Tag Archives: Mass Incidents

Police Violence, Public Anger, and the Local as National

I guess it’s just one of those days. This morning saw the rise of incident 1, which was the most-searched for item on Baidu when I checked. This evening, news of incident 2 is spreading quickly via a Youku video, although it’s clearly in danger of being deleted.

Incident 1: Hunan Traffic Cops Beat Driver for No Reason

This morning, Baidu’s hottest topic was this, a story of completely unnecessary violence on the part of traffic police that finally attracted a mob who flipped a police car in Hunan. I don’t have time to translate the entire article, but here’s the summary of it I wrote this morning for The World of Chinese, slightly expanded:

Traffic cops [交警] in Hengdong, Hunan, appeared at an intersection where they generally do not in large numbers. Several cars passed through the intersection with problem. Suddenly, a BYD F3 drove through the intersection and they flagged it down. The driver stopped on the street on the other side of the intersection, at which point the traffic cops dragged him out of the car and started beating for no apparent reason. When his mother came over, groveling on her knees and begging the cops not to hit him, they started beating her, too. The same thing happened to the driver’s wife when she came out. This attracted a large crowd, which surrounded the cops and asked them to stop. The police then began threatening the crowd, and continued beating until both the driver and his wife had been knocked unconscious.

At this point, someone called the actual police [保安], and the traffic cops told them that the man had been driving drunk, but this was quickly proved to be false. Then the traffic cops said they hadn’t beaten anyone and blamed the violence on a local bully/gangster. Onlookers started laughing at this point, as hundreds of people had seen them beating the man. Although the traffic cops themselves were unharmed, at some point the crowd of onlookers got angry enough to flip a police car onto its side and, from the look of this photo, rip the lights off as well.

Eventually it turned out that the intersection was meant to be closed for the military to pass through, but the traffic police had not informed anyone of this or put up any signs about it being closed. According to the article, the traffic police in this country are already notorious for being unfair, violent, and generally disagreeable.

Incident 2: Harbin Chengguan Beat Street Vendor (?)

Meanwhile, this video is currently spreading through Chinese social networks. It’s a couple days old but appears to be just getting noticed now, approaching 200,000 plays and climbing at a rate of about 10,000 views every 15 minutes at the moment. At the moment, it seems to be spreading mostly through Harbin networks, as the incident happened in Harbin ((I used to live in Harbin and many of my Chinese friends are from the area, which is how I got clued into this.))

http://player.youku.com/player.php/sid/XMjY0Nzc2Nzg4/v.swf

The video is extremely chaotic, loud, and shaky, so it’s very difficult to tell exactly what’s happening. The my interpretation is something like this: Before the video starts, Harbin chengguan obviously got into some kind of dispute with the man who they start beating when he follows them at the beginning of the video. Based on some of the comments, it appears the chengguan may have taken the man’s money too, but there’s no clear shot of them doing that in the video. There’s already a large crowd, so obviously whatever they were doing was drawing a lot of attention. Shortly after the video starts, they are clearly gang-beating someone, perhaps several people quite violently, and appear to throw some punches and kicks at onlookers who get too close, although it’s very difficult to see clearly.

The crowd, which is quite large, is mostly hurling abuse at the chengguan. One of the more audible things I heard screamed at one point was “Are you guys chengguan or gangsters?” There were also lots of curses in both Mandarin and in the northeastern dialect.

The chengguan eventually seem to realize things are way out of their control, but the crowd follows them, not physically preventing them from moving but also not letting them get away, and continuing to hurl abuse at them. The video ends when they get to a police station. Several witnesses and victims go into the station to give statements, as does the cameraman. The crowd stays outside the station doors, blocking traffic and watching. A very loud young woman shouts at them repeatedly that “everyone” should go into the station, since they all saw the event, and to ensure that the chengguan don’t “get away.” Unsurprisingly, the police are not big fans of that plan — there’s no way the 1/10th of the crowd could possibly have fit into the station anyway — and try to talk both her and the crowd down. That’s where the video ends.

I have no idea how this situation was resolved, the video cuts off and there don’t appear to be any news stories about this event that I was able to find via Baidu. By tomorrow afternoon, I expect the video will either have amassed half a million (or more) views, or it will be completely scrubbed from the internet.

Translated Comments

These are some comments from the Youku video, so they only pertain to incident 2.

“It’s true, no one has it easy…these days, actually, the situation is that low-level people harass the people who are even lower than them ((This is a reference to social/economic class, not character; what the commenter means is that the chengguan aren’t people with any real status either.))”

