Category Archives: local governments

Wukan: Holding Steady

The latest on Wukan from a few sources:

First, Tom Lasseter continues to report from the scene-

Locals say that after they fought off a police advance on Dec. 11 and closed off the town to village security forces and Chinese Communist Party officials, government boats chased the fisherman from open waters into a harbor of the South China Sea. While there’s no blockade to be seen, the fear of the unknown is enough to keep most of the boats moored.

The government of the nearby city of Lufeng “is scared that we’ll buy weapons and bring them in,” said a 49-year-old fisherman surnamed Lin, who requested that his full name not be used for fear of reprisals.

Two other fishermen quickly offered a different theory: Officials don’t want people fleeing to Hong Kong and Taiwan across the sea.

It’s unclear whether the standoff will end with crackdown or negotiation.

Perhaps owing to those anxieties, a notice appeared Monday morning outside a house where many journalists are staying that asked them not to use the words “uprising” or “revolt” to describe the situation.

One member of the group, surnamed Shen, suggested unease about things going too far.

“We’re afraid that if we go to Lufeng the police will shoot us, or detain people and beat them to death,” said Shen, a short man in baggy black pants who also didn’t want his first name used.

Organizers have painted a less dramatic picture: If the police don’t allow the procession to pass, they’ll just stage a sit-in.

Shen said that despite his misgivings he’d probably join the march.

“I used to go out to the sea and fish, and then come back at noon and tend my family’s land,” he said. “But now I can’t fish and our land has been taken away.”

What, he asked, is there left for him to do?

Next, from RFA:

In a mass meeting on Monday, villagers made a collective decision to stage a demonstration on Wednesday and march to the city government, local sources said.

“Basically the whole village is there,” said a resident surnamed Chen on Monday. “There are maybe 6,000 or 7,000 people.”

“They are at the main intersection.”

Officials are now threatening that several thousand armed police officers now stationed in a cordon around the village, and carrying out identity checks on all those coming and leaving, are being readied for an assault on the village, according to Zhang.

An activist surnamed Yu, who traveled to Wukan in a show of solidarity with local residents, said he was detained after arriving at one of the road-blocks set up by armed police.

Yu, who traveled with a group of 10 others, said he was held from Dec. 8-16, before being escorted back home to the provincial capital, Guangzhou.

“I and a lot of other netizens are being confined to our homes,” Yu said. “We can’t go out.”

Guangzhou-based lawyer Tang Jingling was taken away by police at the weekend, his wife said.

“It’s probably to do with the Wukan incident,” said Tang’s wife, surnamed Wang. “I called up the police station to ask, and they told me that he was being held on orders from the Guangzhou municipal police department.”

A resident of Shangdaimei village, also near Shanwei city, said hundreds of villagers had marched to local government offices in Xinan township on Sunday to protest the sale of their farmland.

“There were some officials from the Communist Party commission for discipline inspection who said they would come to our village, but they never came,” said one protester, Lao Zhang.

“So we went to the township to protest … We were also protesting and calling for an allocation of land,” he said. “They should give it all back to the villagers.”

And finally, from Bloomberg:

Protesters in the Southern Chinese village of Wukan have organized to distribute food to the poor as a nine-day police blockade left people short of supplies.

People in the village in Guangdong province have not been allowed to get food from the outside and are donating remaining supplies to the poor, Huang Rongbiao, a restaurant owner in Wukan, said in a telephone interview yesterday. Villagers are allowed to come and go from Wukan as long as they don’t bring in food supplies, Huang said.

“Maybe there’s enough food for now but I can’t guess how long that will last,” said Huang, who has kept his restaurant closed for 10 days. “Hopefully, the government will handle this and we are waiting for news.”

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“China’s rebel villagers in Wukan threaten to march on government offices”

Amazingly, Wukan is still holding stable- the Telegraph has the latest:

During another day of protests and marches, Wukan village representative Lin Zulian addressed a crowd of more than 6,000, pledging to fight with their lives against the corrupt system which has robbed them of their coastal land and of their village leader, Xue Jinbo.

“We give the local government and police five days to hand back Xue’s body. If not, we shall climb over our barricades and march on the [Lufeng] town hall to try and get his remains,” said Mr Lin.

Last week protest in the village saw the local party and police lose control and flee the area, for the first time on record. In retaliation police have mounted a seven-day blockade that is choking the village of food supplies.

