Why criticize the CCP?

Philip Pan, in a discussion of his book, says criticism and the public pressure it generates is the most effective tool we have.

[I]n the long-run, I am an optimist. I do believe that individuals can bring about real change in China — because they already have. People in the book like Jiang Yanyong, the elderly surgeon who forced the government to end the SARS cover-up, and Cheng Yizhong, the newspaper editor who led the crusade that led to the abolishment of the shourong detention system, come to mind. But it’s even broader than that. People in China today enjoy much more freedom and prosperity than they did three decades ago. The party likes to take credit for this, but I believe these improvements have come despite the authoritarian system, not because of it. They’ve come because of individuals who have fought for them, and because the party has retreated in the face of such pressure.

Of course, the two names he mentions paid mightily for it, and no matter what he says, I can’t imagine anyone reading Out of Mao’s Shadow without feeling chronic depression throughout, with a few moments of optimism. In the interview, which you should read in full, Pan says he doesn’t quite see why people find the book so saddening. I urge him to reread his chapter about the totally innocent young lady writing her last words in her own blood from her prison cell, a victim of the 100 Flowers tragedy, and the sufferings of the man who tried to bring her story to light. I know, there are baby steps of hope, but their impact is still too fragile and tenuous to be a source of great optimism.

I like Pan’s point about the CCP taking credit for the reforms that came about only after the CCP failed in its fight against them. It’s important to remember as the CCP continues to mythologize its achievements.

Link via ESWN.

______________

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: 27 Comments

I found hope in the book.

First off, the woman you mention was not “totally innocent” in that she had formerly participated in horrible campaigns herself. But even in her story, I found a story of redemption. Of honesty. Of an indelible human spirit. As long as there are people like her, there is hope. The people in the book of whom Pan wrote were so strong, so right, so tough, so unyielding, so honest, that though I found their failures and troubles sad, I also found their acts to be so hopeful.

Truth eventually wins out and so long as there are people fighting for it, it will win and it is winning. It’s just a slow process.

I see the glass half full.

September 10, 2008 @ 3:11 pm | Comment

When they came and gave news of Lin Zhao’s execution (she was innocent), they didn’t express any grief or condolences; they only demanded that her mother reimburse the state for the cost of the bullet (5 fen) used to kill her.

September 10, 2008 @ 4:42 pm | Comment

Dan, I know what you mean about finding hope in the book, and I said in my over-long review that the book made clear there was “snail-slow” change brought about by these people, that the Alien could eventually be out-maneuvered. But I found the over-riding emotion the book generated in me was more anger, frustration and outrage at atrocities than optimism for change. If you see the glass as half full, it’s not due to Pan’s book, which I found closer to 80 – 20 on the pessimism to optimism scale. You may be right and the glass is half full, but Pan doesn’t paint that picture.

I would say the woman was still totally innocent, at least by my definition. Certainly innocent of anything that merited anything remotely close to the awful price she paid. Her crime seemed to be taking the party at its word and believing they wanted to hear honest criticism. And then not buckling under.

September 10, 2008 @ 7:16 pm | Comment

In a society that puts a heavy emphasize on interpersional relationship, I strongly disagree with the view which stress the distinction between CCP and non-CCP Chinese.

With 5.5% of China’s population, the party is simply there to stay and influence, even if it changes the name and constitution, the elites are still elites, who are more influencial than others. And social elites always have their own network, CCP is just more discipline than others.

I reckon a better way to put it is not People vs Party, or Good Chinese vs Bad Chinese, Common Folks vs Social Elites. But rather, see it as a whole, what makes China progess is neither CCP nor people alone, but it is the INTERACTION between them, the absence of any one party will lead the country disfunctional.

Since you hate the CCP so much, I think it’s better to think it as a form parasitism, or more precisely, essential parasitism.

Although, I personally prefer the analogy of human body and brain. After all, that party only has a history of 87 years, with the governing history of merely 49 years, it takes time to learn.

Anyway, the cost of learning like this is huge. But can we really disregard them? I doubt it.

One side of the argument is that since CCP only care about staying in power, what’s the point of these learning expericen.

I think, however, it is precisely the desire of staying in power that gives the incentives for CCP to improve its governence and make people’s living standard better.

