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The benevolent emperor

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James Reynolds | 17:05 UK time, Tuesday, 29 July 2008

I got home stratospherically late last night (an entirely routine event when your headquarters - London - is seven hours behind local time.) Still, it meant that I could watch the lightning strike across the city while everyone else was asleep.

Hu JintaoThen the rain came, and this morning the city's air was sparkling and clear. Our PM10 reading was 8 micrograms per cubic metre (the lowest level we've had so far.) This is the kind of day that Beijing would like to photocopy and reproduce when the Olympic Games begin at the end of next week.

Whatever the weather turns out to be, people here probably won't blame China's top leaders if things go wrong.

One of the most striking things for me - in my year and a half in China - is the widespread popular belief that China's principal leaders are benevolent and that the main problem is that their subordinates simply fail to carry out their wise orders properly.

In China, you're now allowed to openly criticise local officials for corruption, brutality, or mismanagement - for being imperfect servants of the Communist system. But you're still not allowed to criticise the actual Communist system itself. And you're certainly never allowed to criticise the men right at the top - President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

A few comments from this blog...

"I think the high rank officials like PM and President are very good, but the lower, local officials are completely corrupted."

"My friend is from Sichuan, she knows lots of people outside of Beijing who were compensated well, and even to the extent that people say they are over compensated. There shouldn't be violent evictions and local governments are to blame. Let's hope the central government can get rid of these guys."

"There are many officials in central government who are willing to solve the Tibetan problem but few local officials always put hindrances on the path for their benefit."

"I think this is more to do with the disgusting attitudes of corrupt local officials rather than the current laws within china.
The illegal and corrupt actions of a few cannot be viewed as the actions of the majority.
This is one of the problems with china, the central government can't be every where at the same time, and when the central government's attentions are away, then sometimes people use more power than they actually have."

The popular belief that China's leaders in Beijing are well-meaning - but unable to stop all local abuses - has a direct impact on the job that the foreign media does in China.

Many Chinese people, who find themselves in trouble, want to talk to us because they think that if their case is made public, China's top leaders will get to hear of their problems and will then step in to ensure that justice is done.

Parents whose children died in the Sichuan earthquake in May sought us out and spoke to us of their hope that the central government would help them. Many had an unshakeable belief that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao would bring them justice (even after the central government itself instructed the Chinese media not to cover the parents' protests.)

The Yu family invited the press to their house in Beijing earlier this month just before it was knocked down. They'd posted pictures of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao all over their house - and spoke of their hope that these leaders would step in and help them to get a better compensation offer (as far as we can tell, they didn't.)

This concept - that the leader is just - is a hard concept for a foreigner (ie - me) to fully understand. In the West, we're used to blaming the person at the top if things go wrong (as Gordon Brown can probably confirm). But, here in China, it's the reverse - you blame the people at the bottom, not at the top.

To explain it, I'm calling in a bit of help from a couple of fellow foreigners - who've been writing about China for a lot longer than I have.

John Gittings talks of problems facing Chinese farmers:

"Fortunately for Beijing, farmers tended to blame the local leadership [...] clinging to the traditional view that if the 'emperor in the capital' were properly informed of their plight, he would wield a magic wand to help them."
(p273 "The Changing Face of China")

And a fairly direct point from Jasper Becker, talking about some Chinese intellectuals (which some may disagree with):

"Past horrors and mistakes do not seem to have weakened a servile belief in the ultimate benevolence of the state and a willingness to grant it unlimited powers."
(p245 "The Chinese")

So, the belief in a wise ruler at the head of a noble, but imperfectly implemented system goes back a long time - and hasn't gone away.

The entire system of petitioning (whereby ordinary people with a grievance are allowed to come to Beijing to petition the central government to hear their case) is based on the ancient premise that the leader in the capital may bring you justice, if only he gets to hear your case.

Here's where it gets tricky for an outsider to understand:

We recently reported on some footage filmed in a village in the province of Shandong that showed a man being kicked in the head as he was resisting an eviction (his family home was being knocked down to make way for a new development.) The allegation was that the eviction was organized by the local Party chief and some hired thugs. Comments posted on the Internet blamed the local Party chief for the violence - one netizen wrote that he hoped Hu Jintao would find out about it and punish those responsible.

But what was noticeably absent from the discussion that I came across was any questioning of the fact that Hu Jintao himself is responsible for a system that allows local officials to accumulate such power that the officials can hire thugs to kick people out of their homes (I am not remotely suggesting that China's president wants innocent people to be kicked in the head - I am simply saying that his government is ultimately responsible for the system in which these abuses happen.)