As the protesters filed passed the now empty village administrative centre, they slid paper notes into a ballot-like box and gripped onto their banners demanding democracy.

“If they have 100 coffins, they can bury me in 99. But I will save one for the corrupt officials who have been working with business people to take away our rights and our friend,” said Mr Lin.

Among their angry chants, the villagers once more voiced support for the Communist Party and the central government – and called for top to bottom transparency among their leaders.

It is to the capital, Beijing, that the mainly peasant farmers and fishermen look for salvation – as well as justice and emancipation from the long reign of a crooked local government that has been chased out of town.

The Sunday Telegraph toured the village barricades yesterday. Sawn down trees, crudely tied trip wire, wood embedded with nails, strategically scattered broken glass and stockpiles of rubble projectiles are the main defence against any goon snatch squads who dare to enter the village.

But defiance and anger remain the most potent weapons against the increasing number of paramilitary police seen mustering at checkpoints on the main roads.

Some villagers have walkie-talkie radios but mobile phones remain the main means of communication.

Fearing the government will soon cut the lines and down the internet connection, gongs have been placed at the barricades and are to be sounded to summon the village to defend against attack.

“There is a lot of anger here. They have been robbing and lying to use for a long time,” he said.

The small fishing vessels are tied up – unable to be put to sea because of a small flotilla of marine police are blockading the small bay’s entrance, according to Chen. “They chase you back in,” he said.

A slogan adorning a government funded hotel which was due to be open next year reads: “Running along the seaside in the golden times!”

“They built it on our land. We want it back,” said Chen.

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Filed under Communist Party, corruption, housing demolition, local governments, protests

“Pair take a stand in Wukan, China, but for how long?”

Tom Lasseter has a new article about Wukan, where the status quo holds for now:

Lin Zulian and Yang Semao are wanted men.

The mayor of the city that oversees this farming and fishing village has publicly named the pair as main agitators of Wukan’s recent rebellion against the local government. Acting Shanwei Mayor Wu Zili vowed to crack down on them and their allies, according to state media.

Such a threat would terrify most Chinese in a nation infamous for police state tactics. But on Friday morning, both men stood in front of a crowd of thousands here and railed against local corruption.

“The officials are lying to the villagers,” Yang said, standing behind a large photograph of Xue Jinbo, a fellow advocate who died in police custody Sunday. A few minutes later, he burst into tears that were echoed by heaving sobs from the rows of people in front of him.

While the open flouting of government rule in Wukan almost certainly won’t last very long — and it’s occurring only in one nook of one province — moments such as the rally Friday are breathtaking for an authoritarian state. The leaders of the revolt, which has sealed off the village from security checkpoints, are attempting to make the point that, as Lin said, “the people who have committed crimes are the corrupt officials.”

So far, Beijing is trying to contain Wukan’s message both physically — with police at the main road leading into the village — and in the realm of public opinion by censoring news and comments on the Internet.

In the meantime, officials are trying to drive a wedge between locals. Some residents have received text messages urging, “Please calm down, the leaders are already dealing with the problem.”

But calming the populace has become more complicated as China’s rocketing economic expansion runs parallel with strictures on political discourse, a combustible mix that gives officials access to riches at the same time that it restrains citizens’ ability to speak up.

Adding to the potential troubles, the government may have provided the rebels in Wukan with a martyr.

Xue Jinbo was part of a committee of 13 villagers, including Lin and Yang, that formed in September to negotiate with area officials after demonstrations and a police crackdown that month. After plainclothes security took Xue away last Friday, state media announced that he’d died Sunday of heart complications.

Xue’s family and seemingly everyone else in Wukan thinks that he was murdered, and they cite as proof the government’s refusal to release his body.

“For those who’ve seen my father’s body, they believe that he was beaten to death,” said Xue’s son, Xue Jiandi, a 20-year-old university student in a brown flannel shirt and jeans.

During memorial services Friday for Xue Jinbo, groups of villagers walked down a green carpet in groups of 30 to 40, stopping to bow in unison and pay their respects to a picture of him. Women wailed beneath a blue funeral tent.

The procession of mourners lasted for hours.

At one point, a man stood outside and yelled: “There is no body! There is no body!”

