Tag Archives: Southern Weekend

Who Decides How Hot it is?

This summer seems to have been a hot one all over. Certainly, in China, the heat has been a popular topic of conversation the past few months. How hot is it really? Well, interestingly, it very much depends who you ask.

In Beijing, at least, there’s plenty of skepticism about the official temperatures that are reported. It’s a commonly-held belief that because the government and other employers are required to give some types of workers the day off or pay them extra if the temperature breaches 40 degrees Celsius (i.e., 104 degrees Fahrenheit), the officially reported temperature will never break 40℃, regardless of how hot it actually is.

This week’s issue of Southern Weekend has a cover story about the heat and how it’s reported:

On July 5th, a Beijing TV placed an uncooked egg on top of a manhole in the street. Three minutes later, it was fully cooked. On August 13th in Hangzhou, an alcohol thermometer was only on the street for a moment before it shot up beyond its highest marked temperature: 50℃.

The weather reports for those places from the day before suggested that the highest possible temperatures would be 32℃ and 37℃. The actual temperatures on that day were measured at 39.5℃ and 40.6℃ (respectively).

There have already been 23 heat-related sudden deaths in Beijing, Jinan, Wuxi, Hefei, etc.; half of these deaths were people working in outdoor trades [who can’t legally be made to work if the temperature is above 40℃] like construction or cleaning the outsides of buildings.

However, at the times these deaths occurred, none of the “highs” in these cities weather reports were as high as 40℃.

Needless to say, this has been a contentious issue online for some time. The Southern Weekend report quotes one netizen as asking, “So is whether or not it’s over 40℃ a science question or a political question?”

According to the report, China’s official temperature readings come from a thermometer suspended 1.5m off the ground in a wooden, ventilated box. Each city has one. Most countries use a similar system, which allows Chinese meteorologists to easy compare their numbers to others around the globe. However, the temperature on the ground can be much hotter than what these official thermometers register. For example, on August 5th in Guangzhou, the official thermometer never got above 37.1℃, but the ground temperature on the same day got as high as 51.8℃.

Another reason for the disparity is that these temperature measurements aren’t actually being taken in the city. While each city has one, according to the report many of them are not recording temperatures in the city proper, where a variety of factors from the prevalence of buildings to the increased amount of pollution combine to make the temperature rise. So when the Beijing weather report says 37℃, that means it’s 37℃ inside a ventilated wooden box 1.5 meters off the ground, somewhere outside (but near, presumably) the city itself.

Moreover, these temperature readings are just one factor that goes into producing the numbers you seen in weather forecasts, which are apparently hotly debated by teams of meteorologists. “The ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of the daily weather forecasts are not the result of direct mathematical equation,” said expert Li Kaile, “they’re the result of a discussion between the meteorologists on duty at the time.”

Also, the numbers are not calculated to factor in the influence of humidity, wind speed, or relative solar radiation. To get a real idea of what the temperature the next day will be like, Southern Weekend says, you’d need to collect all of this information, and you’d also need a bit of meteorological expertise.

The article’s authors wondered: “Isn’t that a little bit difficult for common folks?”

All the experts Southern Weekend spoke to denied that there was any kind of threshold they weren’t allowed to pass at 40℃.

Whether the 40℃ rule is real or not, it seems clear that the weather forecasts here are totally useless for city dwellers. After all, very few of us spend our days in ventilated wooden boxes outside the city. But at least now we know if we ever want to, it will be easy to find out what the weather there is like…

Southern Weekend: “Managing the Internet Using Laws: Praiseworthy!”

The following is a translation of an opinion piece by Chen Min from Southern Weekend.

Translation

“As long as a post does not violate national laws, we won’t delete it. As long as it’s reasonable, we will respond quickly and accept it,” said an officer of the Beijing PSB responsible for explaining police standards for their new microblog to the media.

That an official microblog, especially one of such a powerful organ [of state power] could show such respect for [free] speech, respect for netizens, and not use any standards beyond the standard of whether or not something is legal, not using the judgements of the people involved as censorship standards — as long as it doesn’t violate a law, no post can be deleted, regardless of whether it offends an involved party or department — what an exciting boundary that is!