So far, the central government in Beijing has not allowed the creation of independent institutions (an independent legal system, a free press, independent trade unions) which some believe might operate as a check on the power of local officials - and which might prevent further abuses in the future.

You do meet some people in China who criticize the entire Communist structure and those who keep it going - but not very many. In this country, if you start to blame the system itself - and the men right at the top - you tend to get into all kinds of trouble.


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  • 1. At 5:51pm on 29 Jul 2008, londonlurker wrote:

    This is one of the best posts that James ever done here. Straight to the problem. good job.:)


    "Hu Jintao himself is responsible for a system that allows local officials to accumulate such power" I imagine this is a shared view for westerners, yes? To me, I'd disagree. He is not an emperor as you suggested and has no power to change the system.

    I may explain my view in my own way, not necessarily correct:
    The whole system is like a car. The leader is the one in the driver's seat. The local governments are like all kinds of parts of the car. And the Chinese people are the passengers on board.That's the picture.

    The driver can only control the general direction, but can't stop, creat or destroy the car. The passengers trust the driver because he looks experienced and not suicidal (he is in the same car, what's bad to others is also bad to him). If the car doesn't work properly, the right thing to do is to fix or replace the parts bit by bit, not to blame the driver or abandon the car and buy a new one.

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  • 2. At 6:13pm on 29 Jul 2008, Xabirules wrote:

    That's because you don't read as many posters on chinese forums as possible. If you go to Tianya, you will find out a lot of chinese netusers are actually questioning the whole system.

    But saying Hu or Wen is responsible for the current situation is totally irresponsible. As many comments have pointed out, you seemt to lack some basic history knowledge abou China. Chinese people believing in Chinese top leaders is based on their performance. Comparing Wen's performance in Sichuan earthquake and George Bush's behaviour in Katrina, no doubt so many chinese people are pround that they have a "benevolent" leader.

    The reliance on the central government is deeply rooted in Chinese culture over 2000 years. It happend, survived and developed. Strange as it may seem to westerners, chinese people is more familiar with a family value and this extends to a national level.

    Saying this traditional belief is "bad" or "unreasonable" is like saying chinese culture is "bad" or "unreasonable" without a real investigation into the historical and social elements that constitute the infrastructures of chinses systems.

    Individualism and collectivism are philosophical topics that could be argued from different perspectives. But balantly saying one is better the other and accordingly employ this argument to the practical life seem to fall out of your reporter's responsibility. What you need to do is to report something from an objective and impartial angle, instead of telling people what to do or how to do. Don't you think so?

    That's why when westeners accuse chinese government of "badly treating" tibetans, chinese people are so angrily that stand up to fight back. To chinese people, westerners just don't understand the rules in China and have no patience to hear what chinese people want to say. And this is still unchanged in your post.

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  • 3. At 6:17pm on 29 Jul 2008, cheungl0711 wrote:

    Heinous crimes of injustice happen everywhere, perhaps the Chinese are simply logical people - putting blame where blame can be found. While it is true that the people rarely blame the government or the system, it is likely because the people benefit greatly from this form of government that happens to fit, even mirror their culture and beliefs.
    Thus far, the Chinese people are flourishing under this government and if you ask around, far more Chinese are content with their government than other developed nations like the US or UK. How then could anyone dare to assume the mantle of correcting a form of government that works tirelessly to serve the Chinese people in the most efficient and effective way possible?

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  • 4. At 6:18pm on 29 Jul 2008, baysidetina wrote:

    James' affort to try to understand China is surely welcomed.

    Speaking of President Hu, can you blame him for something that was not created by him? The current system in China was formed in Mao's time. It is a blend of SU style and 2000 years of traditional Chinese central governmant.

    If communists did not win the civil war with KMT, then at best the Chinese political system will be a mixture of western style "democracy" and the 2000 years of traditional Chinese central governmant. Either way, the government will have more ties to the collectivism of the confucious thinking than your individualism mindset.

    The whole "local government is corrupted, central government pls help us "drama is so fomiliar for us Chinese. It exists in nearly every ancient novels and dramas I came across.
    Take Journey To The West for example: how many times did Monkey ask the Budha or Guanyin, the "central government", to detain local monsters(usually some central govenment member's pet/follower)?
    So yes, the Chinese are very used to the thinking that the central government should help them to deal with local bad goveners.
    When the central government failed to do the job, the whole society collaps, and someone else will establish a central government that works.

