Hu Jintao’s reforms

Step by step and with a ruthless efficiency, Washington Post correspondent Philip Pan demolishes any remaining hopes we may have harbored that Hu Jintao would be a true reformer and proponent of change in China, at least in regard to openness, freedom of speech and democratic reforms.

More than two years after taking office amid uncertainty about his political views, Chinese President Hu Jintao is emerging as an unyielding leader determined to preserve the Communist Party’s monopoly on power and willing to impose new limits on speech and other civil liberties to do it, according to party officials, journalists and analysts.

Some say Hu has cast himself as a hard-liner to consolidate his position after a delicate leadership transition and could still lead the party in a more open direction. There is a growing consensus inside and outside the government, however, that the 62-year-old former engineer believes the party should strengthen its rule by improving its traditional mechanisms of governance, not by introducing democratic reforms.

This is another topic close to my heart, because I remember debating with other Chinese bloggers in the spring of 2003 whether Hu would really make a difference. There was a strong consensus (of which I was not a part) that as soon as he was free of Jiang’s overbearing control, Hu would make dramatic reforms. The crown jewel of proof was his swift and dramatic handling of SARS once the scandal erupted. He fired the health minister and the mayor of Beijing and held an unprecedented two-hour live press conference in which he appeared to be truly a new type of leader, bringing to mind the early hopes of Gorbachev’s glasnost.

I was skeptical, because I felt if he were a true reformer, he wouldn’t have allowed the government to lie about SARS in the first place. It was plain stupid, as it was a lie they couldn’t possibly contain, and it inflicted direct harm on the people of China. But I was assured, even by some of my best friends in China, that this was a signal of great change. They were turning the microscope on themselves and fessing up to the truth. My cynical response was short and simple: Do they really have any other choice? They have been caught, and now they’ve gog to get out of it somehow. There was nothing else to do if Beijing was going to return to normal and start believing its government again.

And then there’s Tiananmen Square. The same bloggers (most of whom aren’t blogging anymore) assured me that only one things was preventing Hu from opening up about the 1989 catastrophe: Jiang Zemin. Once he was removed from the scene, the doors would open and the truth would make us all free. Interestingly, the silence has, if anything, intensified, and the topic is as taboo today as it was under Jiang.

Party officials said Hu’s statements have led propaganda, education, culture and security officials in Beijing and the provinces to take a harder line against criticism of the government and discussion of sensitive subjects, such as political reform and the 1989 crackdown on the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.

Over the past few months, nearly a dozen dissident writers have been arrested across the country, including journalist Shi Tao in Hunan province, scholar Zheng Yichun in Liaoning, essayist Zhang Lin in Anhui and painter Yan Zhengxue in Zhejiang. A researcher for the New York Times, Zhao Yan, was detained just before Hu’s speech to the Central Committee, and a well-known essayist, Huang Jinqiu, was sentenced to 12 years in prison days after it. The authorities have also disbarred Shanghai lawyer Guo Guoting, who tried to represent several of the dissidents.

The article also notes the futility of Hu’s efforts to help the oppressed villagers who petition him, which often backfires and gets the petitioners into more trouble with local officials. There’s a lot more to the piece, and you really should read it all. It concludes with a rational explanation from an anonymouse source:

“The party’s authority is gradually declining, and as a result, Hu is less confident and more insecure than the leaders before him,” said a former provincial party chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “When a leader feels insecure, he tightens controls.”

I would love to be able to post an article showing that Hu is a true reformer who has strived to bring freedom and fairness to his people. I’d really love to post a story about how censorship in China is loosening and how reporters are now allowed to investigate the government at will. I’d love to report a crackdown on corruption with long-term effects, freeing villagers from the yoke of local oppressors. I just can’t find any such stories, and that’s why my posts on the CCP tend to be critical. If you can send me links to articles on the CCP’s breakthroughs and their dedication to individual liberties, I will post them in a heartbeat. I would love to see some good news; I thought we were seeing some last year with the peasant’s survey that seemed to signal a shft in transparency, and I posted about it numerous times with real optimism. But we were disappointed yet again. I want to be fair and I want to give credit where it is due. What is the CCP doing to bring its people freedom and a greater voice and greater representation? Just let me know, and if the source is reasonable I won’t hesitate to write it up.

Thanks to the anonymous emailer who sent me the link to this story. Always appreciated.

