Tag Archives: Controversy

Housing Prices Up 1.5%? “Yeah Right,” Say Netizens

The National Department of Statistics recently published a report on economic and social developments in 2009. Among the statistics found in the report are the past year’s housing pricing changes. In a year when people were literally lighting themselves on fire over housing issues and many complained of skyrocketing housing prices, the official verdict is in:

The data shows in large and middle-sized cities housing market prices went up by 1.5%. Newly built dwellings went up 1.3%, the prices of secondhand dwellings went up 2.4%, and the prices for renting/leased housing went down by 0.6%.

Henan Man Protests High Housing Prices
But that 1.5% figure hasn’t exactly been well received. From this article:

The Statistics Department’s 1.5% yearly increase is obviously lower than what many people have experienced in reality. Yesterday, as soon as the statistics were published, there was immediately hot debate on the internet. One netizen wrote, “Even in a small town, prices going up by over 30% was common last year, and in cities it was even more. A 1.5% increase, can you believe it? Obviously they put the decimal point in the wrong place.”

Others have called into question the usefulness of national statistics and called on the government to release more specific local statistics. Said Beijing realtor Yang Shaofeng:

Because of China’s regional differences, the housing prices in cities in different regions could be relatively disparate. Even in the same city, in central and suburban districts there are high and low housing prices. Because of this, the experiences of people from different regions toward the increase in housing prices is naturally different.

Comments on both original articles seem to be closed — clicking “leave a comment” on the Xinhua stories currently results in an error message — and there seems to be a mysterious dearth of comments on reposts of the news on other sites, too. For example this Mop repost has only one comment (“It’s simply nonsense, perhaps the Statistics Department are all blind?”) and this repost on Tianya is getting responses, but apparently slowly enough for someone to comment: “Why is nobody responding?”

What comments are there are pretty harsh. “Those in the public sector are stupid c**ts,” wrote one. Another wrote, “Actually, we common people won’t blame those in the Statistics Department for eating, drinking, and having fun [on the public dime], just don’t come out with messy altered statistics like this, OK?”

The statistic certainly does look questionable, especially in light of January’s apparent 9.5% spike. A botched decimal point? Intentionally fudged numbers? National data thrown off by massive regional disparities? You can be the judge of the cause, but whatever the reason, Chinese netizens certainly aren’t buying.

“Twenty Years Unfinished”

[The following is a translation of a blog post from Very Yellow, Very Violent (h/t to Imagethief for leading us to the blog). Links in the text were added by ChinaGeeks to provide some historical context for those who may not know what’s being discussed here, they’re not in the original piece. For those unaware, the seven demands he quotes are demands made by the students in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 protests, several students famously knelt submissively on the steps of the Great Hall of the People for hours holding up their peition but were ignored.]

Twenty years ago, a group of college students sat quietly at the entrance to the Great Hall of the People and raised a poster with seven demands:

  • One: Reevaluate the achievements and errors of Hu Yaobang and affirm his standpoints on democracy, freedom, relaxing [of restrictions], and [social] harmony.
  • Two: Thoroughly negate and eliminate “spiritual pollution” and “oppose bourgeoise liberalization” [two government campaigns -Ed.], and rehabilitate those intellectuals who have suffered being falsely accused.
  • Three: Open [reports on] all forms of income for national leaders and their family members for the people to see, oppose corrupt officials.
  • Four: Allow the people to run newspapers, remove restrictions on what can be reported, implement freedom of speech.
  • Five: Increase funding for education and improve the treatment of intellectuals.
  • Six: Cancel the “ten conditions” for demonstrations stipulated by the Beijing municipal government.
  • Seven: Demand government leaders thoroughly and publicly discuss government mistakes, and for some leaders, hold new elections through democracy.

The results that year needn’t be mentioned.
Even so, twenty years have passed; has there been a satisfying response to these seven demands written in blood?