    President HU inherited such a very Chinese system. He and his colleages know there are a lot of problems, but he can only accept it and try to modify the system. We have leart our lessons of not to have radical changes.Mao thought he could change the system, but what a mess he made for us.

    No I don't want to blame HU, I don't think he created China's current problems. I think he has been dealing with our problems quite successfully and NO CURRENT LEADERS FROM ANYOTHER COUNTRY can do better than him.

    AND don't forget we did not love the previous Leaders Jiang Zeming or Li Peng. They were the main source of our everyday jokes because we did not think they were doing their jobs well and we don't think they were loyal to their people. We slagged them so much on the internet that their names eventually got blocked.

    A government's popularity depends on whether it is good to the people, that is universal. So the local governments you encountered were no good to their people but the central government of China has been good.

    Is it really that hard to understand?

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  • 5. At 6:34pm on 29 Jul 2008, rrrrzzzz wrote:

    Hi James,

    You are partially wrong again, I think you must be heard of 6.4 in 1989. This is a case where students blame the top of the govt. No comment for both students and govt.

    But hope you can understand, the system is not created by Mr Hu, chosen by Mr Hu. It is created and chosen by the Chinese people. This is the system which currently mostly suitable for China. The system which make a lot Chinese people get rich from the proverty. A system which make China now the forth economies in the world. So I believe that the system so far is the most suitable for China.

    Just take Russian as an example, they were used to be the superpower in the world, but now they look like the same system as western. so what? The western has successfully achieved to break down the superpower.

    To be honest James, from the surface of your argument, you want China to have more human rights, press freedom etc which is good for the Chinese people for the long term, but from the deep, are you really care about these? I hope I am wrong to mistake your kindness. BBC as British Broad Cast, will she serve the interest of British or Chinese?


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  • 6. At 6:47pm on 29 Jul 2008, baoning2008 wrote:

    Hi, James, I have been reading and watching your reports for some time, some of your stories are fairly interesting, but today I registered in BBC website because I have to say something--BBC's headline today make me sick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!No matter how I can't believe UK media can be this low, I'm proved to be wrong, again!!! we are trying so hard to be nice, what more do you want!!! Olympics is just 10 days away, we are exhausted, working around clock to prepare the Olympic Games, so as to make visitors, including UK visitors comfortable, but BBC just can't wait humiliating China at the very right time, for any of your charges on China, UK itself is doing one thousand times worse, but you still act like you have the moral high ground, that's really a shock to me, some of your story before was a little bit more reasonable than your peers in other western medias (maybe because you live in China for some time), you know how the majority developing nations see UK? one word, INVADER!!! you were invader for many centuries and you still are! For five years, UK and US slaughtered over one million Iraq civilians, made two million Iraqis lose their arms, legs and sights, and another four million refugees living in streets and tents of surrounding nations, and the rest Iraqis living in fears and without food and clean water, but as a major news agency, BBC act perfectly as a UK military propaganda machine, just days after Tibet incident, UK air force bombed Iraqis villages, making hundreds of people dead and thousands lose their legs and arms, those pictures of dead babies and broken leg girls flowing in developing nation's internet, everybody know that, but BBC, a news agency always judging other country, remained silent, and spend most of your time portraying violent riots in Tibet as peaceful protest, and again, ignore those young sales girls, both Tibetan and Han Chinese killed and burned by the riots, your last story was touching, said since China become stronger, China should let the past to be past, but every time we try to forget, you throw the humiliation right to our face, just you did since 1840, after the torch relay in Europe, all my friends want to do something in the 2012 London Olympics, said there are so many reasonable causes, first of all, return all the Chinese cultural relics you robbed and stolen from China, how ridiculous, UK actually built museum to store its crime evidences, and how pathetic, robbing other nations' history just because you don't have one, second of all, apologize officially for your shameless rob in our summer palace in 1898 and all the like crimes, third of all, apologize officially for your invasion to Chinese Tibet, fourth, free Scotland, fifth, free the North Ireland, sixth, accepting international court's judge on Blaire for UK's Iraq and Afghanistan war crime.......If you can't do any of that, you don't deserve Olympics, I said to my friends this is unfair to UK people and we should be generous and open our heart, but now, after what you did to us, I think my friends were right, in the coming four years, we will retaliate, obviously, being too nice on former invader is too dangerous, we just keep forgetting that.