However, I’m more interested in seeing this as a solemn promise from the Beijing PSB; it’s not something that’s currently true. Of course, even if it’s just a promise it’s worth being excited about. At least it indicates a direction, and any movement away from that direction in the future will be a violation of popular sentiment. Aside from [making] laws that accurately reflect the popular will, we shouldn’t make wild statements about [free] internet discourse. We much first firmly establish belief in the concept and a fundamental consensus. The Beijing PSB’s solemn promise looks like the first step towards reaching this kind of consensus.

Additionally, it shows how to effectively supervise, mutually encourage, and moves the government and the people hand-in-hand towards in a mutually-agreed-upon direction.

Dealing With Protesters: A Workflow For Busy Officials

Let’s say you’re a Chinese official, and someone in your precinct is accusing you of corruption (How dare he! Just because you took a few bribes doesn’t make you corrupt!) and threatening to go public, maybe even go to Beijing. What do you do? Here’s an interesting representation of it, via Southern Weekend:

The text reads from left to right: report, slander, detain, send home.

The first step is the citizen reporting you, the corrupt official. After they report you, you accuse them of slander — not how the citizen comes out of the second shack with handcuffs on — and have them detained by the police, ideally somewhere windowless like the house shown in the picture. Who knows what might happen to them in there! Anyway, after they’re detained, they’re sent back home, properly cowed and newly obedient.

Thank god. Now you can return to matters of more pressing concern to the public, such as whether they’d rather their tax dollars go to buying you a BMW or a Mercedes.

Tainted Milk Powder Reappears

Southern Weekend reports the reappearance of more melamine-tainted milk. The culprits, Dongyuan Dairy Products, have apparently been distributing the yet-to-be-destroyed raw materials from the 2008 incident.

Translation

Two years after the “Sanlu milk powder incident”, the news of melamine tainted formula has remained a hot topic. At the start of this year, it was reported that many dairy-product enterprises had continued to use the raw materials used in 2008’s tainted formula. As a result, [companies] throughout the country have continued to conduct [thorough screening tests]. Recently, vestiges of the tainted milk powder have once again been traced; this time in the provinces of Gansu, Qinghai and Jilin.

Reporting on June 25, […] the Gansu province quality supervision and control center received three samples of milk powder from informant Liu Xiping. The demands of the test were to test for melamine.

[The center’s] findings discovered that the three samples returned the following results:

Sample #1: 215mg/kg (86% over the allowed amount of melamine)
Sample #2: 1397mg/kg (559% over the allowed amount of melamine)
Sample #3: 323mg/kg (130% over the allowed amount of melamine)

Following [examination of the test results], the Gansu province quality supervision and control center immediately handed Liu Xiping over to the Lanzhou city public security bureau’s investigation team. Liu Xiping explained that he was an employee of the Dongyuan dairy products factory in Qinghai province’s Minhe Huizu Tuzu autonomous county. The powder in question had been stored in a small town near the factory by a person from Shanxi with the family name Zhou. The Gansu province quality supervision bureau immediately partnered with Shanxi and Qinghai provinces’ quality supervision bureaus in opening a case to investigate the matter. Presently, the Qinghai [bureau] has confiscated approximately 38 tons of the tainted powder.

According to Liu Xiping, most of Dongyuan’s business was done in the Jiangzhe area, while only a small amount was done around the Qinghai region.

Insider Xinhua reporters in Qinghai have learned that the Dongyuan dairy products factory had shipped 58 tons of unprocessed raw materials throughout the Hebei region [….] Test results showed that these materials exceeded the standard by more than 500 times.

Legal proceedings have already begun against two people [involved with the Dongyuan factory]. Liu Zhanfeng, Dongyuan’s factory head and legal representative; and Wang Haifeng, Dongyuan’s production manager.

[….]

Southern Weekend: “Only When We Do Away With Hereditary Hierarchy Will the Lower Class Have a Real Hope”

What follows is a translation of an article on class mobility published in Southern Weekend. The piece, written by Dai Zhiyong, has been republished on various news sites, and remained at the top of the ‘Most Read’ list on the newspaper’s website for several days.

