we’re not setting up false dichotomies. When we demonstrated against the Iraq War, protestors DID go to gaol for no apparent reason, up to and including Methodist and Catholic bishops:

    There are numerous other examples, up to and including Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. And then there’s that whole issue of torture–I mean, ‘enhanced interrogation’. That been addressed yet, or are we still ‘looking forward’?

    Also, I agree with Mr Wu about the lack of social security, let alone property security (as in land expropriation) in China. It is a HUGE problem, and it is NOT just a local one, since it happens everywhere (whether Liaodong, Guangzhou or Ningxia). It needs to be addressed swiftly, both by people within and outside the government. He’s also right that the United States doesn’t really have anything like that; property rights are more secure here than in the PRC.

    That having been said, though, the US oughtn’t pat itself on the back on the inequality issue, because Mr Wu simply has the facts wrong: we still have (according to the CIA, 2007 data) a GINI index of 0.45; whilst the PRC has one of 0.415. (GINI is still the most effective and most accurate measure of overall economic inequality.) BOTH COUNTRIES have since gotten worse as a result of the financial crisis.

    It would also be more interesting to see an analysis of how the political institutions Mr Wu wants to see happen in the PRC actually evolved, and what conditions would need to be met for such institutions to be built. Afghanistan and Iraq still stand as two tragic monuments to the hubris of those who thought functional electoral democracy could be erected in a day, at the point of a gun.


  24. 彪哥,

    Oh right, I am asking for all this kind of ‘personal attention.’ The problem with this site is that C Custer is not moderating. So you have these losers here who is more interested in talking about me rather than talk about why Wu Yun is right or wrong.


  25. Ah, you’re unhappy with my moderating. Apologies.


    pugster: Banned for violating basically every aspect of our comments policy, but primarily the bit about making comments that are on topic and related to the post in question.

    King Tubby: Banned also for violating a bunch of aspects of our comment policy, especially the ad hominem and “speculating” bits.

    To the two of you: my email address is no secret; if you’d like to appeal your blocking, feel free to email me.

    TO EVERYONE ELSE: There are a bunch of you I could just as easily have banned for violating this policy, primarily in attacks on pugster. I’m not because I don’t want to go sifting backward through a mountain of comments. This means that one of you (KT) got unlucky and a number of you got lucky. Unfair? Yup. But don’t take it for granted.

    We will have civil, productive discussion here or none at all. This being the internet and all, I fear we’re doomed to suffer the latter, so consider this a last ditch effort to prevent that.

    THE COMMENTS POLICY HAS BEEN REVISED. The bannings mentioned above were made in accordance with the old rules, but new rules have been added. Please click that link and familiarize yourself with the new rules for commenting on this site, or run the risk of getting banned. A change obviously needed to be made, so we’ll see how this works out.


  26. Not too much wrong with Wu Yun’s critique of China and its gov’t. BUT at the same time, there is a completely INACCURATE and idealistic ROMANTICIZATION of Western so-called “democracy” and society. For instance:

    1) There WAS “violent conflict” and “loss of social order” as a result of OWS. Perhaps just not on the scale that most Chinese might face if they were to protest in similar fashion.
    2) The US gov’t HAS condemned and suppressed OWS. Just not as blatantly and heavy-handedly as China does.
    3) The US gov’t has NOT “sympathized with the movement.” Sure, some INDIVIDUAL politicians in the Democratic Party certainly do sympathize, but the DEMOCRATIC PARTY AS AN INSTITUTION (let alone the government as a whole) DOES NOT – it is, at best, trying to CO-OPT the movement back into the usual corporate-financed political framework. (And on that note…)
    4) The crowds HAVE INDEED “challenged the legitimacy of the government” and HAVE proclaimed that the so-called “democratic system itself” is NOT SO “DEMOCRATIC” AFTER ALL.
    5) Therefore, the so-called “democratic framework” that Wu Yun fantasizes about is in fact being CHALLENGED FUNDAMENTALLY by many within the OWS movement.

