I missed this story from two days ago, and it’s a great one, an important reminder that as a lot of good things happen here and people’s lives improve, there is still the same horror of corruption that pervades all levels of society here, right down to the teachers. That photo at the beginning of the couple clutching the photo of their murdered teenage son….

A couple of years ago I basically stopped posting stories of corruption in China because it’s such a common topic and it’s always the same story with different players. This one, however, is especially heart-wrenching and more than just an individual story – it’s a panoramic view of the problem that’s blighted China since its “economic miracle” began, adding an atrociously dark side to one of history’s most stunning success stories.

The story begins with the maddeningly familiar anecdote of corruption destroying the lives and dreams of innocent Chinese people:

The last time his parents saw Liao Mengjun alive, he was heading to school to pick up his junior high school diploma.

A few hours later, they were called to the morgue. They found that their lanky 15-year-old son’s forehead had been bashed in. His right knee jutted through the skin. Both his arms had been broken. He had several stab wounds, internal injuries and a swollen foot. His index finger was slashed, suggesting his tormentors had tried to make him write something in his own blood.

As if things could be worse, writer Liao Zusheng and his wife, Chen Guoying, concluded that they knew who had killed their son: his teachers. And they believed they knew why: because of their bitter, public complaints about unauthorized fees and systemic corruption in schools and across Chinese society.

Corruption is an everyday experience for millions of Chinese that taints not just schools, but relations in business, on farms and in factories, and potentially any contact citizens have with officialdom.

That’s just the starting point. By the time you get to the end your blood pressure will be up several notches. The most infuriating aspect is that there’s so little hope for change. The central government is paralyzed, because it needs the support of the local officials carrying out most of the outrages. The argument that the central party is impotent against them won’t fly. They intentionally let it go, for their own survival.

“Even if the central government wanted to see justice carried out at the village level, it is afraid of losing the support of local officials,” said Tang Jingling, an activist based in Guangzhou. “They need them to control society since they’re scared to death of any sort of unrest. And to do that, they must let them run their fiefdoms.”

It’s fine to love China and hope for the best for its people. But you can’t ever forget that a lot of bad things happen here, the kind of things most societies with rule of law could deal with quickly. On New Year’s Eve as we get ready for the parties, let’s not forget that there’s more to China than the glitter and glitz and glamour, and that a big chunk of the population lives in what is in effect a police state. So much progress and hope, and so much criminality and rot.

Read it all. Maybe there’s a tiny glimmer of something that might be called hope at the very end, where the reporter describes protest banners let fluttering in the wind – proof that at least the people can get their story told, and appear increasingly willing to challenge the criminal officials. But it seems a small and futile step, and there’s nothing like a happy ending. Quite the contrary.

Obligatory disclaimer: The US killed Native Americans, kept slaves and did all sorts of awful things under Bush. I condemn those things as heartily as I do the evils of the officials described in this article, and the system that encourages evil to thrive so the CCP can maintain its iron-grip on power. I write positive posts on China as well as negative ones and choose to live here of my own free will. You can’t write about China and ignore this elephant lurking in the corner.


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: 72 Comments

“Funny I was always told that the women that western men dated where considered ugly by Chinese definitions of beauty.”

And maybe those men are not considered handsome by western woman standards. Globalization has its good sides too.

Remember a post in chinaSMACK that disappointed CH human flesh searchers in the end. IMHO, by Western standard she so looks pretty nice πŸ™‚

January 4, 2009 @ 6:03 pm | Comment

In the novel it is often described in the poems how the various monsters look like.

It seems like the majority of the monsters have red hair like ablaze, possibly curling at the temples.

It is also mentioned that a monster has square cut face. This is also mentioned in writings of Hong Xiuquan, The Taiping King.
Taiping believers who travel to heaven they see the chief of the devil demons, square headed and red eyed, and learn that he is indeed the same as the demon devil of the eastern sea and the demon king of the earth they call Yan Luo (from tianxiong shengzhi of Hong Xiuquan himself ) (Gods Chinese Son page 108 / 348)

So a square cut face was a typical monster feature.

Most of the monsters have also big round, possibly bulging eyes.

Most monster have lips, red as blood

A big nose was also typical for many monsters, possibly hooked like a parrots beak or with nose bridge like a mountain ridge.

Some monsters are described as white and pale.

This is the description which the professional storytellers in Ming and Qing dynasty gave of the devils and monsters. This must very much have been the picture which common people had about devils and monsters.

So when the Chinese saw the Englishmen and other European arrive they felt no doubt.

Chinese are not stupid, they can recognize a devil when see one. And here were no doubt.