Dai argues that the unfairness inherent in the ‘guanxi’ system has been compounded by the “self-perpetuating cycle” of money and power in effect since the late 80s, resulting in a widening wealth gap and an impending lack of talent in important positions. He calls for the abolishment of the “hereditary hierarchy” upon which Chinese society is built, which is not only unfairly impeding upward mobility for the lower classes of society (‘ants’), but also causing a “personnel mix-up” whereby those with power are not necessarily capable or deserving. This, he argues, is a “volcano” that will leave China “mangled” and “ineffective as a whole”.

It’s always interesting to see a frank piece of criticism in the mainstream media, albeit in a relatively liberal newspaper like SW. He may not be sounding a call to arms, but Dai’s grievances are likely to be heard by many who wouldn’t normally read such unharmonious stuff. The most-rated comments are also translated, possibly offering a further insight into how the story has been received, but it must be noted that these are not immune to manipulation by interested parties.

Translation:

Put all your effort into studying your way out of the countryside, do a stint in university, and end up in a downtown village. This is the twenty-year life-track of the majority of ‘ants’. According to the Hubei Province ‘Ant Tribe’ Investigation Report conducted by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, eighty percent of ‘ants’ are born into impoverished families in the city or the countryside. At the same time, according to a report published towards the end of June, the degree to which close to a hundred million ‘post-80s generation’ workers have received education is low, their pay is low, and they are confused about the future. The scale of ‘second generation poverty’ is huge […].

This loop of going from village to village is no more exciting than a life of ‘tend sheep – earn money – get married – have kids – tend sheep’. At least shepherds can get married and have children; even this has become a difficult problem for [ants]. After working for five years, these young people can still only barely maintain simple reproduction, what they earn won’t only fall short of a deposit on a house, but they are left without spare money with which to study, boost their skill set, and plan a better future. Under the double pincer-attack of high living costs and low wages, they have basically been locked into a lower-level status in life; their upwards-channels are very limited.

The lot of ‘second-generation cadres’ and ‘second-generation wealthy’ is, however, altogether different. They are more likely to receive high-quality education from pre-school to university, and after graduating, most can smoothly step into the middle class of society, and become the managers of middle- and lower-class work units in industry, or public servants.

It was in the news recently that when recruiting industry workers, Wuning County in Jiujiang City, Jiangxi Province made it perfectly clear that those who were not the offspring of appropriate cadres “need not apply”. This previously unequivocal, unquestioned yet unofficial way of doing things has managed to become a regulation. The public are outraged, but it’s impossible to stop the children of nobility from using all kinds of methods to slip into the fertile land.  Trying to keep up with the trend, those of a lower level are also trying to go through their aunt’s cousin’s wife’s friend, to find a bright path for their own children. Naturally, this often ends in disappointment.

If you want to head up in the world, and to change your class, you can’t just follow the rules; this has become common knowledge of the modern age. The difference lies only in whether or not the route is there, and whether or not you have the capital to follow it. The lower classes are bound by unwritten rules, and a number of unpleasant power-holders have created and are maintaining these unwritten rules. […]

But it hasn’t always been like this. In the first half of the 1980s, the salary of peasants, workers and private entrepreneurs was rising quickly, and a number of people gradually said goodbye to the lower class, becoming entrepreneurs or professional managers. Also, the revival of the gaokao became an express channel by which a large group of lower-class youths entered the middle class. Because it acknowledged the rights of the lower class, and established comparatively fair rules, this period could be called one China’s most prosperous of the last hundred years.

In the mid-1980s, there began a dual-track system. Along with the daily broadening of the scope of the market, power also gradually became a money-making enterprise, through establishment of bogus fees, control of resources and direct participation in economic activity etc., the seeds of convergence between money and power were sown. These seeds were quietly growing in the financial market, state enterprise reform and property tarrifs of the 1990s, and finally became a great menace to the transformation of the Chinese economic society; power and wealth gradually became a self-perpetuating cycle. The so-called “second-generation phenomenon” is the unfortunate consequence of this passage of history. Its true nature is a new form of hereditary hierarchy for the post-class struggle era.

This type of hereditary hierarchy allows a pattern of “the powerful can win, the winners can eat” to flourish. Public finances pay out millions in pre-school fees, yet privately-run schools encounter layer upon layer of barriers to entry; at universities attended by Luo Caixias (a girl who attended university under someone else’s identity), there are over 300 ‘clones’ who arrived there by way of connections and family background. For the tidiness of the city, city management structures are used to deprive the lower classes of the right to earn a living…

In education, recruitment, employment and various other sectors, the pattern of power-retention by the powerful is solidifying, yet the rights of the lower classes often suffer encroachment. The hardening of the hierarchy is right before our eyes. The channel of upward mobility for the lower classes is narrowing by the day.