Just think, what’s the point of spending on schools,hospitals and highways if the CCP know it is going to be history the day after tomorrow?

Bascially every government wants not only power but also the building of a legend. So far, the most appealling legends of CCP, as far as Chinese is concerned, are the unification it brought to the country and 30 years of economic growth.

There will be one day when the economic growth can not go like this, yet the desire of a legend will continue to glue Chinese people and CCP together. It’s not that Chinese people love CCP, nor is it Chinese hate CCP, it is simply that the two cannot live without each other

September 10, 2008 @ 7:51 pm | Comment

I agree with a lot of why you say, By a Chinese. And I don’t hate the CCP because it’s not a monolithic institution. There are many parts to the puzzle and some arts are wonderful, others not so much. All in all I think it’s more bad than good but its popularity and success can’t be denied (though they can easily be exaggerated). Also agree that the two can’t live without the other (for now), simply because there’s nothing to fill the gap should the party fall (which it won’t, at least not anytime soon). Economics is the one thing that could cause a collapse one day, and would only be possible if China were hit by the kind of triple whammy that hit Germany in the 1920s. When people are totally, totally desperate, governments can fall, as Mao understood well.

September 10, 2008 @ 8:06 pm | Comment

Interesting observations A Chinese!

September 10, 2008 @ 8:33 pm | Comment

Just one more point about “the two(CCP and non-CCP chinese) cannot live without each other” thing.

I do not really think it’s merely a matter of basic needs like governence and improving living standards. The morality and psychological factors are probably more important, it’s only my theory or guess, but as far as common sense goes, police and military alone, no matter how strong they might be, is always the last resault.

What really interests me right now is not the economic or social policies Chinese government or CCP introduce. These policies are what CCP’s obvious leadership position requires it to do, yet they are only material leadership.

I would argue, on the other side, there is another leadership that CCP commonds, the moral leadership, which is far more important than providing material gains to Chinese people.

If we look at the traditional Chinese concepts of governence, there is, above all, a HEAVEN; then, there is the EMPEROR, below the emperor there is his BUREACRATS;finally, we have subjects,laobaixing or put it in today’s words, CITIZENS.

I found many people here tend to think that CCP has destoryed Chinese cultures and heritages, and citing Cultural Revoluation as example. It is true that in the early years of Peole’s Republic, many culture heritages are destoryed, Confucian values are critized, these who oppose CCP are perged.

However,my explanation for all these things, or more put it more precisely, how come CCP could be that strong, is that the Party from 1949 to 1976 has effectively gain the position of both HEAVEN,EMPEROR,BUREACRATS. It simple fits itself into the traditional Chinese concepts and substitute the old entities that occupy the positions. The HEAVEN and EMPEROR are connnected, as emperor is viewed as son of heaven and has its mandate. Bureacrats and citizens are connected, because the bureacats come from citizens through imperial examations.

The collasp of Qing left, in a modern sense, a political vacuum.Yet if we analyse it using the traditional Chinese conceptual structure, what happen was a fall of EMPEROR together with HEAVEN, because HEAVEN is represeted by EMPEROR, if EMPEROR fall, HEAVEN’s will can no longer function due to this lack of representation.

We all know what happened next, after bloody civil warS, the CCP won and claimed the rule of, using Chinese word, all land under heaven. This effectively turned HEAVEN and EMPEROR red and gave the CCP a duty to provide BRUEACRATS and CITIZENS a moral and spiritual guidance and lead.

Ironically, the only comparable relationship I can find here, to compare this HEAVEN+EMPEROR vs BRUEACRATS+CITIZENS thing, are POPE vs Catholic and DALAI LAMA vs TIBETANS.

The point is that CCP, for all its faults, satisfis a spiritual need of Chinese people, it’s a religious role often get overlooked for post-Mao Chinese society. But I think that’s the most imporant part, probably more imporant than China’s economic situation,and despite CCP’s self proclaimed atheism position.

In Mao’s time, it’s pretty easy to observe Mao’s own God like status, yet he is only fulfilling a role that has to be fulfilled, without him, there will always be SOMETHING in place.

So, what’s my conclusion here?
In a Western sense, it is a matter of Weber’s traditional legitimacy, except that in Chinese context, this thing is very strong and religous, altough I do not think many Chinese would agree with me on this one.

