China

China links – the final stages, feminist crackdown, NPC media silliness, and crazy corruption

When it comes to news about and involving China, there is always so much going on both on the domestic and international stage, which is one good thing about the country. Often, especially in these darkening times, it may not be good such as the ongoing and widening crackdowns, which extended to female feminist activists who were detained* before Women’s Day on March 8.

First off, there was a stirring piece by David Shambaugh that warns that the party is entering its final stages. The country has been going through a rough time in terms of its economy and trade, and things are not so smooth on the diplomatic front. Shambaugh sees plenty of evidence to suggest the party is becoming desperate and its rule is on very shaky ground. Not surprisingly there were a few rebuttals. The most compelling counterpoint to Shambaugh’s argument is that there is no organized group that could provide an alternative to the party, both as an actual ruling party and as a movement with popular support. This is in contrast with Taiwan during its authoritarian period in the 60s and 70s when despite a very repressive regime, it did have some form of open opposition.

Meanwhile, the NY Times has a story on how the middle class “chafes” under red tape. It describes the amazing array of bureaucratic procedures and documents necessary to get things such a hukou (resident permit), a car license plate or even a birth permit (really). While it may seem like an excessive amount of stupidity and inefficiency in this age, the main reason is of course to make things hard on people and keep them under control. The article mainly describes Chinese in Beijing, which reflects the Beijing-centric view that is one complaint I have about these type of articles. No doubt that people nationwide also suffer from these problems.

During the annual “two sessions,” (the NPC, which is parliament, and the CPPCC, an advisory committee) in Beijing, some Chinese reporters made a mockery of journalism and resorted to near sycophancy. This included running their stories by the very people they wrote about and allowing them to edit it, as well as engaging in near-idolatry when meeting with high-ranking officials.

..reporter Zhu Hong described running into NPC spokeswoman Fu Ying while walking with a colleague. Upon seeing Ms. Fu, a former ambassador to the U.K. …, the two were overwhelmed with joy, according to the account. “Today is a great day/Happiness knocking at the door/My heart pulses/Beyond my dreams/Let us fly higher,” Mr. Zhu wrote, quoting song lyrics to describe his emotions when faced with the official.

So taken with Ms. Fu were the reporters that they forgot to ask her a question, he added.

I was wondering whether there was a chance the reporter was being sarcastic, but the fact he forgot to ask her a question suggests he wasn’t.

Finally, this is long overdue but it’s a really interesting and amusing article about corruption at the ground level in China. Despite the corruption crackdown launched under Xi Jinping, the demand is still there, as exemplified by the mother running around looking for an education official to bribe so her daughter could attend a good middle school. The crackdown has had an effect thought, with a businessman claiming that the number of officials he needed to bribe went down from more than 100 to just around 20 in 2014. Another official says that bribery has become harder to spot and more hidden but is still going on. That is not surprising as long as people like this woman remain, who seems very intent on being able to bribe.
Chen Jin, the mother in Shijiazhuang, says she won’t rest until she finds an official willing to take money so she can get her daughter into her preferred school.

“I don’t believe those school officials could keep the door closed forever,” she said. “They can’t maintain their lifestyle if they forgo the money.”

*Five of the female activists, who were held by authorities because they were allegedly planning a campaign to highlight sexual harassment on buses, are still being detained.

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