The Discussion: 37 Comments

As the saying in communist circles go. It is better to be an Andropov than a Gorbachev.

April 24, 2005 @ 2:45 pm | Comment

Daily Linklets 24th April

Curzon at Coming Anarchy discovers that Japan is popular among the Taiwanese (95%!) its old Axis ally Thailand (96%), and plucky Singapore (94%). These countries are looking for a peaceful Japan to export security to their regions. Not that Nihon alway…

April 24, 2005 @ 6:14 pm | Comment


I haven’t really been keeping up with Chinese politics all that much, so I can’t say too much about things I haven’t been keeping up on, but like we’ve talked about before I have a problem with viewing the CCP’s position on things in one of either two lights: it’s either democratically reforming or not. I’ve always been saying that it’s actually creating its own new form of governance, one that doesn’t align in any way with our values but one in which they have as much a right to figure out as we did and do.

My point, anyway, was always that Hu was more of a reformer than his predecessors, not that he would single-handedly bring about dramatic reforms. Yet it seems like you’re still looking for that. Care to explain why?

April 24, 2005 @ 6:38 pm | Comment

Adam, good to see you back. I promise, it wasn’t only you I was referring to as the “other bloggers in China.” There are at least three others, so I am not necessarily disagreeing with your own viewpoint.

If Hu was more of a reformer than his predecessors, I need to see the evidence. According to Philip Pan and many others I greatly respect, he has been the opposite of a reformer in regard to some of the most critical issues: freedom of speech, a move toward more fair representation (i.e., toward democratization, which the CCP always says it wants, once its people are “ready”) and greater government transparency. Things really did look promising that day of the SARS press conference, but I was disappointed with what followed, and apparently Pan and those he quotes here feel the same way. Which correspondents in China take an opposite view and see Hu as a reformer? That kind of talk died out a long time ago.

Let me repeat the key point there: Hu Jintao did the exact opposite of reform in the examples cited, and actually pushed the country backwards. If there’s one area where he might get some praise it’s a sincere but thus far ineffective crackdwon on corruption at the cadre level, where the problem is most acute. This hasn’t gotten very far and never will, as long as the central Party depends on the loyalty of the cadres to survive. The corruption guarantees this loyalty, and is the grease that keeps the machine running. Hu (and more so, Wen) has also reached out to the disenfranchised, but that’s another area where I don’t see that he had much choice – he can’t simply ignore 800 million peasants, especially when revolution in China tends to start in the countryside. And, as the article says, his petitions from the peasants have mainly helped fuel more arrests.

I used to say it so often, I was afraid it would be a cliche: Reform is as reform does. As I said in the post, Adam, I would love to report on the great strides Hu has made and the changes that have come in their wake. Where are the links? I got so excited over the Zhongguo nongming diaocha, and wrote about it with the greatest optimism. I also praised the party’s finally taking a sane approach to AIDS last year, lifting its stigma and giving it a human face. But these things have been so sparse, and the fate of the Peasant Survey ended up a major disappointment for many. So let me make my promise again: As Hu implements reforms I will do all I can to document them, and praise them if successful. But right now, I have very little to work with.

April 24, 2005 @ 7:03 pm | Comment

You know what they say about leopards and spots. I’d say that Hu’s ideological spots are pretty clear.

The sad thing is that China doesn’t seem to be alone in its regression. Civil liberties seem to be going out of fashion globally. That makes it a bit hard to moralize.

But I’ll moralize anyway, as I am a bit of a moral absolutist. I agree that the Chinese have as much right to figure out their path as anyone does. But the problem is that most Chinese seem to be excluded from the process of figuring out what that path might be. And under Hu this trend is emphatically not changing.

Now, while the Chinese have every right to figure out their own system of government, I will make my plug for democratic systems. They are not simply a western prejudice or a product of western values, as thriving democracies elsewhere in Asia have shown. (If Indonesia can do it, anyone can.)

There are successful examples of the middle-ground. Singapore comes to mind. But city-states of four million are not the same as nations of 1.3 billion. I believe democratic governments, despite their flaws, are ultimately the most likely, in the long run, to align the needs of the people with the needs of the state. And that is pretty much the point, after all.