But I still have to admit that I prefer my own analogy here,
In the West, there is a state, there is a church;
In China, the family is the state, the family is the church;
And CCP is the head of that family.

September 10, 2008 @ 10:21 pm | Comment

Just think, what’s the point of spending on schools,hospitals and highways if the CCP know it is going to be history the day after tomorrow?

Bascially every government wants not only power but also the building of a legend.

I think you mean “legacy”. A legend is often imagined, whereas a legacy is something more tangible. Though I would suggest that the CCP knows that it will not be “history” the day after tomorrow, so it carries on spending money to keep the country running and the people (or as many of them as possible) tolerant if not entirely happy.

It’s not that Chinese people love CCP, nor is it Chinese hate CCP, it is simply that the two cannot live without each other

That is one of the CCP’s best “legends”. The lie that only the CCP can rule China. The truth is that the CCP organises things so that no other organisations are allowed to flourish that could potentially rule China. Given time and the ability to grow, other political organisations could easily develop and assume power democratically.

But the CCP, at least under current leadership, will never allow that to happen.

The point is that CCP, for all its faults, satisfis a spiritual need of Chinese people, it’s a religious role often get overlooked for post-Mao Chinese society.

I disagree completely. The CCP has nothing to do with spirituality for Chinese people. In many ways it is an irrelevance to them. How many people pay real attention to the political ramblings of Hu Jintao and his cabinet, his “represents”? A modest minority at best. Most drift off when they’re forced to listen to how “inspirational” they are. I find Gordon Brown more interesting than those near robots (that’s saying something), and I think most Chinese people would agree if they saw the comparison.

I’m sad to say, but I think China’s primary “spirituality” is $$$$$$ at the moment. The CCP’s only role is to ensure that keeps flowing – if it ever dries up they only have ugly nationalism to rely on to stay in power. If you want to talk about religion, it’s worth noticing that by far the greatest growth in Christianity in China can be found in the “underground” churches, rather than the official ones. People who believe go for the real deal – those who pose take the CCP option.

September 10, 2008 @ 11:19 pm | Comment

“Bascially every government wants not only power but also the building of a legend.”

Building a legacy is just one of the ways to ensure power in the future. However, this method is not of much use in democracies. Winston Churchill won the war, and loose the election. Nixon pull US out of Vietnam, and went down in disgrace. It is not what you have done in the past, but what are you going to do in the future that counts in a democracy. Sucking up to the people, worship them, do whatever they want, is the only way to keep power in a democracy. And if you can influence them to think what you think, that makes you life a bit easier.

September 10, 2008 @ 11:31 pm | Comment

I think it is weird to say that “CCP is bad”, “Chinese people is good” as if you can separate these 2 groups. Are CCP consisting of foreigners, of aliens? Is Hu Jintao not a Chinese? Was he not raised in a Chinese family, ate Chinese food, spoke Chinese, lived among Chinese culture? My mother is also a CCP member, she works in a university in China, and handles university cooperation with other schools and foreign students. My uncle is also a CCP member, he was retired, but worked for a factory that produced many Chinese weapons, some of which were allegedly sold to Iran. He has a picture of him and Hu Jintao taken 20 years ago in a restaurant during a work lunch, when Hu was in a much much lower position in government. In fact, 25% of all my family members are CCP members serving in one capacity or another. Do I find them “bad”, “evil”?. In fact, if you had met my Uncle, you’d find him to be the most gentlemanly and generous person ever.

5.5% of the Chinese population are CCP members, directly or indirectly working for the CCP in one capacity or another. That is 70 million people. So you are saying 70 million people of China are bad and evil, while the rest are good? How do you separate them? Do you go family to family and seek out their CCP membership card and kill them if you find them?

The fact is, CCP is a part of the Chinese population, fused into the population. It does not make sense to say “let’s get rid of the CCP”. How do you suppose we get rid of it? Start a militia in Anhui province and slowly surround the cities from the villages, and start a Civil war for 5 years, the same tactic Mao used? Well, actually that is a viable tactic, if you have the ambition and commitment, and the ability to rouse and persuade local farmers to join you. After all, that is how the CCP won China.

