Still the China I knew and loved

This was just put out by the Foreign Correspondents Club of China:

DONGZHOU, GUANGDONG PROVINCE: LOCAL OFFICIALS ASSERT THEY CAN BAR REPORTERS ON SECURITY CONCERNS

Plainclothes personnel riding in a marked police vehicle detained AP correspondent Bill Foreman, and authorities escorted him out of the village of Dongzhou in southern Guangdong province. He went there to confirm reports of renewed protests in the village where two years ago three men were shot and killed in demonstrations against government land acquisition. At the time, residents said the government gave them inadequate compensation for land taken to build an electric power plant. In December 2007, Radio Free Asia reported that about 1,000 riot police fired tear gas at protesters in Dongzhou. Residents were reluctant to speak about the protests to a foreign correspondent. Foreman said while he was walking down a narrow side street lined with shops, four plainclothes officers in a marked police car grabbed him by the arm and put him in the car without saying what he had done wrong. At the police station, after 30 minutes, a vice director of the propaganda department of the local communist party committee showed up. He wanted to see Foreman’s passport and press card. He also wanted to know to whom he had talked [to] and what they said. (Foreman said he couldn’t understand anyone because they spoke in dialect). Foreman brought up the new media guidelines, and the official said the law allows local governments to declare that certain places are off limits because of security concerns. Another official said reporters would probably be allowed to return to Dongzhou by February…

It’s still far from being a free country. We in the big cities need to remind ourselves of that every once in a while. The laws are there on the books, but when officials can ignore them and break them at will and impose their own “laws,” you have a situation akin to a police state.

The Discussion: 26 Comments

On some twisted level, you have to feel sorry for the boys in the central committee. All their efforts at trying to masquerade China as an open society for the Olympics are being undermined by two-bit Barney Fifes out in the sticks pushing around the AP and generally thinking with their man-purses, both in this case and in other recent adventures in provincial PR.

January 9, 2008 @ 9:43 pm | Comment

Richard,

I’ve been following this blog for years now and it has been interesting tracking the evolution of your attitude/opinions towards China. When I first started visiting this site, it was a regular Party bash-a-ton. Then with your second (?) stint in Beijing things took a turn towards the optimistic (I have to admit, for a little while I was surprised by the awe with which you sometimes wrote about the place).

Anyways, all that to say I really enjoy your nuanced approach these days- both the good and the bad, particularly when it brings us all back to the adventures of the Santana man-purse crews of the great hinterland.

Despite your efforts, it seems discussion on this site often veers right to the extremes- China is either a “mess” or “the superpower of the future”, about to take off or ready to implode. I’ve always had some difficulty understanding why it can’t be all these things at the same time. It doesn’t always have to be either/or- that really hides the causality of so much that is going on. I would venture to say that urban China is such a growth story precisely because most of the countryside is a downtrodden wasteland, not despite it.

I spent some time in South Africa last spring, and saw some of the strongest contrasts in material wealth and life conditions that I think are possible on our little planet. Anyone who thinks a place like Shanghai or Beijing is bad in that regard should take a little spin around Cape Town.

What does this have to do with China? Well, instead of the place either becoming ‘wealthy and ‘developed’ or a basketcase, I think it more probable that it will just end up looking more like South Africa (and many, many other countries on earth). A small minority enjoying all the fruits of technology, comfort and cosmopolitanism, with the rest of the masses jammed into urban holding pens valued solely as disposable labour.

Just my random two cents. Thanks for the great site.

January 10, 2008 @ 2:59 am | Comment

“I’ve always had some difficulty understanding why it can’t be all these things at the same time.”Posted by: PB at January 10, 2008 02:59 AM

Please please please Watch this and tell me if “We the people” are free or enslaved in a land where the rule of law is not also the rule of bullies.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITWO4Swg638&feature=related

January 10, 2008 @ 5:59 am | Comment

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0JEINTdc08&feature=related

…and America is Still the America I knew, loved and left…

January 10, 2008 @ 6:47 am | Comment

^ Good riddance, neither the US nor western civ needs people like this. They can stay in run down third world holes just so they can feel special for the rest of their lives.