[When] the lower classes face all sorts of systematic exclusion, it isn’t only bad for the poor, but also for the powerful. The consequences of the rich remaining rich and the poor being eternally poor, aside from causing personnel problems by ‘using one’s connections to the fullest’ rather than ‘using one’s ability to the fullest’ (making China ineffective as a whole), also wreck the most basic fairness value of society, with ‘connections’ and backroom deals running riot. Whilst many are becoming more extravagant by the day, masses of others can’t see hope, and the final result can only be a mangled, hierarchical social antagonism. Who could feel safe while sitting on a volcano like this?

If we don’t wish to see society sink down into an ineffective and unfair path, we must do away with this kind of hereditary hierarchy. Whether or not a child can become a provincial governor or bureau chief should have little to do with whether or not his or her father is a high official or a millionaire. The success a Chinese person can achieve must depend only upon their talent, diligence, moral character and luck. Only this way can there be hope for the lower classes, and can China have a future.

Luckily, the Government is certainly not inactive towards this issue. Facing a real problem, releasing a research report could be the first step towards changing the situation.

Comments:

xueer090905 (Comment rating: 92)

Only representatives of public opinion elected by voters can fight for [our] rights! So, NPC representatives and CPPCC members must reform, and adopt democratic election. The word ‘party cadre’ must also be reformed, it should be corrected to: ‘employee’. Financial budgets must be subject to the [opinion] of public opinion representatives before being paid out. This way, the whole of society can supervise government action, and bring power out into the bright sunlight. If this [word] ‘official’ has no advantage, it won’t produce ‘second generation officials’, and won’t be without consideration for the feelings of those fighting to become officials! Legalisation, systematisation and clarification are essential to the progress of society!!!

the great italian left-back (Comment rating: -37)

Democracy?

Not to spoil the fun, but let’s hypothesise a little, what if the country allowed democracy? Would the common people use it rationally and legitimately? Would everyone very conscientiously exercise those divine rights to elect and to be elected? Without freedom of information, can we ensure that the one elected really is the one we really need?

Just like the current village-level democratic elections, [which have] resulted in a large number of bribed votes and manipulation, many [of which] were not carried out by those standing for election themselves, have brought out many shadows of normal people’s participation in them, they themselves have used this supposedly divine right as a scheming tool for profit!

So, in terms of this confusing country of ours, democratic elections are still a very longroad! After all, the so-called elite who have sufficient democratic consciousness are still not in the mainstream in this country.

In a situation where legality, supervision and public consciousness are yet to find their place, be careful about mentioning democracy!

davidxin (Comment rating: 60)

This is the biggest problem we currently face. Not only have [those in power] themselves lost any mobility, becoming ‘red nobility’, unregulated by others and relying on their bloodline. Even the capitalist and middle classes have in recent years shown strong heredity and exclusionism. If we say that before –especially in the 80s and 90s, people could still make use of their own diligence to grasp the opportunity of ‘reform and opening’ to gain a higher position, then now, this route has basically already been jammed to death. Class borders are becoming more and more obvious, society is becoming stagnant water. I personally suspect that within a few years, this sort of ‘truth-against-truth’ class contradiction (different to the “class struggle” of the Mao era) will completely explode, throwing China into turmoil.

Comment:

  1. Dai doesn’t make any explicit reference to anything illegal going on, and his fairly nonspecific incitement to “do away with hereditary hierarchy” is perhaps a little too nebulous to be taken seriously, both of which may be seen as reasons why this apparently incendiary article was given the go-ahead.
  2. Dai’s argument seems to be that when there’s a lot of money involved, people will be keener to hold onto power, and that this is unfair. Whilst that is certainly true, it must be considered that the protocols through which power is maintained have been in place in China for a long time; the practice of giving preferential treatment to those with whom you share a personal bond could be argued to have its roots in Confucianism. So, Dai’s tracing of the problem to the economic reform of the 70s and 80s appears a little shallow; the reforms merely put the imperfect system under the magnifying glass.