There were foreigners with red hair and hair in other ghost like pale colors, they had big noses and high nose bridge. they had big, round and bulging eyes. they were white like ghosts. they had square cut faces and loud roaring voices.

There could be no doubt, it was foreign devils.

January 4, 2009 @ 6:22 pm | Comment


It is clear that our friend here is bitter that he can’t find a mate in China. All he can do is come and bitch about it on an online forum. You really should feel sorry for him.

Actually, yourfriend alias Ferin is American and he can’t find a mate wherever he goes because of his habit of abusing people. In the past, he used to get beaten up by the bigger boys, so now he prefers to anonymously abuse people on blogsites.

January 4, 2009 @ 10:22 pm | Comment


Certainly a valid point as many of the older or uglier western men in China certainly seem to do quite well out of it. a 60 year old man in a western country is not likely at all to be dating a 20 something unless he has some seriously impressive hidden qualities.

January 5, 2009 @ 8:54 am | Comment

Funny I was always told that the women that western men dated where considered ugly by Chinese definitions of beauty.

Yes. However the men are ugly too. Usually not as ugly, but in exchange they are old and fat.

many of the older or uglier western men in China certainly seem to do quite well out of it.

This is because of money, and it highlights exactly what I was talking about.

In the past, he used to get beaten up by the bigger boys, so now he prefers to anonymously abuse people on blogsites.

When I was growing up, only one boy was bigger than me and he was my friend. I never lost a fight, and I never started them either.

January 5, 2009 @ 2:04 pm | Comment


I suppose there is no accounting for taste, but then a lot of young chinese women also do the same with old fat rich chinese men, so not much one can say about that.

I suppose there is nothing wrong with marrying for security….

January 5, 2009 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

“unless he has some seriously impressive hidden qualities.”
Hhhhmmm…For example? πŸ˜‰

January 5, 2009 @ 3:50 pm | Comment

but then a lot of young chinese women also do the same with old fat rich chinese men

There are lot of beautiful young women married to disgusting old men all over the place, of course. The racist/economic exploitation factor makes it a whole new level of disgusting.

January 5, 2009 @ 5:15 pm | Comment

Believe me, Ferin, once you stop being so nasty, you can find a girlfriend as well, you don’t have to be rich.

January 5, 2009 @ 5:41 pm | Comment

Honestly I’m actually a very nice person in real life. Just don’t insult me or I’ll kick your ass πŸ™‚

January 6, 2009 @ 12:52 am | Comment

I’m so afraid of you!!!

January 6, 2009 @ 1:45 am | Comment

I’m sure you would be, since the way you type signals “hunchbacked theta male” loudly.

For the rest of you I think the comments in this laughably, blatantly “racist” thread started by Richard should give you good feel for why Chinese woman/foreign man is demeaning and exploitative:

January 6, 2009 @ 2:22 am | Comment

I Believe Corruption In China Can Be Legalized.

This post wants to make a proposal. The proposal is that, in a country of 100 million+ people, there should be a very group of people that can legally enjoy legal corruption, also known as “social buffet” in the US. What do I mean by “social buffet”? It means that they issued a VIP card, and with that card, they can purchase any goods on the market, and enjoy any services on the market, and all their expenses will be 100% reimbursed by the gov’t. So they can buy food, buy cars, buy houses, do plastic surgeries, etc, and they don’t have to pay anything. In fact, their living expenses will be 0, and their children can enjoy this “social buffet” as well. We can call this class of people “super-priviledged class”. This class will be legal and open, and officially recognized, just like in the United States.

How did I come up with this idea? Well I was eating in a buffet place, where I can eat as much as I want until all my desires are satisfied, in that restaurant, I am just a member of that super-priviledged class. So why not expand this concept to society? First, we know that all societies in human history, whether it’s capitalist, marxist, dictatorship, democracy, kingdoms, etc, have varying classes of the privilegded. In America, they are like George Bush families. In China, they are like government officials. In Saudi Arabia, they are royal princes, etc. These privileged classes are very wealthy, very corrupt, and often cause the regular citizens to dislike and hate them, and blame them for all the “social injustices” and “inequalities” in society, and are often the source of conflicts and even revolutions.

Well, from an engineering point of view, we first must analyze whether those privilegded classes introduce any harm or cost to the society, for example, whether the George Bush’s or the Saudi Princes really take up too much resource and money in the economy due to their extravagant and wasteful lifestyles, as to slowdown economic growth. And we should try to minimize those costs to society. Now you may say “But it’s more than just costs to society, those people are immoral!”. But an engineering mindset does not consider morality.