January 10, 2008 @ 8:01 am | Comment

Talking about yourself again, Nanhe, huh?
The Third World Holes and Bad bad China filth that you so venomously spread all over the bloggersphere is as evil as the value system created by the Elitists and people who spit in the face of God believing that one race, religion and culture is better than the other, and that the lives of a 100 Muslims in some backwards country or developing Communists state are not worthy of even one life from the developed capitalist parasitic world. It will indeed be good riddance the day when the likes of you choke and suffocate in the fume of your own toxic farts. I mean, why can’t you comment without puking your prejudicial bitter meal all over the place? Don’t bother to rebut – You’ve stench every blog site and I admire Richard for his tolerance.

January 10, 2008 @ 9:34 am | Comment

On some twisted level, you have to feel sorry for the boys in the central committee. All their efforts at trying to masquerade China as an open society for the Olympics are being undermined by two-bit Barney Fifes out in the sticks pushing around the AP
Posted by: Jeremiah at January 9, 2008 09:43 PM

Being undermined by two-bit Barney Fifes? You are kidding aren’t you? Why should I feel sorry for the guys in the central committee after they promoted Zhang Dejiang to Vice Premier in spite of the handling of Dongzhou the first time around?

The central committee knows about these “two-bit Barney Fifes” and despite the PR effort to deflect the problems to a few bad apples out beyond their reach, the central committee loves their two-bit Barney Fifes and their role in pushing around foreign reporters and maintaining social harmony.

January 10, 2008 @ 10:32 am | Comment

“developing”? Yeah, for thousands of years and still can’t get it right. But even so the only place that many expats can feel special is in those places. They can’t be complacent to just exist and enjoy that. And on every blog that has held a poll about me, I pull a 3-1 approval rating.

January 10, 2008 @ 10:35 am | Comment

Bill Foreman’s a lot luckier than Wei Wenhua:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/china/story/0,,2238169,00.html

January 10, 2008 @ 10:41 am | Comment

Sonagi, I read that terrifying Guardian article. Foreigners have it relatively easy.

Jeremiah, wonderful to see you here.

PB, I am completely aware of the polarization here and it’s a source of unending frustration. Either you are “anti-China” or a “CCP shill.” Everything is black and white. I am inclined to agree with your two cents, but don’t know enough about the Capetown situation to say the analogy is accurate.

January 10, 2008 @ 11:35 am | Comment

The central committee knows about these “two-bit Barney Fifes” and despite the PR effort to deflect the problems to a few bad apples out beyond their reach, the central committee loves their two-bit Barney Fifes and their role in pushing around foreign reporters and maintaining social harmony.

Tom I have to disagree. I think the central party is scared to death of incidents like this making them look bad. Sure, it’s a show, but they do not love the “Barney Fifes” to create noise that makes them look bad and I suspect they are doing all they can to discourage such incidents until after the Games. Just as they’re diverting rivers to provide Beijingers with real, potable drinking water from the tap during the Games (which will be cut off the instant the foreigners pack up and leave), so too are they pulling out all the stops to give us all a really good show. So no, they don’t love anything that tarnishes the meme that China is “friend to all the world,” and that journalists are now free to cover what they choose. Those officials will probably be reprimanded, if only for not being discreet enough about their thuggery.

January 10, 2008 @ 11:44 am | Comment

nanhe: And on every blog that has held a poll about me, I pull a 3-1 approval rating.

Wow, so I guess lots of blogs have held polls about you. Which ones?

January 10, 2008 @ 11:58 am | Comment

“Either you are “anti-China” or a “CCP shill.” Everything is black and white.” Richard

“China is either a “mess” or “the superpower of the future”, about to take off or ready to implode….why it can’t be all these things at the same time. It doesn’t always have to be either/or- ” PB

I hear your frustration Rich, and agree with PB.

