Another China Update
Yup, no doubt about it, there is a lot of upheaval within the inner
sanctum of the Chinese Communist Party. How else would you
explain the issuance of a new 308-page government report titled:
"China Investigative Report 2000-2001: Studies of Contradiction
Among the People Under New Conditions."
Put out under the direction of a top adviser to President Jiang
Zemin, party researchers spent 18 months in 11 Chinese
provinces and reached the inescapable conclusion that the
hinterlands are in a total state of unease and unrest. As I''ve
mentioned countless times, CNN can''t be everywhere and what
has been taking place in the rural areas has largely escaped
comment in the mainstream media.
Normally, arguments within the party''s elite are kept quiet, but it
is possible this particular report is in response to the release of
the "Tiananmen Papers" late last year (check "Hott Spotts"
archives for more information), which was a blunt assessment of
the party''s actions in June 1989. At the time of the release,
government officials denied its existence, but now
"Contradictions" comes out, and it would appear to confirm
some of the "Tiananmen" findings. It is also interesting that
Jiang''s top aide has spearheaded the findings, which is seen as a
clear sign that everyone is jostling for the top positions ahead of
the president''s retirement sometime next year.
Following are some passages from "Contradictions," relating to
the spreading pattern of "collective protests and group incidents."
--Relations between party officials and the masses are "tense,
with conflicts on the rise."
--China''s opening up of markets is adding to the turmoil.
"Our country''s entry into the World Trade Organization may
bring growing dangers and pressures, and it can be predicted that
in the ensuing period the number of group incidents may jump,
severely harming social stability and even disturbing the smooth
implementation of reform and opening."
--Official corruption is "the main fuse exacerbating conflicts
between officials and the masses."
--"In recent years some areas have...experienced rising numbers
of group incidents and their scale has been expanding, frequently
involving over a thousand or even ten thousand."
--"Protesters frequently seal off bridges and block roads, storm
party and government offices, coercing party committees and
government and there are even criminal acts such as attacking,
trashing, looting and arson."
--Groups participating "are expanding from farmers and retired
workers to include workers still on the job, individual business
owners, decommissioned soldiers and even officials, teachers
These extraordinary admissions reaffirm what regular readers of
this link and "Week in Review" have long known. Protests are
the greatest danger to the Communist Party''s authority and the
Achilles'' heel has been corruption. If you are a farmer who
sends a large portion of your income to the government in taxes
and then sees nothing back in return in the way of social services,
well, then you are upset. If you are a worker who has held his
position at a state-owned enterprise for 20 years and you are
suddenly laid off as a result of the government''s economic
reform movement, yet corporate chieftains seem to have suffered
no harm, then you are upset. And when you see local
Communist Party officials lining their pockets, you get upset.
The London Times, in an editorial, concluded that the official
government report is "not merely candid; it is a warning that
could be used to justify using force to suppress protest, in line
with (President) Jiang''s call last year to ''nip in the bud'' all
threats to stability before opposition has a chance to cohere. The
glue that binds China is a common fear of ''chaos.'' The party''s
stance as a bulwark against disintegration is its main claim on
people''s loyalty. This report puts disaffected contingents of the
public, as well as the party cadres, on notice that ''Contradictions''
are bad for their health."
So with all this as background, then maybe it isn''t any great
surprise that two leading editors from what the West often
describes as China''s best paper, Southern Weekend, were
recently removed from their positions in an attempt to crackdown
on independent-minded journalists. What is so ironic is that the
two had just written a piece on a crime spree perpetrated by an
individual in the hinterlands who had killed 22 people and stole
$650,000 in gold, silver and cash from banks and jewelry stores
across central China. The two were only writing about the
problems in the rural sections of the country, the very topic of the
official government report, "Contradictions."
The Communist Party has actually forced some publications to
write "self criticisms," and it has called selected journalists to
Beijing for criticism sessions with a senior propaganda official.
The Chinese leadership is struggling with the end game. They
recognize that economic reform is the only way to go. But they
also seem to understand that you can''t just change direction
when it comes to the well-entrenched, corrupt bureaucracies that
populate the rural areas without a great deal of pain.
The coming years will be turbulent ones and, to survive, the party
seems predisposed to cracking down on the press and dissidents.
In other words, lots of fodder for your editor!
John Pomfret / Washington Post
Erik Eckholm / New York Times
Oliver August / London Times
Various wire service reports