There used to be hope for China. Or at least the appearance of hope. Hope that things were getting better, though what getting better actually meant had everything to do with how bad it used to be in the earlier stages of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Dynasty: the Great Leap Forward, the politically-inspired Great Famine that claimed as many lives as the 19th C. Taiping Rebellion (30 million), the Cultural Revolution, a national madness that dug the hole considerably deeper than any Chinese leader is willing to admit. Many thought that all of that was well in the past. I, for one, have never had that sense of blind hope. Yes, there were times when I believed that the opportunities were there for China to step up and take a hearty swing at the ball, to take the global lead that would have really expanded and strengthened their soft power muscle in the world, but those times passed long ago. For at least the last 8 years I’ve not had much faith in their steroidal swing: their hat size has gotten ludicrously bigger as their shrinking ‘buddies’ have become the joke of the locker room; too many called strikes; too many foul balls; too many outbursts that have gotten them tossed from too many games. And to choke sports’ metaphors completely to death, the leadership – their power/security/money lust – has shown them to be no better than China’s men’s national football (soccer) team where systemic corruption, hysterical rages and shameless greed for individual advantage and unseemly wealth has trumped any notion of a team.
Dear Chinese Footballheads,
Beating Qatar is not worthy of frenzied celebration.
Do the math!
Over the past 5-6 weeks we’ve seen China twirl into a mighty and very public tailspin, though the actual trajectory of the plunge has been much longer than that. But from mid-February, the government security forces have taken it to the streets, both publicly and privately. To call them ‘goon squads’ is being kind. In my neighborhood the red-armed banded low-paid lackeys have taken over, 24-7. Though they are nominally traffic controllers, I’d bet my limbs that none of them have ever sat through a traffic control class: every long, black sedan seems to get a “pass” nod; I will not even begin to try to plumb the Freudian depths of this one.
So this week we find official China in their “going nuts” phase, where anything that moves is suspect, and where everything that doesn’t is a threat. A legitimate question to ask is: “Is China coming off the rails?” And the answer is…? “Well, perhaps.” There’s nothing like “regime change” to make the nuts evens nuttsier. While the passing of power from the entrenched Hu Jintao to the very shaky and equally corrupt Xi Jinping seems like a no-brainer, there are no no-brainers in China. All exchanges, from local buses to a Zhongnanhai contaminated pig feed diet, are disputable negotiations. That’s what happens in a Chinese people’s republic. It really has nothing to do with the people or a republic. It’s all about who’s bigger. It’s like Zeus and the Titans. Welcome to the primitive.
This John Garnaut piece on Chongqing and the very criminal dealing of its mayor, Bo Xilai and the resurgent Red, is a must-read, Show them the money, old China: as is his China’s disappearances are difficult to stomach
If you haven’t been paying attention, you have missed the news that China has arrested or disappeared scores of people over the last month, mostly lawyers, writers and activists. Over the weekend Yang Hengjun, (aka Henry Yang), a former employee of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs who is now an Australian passport holder, novelist and popular Chinese language blogger, went missing. He phoned a colleague from Guangzhou airport saying that he was being followed by three men. Later he rang his sister in Australia and through a code informed her that he was being held by the Chinese secret police. Although he
has been purportedly released is purportedly safe, there is no dodging the fact that China blatantly lied about his disappearance, which is not a big surprise.
When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesperson Jiang Yu was questioned about the status of Mr. Yang she responded with the unbelievable statement, “I’ve not heard about this person’s case.” Jiang Yu, MOFA’s straw dog interpreter of the Party’s oracular pronouncements, is well-known for her amazingly artless dodges. Truth has never been her (or MOFA’s) best suit, but considering who she fronts, I’d venture she often ‘meets the press’ with a blank in the chamber and a fully empty clip. The last thing the boys behind the scenes want is a spokesperson who knows anything, for fear she might slip up, something neither they nor Jiang Yu would want. Haughty ignorance is her strong suit, one she, no doubt, comes by legitimately. You don’t rise to her level of foreign interaction by spilling any real beans. But to say, “I have not heard about this person’s case,” is a “Yes, I really am a virgin” declaration. I doubt her VPN was blocked.
Over at ChinaGeeks a brave posting yesterday provided a partial listing of the number of people who have either been arrested, placed under house arrest or simply disappeared in the last month in the most aggressive crackdown within China in the last two decades. I would urge you to always check this blog. There are things happening here that I do not find happening anywhere else.
And in another plus for China there is this: China spies suspected of hacking Julia Gillard’s emails. It is suspected that Chinese hackers have broken into the Australian Parliamentary computer system and targeted at least 10 ministers, Ms. Gillard, Australia’s Prime Minister, whose computer was one that was hacked, is scheduled to visit Beijing in April. I hope she has the spine to give more than a diplomatic wink and a nod to the BJ boys, though there is really not much more that she can do. After all, she is a “she” and China has no real stomach for compromise, especially with a woman. But, you never really know. Maybe she can sing.
