culminating change in China’s 20 year transition from a communist
country paralyzed by revolution and poverty to a capitalizing golden
child of businessmen around the world is passing before us this
month. Jiang’s era is ending and a new group of leaders – controlled
by the Elders most likely, but nevertheless, new faces – is taking
power struggles at the top between Zhu Rongji’s people and Li Peng’s
people, Jiang’s people and Hu Jintao’s (he presumably has his own
circle of friends and contacts) are the focus of international media.
These struggles, like the elections, The National Congress and pretty
much any other politicking going on in Beijing have very little
impact on the life of the common man.
the crackdown that accompanies a transition in politics and a CCP
National Congress is all the commoners really feel. The crackdown
and the (semi) mandatory "Study the Theory" sessions of
the local danwei, the obligatory red and yellow banners proclaiming
this or that majestic aspect of the Party, the Theory or The Man.
media barrage is fun as well: hours and hours of Red Flags, old
black and white movies, solemn and/or enthusiastic support of anything
remotely Communist, interviews with old revolutionaries and of course
the song and dance.
of this has little effect. You get used to it after a while.
is annoying for Chinese is the sudden need to present identification
upon entering a netbar – to confirm that you’re 18 years of age. Recently,
taxi drivers are much less inclined to pull U-Turns, extreme lane
changes or otherwise spectacular feats of driving, traffic wardens
(almost strictly female here in the west) get real serious about
jaywalkers and the brothels close down early. And maybe the gangsters
and corrupt politicians take a break from scheming, but I doubt
fact, the crackdown can be seen as much as an effort to promote
oneself than an actual attempt to enforce laws. This transition
that China is going through will flow right through this "election"
and on into the future, but Jiang stepping down and offically putting
the stamp on privateering gives local fat cats an even greener light
to pursue political and financial gain.
the boys at the top start tussling over the football, the boys all
the way down the line, to the lowliest traffic cop, see an opportunity
(or need) to produce impressive results of some kind.
will Hu do?
is not yet clear if Hu will initiate another Strike Hard campaing
to inaugurate his administration. It would seem to go against the
inclusive theme of the "16th Big," but Chinese
leaders like to compare themselves with Russia, and explain away
annual crackdowns and random acts of suppression as needful acts
in a country like China, busting at the seams with people and going
through growing pains. A strong hand in the beginning may also send
a signal to the New Capitalcommunists that Beijing intends to keep
its hands on the reins, while also showing internationally that
he has power and the will to command it.
backlash of a Strike Hard campaign internationally would possibly
be minimal to due the already entrenched powers of businessmen in
the west who intend to keep China at the top of their lists of places
to be. Domestically, it could be a magnificent coup if it were directed
as much at the corruption of the Party as at the wandering peasants
looking for a few yuan in the cities. Last year’s Strike Hard campaign
was aimed at the netbars and the migrant workers with a couple of
high-profile corruption-related executions thrown in. A true dredging
of the Party may be just the thing to ease the minds of old revolutionaries,
reassure the populace and strike fear in the hearts of fat cats
all over the mainland.
Step Behind Reality
just as Jiang’s Theory was naught but an admission of what already
is, a move by Beijing to rein in the country may be a bit like chasing
the tail of a galloping horse.
Jiangxi, I hear all net-bar users must register their names and
addresses and then are issued a card. In Kunming, surfing has become
nigh impossible, according to the rumors, with yellow screens popping
up for every third site. Many sites are censored and chat rooms
have monitors, but controlling the net is quite difficult, no matter
how much repression practice you have under your belt.
the reality Jiang claims to have created with the Three Representatives
includes people with more than enough space and money to buy a personal
computer and thousands of little shops and huge bazaars one can
wander through in search of the perfect components.
Development of the West projects receive a steady flow of big money
from the center, all supposedly in good faith. But not a jiao (a
Chinese penny) reaches the broke peasants of Sichuan, Qinghai or
Guizhou. It all gets lost in the maze of pockets that stretches
across the mainland. Last year’s Strike Hard campaign may have been
in good faith, one can never really tell. But only those fat cats
ripe for the picking, disliked in their own districts (or by someone
more powerful than they) and arrogant enough not to hide their money
trail adequately were shipped off to the block.
China has made some wise moves while other countries "drew
bad cards," but over-cautiousness during the Afghan war has
led to China losing out to the US in Central Asia. The Shanghai
Cooperation Organization has virtually disappeared after 9/11. Investments
in Iraq and plans for a pipeline partnership somewhere down the
line are about to be blown into dust and Xinjiang oil is no closer
to the surface than it was 10,000 years ago.
oil is likely to be the worst short-term result of a loss of power
in the West. But who knows what the future may bring with US and
Chinese soldiers chasing terrorists across borders? Perhaps cooperation,
perhaps tragic misunderstandings.
for Hu, opportunistic political rhetoric always lags behind the
times and doesn’t necessarily entail the government itself being
out of touch.
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is a teacher living and working in China. His articles have appeared
in the South China Morning Post, the Minnesota Daily,
and elsewhere. His exclusive Antiwar.com column (usually) appears
Incoming Hu Era
Theory Is a Smokescreen
Make You Play Bad Card'
Future of East-West Rapprochement
Legacy: The Forgotten Rebellion
the Chinese Smile
China Can Disregard US Anger
the World: What the US Fears
Billion Problems For China
New Post-9/11 Status
Room for Growth
Back in the USA
Missing the Boat?
Sweep 'Em Off the Streets
Chinese Embrace Progress
War May Reveal New Superpower, Part II
War May Reveal New Superpower
Chance for a New Friendship?
as a Way of Life
Markets or Supermarkets
Towards World Significance
on the Road to Capitalism
American in China
the Street in China: A Report