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  • 7. At 6:57pm on 29 Jul 2008, four_lions wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 8. At 6:59pm on 29 Jul 2008, ccpbrain wrote:

    We Chinese have an old saying: When upper ridge poles askew, the lower poles follow.

    To believe that in a complete corrupt state, the supreme leaders and the systems are great and clean, the executioners are the only ones to be blamed, one must be either crazy or, most likely, brainwashed since he's born.

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  • 9. At 7:00pm on 29 Jul 2008, norihiko wrote:

    I think this is your best post ever, it's no longer representing China in an foreigner's eye but trying to understand philosophical values of an ordinary Chinese people. I think these kind of belief does not only apply to China, but most Asian countries. Use Japan as an example, most Japanese almost never blames the Emperor, but do criticize the prime minister on big issues, at the same time obeys their decisions even if they are not happy about it. We have to accept what they believes and don't try to give them what we think is the best, we may be wrong.

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  • 10. At 7:01pm on 29 Jul 2008, benelliman wrote:

    I think it's great that you're giving all of us an insight of what it's like to be in a society that, even though is now communist, hasn't changed it's views on their leaders for almost 10,000 years. I hope more and more views and analysis from you come out more often so we can understand what it's like to be a foreigner trying to understand "their" culture.

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  • 11. At 7:10pm on 29 Jul 2008, objection2it wrote:

    this system has worked for China and it's people.

    you would like to think that the buck stops at the top in western countries wouldn't you?

    imaging the turn over in every country that do what you suggested, no more problems, no more bad leaders.

    yeah, right.

    with 1.3 B people in China messing up at anytime, you will need a few million leaders on standby to replace the Pres.

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  • 12. At 7:19pm on 29 Jul 2008, ronnieji wrote:

    Hi James, year and a half in China is obviously not enough for you to report China in an objective way, not only you almost every westerners just naturally think communists are evil, Chinese people are suffering and are repressed. Dont you think that way?

    There is no one including the Chinese says China is perfect, no one says china is No.1 of the world and no one denies the Communists did evil things before. The Chinese do things in Chinese way, if you go to China you should respect the Chinese way, "When in Rome do as the Romans do" I am sure you understand that but most of the westerners do not follow the Chinese way. Why? this is the baseline of the respect. Think about why the Chinese say the west are arrogant!

    We do believe criticism can get jobs better done but Self-criticism is the Chinese way. James, you say Hu jintao and Wen jiabao can not be criticized but do you know how much criticism pointed to Jiang zemin, the previous president of China when he was on the top?Oh,probably you were not in China that time. People like Hu jintao and Wen jiabao solely becase of the credits they gained from quick response for the Sichuan earthquake.

    The Chinese are happy to take criticism but must be constructive and objective, the most, absolutely no exaggeration.

    The last, every country has right to choose their own political regime, there is no priority but people from all over the world do have a same dream: a peace equal and free world! No matter how people get to there our aims are the same!

    To James, I would like to say that by following your blog untill now I start getting to know you and no matter I how much I agree with you I thank you for all your hard working to provide this platform to talk about China and I believe the bilateral understanding could be achieved although it is hard.

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  • 13. At 7:30pm on 29 Jul 2008, ccpbrain wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 14. At 7:33pm on 29 Jul 2008, henry_cheung wrote:

    That's sad. That's one of the biggest reasons why China is still not a democratic country.
    It's rediculous for them to think that the top guys are always good. Just think about the former mayor of Shanghai...

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  • 15. At 7:53pm on 29 Jul 2008, buaadallas wrote:

    I do not agree with the viewpoint that in China no one blame the top leaders.

    I suggest James to visit some forums,such as,,etc (if you understand any Chinese, you will find it's very popular to blame even make fun of them).

    In China, maybe the villigers will trust the leaders, but I dare to bet that many citizen(especially students in Univs.) know that you can only trust some parts of what the top leaders said. That's normally. But, the problem is that we Chinese can not express our critism toward them publicly, sometime we use the Hu core to reprensent the name of Hu Jintao, that's no problem.

    At last, I tell you a joke, "Chinese enjoy the same human right as British, because British can criticize your prime minister, we can criticize him either"

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  • 16. At 8:19pm on 29 Jul 2008, robertzhao wrote:

    You did a fantastic job, James!

    We Chinese never blame the men (not women) on the top, because they are our fathers, they are gods, how can they get wrong? This is one side of the coin.

    On the other side of the coin, if one dare to critisize the top, that means taht he or she is chasing fire like a moth. Most peole will not take that risk, even they know the top should be responsible for the problems.