September 10, 2008 @ 11:32 pm | Comment

By A Chinese: You can always put lipstick on a pig… I have seen a lot of Chinese do that. No matter how bad their kids are, they always find ways to legitimize what crimes they commit.

September 10, 2008 @ 11:32 pm | Comment

Do you go family to family and seek out their CCP membership card and kill them if you find them?

No, you just say to those people in the family who aren’t members of the CCP that they can do the same jobs their card-carrying relatives can. A key aspect of Chinese political reform would be not to eliminate the CCP but to remove its strangle-hold on the Chinese State.

September 11, 2008 @ 12:03 am | Comment

Raj:

1.Yes, I mean Legacy, sorry about the wrong word.

2.With regards to competiting organisation, I think the point is not really simply as CCP do not want them, it’s the 一山不容二虎 –You cannot have two tigers in one mountain situation

As far as history and experience goes, political competition in mainland China always lead to power monopoly.

If CCP allows a competiting entity to grow, the most probably scenario I can think of is not serveral parties including CCP compete in an democratic election, but the entity wrap out CCP and other parties all together.

Right now, there is a balance of power between different social groups in China, CCP included. Inserting another entity powerful enough to replace CCP will change the equation dramatically with unpredicatable result. Democratic election is only one of them, and probably the most less likely.

Besides, we all know what it took for CCP to got to today’s position,Philip Pan’s book is an accounting of the human cost involved in the process. I think both of us want to avoid it happen again. When you have another political entity grow, I can tell you,history is likely to repeat itself.

3.
With Regard to my post on 7th level. I do not even expect Chinese to agree with me.

But for everything that happened, I would like see an explanation, the $$$ explanation is just too simple and left a larger part unaddressed.
Anyway, it’s only my theory and guess, nothing serious about it.

And, I think we need to bare in mind, underground church develops not with the blessing of their God but CCP, because CCP could in fact shut them at anytime, any place if it choose to. Yet they are left alone, that’s the reason why it is developing.

In fact, it’s also an open screts that there are a number of CCP members who are open Buddhist,Muslim and Christian.

Some may argue that this trend shows a weaken power of CCP, but I think it is more likely to be a process of internalization of CCP. An attempt to incorporate more social groups, individuals and elites into it, which in effect strengths its mandate of heaven.

If you do not agree with the term religion, see it as a deeply root phlisophy

September 11, 2008 @ 12:08 am | Comment

You cannot have two tigers in one mountain situation

Yes you can, but one gets chased off. It’s called a “handover of power”.

As far as history and experience goes, political competition in mainland China always lead to power monopoly.

Maybe, but that would be because people sought power at the end of a barrel or through bribery. There was no real intent from all the parties concerned to go to the people and seek a democratic mandate, other than as a sham to legitimise coups and the like.

If CCP allows a competiting entity to grow, the most probably scenario I can think of is not serveral parties including CCP compete in an democratic election, but the entity wrap out CCP and other parties all together.

Why would just one entity form? Realistically it would be a multitude of organisations that would form into coalitions and parties.

And if the CCP establishes rule of law, a victorious party could not wipe out (I think you mean “wipe out” rather than “wrap out”) others. The danger for China is if the CCP refuses to push for real rule of law to maintain its own dominance, and then economic and social pressures in the future force political change faster than the judiciary, Police, armed forces, civil service and other institutions can keep up.

because CCP could in fact shut them at anytime, any place if it choose to. Yet they are left alone, that’s the reason why it is developing

The CCP is not all-seeing – it doesn’t know about the location of all the underground churches. That’s why news agencies like the BBC always take steps to not identify their location when they visit them for filming. And the CCP does shut them down when it learns about them, even if it might leave some alone. The problem is that as they’re shut down, more open – or move. If in recent years the CCP has partly let off, it’s because they’ve decided the bad press is worse than trying to futilely shut them down.

September 11, 2008 @ 12:20 am | Comment

Raj

As for underground church, I think you should not underestimate CCP on this one, they did not develop like this few years ago. If CCP wants to know where they are, the only thing it needs to do is to tell the police to find them.It’s not going to be hard. And I guess the police might already know where they are anyway, but just left them alone. Anyway, believing or not, if BBC knows where they are, I bet Chinese police knew that much earlier.