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Filed under housing bubble, housing demolition, local governments, protests

“Why China Is Unhappy”

Building on that last post, the WSJ writes about growing criticism of the government here:

On the Chinese equivalents of Twitter, criticism of the government is exploding, despite fierce censorship. A recent poll by Tsinghua University and the magazine Xiaokang found that 40% of Chinese are unhappy with their lives, while another survey by the magazine Outlook and Peoples University found 70% of farmers dissatisfied, mainly because of land seizures. Some 60% of the rich are emigrating or considering doing so, according to a survey by the Hurun Report and the Bank of China. Even the People’s Daily warned last week that there is a “crisis of confidence” in government.

The crisis is real, but the Communist Party mouthpiece didn’t quite get it right. Chinese lost faith in local-level officials a long time ago, but until recently they continued to believe in their national leaders. They also largely accepted the post-1989 social contract in which the Party provided rising living standards in return for not questioning its monopoly on power.

This is changing as a result of two trends. The first is a growing awareness among the bottom strata of society that it is policy made at higher levels, not merely the incompetence or corruption of local officials, that is responsible for their woes. The second is the interest of the wealthy and the intellectuals in reform after two decades of being bought off by the Communist Party.

Beijing intellectuals are making pilgrimages to the remote Shandong town of Linyi where blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng is under house arrest. Since the tax authorities last week presented the dissident artist Ai Weiwei with a $2.4 million bill for fines and back taxes, a movement has sprung up to donate money, both electronically and in paper airplanes delivered to his house, to keep him out of prison. Anger over the government’s concealment of air pollution levels, even as the leaders in Beijing install air purifiers to protect their own health, has spawned another ad hoc campaign.

What seems to be turning the tide toward political activism is a realization that unless one is a member of the Party elite, upward mobility is limited and hard-won advancement can be taken away without due process. Since universities expanded enrollments in the early 2000s, many families have borrowed heavily to pay tuition for their children. But graduates without political connections have trouble getting on the career ladder, ending up joining the “ant tribe,” slang for educated young people living in slums. Meanwhile, the children of elites can street-race their Ferraris without fear of arrest.

The government response to all this unhappiness has been to increase the resources and power of the domestic security apparatus. This year the budget for security surpassed that of the military for the first time, and disappearances of dissidents have become commonplace. Instead of cowing the population, this is only creating more instances of official abuse that are publicized on the Internet, leading to greater anger and defiance.

Alarm bells should be ringing. The virtuous cycle of social stability and material progress that has persisted for two decades is going into reverse. This need not lead to disaster, as long as the Communist Party recognizes its mistakes and responds to the public desire for the rule of law and curbs on the power of the state. Otherwise there is more unhappiness ahead.

Couldn’t agree more. I’ve said it before, but the system barely seems to work now, and has no strategy for what to do in the future. As Susan Shirk said, China today is a ‘fragile superpower.’

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“Excessive Force by China’s Street Police Triggers Outburst”

The Epoch Times has more on the riot in Guizhou last week, including this part about how social media is changing how the game is played here:

Wang Keqin, a well-known investigative reporter, followed developments closely. He referred to parts of an article in the Oriental Morning Post that had been deleted by censors. Someone in the crowd had said, in part: “It’s like a submachine gun. … I was not far from the bullets. When I saw him loading the gun, I thought they were loading the gun to shoot up in the air. I didn’t expect them to shoot people. Do you know? I didn’t expect that the first shot was firing toward us. We started to run.”

Liu Wei, a human rights lawyer, is recorded by Radio Free Asia (RFA) as saying: “The incident has grown bigger and bigger. It is out of control now. There were constantly sounds of gunshots at the scene, and tear gas is everywhere. It’s reported that anti-riot police tossed smoke grenades to disperse the crowd, and fired on them. Many people were injured or even killed. Now the streets are blocked by police. … Cleaning cars are cleaning the blood off the road.”

“There were so many onlookers,” wrote one user of Sina Weibo. “Blood and dead bodies were everywhere. The riot police rushed to the sidewalk. … The riot police kept on rushing to the sidewalk, and onlookers almost knocked me to the ground. The street-side stone bench was covered in blood; there were two corpses on the road.”

Recently, Chinese users of social media are reporting more aggressively on events that show the regime in a bad light, such as the riot in Anshun or the Wenzhou train crash. This, along with the proliferation of access to these technologies, is particularly concerning to Party apparatchiks, according to Zhong Weiguang, a Chinese dissident and commentator who now lives in Germany.