“The laws are there on the books, but when officials can ignore them and break them at will and impose their own “laws,” you have a situation akin to a police state.” Richard

Those lines of yours above read like they’re straight out of some Orwellian page turners, an excerpt from one of Noam Chomsky’s books perhaps? Sounded very much like something Alex Jones might have written on his Planetprison site, even in the monologue by Aaron Russo in his Freedom to Fascism movie or scripted in the Alien Disclosure Project, or Zeitgeist the movie, etc.

Finally, I notice that in the past weeks, posters who were deemed nationalists and commie shills hardly comment anymore. I also see you’ve decided to give Nanhe another chance. You must’ve warned Nanhe a dozen times – at least. Unlike with BXBQ, it was like 2 warnings and he was out. I guess one outta be more gracious to retards than the smart ones “who should know better,” huh.

Anyway, Keep up the good work. Cheers.

January 10, 2008 @ 1:51 pm | Comment

Yes, Rumor, those lines I wrote are copied right out of a Noam Chomsky book. Most of my comments and posts are plagiarized. Everybody knows that.

The “nationalists and commie shills” only comment here when I am writing about the Nanjing massacre, Tibet, Taiwan or Japan. Nanhe’s offensive comments are now deleted at once, his non-offensive ones can stand.

Are you monitoring this site and measuring who’s commenting when?

January 10, 2008 @ 2:53 pm | Comment

I do not see everything in China just in black and white color.

I know that most things are a shade of gray, the problem in China, I think, is the spectral width of the gray color. The extremes are to wide apart. (for western standards…)

My main thought about China is what the real intentions of the powers that be are.

But which a such complex situation in China I think that they themselves are not really sure, or there are so many divergent currents in the CCP that it is difficult to determine them.

And not matter where their intentions are. What will they be able to achieve? Situation in China is extremely complex.

All in all I wish the best for the country and its people. Would like to had more Chinese people entries in this blog.

January 10, 2008 @ 3:34 pm | Comment

“Are you monitoring this site and measuring who’s commenting when?”

Ha ha, the falsely accused is returning the favor. Rest assure that I am but a stranger in a strange land. If you are referring to BXBQ, I was indeed impressed by his comments as I am of PB’s, Lisa’s, sometimes Raj’s and more often than not, yours.
I hope you were being facetious about your Orwellian Chomsky-esque lines….because I certainly was.

@ecodelta,

“All in all I wish the best for the country and its people. Would like to have more Chinese people entries in this blog”.
You’ll be surprised, but many have the problem with the language disadvantage but some of them are excellent and eloquent.
Take it easy.

January 10, 2008 @ 4:27 pm | Comment

Richard: “Just as they’re diverting rivers to provide Beijingers with real, potable drinking water from the tap during the Games (which will be cut off the instant the foreigners pack up and leave)”

Um, no. Beijing has been taking water from Hebei and Shanxi for years, and its water-supply situation is a pretty accurate definition of “dire”. In fact, the Guanting Reservoir, roughly 1/3 of which lies in Beijing’s Yanqing County and the other 2/3 in Hebei’s Huailai County, stopped supplying Beijing, oh, 20-odd years ago if I remember rightly because the water level dropped so low and has yet to recover (and judging by how close many buildings are to the wetlands bordering the Gui River end of the reservoir on the edge of Yanqing County Town, I’m not sure that a recovery of the water level would by 100% positive, but that’s a whole different issue). Beijing will continue to take water from both Hebei and Shanxi and perhaps even further afield- certainly from further afield if they manage to get the South-North water diversion project going.

And yes, they’ve been taking water from Shanxi for years now. Shanxi that makes Beijing look blessed with abundant water resources. Shanxi where the capital, Taiyuan, had to dam the pathetic trickle that the Fen River has become to make it look like they still had a river. And believe me, back when I lived in Taiyuan, you didn’t have to walk to far north or south of the city centre to see just how pathetic a trickle the Fen River really was, and I can’t see how the situation would’ve improved since then, and I can’t see how the situation could’ve improved in the 6-odd years since I last visited Taiyuan. Shanxi, where the last time I visited everybody I knew, myself included, was in a state of almost terminal astonishment at three days straight of constant rain (rainfalls out there generally last half an hour if you’re lucky and drop more dust than water) and one of my mates who spent a fair bit of his time in rural Shanxi told me how happy the farmers were because normally at that time of year (mid- to late-spring) they’d get such a tiny amount of rain that the water would sink no more than two inches into the surface, meaning their crops’ roots would grow up to the surface to catch the only water available, with predictable results. And for years now Beijing has been diverting water from Shanxi.

