New CCP propaganda drive: Unrest will not be tolerated

From the unlinkable SCMP, this new propaganda campaign kind of reminds me of the old joke, “The floggings will continue until morale improves.”

The authorities issued a stern warning yesterday after a series of violent protests across the country, emphasising the Communist Party’s leadership and the need to abide by the law.

The People’s Daily vowed in a front-page commentary that no illegal attempts to disrupt social stability would be tolerated as the country went through a critical stage of reform.

“Unity and stability are the overarching themes for the country and the people’s wishes,” it said, noting the source of growing social unrest lay within the contrasting interests of various groups. “However, resolving any such problems must be done in line with the laws and the maintenance of stability. The solution of any problems must rely on the party, the governments, laws, policies and the system.

“Any illegal activities are not to be allowed and will be punished in accordance with laws.”

The commentary, also carried by Xinhua and state television, urged local authorities to actively deal with “instability factors” to prevent widespread public dissatisfaction from spreading or turning into violence.

Analysts said the warning was not unexpected, given that several senior officials had talked openly about increasing concern by the central leadership about the riots and protests.

Beijing-based political scientist Liu Junning said the issuing of such a strongly worded commentary showed President Hu Jintao was intent on taking a strong stance to maintain social stability.

Professor Liu noted that several recent “mass incidents” in southern provinces, mainly over compensation disputes after land requisitions, were yet to be settled.

“The People’s Daily article can serve as a guideline for local authorities on how to deal with similar mass protests in the future,” he said.

The commentary coincided with a report that 2,000 farmers had clashed with hundreds of police last week in a land dispute in Inner Mongolia that left dozens injured.

I mean, instead of focusing on what’s causing the unrest, this makes the unrest itself the villain. You can’t force people to be stable and harmonious, just like you can’t force people’s morale to improve. (That sounds pretty basic, I know. but it’s the CCP we’re talking about here.) You have to look at the root causes, but that’s not a comfortable thing to do, as in virtually all instances the root cause is the party itself and the way it operates.

Update: I see Laowai has a fine post on this topic, more cynical and impassioned than my own.

Update 2: Relatedly, the CCP is so overwhelmed with complaints they are now trying to discourage petitioners in what appears to be a bit of circular reasoning i.e., that the more petitions there are the more “disharmony” is created. But isn’t it disharmony that is generating the petitions more than visa-versa? Here’s the entire article, also from the unlinkable SCMP (word document).

The Discussion: 29 Comments

I’ll be curious to see what happens once all those Chinese Muslims get that certain gleam in their collective eye.

Could a situation similar to Chechnya ever arise in China?


August 1, 2005 @ 12:34 pm | Comment

Chinese farmers have very strong anti-west sentiment. Anything west is seen as corrupt and unacceptable. In their rooms, only pictures of Chinese beauties are allowed. Any images of western models are torn and thrown away. The Chinese farmers prefer to roll China back to Mao’s era. Is that what the paranoid west wants?

August 1, 2005 @ 12:40 pm | Comment

I think you are way off. The farmers want mponey for the land the government is taking away. Period. Do you think the government should throw them on the streets, or poison their water? I have read hundreds of interviews with both sides. I have never heard anyone say the farmers want to return to Maoism. Where have you heard this? I also think the days of going through villagers’ houses to make sure they have no pictures of westerners on the wall are long over. Maybe in North Korea, but not in China.

August 1, 2005 @ 12:43 pm | Comment

I’ve got no firm idea either way.
but why are you so sure richard that this isn’t true? I mean, China in the last 50 years or so has been so so politicised, all the way down to grass roots level, that it’s not surprising that people at the bottom of the food chain have strong views on the relatively abstract, as well as strong views on how they are being treated by corrupt local governance, how they are going to earn enough to get through the next few months, and so on.
shouldn’t you give them more credit?

August 1, 2005 @ 12:48 pm | Comment


You’re kidding right? Chinese peasants are not anti anything except the people who are taking their livelihoods away. The vast majority of Chinese peasants don’t know much and don’t really care about the West, they have too much more immediate and more important stuff to consider, like feeding and clothing their family.

August 1, 2005 @ 12:49 pm | Comment

I know several people from the countryside who think the US and also countries like Britain should not interfere in the world like they say they do.