Southern Weekend: “How to Solve China’s ‘Brain Drain'”

The issue of “brain drain” has been a topic of discussion in China for some time. As China’s best students are offered opportunities to study and work abroad, the nation is finding they often don’t choose to return, and the national resources used to raise and educate them are, in essence, wasted. A 2007 survey suggested that 70% of Chinese students who study abrtoad don’t ever move back to China, and while some suggest that the situation is not that dire, it is certainly clear that China wants ways to attract overseas talent. And these days, they’re not just after study abroad kids who got green cards and never came back, they’re also looking to lure purely foreign talents to Chinese soil.

How can this be accomplished? In a recent op-ed piece in Southern Weekend, Wang Huiyao offers some ideas:

  1. Allow immigration visas for both technical specialists and people who can benefit “national interest”. Attract high level foreign talent to settle down in China with a visa, then apply for a green card, and finally become naturalized citizens. Finally, permit foreigners with talent and education who can benefit the nation to immigrate via visas and apply for green cards even if they are not technical or economic specialists so that they can benefit Chinese education, culture, health, etc.
  2. People at the highest level can directly apply for green cards. Nobel Prize winners, Fortune 500 CEOs, professors at foreign brand-name schools, international leaders in science, the arts, culture, etc., who have achieved outstanding success in their fields — all of them can apply directly for green cards. Those who have invested more than 1 million USD in China or created more than ten jobs in specific professions [in China] can directly apply for an “investor green card”.
  3. A public path from green card to naturalized citizenship. Those who posess a green card and have lived in China longer than 3-5 years may apply to become naturalized citizens if they wish.
  4. For those originally from China and those who were forced to give up Chinese citizenship, grant long-term “overseas compatriot” visa exemptions. At present there’s no dual-citizenship policy, so consider simplifying visa application procedures and directly granting long-term residence permits for those of Chinese origin but born abroad who can be considered high-level talents.
  5. Increase the recruitment of foreign students [to come to China to study]. There are more than a million Chinese students studying abroad in other countries, but little more than 200,000 foreign students studying in China.
  6. Create a mechnaism for attracting international talent, smash the barriers between domestic and foreign within the [extant] system. International experience could become a criterion for promoting cadres, and State-owned enterprises should not make nationality a restriction in their search for talent.
  7. We can consider tacit approval of dual citizenship.

It’s going to take a lot more than that to attract high-level foreign talents to China, although making navigation of the immigration system easier is probably a good first step. Still, Wang seems to be missing the point here. The important question is: what is it about China that causes students who go abroad to abandon it in the first place? After four years of studying abroad, any Chinese student could quite easily return home without any visa or naturalization issues — they would still be Chinese citizens at that point — but they choose not to. Why?

Moreover, is the reason more foreign talents in business and culture haven’t moved to China really that the immigration procedures are too difficult? The United States has — and has had for some time — a nortoriously labyrinthine and strict naturalization process, and yet many Chinese students thrown themselves into it voluntarily upon conclusion of their studies. Why aren’t foreigners willing to do the same thing in China?

The answer to that question is almost certainly quite complex. But how difficult the answer is to uncover doesn’t matter; China is unlikely to ever arrive at an answer if they aren’t asking the right question.

Government Officials Buy Housing at 4% of Market Value

The following is a translation of this recent article posted on Southern Weekend. The article discusses the issue of low-priced housing available to public officials through their departments. In some extreme cases, public officials pay only 4% of the total market value, such as in the Xizhimen area of Beijing.

Translation

Throughout the country, housing prices have been rising steeply, so much so that the government has recently had no choice but to institute new policies to try and curb costs. The government’s hand has been forced in light of a recent publication titled “Public Officials Buy Houses at Astonishing Prices”, which after its publication became widely read throughout the internet. Compare the price [public officials pay] with the going rate for similar housing in the same area:

Mortage Slave

Housing for city officials in the Qiaoxi district of Shijiazhuang City costs 4,000 RMB/meter, where the market price is 30,000 RMB/meter. In Beijing, public officials can buy housing in Xizhimen, near the railroad tracks, for 2,000 RMB/meter. The market price in this area is 50,000 RMB/meter. Also in Beijing, the market price for housing in Guangqumenwai area goes for 35,000 RMB/meter, whereas public officials only pay 4,500 RMB/meter [….]