If CCP view them as real threat, it’s not going to care about press. Besides, international press has little influence in China’s domestic politics, it’s role is often exaggerated

The real reason they are left alone is because CCP decides to. In fact, it also largely depends on the church itself, whether it opposes the local government, or behave like gangsters is crucial.
——————–
As for your comment about politics, like I said, you are just pointing to one of the less likely outcome.

If we only talk about politics here, I want to stress that in the realm of politics, no single force is all powerful and decisive. It’s a matter of interaction.

A single powerful force, no matter its intention, produce certain results only when all the other factors remain constant.

If there are more than one polical forces, the results become more unpredicable, uncertain. Because, we need to bare in mind that when there a number of political entities, you cannot really expect them to operate according to the same newly introduced rules. As a matter of fact, even if all of them operate within the framework of newly introduced rules, the breach of one will be enough to destory the trust between all of them and strength of the rules will be shattered

Your soluation sounds like an investment decision that generates highest return but with greatest risk. It’s a possibility, but I will not count on it as realistic

September 11, 2008 @ 12:59 am | Comment

Bill, love your “lipstick on a pig” analogy. I use that one all the time. Great phrase.

September 11, 2008 @ 1:36 am | Comment

If CCP wants to know where they are, the only thing it needs to do is to tell the police to find them.It’s not going to be hard.

The Police have a real job to do – catching criminals. They have a finite amount of resources to devote to the underground churches. The “if something exists it is because the CCP tolerates it” mantra is an old one, but not backed up by tangible facts.

If CCP view them as real threat, it’s not going to care about press.

It isn’t enough of a threat to warrant complete crushing.

Besides, international press has little influence in China’s domestic politics, it’s role is often exaggerated

Who was talking about the international press? I was talking about domestic reports and non-official ones at that on the internet, etc. Just because the CCP can muzzle the mainstream media doesn’t stop people hearing about riots in cities, people kicked out of their homes, etc.

you are just pointing to one of the less likely outcome

No, it is by far the MORE likely outcome especially if rule of law is institutionalised.

As a matter of fact, even if all of them operate within the framework of newly introduced rules, the breach of one will be enough to destory the trust between all of them and strength of the rules will be shattered

That’s just scaremongering against democracy. That is a potential threat in any democratic country, so you minimise the risks.

* Rule of law
* Staggered elections for lower and upper houses of the legislative
* A separately elected head-of-state with the power to veto legislation
* An independent judiciary
* A constitution that can only be changed by super-majorities in the legislative and a national referendum

If you have that, no one party can change the system within an electoral cycle to suit itself – if it tried it would be kicked out.

Your soluation sounds like an investment decision that generates highest return but with greatest risk.

Not at all. It’s a long-term strategy that can have short-term losses but will win out in the end.

September 11, 2008 @ 1:37 am | Comment

Don’t hold your breath. Rule of law as we know it would mean the end of the party’s guaranteed power. We can’t have any of that now, can we?

September 11, 2008 @ 1:41 am | Comment

Bill,Richard

“lipstick on a pig” analogy is interesting

It’s about doing what is right, uphold what is moral.Unfortunately we have different morality values and different notion of right and wrong here.

September 11, 2008 @ 1:52 am | Comment

By a Chinese, you are a smart guy. Hope you stick around. And I don’t see the CCP as evil or bad, as I said in my first comment. I see them as a multi-headed beast that does some good things and lots of bad things. There is no denying it success and its popularity, as well its numerous and at times spectacular failures and its unpopularity among many of the disenfranchised. I’m sure all of us would agree on that.

September 11, 2008 @ 2:02 am | Comment

Raj

All you said is “if”, that’s simply not enough.

You have so many assumptions about what will happen, “if” certain conditions are met, yet what are the things that could support your arguements and logical anyway?

You have many historical experiences, but they are too distant for China to follow.

What I have are are also historical experiences, but they are Chinese ones, and they are solid and concrete, and they suggested, unfortunately, your soluation is not going to work.
———–
Besides, I hope you could understand, in this kind of intercultural exchanges, there are lots of difference in values and assumptions.Some of them are obvious, others are not. We all know, obviously, we disagree on this issues.