April 24, 2005 @ 7:20 pm | Comment

i totally agree with Will, Richard thank you for your post, I feel vindicated,because you always said that you give the benifit of doubt to Hu( yes that is the way you size uo everyone but not CCP member).

My opinion is that: we should concentrate on education system ,dont let younger generation be brain washed again. ( I feel sad when I saw lots of students never heard about June 4 and manipulated by CCP to demostrate on street. Disgusting!)

Middle level law enfoecement official

April 24, 2005 @ 9:10 pm | Comment


My prediction: die-hard optimists and CCP supporters will look to Wen Jiabao to be the “hidden” reformer. The Good Official, and all that.

I really have to wonder, in this day and age, how it is that Hu thinks censoring public dialog and using CR rhetoric is going to shore up his authority.

April 24, 2005 @ 9:18 pm | Comment

The developments in China in terms of control of media has been pretty disappointing in the last couple of years, but I’d still caution against drawing conclusions a little too early. CCP politics is notoriously opaque and it’s difficult to figure out which group of people is responsible for which developments and why certain things are happening. Control of the media does not always rest in the hands of the nominal party leader. Remember that the current Politburo Standing Committee member in charge of the media is Li Changchun, a Jiang Zemin protege, while before Jiang Zemin’s retirement, Hu Jintao was the one in charge of the media. Of course this is not to prove or disprove anything about Hu’s relationship to the tightening of controls on expression, but just to point out there could be more going on behind the surface.

April 24, 2005 @ 11:23 pm | Comment

Hui Mao, I do take what you’re saying into consideration. But why the favorable comments on North Korea’s political system from Hu? This and some of his more authoritarian rhetoric quoted in the article are pretty alarming.

I had to blog this article myself and put in my two cents. I’d love to get any and all feedback.

April 25, 2005 @ 12:02 am | Comment


Yes, those speeches (which I have not read but only heard about through media reports) are not encouraging but political speeches in China are drafted and approved by committee, not by the person delivering it. It is often the case that the content of a speech does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the person delivering it. There’s the famous example of Lin Biao’s speech in 1969 at the 9th party conference, the entire content of which was vehemently opposed by Lin and were in fact the work of Lin’s rivals.

April 25, 2005 @ 12:31 am | Comment

Hui Mao,

I appreciate your perspective, and I hope that you’re right. In the long run, I believe that China will have to modernize its political system. I am rooting for China to succeed and to become a positive political force on the global stage. I think the consequences of a Chinese failure are too dire to contemplate.

April 25, 2005 @ 12:44 am | Comment

Huai Mao, and as a p.s., I’m fascinated by your account of the 9th Party conference. If you have any sources you particularly recommend on the subject, I’d love to hear about them.

April 25, 2005 @ 12:53 am | Comment

The idea that “Jiang’s overbearing influence” was worth much was fundamentally flawed from the onset. It assumed that Jiang was a particularly powerful and supreme leader, which he never was. He was a comfortable choice by a party afraid of ever allowing a paramount leader to emerge who could turn the people against the high officials, as Mao had once done. Essentially, you’re only ever going to get consensus men at the top, at very least until the memories of the Cultural Revolution has faded amongst the higher echelons. That’s fine as long as China doesn’t require innovative thinking … I compare China to a first rate man of war. (It’s not mine actually … Lord Macartney came up with it in the 1700s.) As long as capable officers are on deck, the ship will go along fine, but if you get an incompetent in charge, very soon it will hit the rocks. Right now, I’d say China is like this battleship without a captain or any first officers. The senior ratings have decided never to allow anyone like that to emerge. Instead, they’ve got together and elected the ship’s engineer to run things. He’s perfectly capable of making sure the ship’s fittings are working properly, and everything stays clean and well ordered. But he’s not very good at reading maps, and incapable of making long-range decisions, and if there’s a sudden crisis, it will take him far too long to react.

April 25, 2005 @ 1:26 am | Comment

FS9, I’d have to agree with you. It appears that his leadership style does not allow access for the “maps” that would enable him to react quickly enough in a crisis.

I hope to be proven wrong.

April 25, 2005 @ 1:58 am | Comment

My question:
What a democratic reform will bring to the average Chinese people?
What if Fang and Wang succeed in ’89? Will China be better today? (I don’t support killing people, and Chinese government should be responsible at least partially for that, just raise a question ‘cause the answer is more critical for an average Chinese)
Will China be another America? Or another Russia, Ukraine, India, Taiwan, Korea or Indonesia after that?