“What a tragedy, even the battle-capacity of chengguan has gone done, how are we ever going to retake Taiwan now? There’s so much left to do.” ((This comment is almost certainly sarcastic.))

“Rise, people who are no longer willing to be slaves! ((This is a line from the Chinese national anthem))”

“Whose money are those fucking chengguan taking…”

“I really want to know who that woman [who is yelling in the video] is…especially during that last bit, haha, it’s like that part in Let the Bullets Fly where Jiang Wen is shouting at the mob of commoners, and no one moves an inch, then he says Huang San is dead and everyone goes at once.”

“[In response to the above comment] the People need a wake up call….”

“That woman talking is just a stupid cunt, blah blah, get them, everyone go inside, it’s all just blah blah blah….and that guy next to her, what a lout.”

“After a century of slumber, my countrymen are finally awakening. Watching the girl at the end calling for everyone to go in, and then seeing no one at all enter, my heart grew cold. It’s like in Lu Xun’s story “Medicine” where the numb Chinese watch as the martyr is executed in front of them. Everyone is just watching as though the matter doesn’t concern them. But people are slowly waking up to reality. The first line of our national anthem teaches us this; everyone chants the anthem numbly but have you ever thought about what it says carefully? Rise, ye who are no longer willing to be slaves, let our blood and our bodies become the new Great Wall. ((This comment was originally written in traditional characters, so there’s a decent chance it was written by someone from Taiwan or Hong Kong.))”

“[In response to the above comment] Well said! Are you Chinese? If you are, vote up!”

“To the girl that is talking, are you afraid that China isn’t in chaos? It’s because of people like you that Chinese society is not harmonious.”

“[In response to the above comment] What’s wrong with protecting the rights and interests of citizens? What is called “unharmonious”? She was doing it in the interests of everyone, do you get it? Always standing on the edge, sleeping a deep sleep, that is “harmony” that’s what cowards like you do.”

“The level of a nation’s civilization is not in whether or not it can host the Olympics, whether or not it can put on a World Expo, whether or not it can host the Asian games, or in how much trash American national debt it can buy. It’s not in the number of millions of people who can travel abroad, it is in letting citizens sit at home without fear of burning to death, letting vendors sell their wares without fear of being slapped around, letting people walk without worrying about being run over by Li Gang’s BMW, and letting people eat without worrying about being poisoned.”

My Comments

There are tons more comments on Youku, but that seems as good a place to stop as any. In the time it took me to translate those, views of the video jumped by another 20,000, and another 40 or so comments were posted. Local “mass incidents” like this have been happening for years, of course. The difference is that now they’re all broadcast on the internet, and (mostly) interpreted by netizens within a national context rather than a local one.

Note how many of the comments above — chosen more or less at random, I basically just translated a couple full pages that were at the front of the comments thread — refer to this as though it were a national issue, or indicative of a larger national issue, rather than just a local scuffle ((Comments about the character of Dongbeiren nonwithstanding)). China is big enough that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in one’s backyard too often, but clearly people who surf the net are starting to feel like they’re seeing the same thing over and over again (probably because they are). These “local issue” protests aren’t really local anymore. No one in Beijing is going to take up arms against Harbin chengguan, of course, but the actions of people in Harbin or Hunan are now interpreted as reflecting not just local issues, but national ones.

I believe that is a significant shift from the prevailing mood, say, ten or fifteen years ago, and one that we can almost certainly attribute primarily to the internet. The consequences of this shift in national policy are not yet evident, but I expect them to be. This, I suspect, is one of the things about the internet that makes the government so nervous.

I’m sure I will be accused of taking these comments “out of context” or picking only the ones that serve my Western imperialist agenda ((like all Westerners would do, as we were trained by our Western government.)), but go browse the comments on the Youku video yourself, assuming it still exists by the time you see this — it may well not. There is a very clear mood there that’s reflected in the comments I translated above. I’ll leave the extrapolation and a better explanation of my theory to the comments for now; this post is already way too long.

“The Sound of Rising Prices”

It may not be as well-produced as the Chinese song about rising housing prices ((For more on how crazily expensive houses are, see this Danwei post.)), but rising inflation has finally inspired its own song.

