Category Archives: monthly summary

This Month in China: May 2011

In the future, I’ll use this space to wrap up the most important stories of the previous month. Given that this site has only been open for one week, right now it seems better to do a bit of editorializing.

I’ve been considering opening this site for some time. What finally pushed me into actually doing it was a profound dismay with the state of affairs in China. Even just one year ago it seemed possible that the leaders of this country might change course. It seemed that elements or even just individuals within the Party and State recognized the dangers of the path China has taken, and at the time I hoped that they would be able to steer it in a different direction.

Instead, the Communist Party is forsaking everything in the name of short-term stability. Mongolian protests are crushed with lethal force. Tibetans in Ngaba gather for a funeral, and find only State-administered brutality. An internet post calls for demonstrations in front of a Beijing McDonalds, and hundreds of unrelated people disappear. The cost of housing skyrockets, major food safety issues from cadmium-tainted rice to glow-in-the-dark pork erupt almost weekly, and forced demolitions infuriate the nation. Faced with growing tensions and social problems, the government deigns only to employ two tools: either try to censor the problem out of existence, or use force against the people to clear the streets. Indeed, this year ‘internal control’ has finally become the largest single item on the Chinese budget.

This focus on artificial stability can only magnify these problems over time. The Mongolians who came together to protest their marginalization in Chinese society will not find satisfying answers in truncheons and live rounds. Rather, they will still have these complaints tomorrow- and now they will also bear the anger of having been repressed, of having been beaten, of having seen their neighbors and friends and family members killed by the State. The Communist Party is putting all of its energy into kicking an ever-increasing number of cans down the road, but they don’t seem to have any plan for what to do when the cans finally collect into an unkickable roadblock.

This site is not meant to solely be a conduit for criticism of the Chinese government. When they make good decisions and implement good policies, it’ll show up here. That I can’t find anything positive to post is perhaps an indication of how grim things are right now. Hu Jintao’s “Harmonious Society” principles are reaching a point of absolute and complete ideological bankruptcy, but for now they are the law of the land. Until that changes, posts containing good news may be few and far between.

Many people, when asking me about life in China, seem to mistake China for North Korea. They envision it as some kind of 1984/Geidi Prime/Mordor mashup, and seem surprised on arrival to find a country in many ways closer to the American Wild West. If there are laws, no one is following them. The streets are full of energy, and the guiding rule seems to be that in all things non-political, ‘anything goes.’ This was my impression years ago when I first arrived, and in many ways it’s still true now. I have to recognize that this coin has two sides, though: the lawlessness that allows taxi drivers to run red lights from the wrong lane at incredible speeds and lets street vendors fry up delicious treats in violation of city regulations and gives foreigners the opportunity to do pretty much anything is the same lawlessness that enables many of the problems here.

This blog is dedicated to pushing for a China that resides firmly on the ‘not North Korea’ side of the scale, that can guarantee human rights, freedom, and safety for all of its citizens, and that delivers a brighter future for the people of China.

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