    We many know that Hu Jintao has some stupid ideas of how to rule China, but we simply have no way to directly criticize him.

    In generaly, your conclusion that most Chinese believe in the emperor makes sense, but there are many who do not think so.

    Hope to see more articles from you.

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  • 17. At 8:31pm on 29 Jul 2008, xbang2003 wrote:

    I am a chinese, I do think there are some problems in our system, therefore, I came to the UK where, I did believe, the most advanged democracy was. four years has been past. I have to say, you are in a degree of pressure at moment to reform yours and I do think yours is suitable for our chinese. maybe we need to created a third way just for our chinese.
    by the way, I think that I need to correct you that we do dare to criticise Hu Jin Tao, our president. the issue is he must do something wrong or unforgivable. but you are right, it is not allowed any practicing to pull over the the whole country or government. we don't want to do it also because we have not found a better one.

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  • 18. At 9:06pm on 29 Jul 2008, VancouverRaine wrote:

    "Whatever the weather turns out to be, people here probably won't blame China's top leaders if things go wrong."

    Are you saying people should blame their top leaders for bad weather?

    China has had plenty of selfish and incompetent emperors in the past, and they have been criticized and overthrown by the people, so the benevolent emperor concept is not a general belief.

    But the current government, despite all the Western criticism, is doing alright according to most people who live in China.

    NPR Poll: Most Chinese Satisfied With Nation's Progress

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  • 19. At 9:08pm on 29 Jul 2008, wmlycb wrote:

    why evryone is deleted? is it done by bbc or by the chinese government?

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  • 20. At 9:09pm on 29 Jul 2008, redtibetan wrote:

    HI James.
    thanks for bringing this topic. it is very crucial subject for Hu Jintao's harmonious society. Hu knew, inorder to china to succesful develope, harmonious society is only viable and logic to achieve that. China's top leader must clean the local official and give the religious freedom to Tibetan, falungong, xianjiang. i really dont see any harm from Buddhist or the falung gong. being myself a Tibetan, i want Tibet's party leader Zhang Qingling out since he is creating a problem between Tibetan and Han. small thing happens everywhere but this man fuels hatred among them. so I want this man eject from Tibet Period.....

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  • 21. At 9:10pm on 29 Jul 2008, holywhiner wrote:

    because like anyone who believes in QEENS and KINGS, they are stupid?

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  • 22. At 10:07pm on 29 Jul 2008, toughbilili wrote:

    This is a very well-written article that reflects both sides' viewpoints. However, I feel it makes certain assumptions and ignores some issues.

    First, it makes it look like it is a widespread situation that ordinary Chinese are at the mercy of the local officials who are all corrupt and evil. This is not really how things usually are in China, you cannot have economic development or a growing middle class in a repressive environment. Many overseas Chinese who travelled to China feel that China is just as free as any Western country. Why are their views often ignored or not believed?

    Second, the relationship between the Chinese people and the government is like this "The people are the water and the government is the boat, the water may hold up the boat but it can also overturn the boat". Therefore, the Chinese government must do all it can to make the people happy, otherwise it will be overthrown. To suggest that Chinese people are "servile" is just repeating the old Western prejudice that Chinese people have the mentality of "slaves", which is an excuse that probably had served Western imperialists well in the past but has no real truth in it.

    Third, the article seems to be suggesting that the current system is bad and the Chinese should be questioning those at the top rather than believing in them. Well, many people in China feel their president and prime minister are doing as good job. I live in a Western country and from the news, it seems many people in the US and UK probably think Bush and Brown are poor leaders. Every country have their problems but China is improving, changing the system too fast might create chaos and cause many to lose their hard-earned prosperity.

    Also, China do not try to impose its ideas or policies on other countries, it dislikes interfering in others' internal affairs, so why are some Western countries interfering in China's affairs? After the biased coverage over the past months, I am not sure if I am ever going to believe any of the Western news media's reports on China, I rather go there to see for myself.

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  • 23. At 10:23pm on 29 Jul 2008, churchgore wrote:

    Democracy does not provide checks or balances. Democracy is a fairy tale created by money. The campaigning politicians receive funding mostly from a few billionaires. I wonder why Westerners trust democracy so much. Is this no a showcase of indoctrination?

    UK media never reports stories in a fair way. If a reporter submits a story deviating from the propaganda-line, the story will not be published. If (s)he keeps doing it, (s)he may lose the job. Media Freedom, where is it?

