I wish I had a reference to the paper, but I distinctly remember reading that Guangdong has actually been fairly conservative about political reform.
It was a paper that tried to find the coorelation between how widespead village elections were versus other factors particularly income. The conclusion was that the two were not coorelated at all, and that the effectiveness of village elections depended on large part on what the provincial government wanted to do with them.
I'll try to find the paper.
Posted by Joseph Wang at October 19, 2005 11:05 AM
Here's one paper by the United Nations that mentions that Guangdong is notably reluctant to implement village elections.
Posted by Joseph Wang at October 19, 2005 11:11 AM
One of the SCMP articles implies the same, calling Guangdong a "renegade" province.
The correlation between political will at the provincial level and effectiveness of village elections certainly makes sense. What it shows is how little control Beijing exercises over Guangdong province. They're so busy with the Beijing-Shanghai battles they don't have time to worry about their richest province.
Posted by Simon at October 19, 2005 11:15 AM
Does this explain why Ching Cheong was caught in Guangdong?
Posted by doug crets at October 19, 2005 11:31 AM
use the http://tinyurl.com/ to edit your links, tks
Posted by bingfeng at October 19, 2005 11:35 AM
is this the paper?
Posted by sunbin at October 19, 2005 12:52 PM
The Anarchic Interregnum is finished! Long live the Simonocracy!
Posted by Dan tdaxp at October 16, 2005 10:49 PM
Every blog could do with a bit of anarchy every now and again. Thanks for filling in, Dan. You've certainly generated some interesting comments.
Posted by Simon at October 16, 2005 10:58 PM
Sunbin has pointed out that over the last five years there are dozens of examples of successful rural impeachments, and no one ever talks about those. Village mayor gets kicked out, and no one notices at all.
I think that is likely that had the township government not stepped in, no one would have ever heard or cared about Tashi. It's also likely that if the township government made it clear from the beginning that dissent would be treated harshly, no one would have ever challenged them and again we never would have heard of Taishi.
This is why generalization is very dangerous. Looking at Tashi by itself tells us very little about the situation in rural China or about the likelihood of success of the Wen-Hu reforms.
Posted by Joseph Wang at October 17, 2005 12:59 AM
I hope we didn't loosen your collar too much!
Posted by Infidel at October 17, 2005 06:16 AM
So why did the Panyu government step in?
Read the chronology carefully.
In late august, the Panyu Civil Affairs Bureau rejected the petition on the grounds that it was a copy and not an original.
Over the next several days, villagers went and sat down outside the Panyu government building to demonstrate and some got arrested. But they got publicity and made the government look bad. The action led nowhere, though.
Finally, the villagers decided to file a new petition in an original document.
Question: What if the villagers skipped the demonstration part and stuck to the literal legal process (you want an original document, i'll give you an original)? Would the Panyu government have defined this is as a disruptive event manipulated by black hands?
We'll never know the answer to that question.
Posted by eswn at October 17, 2005 09:37 AM
Joseph - you're right, and I've linked Sun Bin above. What's important about Taishi is a well-established legal process has been deliberately contravened by local authorities without any repurcussions from those higher up. With the attention it is getting, it is becoming a key test of the Beijing leadership's determination to deliver on their promises. So far they've not followed through with action.
Infidel - it's hot in here, that's for sure.
Posted by Simon at October 17, 2005 09:49 AM
FYI, the Panyu local government has put together a press conference with a rather different spin on things
I don't know if they are lying through their teeth or not, but the simple fact that they feel compelled to hold a press conference and present their version of events is progress.
Posted by Joseph Wang at October 17, 2005 01:26 PM
I agree with Joseph Wang's comment above, and I would caution against arguing that the central government is directly responsible for the situation in Taishi. China's political system is a form of federalism, and the central government really has little control over what happens at the local level - and often they receive misleading or false information from local level governments who don't welcome any interference from beijing. I have discussed this in detail in my article, "The Myth of CCP Totalitarianism" (see the "China Artices" section of my blog) if anybody is interested. Essentially, I argue that what is happening in Taishi is a positive phenomenon for China.
Mark Anthony Jones
Posted by Mark Anthony Jones at October 17, 2005 02:55 PM
Curiously the way that the Central Government gets a lot of its information is through "internal reports" issued by People's Daily and Xinhua reporters.
The other question is do you really want the Politburo routinely intervening in local affairs? In this case, it may be a good thing, but I can think of situations in the past where the ability of local and provincial officials to ignore Beijing was a good thing.
Posted by Joseph Wang at October 17, 2005 05:27 PM
Excellent point Joseph - as I point out in my article though, decentralisation has had BOTH positive and negative effects. Many political scientists (even from the West) argue that China's current form of federalism is the secret behind its incredible economic success - a success which has lifted over 400 million people out of poverty! The type of problems we are witnessing in villages like Taishi represent the downside, but such villages are hardly representative.