August 1, 2005 @ 12:53 pm | Comment

Block or Channel?

They forget / ignore the ancestors’ lessions.

Block until Dam Bust

August 1, 2005 @ 12:59 pm | Comment

KLS, you lost me. Where don’t I give the farmers credit?

August 1, 2005 @ 1:08 pm | Comment

Not liking the way the US and Britain interferes in the world is quite different from wanting to go back to the Maoist era of complete isolation. Very pro-West people and even many Americans, also share the same feeling about US and Britain’s role in the world. That doesn’t mean all these people are diehard Maoists.

Sure, there are things that Chinese peasants miss about the Maoist era, like the very basic health care and education that was free and widely available, or the fact that they received at least some perfunctory respect from officials as one of the main pillars of the proletariat and the main force behind the revolution. These are issues complete separate and independent from any feelings about the West.

BTW, KLS, I’m curious about the people that you mentioned. Are they peasants still subsisting by farming their land laborers (mingong) working in the city? Or are they people who were relatively well off (for the countryside) that were able to afford an education and find decent jobs in the city?

August 1, 2005 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

what I meant, Richard, was that where you said this:

“The farmers want money for the land the government is taking away. Period.”

… and said it in response to “freedom”‘s claim that lots of peasants are anti-Western

… I meant that you are not crediting the peasants with anything more than wanting money for the land … which perhaps isn’t enough credit.

-although the awkward syntax I just got myself in suggests that “give credit” blah blah blah was not really the right phrase!

August 1, 2005 @ 1:20 pm | Comment

Block or Channel? … Block until Dam Bust

Yeah, I think that sums up the situation pretty well. Another saying that applies is Mao’s “a single spark can set fire to the entire prairie”. The CCP is trying to prevent a widespread fire by putting out all the sparks but the real underlying danger is not caused by the sparks but the creation of the dry kindling in the form of exploitation of the peasants by officials.

August 1, 2005 @ 1:26 pm | Comment

Hui Mao, you and I are in total agreement for once.

KLS, I was actually using your own argument from a few days ago about how (in your words) their main concern is money. There is certainly more to it, they also want security (knowing their land can’t be ripped off at any moment), freedom from dangerous pollutants, health care, etc.

August 1, 2005 @ 1:29 pm | Comment

a mix of people, hui mao, but living in the countryside or in the hinterland beween the countryside and the suburbs of a town … not prosperous and no city jobs or fancy education.

I wasn’t equating mildly anti-western views with maoism, just pointing out that I’d guess most people have views.
I mean, if you asked a starving person what he thought about the conflict that put his society into famine he’d probably just ask for food because he’s starving … but with some food in his belly he’s bound to have ideas about what he knows going on around him.

furthermore, it’d be surprising if there wasn’t a large maoist contingent — I mean, there are plenty of people in Poland, for example, and Russia, who miss the old days, or at least say they do and vote accordingly.

August 1, 2005 @ 1:30 pm | Comment

also hui mao, and I promise promise promise I don’t mean to be insulting, but am I right that “hui mao” has a rather dubious meaning, as in “short and curlies”?

August 1, 2005 @ 1:31 pm | Comment

aah — have you caught me speaking BS Richard? more than possible, perhaps, but I can’t remember saying what you said.
anyway, I’m prepared to belive that people throughout china have views on the West and on Mao and that not all the views are the same.

August 1, 2005 @ 1:38 pm | Comment

You know, it might have been JFS who made that point about farmers and money– sorry, you both use initials.

August 1, 2005 @ 1:45 pm | Comment

must’ve been, no worries.

August 1, 2005 @ 1:53 pm | Comment

KLS, I misunderstood your posts. I thought you were defending the post by ‘freedom’. You’re right that there are definitely people who miss various aspects of the Maoist era (some of which I mentioned above). But it’s only some aspects that are missed, very very few people if any would want a complete return to the ways of that era. Also, very often the reason some Chinese people say they miss Mao’s time is really to express dissatisfaction with the current situation and current policies of the government.

August 1, 2005 @ 2:18 pm | Comment

hui mao, I think your last point is particularly interesting.
as for what ‘freedom’ said, I’ve got no reason to think that he’s particularly wrong, or to think that he’s right. I just don’t know enough.