Frankly, for a common Chinese people like me, democratic reform is not so urgent. What need to be solved immediately are the issues leading to the Huankantou riot. A lot of Chinese people live miserable life nowadays. I am almost convinced by Richard the justice of the violence in Huankantou riot and I know this is happening everyday. This has to change!!!
However if a democratic reform will change that? Or it will lead to an even more chaotic situation? I am not quite sure. Allow me to copy and modify one sentence from Richard:
“People’s lives, food, water, land and homes are at stake” of a rushing democratic reform! You have seen the stupid violence in the anti-Japan demonstration. I guarantee it will not only be happening but will be much more severe if China rushes to a western democratic system. Chinese people aren’t ready! Hu certainly knows that and he has to be cautious. I don’t expect he will change the Chinese political system in a way of Gorbachev unless he is forced to in the next ten years or so.

By the way, to all westerners on this blog: here are the words (translated from Chinese) from an honest western reporter:
“For westerners, a real China doesn’t exist; we are not interested in her. For us, China is just a huge screen. We have come with our illusions and project our dreams, wills and feelings all on this screen since 17th century…”
And thank you all for devoting your energy to understand China.

April 25, 2005 @ 2:51 am | Comment

Well, I hate to say I-told-you-so, but in this case, the West projects its hope to a butcher who earns his way to Beijing through bloodshed in Lhasa.

Three months before Tiananmen massacre, Hu declared martial law in Tibetan capital and ordered the troops to open fire on peaceful demonstrating Tibetans. None of Andropov or Gorbachev had such a resume before ascended to power. The wishful-thinking Western media never covered that seriously in Who-is-Hu era.

Like in every organized crime, CCP has been good at picking up the one with necessary blood in hand to succession. Hu is the right guy.

April 25, 2005 @ 3:23 am | Comment

Lin quoting Richard with commentary: ““People’s lives, food, water, land and homes are at stake” of a rushing democratic reform! You have seen the stupid violence in the anti-Japan demonstration. I guarantee it will not only be happening but will be much more severe if China rushes to a western democratic system. Chinese people aren’t ready! Hu certainly knows that and he has to be cautious.”

Well, regardless of whether this is true or not, I consider the people of Hong Kong to be more than ready. I know they some would claim that democracy there would cause Chinese to question their own system, but if this were purely a question of a gradual transition on the mainland to a more liberalized system, and not a question of trying to control others, there would be no reason to keep dragging the feet over HK. I don’t think that the Chinese people will ever be ready if the CCP (in its current state) has its say. There are many Indians who live in just as poor if not poorer states and who are just as un-Western as any Chinese person. However, they seem to be managing (not without difficulty here and there, I grant) fine.

I don’t think most people in here are advocating a sudden change overnight. However, a step-by-step process would be welcome. I don’t see even any baby steps happening at the moment.

April 25, 2005 @ 5:30 am | Comment

Even before Hu took power, many economists speculated that, with a widening income gap, China will take a turn to left, either voluntarily or in-voluntarily. Therefore it should not be a surprise that Hu turns leftand shifts more fucus to the poor from the elite.

It is interesting that Hu is tightening control on media. There is no doubt that Hu and Wen enjoy much more popular support than Jiang. He may feel insecure after recent “color” revolutions. By the way, all those revolutions were funded by US semi-government agencies. It will be totally unacceptable that any foreign power interfere US politics in a similar way.

I do not like Hu’s approach. But his statement that foreign powers want to split china does sound right to me. Hopefully he will not go too far on the left.

April 25, 2005 @ 5:33 am | Comment

Had a good laugh today. After another day where the fascist gov’t banned ALL (as in each and every) foreign website from my international school, I read the Chinese constitution:
Article 35. Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.

April 25, 2005 @ 5:53 am | Comment

Steve, Lin, what concerns me about Hu is not so much the lack of out and out democracy; it’s the restriction of the flow of ideas and of any public discussion of controversial issues. I happen to think that some form of representative democracy is the best mechanism to sort out the needs of a large and complicated country like China, but regardless, certainly you must be willing to discuss problems openly if you wish to solve them. No one person or approach is wise enough to fix everything, and by limiting the points of view that are considered legitimate, I think that Hu’s administration is making a huge mistake.