But what must be seen as the most insidious and reactive official Chinese action to the current happening in China is this: Tania Branigan’s piece from the Guardian: Chinese students screened for ‘radical thoughts’ and ‘independent lifestyle’
One of China’s most prestigious universities has announced plans to screen all students and identify those with “radical thoughts” or “independent lifestyles”, provoking angry reactions from undergraduates and comparisons to the Cultural Revolution.
Administrators at Peking University say their focus is on helping those with academic problems. But the institution’s announcement identifies nine other categories of “target students” – including people with internet addiction, psychological fragility, illness and poverty, plus those prone to radical thinking and independent or “eccentric” lifestyles.
It adds: “The objective of the consultation programme is to help individual students achieve an all-around and healthy development.” It says officials should respect students’ individual differences but they must “address ideological problems and practical issues” and help to guide them.
It is no great historical secret that a great culture, a great civilization does not a great world power make. Though the Athenians and the Greeks were able to hammer the Persians, they could never get a handle on much of anything else without leaning very heavily on their subjects. Athenian democracy was more tyranny than demos, which is not a slam on democracy. I am a believer in democracy, despite it’s obvious flaws. Chinese neocapitalistic/I Got Mine/without an independent judiciary is what is so completely deranged. “The rule of law” has become a Chinese buzz phrase, but they really have no idea what that means. There are no laws other than what the CPC decides are laws. This is what can only be called “single party legal convenience,” or, more accurately, “bullshit.” There’s a lot of baggage to haul when you claim 5,000 years of divine rule, especially when the divine consult is the present ruler’s dead kin. The truth of Chinese history is that you don’t look for creative solutions to current problems when the consultant is speaking from the grave through fired turtle plastrons and nebulous energy channels. I have no idea whether the Hu/Wen duet cracks, but I would not be surprised to learn that fake money burning is still in their shanzhai repertoire of requisite familial “garlic rites.” For them, it’s still that “any port in a storm” thing, despite the nominal belief in the heavily bearded German Marx (with Chinese characteristics).
There are incredible wonders here, wonderful people full of great ideas and unlimited potential, amazing layers of cultural complexity that “does China very proud.” But there is also a crisis of leadership, an all-male club, who are incapable of envisioning a world that is not exclusively, rigidly, and ultra-conservatively Chinese. They might think they can bend the world to fit into their highly-pressurized limited mold, but their deeper, inner ignorance, as well as their dearth of imagination – a hallmark of Chinese communism (they send their kids abroad to study because they know the Chinese system, the one they endorse for the masses, is based on reiterated vomit and digitally-probed dried snot) – is worth about as much as a breakfast of gaseous baozi in a Ningxia village. Prime Minister Wen knows this, though Premier Hu doesn’t, because Hu’s a redneck thug. He’s always been a thug. Everyone knows he is, though no one in China has the marrow to say it. He has less international education than Kim Jong-un, the future leader of the DPRK. But he fits the 5Kyr. Chinese leader mold. When you hate the people, it is easy to become a thug, though I have the feeling Hu emerged from the crib full of racist venom. And a smile.
Wen Jiabao, on the other hand, is just another Zhou from Tianjin, a survivor of purges, a goonishly smiling, though very twisted, grandaddy figure who, despite the suppressed outcry, was not able to deliver the reason to thousands of Sichuan/Gansu parents why their children died in the Wenchuan earthquake. Of course, it was corruption and ‘tofu construction,’ but he didn’t have the spine to go against the Party and tell the truth. It really is that simple! These guys have hit the wall, and they are trying their best to use their power to ensure that history will treat them better than they have treated China. History’s a cruel bitch, unless, of course, you can manage to buy her daughter and then threaten her with a life “singing” in a CPC-sanctioned karaoke club ( KTV). We’re not talking Aspasia here. We’re talking an eternal gangbang. Or as long as eternity dares to be. This is how things work in this primitive region. Men use their power in any possible way they can. If it’s by threatening your daughter, your mother, or your hair-lipped cousin who can’t count to five, they will do it. That’s what they do best. In most civilized places we try our best to get beyond that. Though we may not always be successful, we try. But here it is just the way things are. 5Kyrs is an immense hurdle that China has never been able to get over.
I’ve always wondered what would have happened if Mozi instead of Confucius had gotten the upper hand in the philosophic wars of early China. Would we have seen a Wen who answered to the people instead of some roomful of lecherous, wrinkled bags of self-interest and overwhelming greed? Probably not. In the end, it always goes to the Money. Mozi would have sold his inky image and become a poster boy for Tattoos R Fckin Cool as a way of gaining heaven (Money). All those with piles of cash have never really believed, “You can’t take it with you.” Somewhere, someone has sold a lot of disgustingly wealthy powerbrokers on the idea that there is such a thing as cosmic saddlebags, that the money is spendable in Heaven. And God? … Well, he’s on the take too. Why do you think He loves us so much? And, of course, He loves China the most despite the fact that China doesn’t believe in ‘him’. Life is so cool, especially if you are baseline illiterate. And especially if you disappear those who are not.
And tomorrow it will be even better.