Mark Anthony Jones
Posted by Mark Anthony Jones at October 17, 2005 06:15 PM
It's always amazing to see how one of the most repressive dictatorships of the world, one of the last redoubts of One-Party State, one of the worst places for individual freedoms and rights is treated by some "China-watchers" as a reign of rule of law, federalism (sic!) and forthcoming reforms. So, Taishi is a good thing, the wonderful Hu-Wen ticket isn't well informed ("Stalin will save us", USSR people used to say when Stalin thugs took them: detsination GULAG), they can't intervene in local affairs (first case of authoritarian country powerless in local issues, wow) and so on...
If one thing the Taishi-case demonstrates once aagain is that the so called "grass roots reforms" are a fiction (I should say a farce) and that when someone really exceeds the Party line there's no room for hope.
It's time to stop dreaming and to learn history's lessons: where Communist Party in power, no real reforms; where real reforms, no Communist Party in power. China's freedom and democracy won't come frome the same who today suppress them so effectively. We should support real democracy and real freedom fighters, not the despots, the violence and the tricks to avert it and silence them.
Posted by Enzo at October 18, 2005 12:56 AM
I bet you won't see BCChinese's analysis of the Taishi blog experiences on PKD, since he bans anyone/anthing he doesn't like:
"mentality or certain ways of observing the world, such mentality leads to distortion, ignorance or a vicious circle from prejudice to more prejudice"
Absolutely right. As the Taishi example demonstrates, the varying degrees of generalization based off Taishi, are not representative of China's reality, delima, and choices.
When it comes to our own problems and malfesence, it's complicated, so why should it by any different when it comes to China?
Posted by bobby fletcher at October 18, 2005 04:20 AM
One factor that hasn't been mentioned in why the Chinese press has been very active despite press censorship......
Money. Money. Money.
During the 1980's, the government cut off funding to all but a few newspapers, and most newspapers have been forced to survive based on sales and ad revenue. You don't get readers by repeating the party line. You get readers by talking about scandal, sensational events, and pressing the limits of censorship.
The same goes true with most blogs and chat rooms which are sponsored by for-profit ICP's.
Posted by Joseph Wang at October 18, 2005 07:36 AM
I have updated my post (simon has link above), to include a few other case studies (thanks to bobby for the links), where village mayors were successfully fired. Many involve long and difficult struggles, a few went through very smoothly. There are also set backs like Taishi.
There is an amusing picture of a mayor waiting for his verdict.
The current procedure has many flaws, one of them being a subjective ruling of "validity of complain", which was questioned by many legal experts inside China.
Almost all cases involve corruption, in particular selling of land rights.
We can debate on whether there would be fundamental change, or that small baby-steps would help to improve efficiency and curb corruption before there is fundamental change at the top (throught whatever process). IMHO quick conclusion based on subjective assumptions and opinions does not contribute to a rational debate.
Posted by sunbin at October 18, 2005 10:05 AM
Joseph - once again, you bring some sober intelligence to this conversation. What you say about the Chinese media is spot-on! Most Westerners who blog on these sorts of sites prefer instead to peddle the myth that all Chinese media merely serve as voices for the CCP. They couldn't be more wrong, and fort he reasons that you mentioned above.
And as for Enzo - well, he or she sounds as though they're still trapped in time, like they're still living out the Cold War during the Reagan administration perhaps.
Mark Anthony Jones
Posted by Mark Anthony Jones at October 18, 2005 10:33 AM
It is true that if you publish a newspaper that is explicit anti-Party and if you come out explicit challenging the authority of the Party, your newspaper gets shut down and you get sent to jail.
It's also the case that there are many issues about which there are multiple opinions within the Party and it is also the case that there are issues about which the Party has no opinion.
For example, take village protests. If you explicit say that you are challenging the Party, you are going to get sent to jail very quickly. However, if you make your demonstration *pro-CCP* by stating that you are trying to exercise the laws that the CCP has passed and are trying to implement measures supported by Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, then the authorities become much more limited as to what they can do to you.
If the authorities really thought that the Taishi demonstrations were a threat to the authority of the CCP, they would have lasted for about five minutes and you would have never heard of the village.
As far as newspapers. It is true that they are either state or party-owned. It's also true that this actually gives newspapers some political protection. If a newspaper owned by the Guangdong party branch has no reason not to report on local corruption in Hubei to sell newspapers. Above a certain level, stories get squashed. I doubt that any Chinese newspaper would be able to report on a scandal that happened at the provincial or national level. However, corruption and scandal at the village and township level is fair game.
Posted by Joseph Wang at October 18, 2005 11:42 AM
You know, there are people like me trapped in the past (freedom, democracy, rights? naaah... Cold War remnants...) and people like chinese ruling class, enlightened and projected into the future.
It's so clear. How could anyone doubt it?
Have a good time with your "rational debate". Sorry but I can't help in it.
Thank you, Simon, as usual.
Posted by Enzo at October 18, 2005 04:28 PM
If Taishi is not indicative of the problems with democracy in China, why is Chinadaily responding with a long, very suspect report stating that it is a "A true story about Taishi village incident"? Is it because a foreigner was involved? And yet, despite his involvement the situation received very little outside press. So why would they bother making such a fuss about it in English?
Posted by Shaan at October 22, 2005 10:49 AM