  • 1. Reevaluating the achievements and errors of leaders before and after; at that time it was Hu Yaobang, today, you could say it’s Zhao Ziyang, Jiang Zemin, or Xi Jinping. [All people who’ve fallen out of favor since Hu Yaobang’s passing and have not be rehabilitated -Ed.]
  • 2. Intellectuals suffering unjust persecution, today there are still many: Hu Jia, He Weifang, Liu Xiaobo, Ji Sizun, etc. etc.
  • 3. Reporter: “Some Official, how do you view a system of reporting on the [income and] public property of officials?” …High Official: “If you want this to be public, why don’t you also want to make public all of the common people’s income and property?”
  • 4. Don’t even think of running a newspaper, even running a website or a blog is beset with difficulties. Are you willing to be put on file or willing to be firewalled?
  • 5. How much is 4 trillion in investment in education. When added together with [the funding for] medical insurance, it reaches 1% [of the overall government budget].
  • 6. During the Olympics, someone who applied to protest in the designated protest areas was sentenced to three years in prison.
  • 7. Tombstone was banned in China, the number of mobiles on which texting service is blocked in Tibet is increasing, you’re not allowed to investigate the number of students who died in the Sichuan earthquake because their schoolhouses collapsed…
  • These seven demands, are they or are they not something we’re still looking forward to in our hearts?
    Do you or do you not wish to wait another twenty years, and leave these problems for your children?

    [We may update this post with translations of comments if more appear on the site, the author has also written a longer, related piece which you can find here. We may translate it, and/or run some commentary on this piece later.]

Would You Break the Law for This Woman?

According to ESWN, lots of Chinese people apparently would. Lu Jiali, reportedly the mistress of some of Shanghai’s highest officials (many of whom are now embroiled in a scandal), is an attractive woman (88% of netizens polled agree!). Photos of her (after the jump) have been circulating the internet recently, which led to an opinion poll: “If you were a government official, would you break the law for the sake of Lu Jiali?”

55% of respondents indicated that yes, they would break the law for her. 30% said they wouldn’t, and 15% said they weren’t sure. ESWN reports one netizen commented: “When I saw the results, I am speechless — are there any good men left in the world?” It is a bit distressing, on the other hand, is anyone really surprised? Certainly, it seems like if officials themselves were polled, an awful lot of them would say yes, too. Looking at the original article, another netizen engaged in some in-depth analysis of the photographs’ symbolism:

“The background shows a derelict fishing boat, and a submerged reef. How creative, the metaphorical meaning is that these officials are just a boat used to “catch fish” which will collide with the reef. But in the end, she will make it ashore. You can look at the pictures and see it, this woman is really remarkable.” Another netizen wrote: “Being an official is really great, one can enjoy this kind of top-class beauty!”

Others felt the news was nothing to write home about: “Almost everyone knows officials have mistresses,” one netizen wrote; apparently 94% of those polled felt that officials having mistresses was “extremely common.”

The Useless Tree has also picked up the story, pointing out that Confucius had something to say about all this: “It is a rare man who would turn his mind to virtue when he could follow love instead.” (Analects 15.13) and “The Master said: “I’ve never seen anyone for whom loving Integrity is like loving a beautiful woman.” (Analects 9.8)

Also of interest today: Mutant Palm has posted a page containing links to several archives of historical Chinese photos, and plans to continue updating it as new archives become available. Historians, start your engines!

An Analysis of “Free Tibet”

“Free Tibet” is a phrase with a bit of a history. More or less since the Chinese army entered Tibet in 1951, some people have asserted that Tibet should be its own country. Over time, the cause became popular among Westerners, especially students and celebrities. The intensity of the protesting comes and goes as things in Tibet happen (or don’t), but the song has remained more or less the same: “Free Tibet.” Yet, if Tibet were to become independent, it would be a disaster for the Tibetan people.

Reasons for Western Interest in Tibetan Independence
Why has this particular cause attracted so much attention in the West? There are two reasons. One is Western perception of the Chinese government, which is shaped mainly by the knowledge that they are Communist and that they once killed students in Tiananmen Square. They are, as a result, “evil”. Western perceptions of Tibetans are based on the Dalai Lama, who seems calm, wise, peaceful, spiritual—everything it seems the Chinese government is not. Controversy closer to home is always complicated, but from afar the China-Tibet issue comes off as good-versus-evil to the uninformed.

The other reason Tibet in particular has attracted so much attention is that it appeals to a certain nostalgia many Western intellectuals have; a desire to return to a simpler, more “pure” time. Tibet’s “spiritual” traditional society, its ruggedly beautiful terrain, and its ancient, mysterious religion all give it a special sort of “flavor” that Westerners feel is being destroyed by the modernity the Chinese government brings to Tibet.