Lin, though all of us have our prejudices, I’d like you to consider also that many of us who are not from China try our best to be honest observers – just as many who are not Americans are able to comment honestly on what they experience here in the US.

April 25, 2005 @ 10:21 am | Comment

I don’t think anyone here has called for instant overnight democracy. But Hu was expected by many to initiate reforms bringing the nation more in that direction. At the very heart of democracy is free will, free speech and free thought. Hu has thus far failed to safeguard these fundamental rights and has instead made things worse.

Lin, please listen to Lisa. I really do strive for honesty, and as I said, if you send me the link to new stories about Hu’s successful reforms I will be the first to post about them. And remember, criticism of China’s leaders isn’t a damnation of China.

April 25, 2005 @ 10:29 am | Comment

>>>I’d really love to post a story about how censorship in China is loosening

Okay, how about the explosion in Chinese blogging? SMS? MSN/personal videoconferencing? Proliferation of net bars? Mobile phones? Digital cameras? The growing number of gay magazines available on the street? I think censorship in China is much more of an uneven patchwork than you seem to believe.

In fact, it seems to me that average Chinese *in general* have a good deal more freedom of communication than they did even just five years ago. Would you disagree with that?

>>>I just can’t find any such stories

How about story of the gov’t finally paying some serious attention to AIDS?

Richard, I think you really could find such stories.

If you wanted to.


April 25, 2005 @ 1:22 pm | Comment

Shanghai, I have reported frequently about the liberalization of the “social” media (as oppsed to the politial), and directed readers more than once to Menbox as proof of the growing tolerance of gays. In this area there have been steady improvements, but not always smooth sailing (the banning of Vagina Monologues last year is a good examle of good news gone bad – I at first posted about how great it was they were performing it, then I had to report it was shut down before the curtain ever rose). It’s political discussion Pan is referring to, where the CCP might be criticized or people might make a case for democracy. These things can still be very dangerous.

I’ve also talked about blogging, but unfortunately, the Cybernanny has cracked down on this too, starting with blogspot more than 2 years ago followed by blacking out some other free Chinese blog hosts. If you see any good articles on these topics, please bring them to my attention if you think they’d be worth mentioning.

April 25, 2005 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

how about the explosion in Chinese blogging? SMS? … …

All these mentioned do happen, but happen DESPITE of Hu, not because of Hu.

And don’t get me start on the crackdown on blogging and BBS, censoring SMS with keyword (the most recent case is Ÿà?s), etc, etc …

April 25, 2005 @ 2:07 pm | Comment

Steve, you got keen sight!
Well I believe that Lisa and Richard are all innocent and nice Americans.
Sadly you can’t control your government. Now nobody should doubt that Bush has his own domestic and worldwide “religious” agenda. At this moment, Rove is turning America right domestically and secretly. Bush is dreaming
of becoming the Reagan II, is he? He wants to copy his success in Texas to whole America and the whole world, doesn’t he?
By the way, when Reagan died, Americans were all praising him like god for overthrowing the Soviet Union. Is he truly that great? Please ask nowadays Russians instead! Well, I agree Reagan is truly great for American interests.

April 25, 2005 @ 4:46 pm | Comment

I never thought Reagan was that great. His role in ending the Cold War was important but way exaggerated by his idolizers. He was, however, the greatest communicator we have had as president since Kennedy,and was equalled only by Bill Clinton. There I give Reagan very high marks.

Bad as Reagan was, he never even came close to Bush.

April 25, 2005 @ 5:44 pm | Comment

Clinton got blame for everything and couldn’t get credit for where its due for the booming economy thru out his reign of the 90s. Reagan on the other hand has been being idolized like the Chairman Mao of the West. Contrary to popular belief, Reagan did NOT singlehandedly topple the USSR, the Soviet Unions were doomed even before Reagan took office and Reagan himself started to lose his mind in 1984.

April 25, 2005 @ 11:58 pm | Comment

Dear All,

This is written more in sorrow than in anger (though I am a little angry still nevertheless) and as further proof of the fact that “The quality of mercy is not strained/It cometh as the gentle dew from heaven…” – as that sweet young lady once said, I’m sure with me in mind. I’m becoming adept at turning the other cheek, whether of the upper or the lower anatomy must remain a matter for fascinating conjecture at the moment, but all careful readers of Plato will know that all phenomena of the ideal upper world have their imperfect (indeed, sometimes odiferous) counterparts in the world below.