“This is coming out more and more now because of the Internet and Weibo,” Zhong said in a telephone interview. As connectivity among the population increases, people are able to see that individual phenomena are not isolated. At the same time, he said, “The conflicts that allow these things to happen are becoming more and more common, and the methods the regime is using are becoming more and more gangster-like.”

This is why I think the local/nation disconnect that has shielded Beijing from criticism over the last few decades is becoming a thing of the past. It’s one thing when there’s an altercation in your hometown, it’s another thing when the internet allows you to see altercations in every town across China. Riot police use the same tactics, have the same relationship with local politicians who are themselves connected to provincial politicians who form bases of support for politicians in Beijing. When Beijing can see these problems happening and chooses not to intervene, but instead to reward local politicians who use force to maintain ‘stability,’ it becomes obvious that Beijing isn’t some powerless bystander. The way Chinese citizens view their relationship with Beijing is inevitably going to change while this phenomenon continues.

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“China disguises motorway as vegetable patch”

The Telegraph, on the ridiculous things local governments will to do save their skins:

The new road, in a suburb of Xiangyang city, Hubei province, was built illegally earlier this year and was quickly spotted on satellite maps of the area.

Instructions were sent from Beijing to tear up the road and return the land to local farmers, but instead of complying, local officials decided to try to hide the road.

They covered its surface with plastic sheets and then spread a thin layer of soil over the top, in which they planted vegetables. The ruse worked for about a month, until angry farmers, whose land had been seized, reported the trick to the government.

“The workers turned up in May, dug up our crops and just laid the road over our land,” said Mao Huancheng, a farmer. “They never gave us any compensation for the land. And then they spread the earth to try to avoid a national inspection and trick the higher-up officials,” he added.

The deputy director of the district said that the road was a vital link to a new industrial park, which was supposed to attract investment to the area. However, it has now been demolished and the local government faces a hefty fine.

Last September, officials in the central province of Shaanxi attempted to make an area blighted by stone quarries look like it had been planted with trees by painting the mountains green. “This is very advanced, we learned how to do it from the internet,” said a spokesman from the local mining office.

Well, if the internet said it’s ok…

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“Building Boom in China Stirs Fears of Debt Overload”

The New York Times is also getting into the local debt problem. They use central China’s Wuhan as their example, talking about both the incredibly fast development and the risks of how it’s all being financed:

In the seven years it will take New York City to build a two-mile leg of its long-awaited Second Avenue subway line, this city of nine million people in central China plans to complete an entirely new subway system, with nearly 140 miles of track.

And the Wuhan Metro is only one piece of a $120 billion municipal master plan that includes two new airport terminals, a new financial district, a cultural district and a riverfront promenade with an office tower half again as high as the Empire State Building.

The construction frenzy cloaks Wuhan, China’s ninth-largest city, in a continual dust cloud, despite fleets of water trucks constantly spraying the streets. No wonder the local Communist party secretary, recently promoted from mayor, is known as “Mr. Digging Around the City.”

The plans for Wuhan, a provincial capital about 425 miles west of Shanghai, might seem extravagant. But they are not unusual. Dozens of other Chinese cities are racing to complete infrastructure projects just as expensive and ambitious, or more so, as they play their roles in this nation’s celebrated economic miracle.

But there are growing signs that China’s long-running economic boom could be undermined by these building binges, which are financed through heavy borrowing by local governments and clever accounting that masks the true size of the debt.

The danger, experts say, is that China’s municipal governments could already be sitting on huge mountains of hidden debt — a lurking liability that threatens to stunt the nation’s economic growth for years or even decades to come. Just last week China’s national auditor, who reports to the cabinet, warned of the perils of local government borrowing. And on Tuesday the Beijing office of Moody’s Investors Service issued a report saying the national auditor might have understated Chinese banks’ actual risks from loans to local governments.

As municipal projects play out across China, spending on so-called fixed-asset investment — a crucial measure of building that is heavily weighted toward government and real estate projects — is now equal to nearly 70 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. It is a ratio that no other large nation has approached in modern times.

Kenneth S. Rogoff, a Harvard economics professor and co-author of “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly,” has studied China’s boom. He predicts that within a decade China’s lofty property bubble and its mounting debts could cause a regional recession in Asia and stifle growth in the rest of the world.