But what really make the difference is the underlying assumptions between us. There are things that you take for granted without even realizing, there are things I take for granted without noticing. These are the things that really set us apart.

Put it simply, some bad guys are the same to all of us, but other bad guys are bad guys only to me, not you, vice verse.

What I think is right is wrong to you, because it offends so many values that you hold dear, the same is true the other way around.

So, maybe for all these talks, the only conclusion we have is we agree to disagree.
————

September 11, 2008 @ 2:08 am | Comment

Richard, on post 19, I am not referring to CCP, but the Chinese parents’ behaviour to protect their children.

They risk their reputation, property and future to do that, go against what society hold up against. It is brave and courageous. That’s why Bill’s comment is so offending to me

Plus, I never consider CCP as my kids or mum/dad

September 11, 2008 @ 2:13 am | Comment

“By Richard

By a Chinese, you are a smart guy. Hope you stick around. And I don’t see the CCP as evil or bad, as I said in my first comment. I see them as a multi-headed beast that does some good things and lots of bad things. There is no denying it success and its popularity, as well its numerous and at times spectacular failures and its unpopularity among many of the disenfranchised. I’m sure all of us would agree on that.”
=================
I think you can consider my post 21 as stick around post.

But my point here is about our disagreements rather than agreement.
That’s why I really appreciate this blog, it gives all of us an opportunity to share our disagreements and thoughts. I do not really have incentives to write for what I agree with, so I just look for what I disagree.

I would be much appreciate if we continue it that way.
And thank you for sharing your thoughts about CCP.

September 11, 2008 @ 2:43 am | Comment

Rule of law as we know it would mean the end of the party’s guaranteed power. We can’t have any of that now, can we?

Richard, perish the thought!

You have so many assumptions about what will happen, “if” certain conditions are met, yet what are the things that could support your arguements and logical anyway?

A Chinese, how can you prove the reverse? No one can prove what will happen in China if something new happens as it hasn’t happened yet. What you are advocating is no real political change ever – or so slow that we won’t live to see anything meaningful happen.

Change is painful, especially when it comes to politics. There are few, if any, guarantees. But that applies to stagnation just as much.

You have many historical experiences, but they are too distant for China to follow.

Sorry, I don’t even know what that means.

So, maybe for all these talks, the only conclusion we have is we agree to disagree.

Dude, I haven’t even got started. If you want to move on, ok. But we haven’t even scratched the surface.

September 11, 2008 @ 4:22 am | Comment

Why criticize CCP? Coz she’s my bitch… she’s like my ex-girlfriend

She’s an obsessive control freak, she has her hands on everything. She takes all the credits when things go well. She doesn’t let me flirt with any other girls. She’s got this serious attitude toward life. She’s obsessed with fame and her popularity but never cares about things that really matter to me, a.k.a the well beings of my sexual life.

But I understand her, she’s from a worker family.. She’s still learning. When she’s more mature she’ll understand and have an awesome FMF threesome with me and the Chinese Nationalist Party.

September 11, 2008 @ 2:34 pm | Comment

The problem is not if CCP is inherently evil or not, neither if their members are good or evil.

The problem is the social and political system it has created which prevents itself for self correcting.

The effects are corruption, inefficient use of resources, prevent the rise of a healthy civil society, let normal people defenseless against abuses and vagaries of the powers that be, hides scandal done by officials, etc.

It could be argued that the same effects can be seen in other systems, but the big difference is the proportion in which the bad effects are increased (even promoted?) by CCP’s form of government.

Why is the system maintained? To promote advantages of an elite? Any ideological justification is long gone.

Will the ruling elite maintain the system even if it jeopardizes the future of the country?

September 12, 2008 @ 2:46 am | Comment

Ecodelta just gave a good explanation for criticizing the CCP.

When enough Chinese get sufficiently pissed with the CCP, then change will come. Even if it means a full-scale civil war.

No dynasty in Chinese history has ever lasted more than a few centuries. I don’t see why the current regime will prove an exception, especially considering what it gives its people.

One can only hope that whatever replaces the current regime will not be something worse or just as bad.

Loved Kumra Guptra’s sense of humor, BTW.

September 14, 2008 @ 9:19 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.