After that portentous introduction I shall proceed to sordid facts. I have recently made a number of contributions to Richard’s Peking Duck site, to the April 21st thread, titled “More on the riots – and a must read.” Some of you, I know, have been following the debate that I entered into with Richard regarding both the nature of Chinese village elections and later, the SARS issue.

My final defence on the SARS issue, in which I outlined my three basic arguments in what turned out to be, I must confess, a rather lengthy series of comments, was to meet Richard’s challenge to either “put up, or shut up.” Naturally, I had chosen the former!

What deeply disturbs me, and this is the reason why I am writing to you all, is that Richard has violated standard blogger ethics by seriously distorting my views, and in such a way as to mock me, to trivialise me, and in an effort, it would appear, to damage my credibility as a person of any intellect.

If this wasn’t upsetting enough, he has also closed the thread in order to prevent me from responding to his outrageous diatribe. By doing so, he has effectively defamed me to some degree. This in fact not only violates blogger ethics, but also, arguably, U.S. law. I shall return to this point later, but first allow me to explain to you the details of how Richard has offended my ethical sensibilities.

I shall not outline here what my arguments are regarding the SARS issue. If you are interested enough, you can open the pages of Peking Duck and read them for yourselves. I will focus instead on Richard’s last commentary, which also happens to be the final word allowed on the thread.

I’m not sure how old Richard is, or of what level of English language comprehension he possesses, but one thing for sure is that he has very clearly misrepresented my entire argument, and in such a way as to call into question my very sanity. Just read his opening line: “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he writes, “step right up and see Mark Anthony Jones in action! Look at how he proves SARS was a hoax – by quoting one Dr. Rath who insists it was a non-issue that could be treated with vitamin C and the amino acid lysine.”

I must say that I was extremely shocked when I read this nonsense this morning. How could somebody completely distort my views in such a ridiculous and obvious way? Either Richard’s reading comprehension is very poor, as I surmised earlier, or he is behaving in a manner that is just plain malicious.

At no time have I ever used Dr Rath to support any of my views, on any topic. Never. I have never quoted Dr. Rath’s views to support a position of my own. In fact, I made it very clear that I do not support Dr Rath’s views. “Do not assume that I agree or endorse Rath’s argument,” I wrote, “because it sounds a little too over the top to me.”

Furthermore, it must be said here that I did not even refer to Dr Rath when presenting my arguments about the SARS issue. I mentioned him, in a completely separate commentary, in order only to provide an example of someone who has argued a link between SARS and the war on terrorism. I did so in response to a question by Pete. At no time, as I made very clear to both Richard and Pete, have I ever even argued a link between the war on terrorism and the outbreak of SARS. All that I ever said was that the timing of the SARS crisis is “suspicious.” Nothing more. My statements ought to be viewed carefully, and in their context.

Richard attacks my intellectual integrity when he says to me: “All of the statistics you quote from Dr. Rath are a testament to how you operate, going on at lengths utterly horrifying to contemplate, full of sound and fury and ultimately signifying far less than nothing.”

Once again, I have never quoted any statistics from Dr Rath to support arguments of my own, or arguments that I in any way endorse. Never!

It was Richard who sparked this debate, by taking a short simple statement that I made about SARS out of context. In doing so, he challenged me to either “put up or shut up.” I thus went to considerable lengths in terms of both time and effort to carefully outline my position on this issue for him. I used only credible, empirically verifiable evidence to support all of my arguments – but instead of addressing my actual arguments, instead of challenging my evidence with credible evidence of his own, Richard, once again, as usual, has chosen instead to trivialise me, to mock me, to misrepresent and totally distort my views, and in ways that simply defy belief. And in a rather un-gentlemanly manner, even closes the thread after making his last comment, thereby preventing me from launching into a defence.

This brings me back to the question of blogger ethics, and the law. Just because Richard pays for and runs Peking Duck does not give him the right to defame those who contribute to his site. I have a basic, fundamental right to uphold and to protect my reputation. I don’t expect, when I contribute to blog sites, that the host will seriously distort and misrepresent my views on an issue while preventing me from making a rebuttal. In my opinion, this amounts to defamatory behaviour on Richard’s part.

