Chinese govt vs Wukan village: interesting times

I guess the novelty is in the Western press being able to interview people as a result of a poorly managed cordon. 3 months is a pretty long time, though.

For the first time on record, the Chinese Communist party has lost all control, with the population of 20,000 in this southern fishing village now in open revolt.

The last of Wukan’s dozen party officials fled on Monday after thousands of people blocked armed police from retaking the village, standing firm against tear gas and water cannons.

Since then, the police have retreated to a roadblock, some three miles away, in order to prevent food and water from entering, and villagers from leaving. Wukan’s fishing fleet, its main source of income, has also been stopped from leaving harbour.

The plan appears to be to lay siege to Wukan and choke a rebellion which began three months ago when an angry mob, incensed at having the village’s land sold off, rampaged through the streets and overturned cars.

“I have just been to see my 25-year-old son,” Shen Shaorong, the mother of Zhang Jianding, one of the four, said as she cried on her knees. “He has been beaten to a pulp and his clothes were ripped. Please tell the government in Beijing to help us before they kill us all,

That last line is bizarre.

“If only the Tsar knew what his people were doing, he would save us.”

No, it isn’t. In all autocratic regimes people deflect any blame for their current woes onto the local representatives of power and view their distant rulers as good people who are being misled or who are simply uninformed of their plight. Appealing to a higher authority is the only recourse they have outside of a full-scale insurrection so they tend to idealise that authority. If you start thinking that the people at the top are responsible for your misery you have no hope left and no options.

I understand that. But look at the reality in the article. A thousand cops trucked in from outside and they still have faith in Beijing? Family tortured and still?

‘If only the tsar’ sure, but it’s weird.

China is complicated. From that article, it doesn’t seem clear whether the central government is aware. Not saying that they would do anything even if they were, though.

Like ‘the Tsar’, there’s a heavy historical component here as well. Due to its size, historically Chinese local governments would be pretty autonomous, and appealing up the chain was a pretty common occurrence (for the wealthy, at least). It’s a component of a lot of historical records and fiction.

Also, since Chinese venerated the Emperor, they always assumed that he was good, and any injustices were coming from lower down the line. Even when the Emperor was obviously involved, there was always somebody else to blame (usually eunuchs). So, in addition to the general autocratic-regime argument, there’s a complementary cultural component.

The Economist did a bit on that mentality in China today with the politburo, but it’s still bizarre that someone could live in such a shit situation with such corrupt fuckwits leading the local community and not think the central government was complicit.

That’s exactly what I thought of when I read that.

Nearly all people in China believe (could be true) local leaders are MORE corrupt than central leaders. It’s the lesser of two evils. This is somewhat supported by the fact you have the Central Committee trying to slow smoking, while local leaders try to force everyone to smoke to increase their own revenue. When my sister lived there - EVERYONE complained about the terrible (somewhat open) level of corruption by local and state leaders. They complained about it all the time. Sadly, the central leaders & president may be just as evil and corrupt but have better public relations… and secret police.

I am Loyal to the Group of Seventeen.

The size of China probably helps in making the distant rulers look better than the local rulers since it’s not only plausible but probable that they have no idea what is being done at the local level. Well, the details, anyway.

But this is not a Chinese phenomenon by any means. You could see the same behaviour in the old European monarchies where the kings (and queens) were venerated in a fashion we have a hard time grasping today. The monarch was a distant authority and his representatives might be evil but he himself was a good and noble person who suffered from corrupt advisors and he wouldn’t stand for taxing the peasant’s last pig if he only knew.

China also has a ruler (Wen Jiabao) who specializes in being approachable and “human”. The media plays that up strongly.

Well played, sir!

As others have pointed out such sentiment seems fairly common in similar situations throughout history, and in Chinese culture in particular (as an aspect of “Mandate of Heaven”). However, also consider:

  • It’s just one person. Which may or may not reflect on the rest of the villagers.
  • The speaker doesn’t necessarily believe it.
  • It gives the higher level government a way to intervene in a face saving manner, by offering them an easy scapegoat.
  • Their only real hope is for the central government to intervene and override the locals.
  • If they instead blamed the central government they know exactly what they can expect.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the central government intervene on their behalf now that it’s become such an easy PR coup for them.

Also, who else are they going to appeal to? America?

Oh, and on the scale of Chinese history, this doesn’t really qualify as “interesting times”. ;-)

For that you’d need something rather more like the An Lushan Rebellion.

Yeah, that was my thought as well. Why not appeal to the central government, when this is obviously an issue with the local government? It’s not as if there are a whole lot of other choices. Asking a foreign reporter to do it on their behalf makes even more sense.

“If only Obama knew what the 99% are dealing with, he would veto grotesque Congressional Bill #123 and save all of us.”

Not because I’m anti-Obama, but just to put a little first-world context on the smarm with which we evaluate other peoples.

Alright as a slightly less patronizing explanation, I’m guessing that they’re really appealing to the central gov’t so that they can play this as a revolt against corrupt local douchebags and give the central gov’t a face saving cover story for a peaceful resolution that puts everything back the way it was.

If they were real revolutionaries they’d be baying for the blood of all the central guys because shit thems some corrupt motherfuckers.