The song is a parody of an already well-known tune called “The Sound of Applause” (掌声响起来, listen here). The parody version is called 涨声响起来, roughly translated as “The Sound of Rising Prices.” Here’s one of many videos that’s been made already:
http://www.tudou.com/v/kRdTpCGNBok/v.swf
(direct link to Tudou)

Here are the lyrics used in the video (note: the following translations are especially artless as I am exhausted and over-caffeinated, but you get the idea):

Standing at the counter of the supermarket,
Seeing how all the [prices] are rising,
I only feel like sighing,
There is nothing inexpensive,
So many prices have been changed,
Now regular people can’t afford to buy vegetables.

Thinking back on Chinese cabbage when I was young,
When 20 cents bought a big bagful,
I can’t keep from crying,
So many big buildings being constructed,
So many new cars being sold,
But I still have to tighten my belt.

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
My wages aren’t rising as fast as the prices,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
From now on I may have to eat [only] pickles ((咸菜 could be translated variously as pickles, salted veggies, salty food, etc. I’ve mixed and matched here for variety’s sake, but the point the songs are all making is that 咸菜 is relatively cheap.)).

Living in these times,
Are we lucky or is it tragic?
I feel even more like sighing.
There’s no such thing as “good quality goods at fair prices,”
Food, clothing, shelter, and transportation [costs] have all gone up,
I suffer each and every day,
Waking and hurrying to work,
Busy making money and paying off [housing] loans,
My happy carefree life is long gone,
So many second-generation rich kids are buying nice cars,
So many second-generation poor selling things off of blankets on the street,
The gap between rich and poor is getting worse.

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
Everyone will be eating salted turnips,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
We’d be better off and happier as beggars.

[Cue dramatic key change and female vocal harmony]

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
Everyone will be eating salted turnips,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
We’d be better off and happier as beggars!

However, netizens are so enthused about this song that there are already a bunch of versions (all share the same melody and, generally, the same rhyming sounds). Here’s are the lyrics as written in the image posted above, which we found being passed around on RenRen:

Standing at the supermarket counter,
Seeing [the price] of everything rise,
I feel unlimited helplessness in my heart,
So few inexpensive options,
So many prices have changed,
Common people can’t afford to buy vegetables!

As the sound of rising prices rises,
I feel more and more helpless,
Prices are rising faster than salaries,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
I begin to understand,
There’s no industry that isn’t tainted by corruption.

And here’s still another version of the lyrics we found here:

While eating bread and pickled veggies,
I heard the sound of prices rising,
And I suddenly feel like sighing,
Every day it’s radishes and cabbage,
Looking forward to when housing prices drop,
Waiting for my wife to “say bye-bye,”
The floor covered in instant noodle packaging
Is a record of my helplessness,
And I can’t keep from shedding a tear.
I was once confident and bold,
I was once strong and patient,
But in the end I was defeated by rising prices.

As the sound of rising prices rises,
My tears flow till they’re an ocean,
Some people laugh and some people are full of sorrow,
As the sound of rising prices rises,
My tears flow till they’re an ocean,
I finally understand the great importance of money

There are actually a lot more versions of this song, but we’ll leave it at that as they tend to be fairly similar. The phrase “the sound of rising prices” has even become so widespread that it’s referenced in news broadcasts, such as this story about the rise of “group purchasing” websites:

http://www.tudou.com/v/Tc4J880Vijo/v.swf

The Chinese government, of course, is busy throwing an absolute fit about Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize, and doing everything it can to appear as petulant and immature as a three-year old.

I think, though, that if the government is really concerned about things that “subvert state power,” they should lay off Liu and address the rising discontent with housing and commodity prices and the atrocious gap between rich and poor, which is manifesting itself in all kinds of ugly ways.

The incident I’ve linked to there, in which a police officer crashes his car into an old woman and then gets out to beat her, shouting “What I’ve got is money, so I’m gonna beat you today!” is just one of a number of recent rich-people-play-with-the-lives-of-the-poor stories that has incited outrage and violence.

Personally, I see this as the biggest challenge to state security that China currently faces. Unfortunately, it’s a tough one to blame on the West, so it looks like for now China’s government will be content to shriek their Liu Xiaobo conspiracy theories in increasingly-shrill editorial pieces that no one reads (except, of course, when they’re looking for a laugh).

Of course, why should the government care if “Kart-like” Westerners laugh at their ridiculous propaganda? They should, however, be concerned with the tone of public opinion in China, especially on the internet, where a recent Global Times op-ed noted (without a hint of irony):

[There is] a [sic] extreme lack of tolerance for dissident public opinion on the Internet where there is almost no room for opinions that favor the government.

Note that here, by “dissident,” they mean people who support the government. Yeah. That’s how bad it’s gotten.