I did, rather briefly and perhaps childishly, entertain the possibility of pursuing legal action, having contacted Blake, Dawson and Waldron for their professional advice, though now that I have calmed down a little, I can see that any such action on my part will be most unlikely, and no doubt best avoided. The costs involved would no doubt far outweigh the risks of me not succeeding, and at any rate, I don’t wish to brew too much of a storm in what many will consider to be merely a teacup.

I am well aware too, of the fact that the boundaries of permissible public discourse have evolved significantly over the last half-century, and that previous such court rulings in the United States, such as in the case of Stephen Barrett verses Hulda Clark et al for example, have resulted in failure. In the case just mentioned, the judge argued that the Internet provides for a “three-wheeling and highly animated exchange” of ideas, and that you don’t want to hold ordinary people, who are engaged in such discussions as the type common to the pages of Peking Duck, to “the same standards or restrictions that you would hold a sophisticated publishing house or a newspaper.”

Faced with this reality, and the present ambiguities of the law on this issue, my only recourse of defence in this instance rests in writing this letter, and in being able to distribute it to you all. I do so in the hope that all interested parties who have been following the debate in question will come to judge me in a light more favourable than the one that Richard has so unkindly portrayed, and that you will use your sober senses to evaluate the strengths and the weaknesses of my arguments. It is my wish that anybody who opens the thread in question will not simply scroll down to the last comment, and be left, having read it, with the defamatory and scandalous portrait that Richard has painted of me.

Finally, I thank all of those among you who have been good enough to engage with in debate since I fist began contributing to the pages of Peking Duck, last November. Regretfully, I shall not be contributing any longer.

Best wishes to you all,

Mark Anthony Jones

April 26, 2005 @ 1:06 am | Comment

I posted a reply to Mark’s comment in another thread. Summarised: lighten up man.

I would like to make a comment to Lin: you’re debating with people who are extremely well informed on China. Well, some of them anyway. Your accusations against Richard and co. of being “nice but innocent Americans” just shows how innocent you yourself are of the situation in China. You seem guilty common assumption in the PRC: because you are Chinese you understand, and that foreigners can’t understand, because they are not Chinese.

And yes, I think we’re all in agreement with you that it would be a complete disaster if China attempted to introduced a fully democractic system tommorrow. Chaos would be an almost certain result. Please don’t project stupid ideas like this onto any of us who contribute to this blog. I honestly can’t think of any foreigner who knows the first thing about China who would suggest that such a thing would work. However, I would maintain that not only should China work towards democracy, it is the only possible solution to avoiding an inevitable “dynastic collapse” sooner or later. Chinese history teaches that no government can cling to power indefinately. This would bring all the things that you are afraid of, and crush all China’s hopes for a bright future as a modern state. We’re not enemies of China here … and most suggestions about things China should do are aimed along the lines of “if China did this, then China would be better off” … not “China should do this, because it’s good for us.”

In my view, the Chinese government should do the following: implement a programme of gradual democratisation over a 20 year time-frame, giving the people time to adjust to the new system by increments. You can study the history of democratic development in England in the 1800s for a comparative study of how another country did exactly this in a number of steps. Another good example for both what to do, and what not to do, would be the Japanese Meiji constitution. It was a pretty good document, but many of the later problems Japan faced with the rise of militarism were due to the fact that the Japanese Meiji oligarchy also tried to use it to preserve their own position in society, hence weakening the democratic institutions. The problem is, I do not believe the leadership in China has the vision for any such long range strategic thinking. As I commented earlier in this thread, they are very capable of dealing with day to day crises, but when it comes to charting a long range course through the many rocks that lie just under the surface along China’s course … well, I don’t think anyone here is optimistic.

April 26, 2005 @ 1:58 am | Comment

FSN9, thanks for yor beautiful reply to Lin, and to Mark as well. I disagree with you as much as I disagree with anyone (on domestic issues), but I always appreciate your cutting intelligence and labrynthine knowledge.