As soon as this publication was posted, it received a huge reaction [from the public]. But what has really caused public opinion to buzz is that the claims in this article have been verified. [Southern Weekend] has interviewed Beijing Institute of Technology professor Hu Xingdou, an avid observer of issues relating to fairness and justice.

Southern Weekend: According to what you know, is this type of situation common in Beijing?

Professor Hu: Many central government departments purchase affordable housing for public officials. They also build low-cost commercial housing. All of these houses are within the second and third rings of the city where costs average between 20,000 to 30,000 RMB/meter. If public officials are buying houses for only between 3,000 – 5,000 RMB/meter, then they are saving anywhere between 2 – 3 million RMB in total, and in some cases as much as 4 – 5 million.

SW: How do you view this phenomenon of public officials benefiting from limited housing costs?

Hu: This problem […] was very unexpected. It’s a classic case of using abusing public authority for private gain. It is a serious case of corruption.

SW: Some people say that this is a case of public officials legally benefiting [from their position]. How do you feel about this?

Hu: This is absolutely illegal. Public officials should [be treated] just the same as ordinary citizens—they should have to go out into the market and buy commercial housing. Their income is not any lower than others. There’s no reason for them to receive such benefits.

House Shopping

SW: Do public officials enjoy better benefits than ordinary citizens?

Hu: Public officials truly are enjoying better benefits than ordinary citizens. Such benefits include housing, government-issued cars, meal reimbursement, retirement funds, and medical insurance. The current system has turned public officials into a privileged class, which was inevitably brought about by the expansion of the government’s power. Such power has continued to grow since the introduction of policies to reform the country’s political and economic systems [starting in 1978]. This power has largely seeped into the market, and has not been restricted. Some central government departments are using their special power for private gain. Local government subordinates follow the example set by their superiors, and in many cases go even further.

SW: Will the new regulations suppress rising house costs?

Hu: In the short run, the policies will have some affect. Prices may go down temporarily. [The aforementioned government] departments have already halted this [corrupt] behavior. However, as soon as these rumors pass, this type of phenomenon may reappear. The root of the problem lies in [the fact that] there is no limit to the government’s power [….]

SW: [The government] has recently legislated the “Housing Protection Act”. What are your thoughts on this new regulation?

Hu: If it’s supervised well, it will be great [….] I think it ought to limit the housing that public officials can purchase, unless the public official in question falls within the lower-income bracket, but this is impossible.

SW: Many people say that the government will never issue laws or policies which limit their benefits.

Hu: The important thing here is that the government listens to and respects public opinion.

SW: Which country do you believe handles issues of housing, house prices, etc. well?

Hu: Actually, all countries handle this issue better than China. In Singapore, for example, 86% of citizens have adequate housing. In regards to affordable housing, both the public and the country have property rights […] so housing prices in Singapore are high, but everyone has the ability to buy a house. Aside [from Singapore], in northern Europe, in countries such as Sweden, protected housing comprises 30 – 40% [of the market], but in China it’s just 10%, and in some places [in China], as low as about 5%, with [much of the protective housing] being owned by the rich.

SW: Why is it that our country’s public policies aimed at [controlling] housing [issues] has failed?

Public Officials Getting a Good Deal

Hu: The recent measures and steps taken have been treating the symptoms but not the root cause. These measures haven’t even started to touch the root of the problem, which lies in the government’s monopoly over the provision of land and high rate of taxes collected. The government collects taxes on about 60% of property. In Shanghai, they collect 64.5%. As such, the government’s profit needs to be controlled [….]

Getting back to the original topic, the favoritism showed to public officials in regards to purchasing low-cost housing belongs to a discriminatory system with Chinese characteristics. People with special power enjoy the benefits of protected housing. Ordinary city dwellers can only buy commercial housing, and country peasants rely on themselves to build housing. This is an issue we must breakthrough.

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Southern Weekend: Do Officials Really Fear the Internet?

Several days ago, People’s Daily — the mouthpiece of the Party — reported the results of a survey they had conducted:

Most people believe the Internet is an effective check on government officials’ behavior, a survey has showed.