August 1, 2005 @ 2:40 pm | Comment

…resolving any such problems must be done in line with the laws and the maintenance of stability. The solution of any problems must rely on the party, the governments, laws, policies and the system.

The problem with this is that the system is corrupt. If the laws were upheld fairly and the government did its job, the problem would not arise in the first place.

August 1, 2005 @ 3:40 pm | Comment

ESWN has a good post on the topic:

August 1, 2005 @ 8:32 pm | Comment

The farmers’ complaint in Inner Mongolia is over money, nothing more, and why should there be more. But, it is not the value of the land that is at stake, the farmers’ do not own the land. The land was collectivized long ago and never re-privitized.

Most, not all, of the riots are in rural ares, involving poor farmers. I may be in error here, but my first thoughts are this does not involve some high falluting philosophical issuem, but involves social economic issues. At the people’s level, the main issue is not wealth, but the distribution of goods and services; in other words, the consumables that we like. Poor people just do not get their share. The problem is there is no magic wand that puts the infrastructure in place instantaneously and gives everyone the right education and skill sets and makes eveyone capable and competent. It just cannot happen instantaneously, it takes time. That time lag is a problem. I read somewhere that China now has 40% of its populatin classified as rural. That means that 40% of the people earn 1% of the GDP. Getting that 40% out of the rural market into an industrial market is a problem, in the meantime you have a serious social economic problem with can erupt potentially into something bad.

That is the frame work that one should look at. Now, given that all land is owned by the government, then corruption is not only possible, but inevitable. All societies where government controls large amounts of wealth have corruption, including the USA, Europe, Japan, etc., even the UN. So when I see people writing that all the government has to do is weed out corruption and obey the law, I am thinking we are getting into that Pollyana type thought process.

August 1, 2005 @ 9:13 pm | Comment

Sorry JFS but you have a few wrong notions. About 40% of China’s population is classified by the government as “urban”, not rural (and in fact one could write a thesis on the various machinations behind China’s purported urbanisation rate over the years). What is the source for your claim that “most but not all” riots are in rural areas. I have never seen any published breakdown, let alone one giving that conclusion. An anecdotal selection of reports on riots and protests suggests they are as much urban as rural (although this may simply reflect that news media find it easier to gather stories in urban areas). As to why people protest, it may well be that the proximate causes are socio-economic, but the underlying causes are political. i.e. local officials have little or no accountability to those they rule over, their primary objective is pleasing their superiors in the Party hierarchy (exactly the opposite of the way democractic systems are meant to function). The CPC leadership in Beijing talks a lot about improving supervision, but how can this take place without competitive multi-party elections, without a free press, without an independent judiciary and anti-corruption watchdog? Without political change what incentives exist for local cadre to suddenly start putting the interests of workers and peasants ahead of their own?

August 1, 2005 @ 9:47 pm | Comment

Thanks for the link…..

I was wondering how this ended up in the New York Times. The chain of Chinese news usually goes through Hong Kong.

dylan: The incentive for a cadre to listen to the people is that if they don’t, the people are going to riot. Also, there are some other issues involved here. One is that most localities are totally broke. Also, promotion in the CCP tends to be based on economic performance, which puts pressure on local officials to build factories regardless of the social cost. Finally, there are pretty strict age limits on promotion, which means that if you don’t reach a certain level by a certain age, you are stuck and you don’t have much incentive to act nicely.

It also means that if you have a reasonable amount of talent you get quickly promoted out of local government.

One other thing, I suppose people here are going to say, the answer is obvious allow local multi-party elections. This doesn’t quite deal with the problem in that in almost every third world situation know of, what tends to happen is that power then moves from the government to local power centers who keep control of the local political system by buying votes.

The other thing that no one has mentioned is that this editorial was part of a series of measures to strengthen rule of law, and the intention is that to invoke the law to restrain *both* rioters and corrupt officials. No I don’t think this is going to solve the whole problem, but its not clear to me that it will make things worse off for the average person.

Also, the discussion of petition system reform makes it sound like the CCP is far more stupid and insensitive than it is. The intention of the new system is that rather than everyone coming off to Beijing where they overwhelm central ministries that aren’t able to help them, that people are encouraged to go to lower levels of government (i.e. county and provincial level) which might have a larger chance of actually getting the issue resolved. Will it work? No idea, one can come up with thousands of reasons why the new system won’t work.