“With China, you have the ultimate ‘this time is different’ syndrome,” Professor Rogoff said. “Economists say they have huge reserves, they have savings, they’re hard-working people. It’s naïve. You can’t beat the odds forever.”

By Beijing’s estimate, total local government debt amounted to $2.2 trillion last year — a staggering figure, equal to one-third of the nation’s gross domestic product. A wave of municipal defaults could become a huge liability for the central government, which is sitting on about $2 trillion in debt of its own.

And Beijing’s estimate of what the cities owe might be too low, in the view of Victor Shih, a professor of political economy at Northwestern University who has studied China’s municipal debt. He says that by now, after even more borrowing in early 2011 and some figures hidden from government audits, total municipal debt in China could be closer to $3 trillion.

I’m not an economist, but a lot of that sounds pretty risky to me. One thing we’ve seen over and over again is that the Communist Party tends to focus on whatever is threatening it at this very second. Do they have a plan for a potential threat like this? The plan would have to deal not only with the immediate effects of the bubble bursting, but also the complete reordering of the Chinese economy that would follow. Even if China doesn’t crash, but merely slows down, will the country be able to function? People love to talk about the so-called “Chinese contract,” the theoretical deal where the people of China excuse sub-par political and rights scenarios because of how quickly the country is developing. What happens when the Good Times end?

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“Beijing Subway’s “Great Leap Forward” Provokes Resistance”

Yesterday we saw some of Fareed Zakaria’s reasons for thinking that the Chinese economy might not be totally invincible. Today Jared Hall at China Beat has a good post here going into the connections between development, forced demolition, and the coffers of local governments. It mostly focuses on the Beijing subway, which is being expanded at breakneck speed:

In one case earlier this year, occupants of a building adjacent to the Daxing extension of Line Four protested when trains passing on the elevated line rattled their homes. A subsequent investigation revealed the tracks had been laid too close to existing buildings, and that basic sound and vibration management technology had been scrapped to cut costs.

The Daxing extension case is illustrative of two common features of the subway corporation’s interaction with Beijing residents. First, the above-ground project was implemented without any community participation in the planning process. When inquiries from those affected were directed to the company, they were simply ignored. Of course, this high-handed approach to planning extends well beyond mass transit authorities. It is endemic among transportation-related initiatives ranging from road-widening to car registration, and reflects an attitude that permeates a much wider swath of the public and quasi-public sectors in China. At the same time, it is still striking to see how blatantly the corporation disregards voices from the precise population it pledges to serve.

Second, although residents only discovered engineering deficiencies after the line had begun operation, they swiftly developed a coordinated strategy to redress their grievances. Their tactics included a combination of petitions and visits to government offices, public demonstrations, as well as lawsuits directed against the subway corporation. This particular repertoire of actions aligns exactly with those described by You-tien Hsing in her discussion of urban households resisting demolition more broadly. Even while operating within the political constraints of the capital, residents’ ability to first draw press coverage and then to extract a commitment from the subway corporation to rectify the problem should warn against dismissing localized resistance to expansion as futile.

To fund its ambitious expansion program, Beijing Subway has had to look beyond ticket sales. State-owned banks have been part of the solution. Generous loan terms have provided the capital necessary to construct much of the new infrastructure. Even so, mounting debts have only worked to underscore the need for fresh sources of revenue. This has pushed the subway corporation into related sectors like vehicle manufacturing and advertising. If such moves appear harmless enough, others have exposed real contradictions with its public interest mandate.

None have been more controversial than real estate development. The subway corporation, making use of its mandated public authority, has seized scarce urban plots and large tracts of suburban land. Those with previous land-use rights are compensated––often at below-market rates––and the land is sold later to developers at a considerable profit. The scale of this practice is difficult to measure, but its results are evidenced by sleek luxury condos and high-end shopping plazas erected on land formerly cleared for subway construction.

Beijing Subway is hardly alone in this game of property speculation. Last December, Shanghai Metro was called out for seizing over 35,000 square meters (8.6 acres) of land to construct a 603 square meter (0.1 acre) station in Jing’an District. Not long after, an office complex was erected on the site zoned as “municipal utility.” Wang Chengli, a professor researching urban transportation at Central South University in Changsha, chided metro operators across the country for “being led by the nose by developers.” He pointed to local officials as complicit in the practice, with some even going so far as to “operate ministries for profit.”