About 70 percent of the 6,243 people in the poll, which included 5,943 online users and 300 officials, said they believe government officials fear online public opinion and supervision.

[…]

“The survey shows how Internet users, including some officials, value online supervision,” said Liu Xutao, deputy director of the center of testing and evaluation with the Chinese Academy of Governance. Liu also co-wrote a report on the survey for the magazine.

“On the other hand, it reflects how some other media organizations have failed to play the role of watchdog,” he said.

Interesting stuff. Needless to say, the sample they surveyed is preposterously biased, but it nevertheless raises an interesting question. The folks at Southern Weekend were interested too, apparently, as they published an editorial in response to the piece, which takes the form of a mini-debate:

The People’s Daily did a survey, according to which “70% of people think that officials fear the internet.” But if you look at the objects of the survey, 5,900 of the 6,200 surveyed were netizens, only 300 were officials, and none were common people. From the design and results of the survey we can see it’s not the least bit scientific, it seems more like a sort of masturbatory experience for netizens. Do officials really fear the internet?

In favor: Yes, they’re definitely a bit afraid. The traditional media is more self-disciplined and falls more directly under the authority of officials, so it’s hard [for those media sources] to avoid being handcuffed. There’s no way they can match the freedom and diversity of the internet. Anyone with a heart on the internet is a “reporter”. China often says “the eyes of the masses are bright”; and with so many people watching, there’s an apt saying: “Good news doesn’t make it out the door, bad news is passed far and wide.” The threshold for internet access is low, the publishing speed is fast. The “Tianjia Cigarettes Director” Zhou Jiugeng, “Lewd girl” Lin Ju…these people were caught by netizens. China is quite severe in punishing officials who piss everyone off, so if officials do something wrong and it falls into netizens’ hands, their fate is basically decided. Is it possible for them not to fear the internet?

Opposed: I must admit, when the internet is directly compared to traditional media, it has made it much harder to keep information secret. But thinking more deeply, of all the “crimes” committed by officials publicized by the police and the courts, how many were caught by netizens? Especially for high level officials and big corruption cases, [the internet has little effect…] Moreover, netizens are more prone to groundless accusation that leads to issues going unresolved.

In favor: But the internet has broadened the channel for supervision [of officials]. In the past, officials were very “packaged”; they were very careful when they appeared before the media, but now the internet has brought out the “demons and monsters”. On the internet, you are what you are. In the past, officials were used to being responsible to those above them, but now they’re realizing that with so many people watching from below, “little people” can determine their career prospects and fates. This will definitely move some officials to hold the people in higher esteem. In the case of cross provincial pursuits ((Refers to cases where officials try to arrest people in other provinces for things in internet posts, as I understand it anyway…)), because of the internet there were apologies [rather than arrests]. This shows that the internet can scare officials.

Opposed: According to Chinese law, officials are chosen by the people, so they should always have been holding the people in high esteem. That they go without fear shows that out system has degraded greatly, and that the internet is helping makes it clear that huge loopholes exist. In truth, those who are really scared are low-level people with connections to the masses, because it’s easier for them to be revealed by those they supervise. In the case of that study, the people most scared would be county-level officials, because they have no authority over the internet. If the counties could directly control it, would they still be afraid?

In favor: You can see, there’s also an irrational side to the internet. The people in the survey also mentioned it; in addition to fearing their mistakes be made public, officials fear even more being quoted out of context or having personal information placed on the net that can influence their personal lives and work.

Opposed: That’s a different issue, because if netizens post something that harms your lawful rights and interests online, you can sue. For officials and common people, personal information should be limited, that’s a fundamental standard for any civilized society. Now, because the internet has revealed a small amount of personal information about officials, they’re all scared? That’s not fear, that’s just being contentious. If you fear flaunting yourself in public, or contradicting the inner circle (of politicians), what kind of official are you? You’re given power so that you can deal with the people’s problems, not so that you can enjoy a life of comfort.

Closing thoughts: The internet has become a milestone invention for Chinese politics. But really, this is shameful. The internet has provided a way to supervise officials; however, if our laws (including the constitution) were enforced to the letter, we wouldn’t be clutching at straws hoping the internet can solve our problems. Considering that, saying that “officials fear the internet” is a very fake thesis.

So what do you think? Do officials fear the internet?