Two Chinas

Singapore’s Business Times takes a long hard look at what seems to be emerging as China’s greatest crisis, the “two Chinas” phenomenon — increasing wealth, often fueled by corruption, and the appalling misery of those at the bottom. It questions how long the current system in China can survive on the present course, and comes to no optimistic conclusions. A thoroughly depressing article, but one that should be read by everyone.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 16 Comments

“Decades after the Communist Party wiped out bandits, mafia-type gangsters known in Chinese as ‘the black society’ are back terrorising the countryside. Often they work for officials, intimidating villagers who don’t pay taxes or otherwise comply with demands.

‘Hooligan gangs organised by township governments are running amok in the countryside,’ Yu Jianrong, a researcher at the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, wrote in an essay.”

Truly depressing.

When Communism came to China some 50 years ago they did a few good: getting rid of these scumbags, improve the literacy level of the people, kicked the rapacious landlords out, etc.

I mentioned once, that corruption has been one of the curses fo China. Oppression by such hoodlums is another, reminiscent of those evil landlords of the pre-Communist era, where they ‘raped’ and ‘pillaged’ from the peasants regularly.

Maybe another bloody revolution is needed if the big brass continues to be oblivious to such nefarious activities.

August 31, 2004 @ 2:03 am | Comment

Revolutions are difficult these days, when the army has tanks and all you’ve got is a shovel.

Lawlessness and corruption is common in third-world countries. Is it especially bad in china? Doubtful.

There will not be a revolution. As long as people can see that the quality of life is steadily improving – and it is, for most – they will do nothing to attract the ire of the state.

August 31, 2004 @ 11:41 am | Comment

I guess that is why even the CPC admits that record numbers of people have been protesting in recent months and years!

I am interested in the evidence you would cite to show that “the quality of life” has been “improving” for “most” of China’s 1.3 billion inhabitants.

August 31, 2004 @ 4:34 pm | Comment

A matter of economics and average GDP. Look it up.

Indeed, poverty seems to be worse this year. But the general trend is up.

August 31, 2004 @ 7:45 pm | Comment

Demonstrations are more or less tolerated now, too – so long as it doesn’t get out of hand.

Revolution, on the other hand, gets you killed.

August 31, 2004 @ 10:17 pm | Comment

“Demonstrations are more or less tolerated now, too”
Really? Correct me if I am wrong, but that seems like a blatant lie.
What large demonstrations have been “tolerated” recently, except after the World Cup Final? And what exactly does “tolerated” mean? The police didn’t shoot at anyone? Oh actually, my mistake, police did shoot at people the beginning of last month in Henan. Were they being tolerant because no tanks were involved?

September 1, 2004 @ 2:12 am | Comment

As I said – as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. This means that they tend to want to keep the demonstrations small.

There are a LOT of demonstrations going on, in china. The ones that makes it into western press are usually the ones where the authorities miscalculated, and it gets out of hand.

More generally, most demonstrations usually end peacefully. With no arrests. But those are boring and not the ‘dirt’ that the westerners like. So they are ommitted.

Henan… brief me on this. What happened? And was it with rubber bullets?

Lastly: yes. Tolerant because there were no tanks involved.

A sidenote: It is my personal belief that, while the government should have used civilian police and riot gear instead of tanks, the dispersal of the Tiananmen demonstration was, in itself, the right thing to do.

I do not believe that on that day, had the students won, we would be seeing a ‘democratic and prosperous’ china today. More likely is another twenty years of civil war and factionalism – perhaps even the disintegration of china.

September 1, 2004 @ 2:24 am | Comment

Asia by Blog

I’m going to make an offer. If you send a trackback ping to this Asia by Blog series, I will look to include a relevant post of yours in the following edition. I’m also going to cut back on the number of links in each edition to prevent this from getti…

September 2, 2004 @ 1:20 am | Comment

Asia by Blog

I’m going to make an offer. If you send a trackback ping to this Asia by Blog series, I will look to include a relevant post of yours in the following edition. I’m also going to cut back on the number of links in each edition to prevent this from getti…

September 2, 2004 @ 1:28 am | Comment

again 403200, i thoroughly disagree with you. “More likely is another twenty years of civil war and factionalism – perhaps even the disintegration of china.”
Because some students were standing in the Square? Please….
The students were not perfect, I know that, just as we all know that the Party is not perfect. But civil war and the disintegration of china? Again, please…
Even if the Square had not been cleared, there is no way that the overblown scenario you describe above could occur.
I recommend you try getting a job as a fantasy/ science fiction writer for People’s Daily, buddy.
First article: “The Day the Motherland Almost Disintegrated…”

September 2, 2004 @ 1:47 am | Comment

Ah. Perhaps you misunderstand my phrase, ‘had the students won’.