This process- seize land, compensate current owners minimally, and then flip it over to developers for huge stacks of cash- is a huge source of revenue for city governments across the country. Some, such as Custer at ChinaGeeks, have foreseen a wave of public anger in the future caused by governments trying to get out of their massive debt problems using this process. Perhaps they’ll figure something else out, but if you tie this in with the housing bubble that may or may not exist… it’s a huge problem waiting to happen. More on the potential housing bubble when I find it.

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“Harsh policies harm the Party and nation”

CMP has translated an op-ed published by Zhou Ruijin, an elder of the Communist Party, in the Party journal Yanhuang Chunqiu. In it he urges the Party to examine their application of force- but note that he gives the classic “it’s all the fault of the local governments” line that we hear so often here:

Lately I’ve had a deep sense of anxiety as I’ve watched one occurrence after another of tensions between governments and people at the local level, which have become more an more acute. A number of officials at the local government level have abused their powers, again and again trampling the human rights, right to life and rights of property of ordinary people. Those affected turn to petitioning, make contact with the media, or go online to report their stories. If they turn to legal proceedings and other like methods in an attempt to protect the legitimate rights granted them in the constitution, they find that these channels for voicing their interests are blocked. What’s more, local governments will level such charges as “slander” (诽谤) or “extortion of the government” (敲诈政府) to go after them, “arresting them across provincial borders” (跨省抓捕) or simply locking them away in mental hospitals claiming that they are “psychological unsound.” Not long ago, Wuhan petitioner Xu Wu (徐武) was lucky enough to escape from a “mental hospital” after being locked up for four years, but then was openly dragged away by Wuhan police from the courtyard of Guangdong’s Southern Television (TVS) and again committed to a mental hospital. There was a buzz of public opinion around the country, but authorities in Hubei simply responded by suppressing media reporting.

These arrogant and unreasonable methods scraped the very bottom of the ethics of governance, seriously going against our Party’s political aim that says that “the Party works for the public, and exercises power for the people” (立党为公、执政为民). Lately the problem of petitioners “being [forcibly committed to] mental hospitals” (被精神病) has become, like the problem of forced property demolition (暴力拆迁), a painful new concern of the people. The first concern of many leaders now is to maintain the semblance of stability while they are in their posts. If nothing goes wrong they earn their political points (不出事, 出政绩).

In order to preserve the face and awe of the local government, and even of the various interest groups with which they have creeping connections, they will not stop at harming the interests of the people, and they even cloak themselves in the tiger skins of “stability preservation,” deceiving their superiors with claims [that they are battling] “hostile forces” and masses who “don’t understand the truth,” excusing their own incompetence in public administration and their ruthless offenses. They care not whether the price is loss of government credibility or the disintegration of popular support.

On the surface, these local [governments] can rely on public power and force to successfully suppress the discontentment and opposition of the people. For the moment, they can shield themselves from “static noise” in the media and on the Internet. But they cannot eliminate the hatred toward the government in the hearts of the people. When new hot topics [in the news and on the Internet] crop up, public anger will burst free, demanding payment with interest. The problem is, who will pay the debt of this anger pent up among the people? Local officials do not think about this issue. But they will cause our Party and our socialist system to have to answer for these combustible social tensions. In some areas, the “water level” of the people’s anger has already risen above the “plane,” and its only through a high-pressure campaign of stability preservation that the levee holds and temporary peace is ensured. But no one can say when the dam will be breached or collapse altogether. These methods spell disaster not just for the people, but spell disaster for the Party and the nation. As early as 2009, during the Deng Yujiao (邓玉娇) case that infuriated the public, web users warned: “Any instance of injustice must result in the further loss of the hearts of the people, and each popular resentment gathered up must ultimately breed great disaster.”

Don’t get me wrong: the local governments are certainly responsible for administering a great deal of what ails China. But ignoring the role of the central government is like treating symptoms instead of the disease. Beijing has built the current system from the ground up, and has established that its word is final in all proceedings. That the local governments are running amok isn’t some weird unintended side-effect, but rather the inevitable result of systematically inhibiting the rule of law and instead ruling by force in a country this big. They could clean out all of the local governments today, just to see their replacements acting the same way tomorrow: the system as it’s run now is incapable of producing any other result.

It’s certainly nice to see some realistic analysis getting through a Chinese media outlet. And there are probably reasons for Mr. Zhou to avoid indicting Beijing. But while fixing the provinces would be a good start, no solution would be complete without addressing the center.

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