But will the system work better or worse than the current system. No idea.

There is a school of thought that says the CCP is evil so we ought to have a revolution to overthrow the government and bring in this new wonderful democratic government. To that let me say look at Russia, Iraq, and the Philiphines, where you’ve gone through the revolution and you haven’t arrived at utopia. Heck, China has gone through two revolutions in the last century, and we still are where we are.

Now maybe the measures that the CCP are trying are useless. Maybe in the end we will need a revolution. But I’d like to try to take some of the small steps and see that they don’t work before overthrowing the government.

August 1, 2005 @ 11:44 pm | Comment

Also there is a lot of misunderstanding about how the Chinese land tenure system works, and why privatization may not be such a good idea.

The land is managed by the village committee which then divides it into parcels to be farmed by individual families. If the land is taken out of the pool, the remaining land is now redivided among the different families.

Now let me explain why privatization may not be a good idea…..

Suppose you do privatize the land into individual parcels. Corrupt local official wants to build golf course on land owned by farmer A. Corrupt local official forces farmer A to sign over rights to land. Farmers B, C, D don’t care because its not their land. It might also help if corrupt official pays of farmer C, and D makes friends with corrupt official so that he can get some of A’s property.

Now in the current situation, once farmer A loses his land use rights to corrupt official, he is entitled as a member of the village to a share of land. This will come out of farmers B, C, D’s land, so farmer B, C, and D are also mad, and so you have an instant riot if corrupt official is being unreasonable.

There is also the case that in a fully privatized system, only farmer A can sue corrupt official. However in the current situation, farmers A, B, C, D etc. can also sue.

August 1, 2005 @ 11:55 pm | Comment

dylan, I have no quibble about the efficacy of democratic systems and rule of law, etc., but that is not the root cause of these problems, as I see them.

As for the 40% rural/urban, I saw a government statistic identifying China as 40% rural. As a comparative to other societies that developed, this is not an unusual figure and would be expected. 60% rural would be a significant lag in the urbanization rate and I would be an indicator of serious soical problems (60% of the population doing 1% of its GDP). What document I saw and where it is I do not recall, nor do I consider it that important.

The urban/rural incidence rate for the riots is just anecdotal. But first I should identify what I include and what I do not include. Gatherings with political ends, such as the anti-Japanese demonstrations I discount. Labor agitation, that is, when workers at a specific factory gather against an employer over specific labor issues I discount. What I do count is when a crowd gathers together, quite often the individuals not connected with one another except they live in the same area, and agitate against some injustice; it may be specific as over non-payment of monies for eminent domain issues, or it may be non-specific as over pollution or environmental degradation of crops, etc. Most that I have seen have been in rural areas, and even those in urban areas are in urban areas where the primary economic structure is still agricultural based.

If your agenda is to change the government of China, then you will asume that the underlying problem is political. I do not have an agenda one way or the other, and so I see the issue as social economic distribution of goods. This problem is not unique to China, it occurred in Great Brittain, The USA, France, The German states, Russia, etc. Each of those states had to resove these problems in their own way. Some were successful, others were not.

August 2, 2005 @ 12:24 am | Comment

An if moral doesn’t improve, shoot the families of the moral officers.

August 2, 2005 @ 4:23 am | Comment

This is the CCP’s oldest tactic – “Don’t rock the boat because we’ll all fall out!” A plea to put individuals’ “selfish” requests aside and think about the whole nation. It is ridiculous of course – the CCP is supposed to represent the people and they don’t want to listen.

So does the CCP stand for for? Chinese Capitalist Party? Chinese Conceited Party?

August 2, 2005 @ 5:55 am | Comment

Raj: I’ve not seen anything in the Chinese media to suggest that the Party doesn’t regard the greivances that people have as legitimate.

What no one has mentioned is that the government is trying to put together a petition system that works better than the current one, which doesn’t work well at all. I don’t know if it will or won’t, but at least they are *trying*, and the Party has a very, very big incentive for getting the system to work in that they prevent a massive social explosion.

August 2, 2005 @ 8:35 am | Comment

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