Alright, I’m done ranting.

January 10, 2008 @ 4:42 pm | Comment

Thanks for the correction Chris. I had read somewhere they were diverting the Yangtze, and doing other things along the lines of their promises to control the weather, to bring potable tap water to the city. But I probably misunderstood.

January 10, 2008 @ 4:50 pm | Comment

Rumor: Ha ha, the falsely accused is returning the favor.

No accusations, just a very innocent question. You seem to be keeping a scorecard of who’s commenting…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

January 10, 2008 @ 4:52 pm | Comment

Richard,

I have a very very very slow month that’s why. Thank god for the availability of internet in China. It’s not like one can just go get a good book in the library or bookstores here.

Take care.

January 10, 2008 @ 5:26 pm | Comment

Not entirely unrelated, Richard or Raj might want to give this a spin:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7178382.stm

I never was a fan of the Chengguan.

January 10, 2008 @ 6:30 pm | Comment

@Rumorhasit

“You’ll be surprised, but many have the problem with the language disadvantage but some of them are excellent and eloquent.”

Not to speak of the language disadvantage the other way around! ๐Ÿ˜‰

January 10, 2008 @ 9:27 pm | Comment

The same old boring story once again, but here I bring you something fresh: A speech made by the vice director of the propaganda department of the local communist party committee after viewing the Pekingduck blog:

“Comrade Richard, good afternoon.
When it comes to China, you are always the half-empty-bottler, can’t you see the progress? Why can not you see the positive side of our society? The reporter Foreman was not beaten, not tortured, not put in jail, not executed without trial, Comparing with decades ago, what a progress!

In fact, We just want to check his passport and press card in case he was a spy sent by CIA doing something funny to interrupt our effort for a harmonious society and the 2008 Olympic Games.

Of course it is clear now, Foreman is a good guy, he surports One China Policy and One Child Policy, and now we are good friends, we treated him a grand Chinese dinner in the best restaurant in Dongzhou, and a full-service Chinses massage, and Foreman thought he now could see how hospitable Chinese people are and how fast China is developing and how wrong all the prejudice he held of China. Foreman said it is all propaganda made by US goverment.

With grateful tear in his eyes, he promised that he would write a report about the new China under the title we gave him–The Prosperous and Harmonious and Green Dongzhou Under the Correct Leadership of The Party.

We sincerely hope you, comrade Richard, could get the correct view of China, We welcome foreign friends to invest in Dongzhou, welcome to China, wellcom to Dongzhou!”

January 11, 2008 @ 1:50 pm | Comment

Update:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7182475.stm

They sacked an official over the beating to death of an innocent bystander. Well, that’s alright then.

January 11, 2008 @ 6:36 pm | Comment

I saw that too, Stuart. A very positive development in a very tragic story.

January 12, 2008 @ 12:26 pm | Comment

The only reason for the sacking of the official was that the innocent bystander beaten to death was a business man trying to capture the whole affair with his cellphone. The Communist Party cannot afford to ignore the backlash of China’s emerging middle class. The peasantry and the urban working class, however, are fair game.

If there’s one lesson that has emerged out of Tiananmen, that is the Communist Party’s ability to stay in power rests in co-opting the urban educated elite minority with material wealth at the expense of the rural peasant majority. Economic liberalization of the 1980’s benefited peasants but did little for the urban elite, who remained on petty government salaries under a socialist command economy and became the main agitators for change. The unspoken social contract since then is to exchange agitations for political democratization with economic gain for the urban elite at the expense of the politically disorganized and docile peasantry. This has worked beautifully for the powers that be in the last twenty years.

January 13, 2008 @ 4:53 am | Comment

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