Good luck, Zhongnanhai. Your preposterous “Confucius Prize” stunt might succeed in distracting people from the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony (at least for as long as it takes to laugh, snort derisively, and change the channel), but I’m not sure it’s going to distract Chinese people from the fact that despite China’s powerhouse economy, living here seems to be getting harder and harder.

There Will Never Be Another Tiananmen 1989

2009 has the potential to be a volatile year for China. The economy is slowing, Charter 08 is reportedly gaining some momentum (Also see ChinaGeeks’ guide to Charter 08), and the year brings two inauspicious anniversaries: the fiftieth anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising in 1959 and the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Incident in 1989. There has been much speculation and, one imagines, wishful thinking that something like Tiananmen (only larger and more successful) might happen this year. Well, it won’t. Evidence suggests that the protests and subsequent crackdown in 1989 redefined the way Chinese people approach rebuking their government.

First, let’s define some terms. For the purposes of this article, two terms have been invented, both terms refer to modes of solving national political and social issues in China:

  • National Collectivism refers to the mode of problem solving marked by top-down, collectivist approaches and focused directly on national interests. It is characterized by appeals to solve national problems by way of broad, nationally-implemented solutions.
  • Local Individualism refers to the mode of problem solving characterized by non-collectivism and non-generalism. It implies that national, general problems are best solved through a focus on individual or local specific issues.

As with almost any attempt to broadly define historical eras and trends, the distinctions that separate National Collectivism and Local Individualism are not always cut and dry. There may be individual cases where the line between “general” and “specific” problems is difficult to draw, or where the difference between a “national” cause and a “local” one is not entirely clear. Still, looking at the larger trends, these categorizations are useful to separate what are two very different techniques.

Pre-1989, there are lots of examples of National Collectivism. The May Fourth and May Thirtieth Incidents are early examples of protests appealing for sweeping, nationally-implemented reforms, and of course the CCP’s large scale movements (Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, etc.) also qualify in that they are all attempts to resolve national issues through collectivist solutions implemented nationally. The Tiananmen Incident of 1976 and the Democracy Wall movement in 1976, again, were appeals for broad change on a national level, and there were others. It is, of course, a well-publicized fact (outside the PRC) that the goals of the students in Tiananmen in 1989 were also broad reforms they wanted implemented on a national level.

After the crackdown, Chinese culture—especially youth culture—underwent something of a transformation. “Gray culture”, as it was called , was “a state of mind—the zeitgeist of a new generation that had lost the grand hopes of reforming, much less unseating, China’s Party-controlled political establishment.” (Schell, Orville, Mandate of Heaven) Rather, youth focused on much more personal methods of resistance, or eschewed social change altogether. The people had learned, wrote critic Liao Wen, that “extreme resistance proves only just how powerful one’s opponent is and how easily one can be hurt.” Rebellion became a personal concept expressed through removing oneself from official channels and culture rather than by demonstrating en masse in the hopes of affecting far-reaching social change. Gray culture was, then, the antithesis of National Collectivism: where National Collectivism aims to solve issues of nationwide importance, gray culture focused on individual goals; where National Collectivism approached broad social change directly and with optimism, gray culture largely ignored it. In their own way, they participants in gray culture were changing society in a decidedly Local Individualist way. The stage their rebellion played out on was inevitably individual rather than national, but this widespread form of individual changes in attitude was itself a form of protest.

It would be untrue to allege that protests haven’t occurred in post-Tiananmen crackdown China. Quite the contrary, mass protests have been quite numerous. However, post-1989, protest and reform efforts have differed sharply from the protests that occurred in Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989. In Rightful Resistance in Rural China, O’Brien and Li characterize the rural Chinese protests in the 1990s and early 21st century as “rightful resistance”. This type of resistance, they argue, is played out as a “local or regional rather than national or transnational” phenomenon, and thus it clearly fits within the confines of nationalist individualism/localism. For example, O’Brien and Li cite a Central Committee report as saying that in rural Shandong province in the year 2000, more than seventy percent of collective incidents were in response to “[local] cadre-mass contradictions and conflicts of material interests” . Much of that 70% apparently refers to protests of corruption in local elections:

The main points of conflict reported were: elected cadres who were corrupt, overbearing, or unwilling to open village finances; election manipulation; attempts by lineages or criminal gangs to undermine elections; and county and township officials who did not “work hard to guide elections and correct problems.