First, why do some people become corrupt, and have billions of dollars saved in secret overseas accounts and steal the public fund into their own pockets, etc etc? Well, they simply want money, right? But why do they want money? Simply because they want to enjoy the materialistic life, such as cars, houses, jewelries, prostitutes, etc etc. But since the society forbids them to openly steal money and become priviledged, then they feel unsafe, and it’s that feeling of unsafety that drives them to store trillions of dollars in their bank accounts for themselves and for families, and the trillions of dollars are really more than they can spend. So, if we understand their psychology, why not openly allow them to spend as much as they want. They can build summer villas, they can eat lobsters and foie gras every day, they can send all their children to the best schools, they can spend 1 million dollars on plastic surgeries every week, etc etc. And all their money will be paid by the public, as long as they are a member of that super-priviledged class. If this is the case, then no matter how much they try to spend or how luxurious their lives are, the amount of money they spend in their life times certainly will not be enough to really impact the entire economy, right? (Remember that I said this proposal is for BIG countries and the super-priviledged class must be very very small). Even if each one buys 20 houses, and 100 cars, that won’t really impact the economy that much. So if their actions do not impact the economy and bring no significant costs to the society, then who cares if they and their children live luxuriously?

If we openly deny them this kind of priviledge, then they are induced to embezzle and steal and get as much as they can before they are “caught”. And this way, it’s possible that they may steal so much money out of fear and unsafety that it may present a significant cost to society.

But who should be allowed to enjoy those unlimited life-time reimbursements? I think they should include high-level government officials, important CEO’s, scientists, professors, actors, etc. So basically this “social buffet” is an open and legitimized way to create an “elite” class in a country, and I think this is very beneficial to society because first, if those people do not have to worry about their own monies, then they will devote much more time doing their jobs well (most of the corruption and dark-sides are really money-related). Second, given this luxurious buffet, they will love the society they are in, and citizens of other nations may come and live in this society, and thus bringing more human resources and capital into the society. Of course this social buffet class must be very very small in number, maybe 0.1% of the population. And maybe the gov’t can keep a list of all its members, and the list can be updated from time to time to include new members and kick out old ones.

This technique has already been implemented in the United States.

January 6, 2009 @ 10:07 am | Comment

More information:

China is relatively more “progressive” in that none of you have been killed yet

January 6, 2009 @ 10:22 am | Comment


maybe the fact that they actually treat them well… A chinese man in one of the hotels in Changshu where I work complained to the manager of the hotel that the chinese waitresses always treated the western guests better. the chinese manager replied that the western guests were more polite and treated them better as a whole than some of the local, hence the reason they got better service. They said please and thank you and treated them like a person rather than an object. Please note though that not every westerner or local is like that but you certainly seem to see a lot of it.

As for some of the other hidden qualities. I don’t think we need to lower the conversation too much more than we have already gone.

January 6, 2009 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

fat old desperate guys = good tippers

January 6, 2009 @ 2:36 pm | Comment


Certainly can’t argue with that normally, but generally as no-one in China tips anyway I don’t think that is the case here

January 6, 2009 @ 3:15 pm | Comment

Is there any traditional way in CH that could be compared to courtly love?
“Courtly love saw a woman as an ennobling spiritual and moral force, a view that was in opposition to ecclesiastical sexual attitudes. Rather than being critical of romantic and sexual love as sinful, the poets praised it as the highest good.”

I think it still has a significant influence in some Western mindsets. May it explain different attitudes with women between some CH locals and some foreigners?

Curiously, courtly love seems to have a Muslim origin.

January 6, 2009 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

It’s an ideal rarely achieved in Western societies, like much of the “good” stuff in the Bible.

January 7, 2009 @ 1:43 am | Comment


Interesting question. I am not sure how to answer it. From most countries women not being as strong have always been at the mercy of men, hence the reason certain cultures developed ways to protect them. Islam being a good example of this. Men were considered as the protectors and the women as the carers of the family. Although women were not as physically strong as the man they had other virtues associated with them such as compassion, love, etc.

What attracts a chinese woman to a foreign man? Is it the way foreign men approach love? is it that they treat the women in a better way? Have different manners? money? the fact that mixed race babies look cute? Security? Safety? Genetic material? I have no idea, Women are always a mystery πŸ™‚

Ultimately though it is the choice of the woman who she wants as her partner. In this regard, certainly in many societies the woman holds all the cards.

January 7, 2009 @ 9:53 am | Comment

“Women are always a mystery ”
Agree to that πŸ˜‰

January 7, 2009 @ 11:15 am | Comment


Once and for all, the reason you can’t find a girlfriend is not your cultural background, the colour of your skin or whatever, it’s YOU.

January 8, 2009 @ 7:45 pm | Comment

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