‘Because some students were standing in the square’? Yes. If there are enough of them. And there were more than enough.

A prolonged protest in Tiananmen Square, which is essentially on the front door of the CCP building (can someone remind me what it is called?), would have drastic consequences. The government cannot properly function while being sieged. This means that there would be chaos down the chain of command. And with any kind of disorder, the people would start wondering what’s going on.

Once they find out, it is inevitable that some would support the students. The protests would spread.

It can, essentially, turn into a revolution. Perhaps something like the French revolution.

It was not ‘just some students standing in Tiananmen square’. The same way that a presidental address to declare war is not just ‘some guy speaking into a microphone’.

But all this is beside the point. My views on the Tiananmen incident has little to do with the topic on hand. Discuss that instead.

September 2, 2004 @ 4:09 am | Comment

don’t mean to always be off topic, but i must admit i never knew students were so scary!
i saw some students yesterday at Kentucky Fried Chicken, a lot of them, i better call Colonel Sanders.
it just goes to show how “the masses,” who are the backbone of “the people’s government,” are viewed as stupid and scary.
like the government even does anything… what, they couldn’t drive their black BMW’s out of Zhongnanhai and the Great Hall of the People (appreciate your attempt to quiz me) to the nearest Karaoke bar with all those students standing out there?
And I think that brings us back to our topic of “Two Chinas…”

September 2, 2004 @ 7:26 pm | Comment

Ah. So it’s called the Great Hall of the People. I didn’t know that, actually.

Regardless of what you think of the CCP, it DOES tend to keep the order around the place. It may seem like they do nothing all day – but all governments give this impression. Especially if they are secretive. The fact that, well, nothing’s on fire means that they are at least doing their job.

The government, or, at least, the ruling faction of it at the time cannot be seen to be weak. There is an internal political struggle, too. There always is. Letting the students siege the Hall would lead to all kinds of trouble.

As for the power of the students… They did manage to bring down the Qing government, you know. And their efforts did bring the communists into power. Or at least contributed greatly to it. So no, it is not a ‘mere’ demonstration by students.

Read up a bit on Chinese history. Throughout the dynasties, students are given a lot of power. They are, in theory at least, free to speak their minds without fear of persecution (the reality varies, but that’s how it goes). They are highly educated, and are where the future officials are drawn from. They are influential indeed.

September 3, 2004 @ 12:33 am | Comment

Anyone with guns and military muscle can keep order. That doesn’t say much for them.

September 3, 2004 @ 7:22 am | Comment

It takes much, much more than guns and military muscle to keep the peace. That is why there are so many failed governments – both democracies and dictatorships – in the world. And also why America is losing the war in Iraq.

Hell, Mao himself came up with the concept of People’s War.

Really: of all the dictatorships in the world, from the Roman Empire onwards, the Chinese version is the most successful. And it has been so for thousands of years (the CCP can be seen as the latest in a long line of dynasties). Criticise it for its failings if you will – and its failings are many – but to have survived and thrived to this day, it must be not without its merits.

September 3, 2004 @ 12:25 pm | Comment

What brought the CCP to power was exactly what has been happening as described by the “Two China’s ” topic, except they hadn’t been the ones perpetuating those crimes – the other side (including the KMT and their gangster friends) did!.

Let the CCP not forget history’s lessons. It did good in getting rid of those landlord and feudalistic scumbags. It was the great equalizing agent for Chinese society.

It shouldn’t allow such petty bureacratic arseholes to come back into power and bully the common people (sorry for the vulgar language but nothing riles me more than such … well … arseholes)

I am not a prude so prostitution is an accepted profession, but NOT when a young defenceless lassie has been forced, sold or conned into it. I would desire very much to castrate those pimping sleazeballs.

I ask the CCP again to wake up and not forget your roots. While I accept that not everyone can be equal in terms of financial or economic well being, the sort of BS oppression that has been highlighted on this topic cannot and should not be tolerated.

September 5, 2004 @ 12:27 am | Comment

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