April 26, 2005 @ 8:10 am | Comment

As I wrote in another thread Mark spammed:

Mark, your comments are there untouched for all to see. I responded in a maner I thought was fair. I have told you before that if you want a soapbox, startyour own blog. This is my soapbox. I try to be open minded, to let Bingfeng and Bellevue and FSN9 and JR — people of tremendously diverse opinions — to have their say. When you try to take over and spam my comments with encyclopedia-length diatribes it’s bad enough, and I have previously asked you to refrain from doing so. When these diatribes are truly offensive – such as when you say the Iraqi insiurgency, despite being feared by the majority of the population it so cavalierly butchers, must win over the Americans, I don’t have to tolerate it. When you seek to prove SARS wasn’t a threat and that the CCP was okay in how it handled it, I don’t have to accept it. Period. You want to complain or express these views, do it elsewhere. I don’t have to give you bandwidth or space I pay for to spread messages I find offensive and contrary to logic and decency. Thanks. And if you keep on abusing my comments, I will delete, which I haven’t done yet.

April 26, 2005 @ 8:19 am | Comment

Hey Adam,

Good to see you haven’t disappeared entirely. We all appreciate Richard’s site, but I definitely miss your insights. Hope you can get back to it at some point (though maybe just occasionally to avoid blogger burnout).


April 26, 2005 @ 11:33 am | Comment

Quote Filthy “you’re debating with people who are extremely well informed on China.”
No comments:)

“Your accusations against Richard and co. of being “nice but innocent Americans” just shows how innocent you yourself are of the situation in China.”
a, o, when did the words such as “nice and innocent” start to indicate accusations?

“You seem guilty common assumption in the PRC: because you are Chinese you understand, and that foreigners can’t understand, because they are not Chinese.”
I did not, honestly!

“I honestly can’t think of any foreigner who knows the first thing about China who would suggest that such a thing would work.”
Well, not necessary true. Look what you guys did to Soviet Union and so many other rising democratic stars. Gradual democratic reform, there is no such thing ever happened.

“We’re not enemies of China here”
Doesn’t guarantee Bush’s agenda is not. Overall I agree with Richard, the reply is beautiful. I agree that a gradual democratic reform is needed. “20 years?” That I don’t know. Any book? for the democratic development in England? especially on how did they control Scotland so well all these years:)

April 26, 2005 @ 1:47 pm | Comment

Note to Lin: you might also take a look at functioning democracies elsewhere in greater Asia. They may not be perfect, but they show that you certainly can get there from here. Many nations have successfully travelled this route before, I don’t see any reason why mainland Chinese cannot achieve the same if they want to.

And I’m afraid I have to agree with FS#9: please don’t be naive about westerners here. Some of the commenters here are very knowledgeable about Chinese culture & history, speak the language, and perhaps even live here.

I was wondering, do you think western culture is complex? Do you think many Chinese can accurately understand it?

April 27, 2005 @ 10:34 pm | Comment

Richard, I know you have posted on positive topics such as the ones you mentioned, but they seem to comprise but a small percentage of your China coverage.

I thought one of the much bally-hooed benefits of blogging would be to bring context and balance to Big Media’s corporate reporting. However, it seems to me that most blogs simply amplify existing media viewpoints, either right or left.

I guess my point is that your coverage of China seems to me unbalanced and thus may give readers outside of China unrealistic impressions of what’s happening here.

Where you see the CCP anaconda tightening its grip on information, I see a bumper crop of private satellite dishes. Where you see Cyber Nanny conducting her latest crack-down, I see Chinese people enjoying a freer level of free communication than ever before. Where you see Hu failing to be an FDR, I see Chinese travelling abroad in greater numbers than ever.

It’s a complex picture, and I worry that some of your readers will come away with the impression that China is a gray, grim, oppressed police state.

Of course it’s your blog and you are certainly entitled to your own views. But I think you have a genuine desire to present China to the world, and I also know from your postings on American politics that your heart is in the right place. I am hoping to see more coverage of the good news happening here, as well as continued coverage of the bad.

I want to see a great blog even better! 😉

April 27, 2005 @ 10:56 pm | Comment

I appreciate it, Shanghai. I admit, I am prejudiced against the CCP for a lot of reasons. And when it comes to the topics that interest me — personal freedoms, justice, fairness, oppression, the media — I am afraid nearly all of the news I see about China is negative. I am not so interested in economics and stock markets and currency, where some of the news may be more positive. As i said, please feel free to send along links that you believe would provide balance. I don’t offten see them, though perhaps my anti-CCP bias filters them out.

April 28, 2005 @ 8:25 am | Comment

Points taken, thanks.
I appreciate your honesty:P

April 28, 2005 @ 10:20 am | Comment

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