Unfortunately, those perceptions are misguided. Traditional Tibetan society may have been spiritual, but it was also a slave society. The vast majority of Tibetans were extremely poor, there was no real justice system, and the political structure of its government was rife with corruption, exploitation, and perversion. In the book The Struggle for Modern Tibet (the autobiography of a Tibetan who has lived in Tibet, mainland China, India, and the United States), Tashi Tsering describes how as a child in pre-1951 Tibet he was chosen to become a dancer for the Dalai Lama, taken from his family forever as a kind of “tax”, and forced into a dance troupe run by a sadistic director and forever plagued by horny Tibetan monks. These monks (Tibetan monks may not marry) took out their sexual frustration through sexual relationships with the children in the dance troupe—Tsering describes this as common practice. Perceptions of pre-1951 Tibet as a utopian Shangri-La are, at best, extremely oversimplified.

Similarly, what China does in Tibet often goes unreported or is misinterpreted by a Western public eager to find fault with the Chinese government. For example, last May, some Tibetans began a violent riot that caused millions of dollars in damage and touched off a series of racially-motivated hate crimes against Han Chinese and Muslims. Non-Tibetans in Lhasa were stabbed, beaten, and even burned alive in the streets. The Chinese government sent in police to stop the riots. There was no evidence of violence and the Western reporter in Lhasa at the time reported seeing no police misconduct:

What I saw was calculated targeted violence against an ethnic group, or I should say two ethnic groups, primarily ethnic Han Chinese living in Lhasa, but also members of the Muslim Hui minority in Lhasa.
James Miles

Still, the story that played in the West was one of a “brutal crackdown” against “peaceful Tibetan protesters”. CNN even doctored a photo of Chinese police vehicles that ran on their website, editing out Tibetan rioters who were attacking the trucks. Myriad other news media ran misleading headlines and photographs, including numerous photographs of police in Nepal beating protesters that were labeled as if they were photos from China.

In the end, though, whether or not the Western media covers Tibet fairly, and whether or not traditional Tibetan society was good for Tibetans is largely irrelevant. The international political climate has changed since 1951. If Tibet became independent, it would be a disaster for the Tibetan people.

Tibet Should Not Be Independent
Why? Well, for one thing, Tibet is still quite undeveloped, economically speaking. China pours money in but gets almost nothing back. The Economist reports:

In 2001, for example, for every renminbi of Tibet’s economic growth, central-government spending increased by Rmb2, according to Mr Fischer. In that year alone, state spending increased by 75%. By 2004 the situation had changed only slightly, with Rmb0.65 of economic growth requiring only Rmb1 of increased subsidies and state investment.
The Economist

Many might be inclined to blame this on government policies designed to keep Tibet weak, but actually NPR reports that in fact, Beijing pays for 90% of all government expenditures in Tibet, and floats gigantic infastructure projects like new highways and a massive hydroelectric dam.

Now, let’s imagine for a second that tomorrow, Tibet were to become its own country again. What would happen?

Well, the Dalai Lama and the rest of the exile community would probably return. They would arrive to find a society greatly changed from the one they ruled over half a century ago, and a people who have had little contact with them for decades. They would also find strong racial tensions that did not exist in the 1950s, and that has frequently erupted into violence in the past. The embittered remnants of the former Tibetan provincial government would likely also remain, and possibly position themselves in the way of anyone attempting to commandeer their bureaucracy. It seems unlikely that the exile leaders would actually be able to run a modern nation on their own; but even if they were theoretically capable, what money would they use?

As mentioned above, Tibet’s economic output is insufficient to support the region. The removal of all Beijing’s political infastructure would undoubtedly weaken Tibet’s economy further, leaving the new “nation” in the hands of an inexperienced relgious sect with little governing experience and no money.

Tibet would have almost no hope of finding support from other nations, either. China would certainly never support an independent Tibet, and other nations would also refuse support for fear of angering China and harming trade relations.

There seems very little reason to speculate that a “Free Tibet” wouldn’t quickly devolve into some third-world hellhole, complete with all the starvation and social instability that comes along with that title. At the end of the day, protesters calling for a Free Tibet must ask themselves what, exactly, it is that they want, and who they want it for.