    Again, all these above errors are understandable, given that most Chinese do not have easy access to uncensored information, and given that their political freedom is far worse than that in the West. But that doesn’t mean Wu Yun holds accurate conceptions of OWS or of how “democracy” functions (or, more often than not, DOESN’T function) under a Western capitalist democracy.


  27. To whdgm66,
    I would agree insofar as pointing out that the US doesn’t necessarily exhibit unconditional and unfettered tolerance of the OWS movement in its entirety, and that limits have been imposed up to and including termination of the physical occupation of public spaces in NYC and other cities. In that regard, the difference with China is not a dichotomous one, but one of varying gradations.

    However, I don’t think Wu’s point is that democracy as practiced in the US is without flaws. I think he’s trying to point out that outward upheaval does not equal underlying instability, just as outward calm does not equal fundamental stability.


  28. SK Cheung:

    True that Wu doesn’t say the US is perfect. But the [mis-]characterizations I pointed out above (all of which contained within just the second paragraph of Wu’s essay) remain problematic. He also claims that “American democracy… enabled” the progress seen in the country. I would contend that democracy in the US was won IN SPITE OF the government and its proclaimed “freedoms” and supposed “democratic” principles. Mr. Wu would be well-served if there was a Chinese translation of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”.


  29. Addendum: In any case, it is also still understandable given that Wu is trying to debunk party propaganda, which tries to cast the US negatively and inaccurately, but for its own purposes.


  30. To whdgm66:
    In the third to last paragraph, Wu says “It was American democracy which enabled their problems to be recognised, taken seriously and have the potential to be solved.” I couldn’t find any part where he suggested “that “American democracy… enabled” the progress seen in the country” per se. Maybe I missed it.

    If democracy prevails in a country whose government proclaims adherence to “democratic principles”, on what basis do you disavow the possibility of a causal relationship? What forces convened to allow democracy to prevail independent of those governing principles?

    If we apply the scenario to China, can democracy become established under the watch of a government that does NOT subscribe to democratic principles?


  31. SK Cheung:

    I was paraphrasing from that line in the third to last paragraph. The only direct quotes were the ones I enclosed in quotation marks.

    I don’t unequivocally disavow the possibility of a causal relationship. Perhaps I should have written, “democracy in the US was won *largely* IN SPITE OF the government…”


  32. oh, and as to your final question: yes, a more democratic China is possible – but unlikely w/o a drastic change. not necessarily an outright overthrow or revolution, but the more the party’s contradictions keep getting papered over, the more likely it will face a reckoning.


  33. Most of the points presented are predicated on the belief that China being a one-party state with a governmnent that imposes a lot of restrictions on its people is inherently “evil” and that one day its people will rise to overturn it. This is not the right way to look at this issue. One should look at a country with its unique history, culture and conditions can succeed on a Western style of liberal democracy or not. Many former colonies of the Western powers have enthusiastically embraced liberal democrcacy and have failed miserably. Based on performance, the Chinese model has done extremely well since its inception in 1949. Political and economic models keep evolving along with human development. The Chinese people know best what they need to develop their nation.


  34. To Mark,
    I’m not sure I would go so far as to characterize CCP authoritarianism as “inherently evil”. I don’t think it is necessarily inherently anything. Good or evil, I think, can be judged more by what it does rather than solely based on what it is.

    THe “Chinese model” has indeed done well from 1980-2011. It didn’t do nearly as well from 1949-1979. It wasn’t a revamping of authoritarianism that ushered in change. It was the allowance for capitalism and a free-market economy that spurred progress.

    “The Chinese people know best what they need to develop their nation.”
    —indeed. And Chinese people deserve a political system that respects that concept.


  35. im sorry, but just want to notice you guyz that the chinese guy who wrote the article are really is the people who is hating chinese government and the website( basically opens by the people on (hating group), then obviously, they did not really write all the things and fact about China. even through, as a chinese i have to admit it’s has some true facts through the article, but not all of them:)

    ps. no side, and no opinion.


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