Clearly, these kinds of protests all fall within the definition of Local Individualism. Moreover, these statistics, although taken from a study of incidents in Shandong, appear to be representative of the country as a whole. Over the course of the book, O’Brien and Li cite examples of protests spurred by displeasure with local elections in Fujian, Hebei, Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Zhejiang, Henan, and Hubei, just to name a few. In fact, direct-action protest tactics—a form of resistance that appeals either directly to a mediator, high-level official, or the local populace regarding a local dispute of some kind—are on occasion quite effective, and widespread enough that Chinese surveys indicated direct-action rural resistance was occurring in Sichuan, Anhui, Hunan, Jiangxi, Henan, Shaanxi, and Hebei, while surveys taken by O’Brien and Li reported people from twenty-eight provinces had lodged complaints about local affairs, people from twenty-seven provinces had “led or taken part in demanding dialogues with local government leaders”, and people from twenty-six provinces “had taken part in publicizing central policies and laws [as a way of informing villagers that these central policies were being violated locally]”. Although O’Brien and Li’s sample sizes were too small by far to be considered scientific (overall, they had 1,314 respondents), all signs indicate that in rural areas, protests focus exclusively on local issues. Almost all of the incidents of protest cited throughout the book are either protests of local laws and regulations or improper or nonexistent local enforcement of national policies locally.

Interestingly, in the essay “Civil Resistance and Rule of Law in China: The Defense of Homeowner’s Rights”, Yongshun Cai cites a 2004 survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as saying that “of its record of 130 mass confrontations between peasants and police in 2004, about 67% were over land use.” Although this seems as though it may contradict O’Brien and Li’s numbers—there is no way that 70% percent of mass incidents can be over local electoral problems at the same time 67% of them are about land reform—whatever translation issues and contradictory data explain the difference are largely irrelevant here, as land use protests also qualify as Local Individiualist mode of solving social issues. Cai also notes that local land use protests are not just taking place in rural areas, but that the phenomenon also holds true for people in urban areas . For instance, in Nanjing, homeowners unified against a developer and defied move them by “organiz[ing] themselves day and night into patrol squads to monitor the people entering their neighborhood.” He also cites examples of urban protest about local land use issues in Beijing and Shanghai

Xi Chen cites yet another protest phenomenon popular in post-1989 China. “[The] most common strategy [of ordinary people when protesting] is what James Scott calls ‘everyday forms of resistance’: people carry out covert and individualized resistance while feigning obedience.” Chen then argues that in addition to the examples of “rightful resistance” cited by O’Brien and Li, Chinese protests also sometimes take more confrontational forms. Chen cites four examples. The first, a group of disabled urban residents who drove “motorized tricycles” (ostensibly as necessitated by their disabilities) organized a protest at their district government (Chen does not specify which city the example is from), then blocked the gates of the provincial government compound and undermined an officially sanctioned parade. The second example concerned retired cadres protesting insufficient pensions and health insurance from their former work groups (the groups were targeted specifically), her third example also concerns government retirees seeking pensions from their former company, and her fourth involved demobilized members of the military who found it difficult to get jobs because national policies had not been properly implemented in their location. What all of her examples have in common is that they are protests bent on resolving specific, local issues rather than national ones.

All of protests described above, which represent both urban and rural protests in China post-1989, are both local and specific, as they tend to be focusing on local implementation of a specific law, tax, or policy. They quite clearly implement Local Individiualist modes of solving social issues, and surveys by various branches of the Chinese government, media, and academic world (as cited in O’Brien and Li) and O’Brien and Li’s own research confirm that this mode of protest is widespread and makes up the vast majority of “mass incidents”. Reasons for this are clear: China’s authoritarian government proved with finality on June 4, 1989 that direct impact on national politics was out of the question; thus, many of those inclined to protest shifted their focus locally. O’Brien and Li confirm, “Most popular contention [in post-1989 China] surrounds misimplementation of beneficial measures that already exist but which local officials have chosen to ignore.” Clearly, in post-June 4th China, Local Individualism has become the default popular approach to solving political and social issues.

Does any of this prove for certain that there won’t be another National Collectivist event like the protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989? Certainly not, but it does indicate that popular perceptions about how to effect change have shifted away from any kind of national, people vs. government confrontation. 2009 is going to be an interesting year, but it seems unlikely we’ll see another Tiananmen-like incident.

Major Sources
O’Brien, Kevin J., and Li, Lianjiang, Rightful Resistance in Rural China, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Schell, Orville, Mandate of Heaven, Touchstone, 1995.

[Full citations for all quotations, including page numbers, publication dates, etc., available on request.]

“People Being Unaware of the Truth is the Fault of Officials”

[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.]