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  • 24. At 11:05pm on 29 Jul 2008, kklimmy wrote:

    James, You are just beginning to understand one of the basic features of Chinese culture and what makes the Chinese different by way of their value system. Please read more about the "mandate of heaven" and perhaps fter that you will see more things understandable "through Chinese eyes"! For China to eveolve into Western style democracy a great deal of "baggage" has to be left behind. The reason for the progress in the Chinese diaspora is they, in many instance, threw of some of the baggage but kept those which are useful, e.g. their belief in eduaction as an innate means of furthering their respective future. Western people have yet to understand that cultural baggage does determine present day behavior and with China, the baggage is very large indeed. Logic is not everything!

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  • 25. At 11:25pm on 29 Jul 2008, kklimmy wrote:

    James, To make another point there are many Chinese who believe the greater good is more important than the individual good. The word "we" is taken to be more important than "I"!. In old days when Chinese was the linbgua franca of East Asia, Chinese thought was influential throughout the East. In Japan there si a saying "the nail that stand up must be hammered down"! However even in China there is now great debate. Your best guide to this is Mark Leonards "What Dose China Think".

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  • 26. At 11:26pm on 29 Jul 2008, johnxue wrote:


    From the reality of China, the current system in China is the most suitable to the current China. That is why people do not blame the top leaders for the faults of the lower level servants.

    While westerners expect the system to change now because it is different from their system and also because westerners know little about the reality of China.

    Human beings need respect the diversity of systems running in the current world. The UK and US systems are not identical. China is changing rapidly. Along with other development, the system is being adapted in China's pace and direction for the demands of her citizens.

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  • 27. At 00:19am on 30 Jul 2008, Godasse wrote:

    You're absolutely spot on. Chinese people don't value independent institutions. They still believe that, as if by magic, they could have a fair country where state (politicians) could control decisions made by judges and reports by journalists.

    Quick, give them democracy.

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  • 28. At 00:20am on 30 Jul 2008, Godasse wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 29. At 00:22am on 30 Jul 2008, Godasse wrote:

    Benevolant dicator.

    Is that a quote from Blackadder?

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  • 30. At 00:31am on 30 Jul 2008, jakexu wrote:

    Hi James,

    I don't think it's realistic for you to even try to fully understand China, its culture or its people after only having lived there for over a year. So, if I were you, I wouldn't try to make sense of everything you see there. Your way of thinking and doing things sometimes are just not 'compatible' with how things are done in China.

    In regards to why most of Chinese people are in favour of the Chinese government, isn't the answer simple enough? It kept over 1 billion people fed and alive. Which is something, in my opinion, Gordon Brown and its cabinet would never even dream of achieving. Not only had the Chinese government provided the food and shelters to its citizens (over 1/5 of the world's population), it had also achieved double figure GDP growth for 5 consecutive years in a row, which benefited just about everyone in China, my family included. The Communist Party brought China, once invaded by over 8 countries, labeled 'The Illness of the Asia', to a properous, respectful world stage player. And most importantly, it restored the confidence in its people, given them back the hopes and dreams, provided them the resources and the wealth. I ask you, why the Chinese wouldn't be supportive of their government?

    The so-called prejudice or the 'tinted-glasses' that some westerners and media usually have when it comes to China do exist and you can't deny or ignore it. Tian'An Men event in 1989 is part of China's history that cannot be re-written unfortunately, but what you and all people should know and realise is that, it's been 20 years and China has moved on sooooo much from that era. Its people have moved on from that too.

    I admit there are things need to be addressed and improved. But changes can't be done instantly. How long did it take the West to fully realise democracy? Plus, we are talking about a nation that is responsible for 56 ethic minority groups, 1/5 of the world's population here. Some rules need to be introduced, media censorship included if it was considered a matter of a threat to China's stability. I don't see any problem with it. Wouldn't any responsible government do whatever they can to maintain its country's stability and sovereignty? When the One Child policy was first enforced, there was a wave of criticism from the West (there still is), but now it's been proved to be a right decision to make. This policy might not be comprehensible by most of the Westerners, but it is necessary and vital for China, and for the rest of the world. The Western style democracy might work in the Europe or the US, have you ever considered it might just be incompatible with how China should be governed? Let's not shove our own values down other people's throat.

    You mentioned that the Earthquake victims would seek out you guys and have their voices heard. I can totally understand their frustration and their sadness after such a tragedy but what you should be clear about is that, anybody who's in such situation would seek someone to blame. They do not feel that there's any justice in this world. Why would they? They lost their homes, their loved ones, and someone's gotta be responsible and put to justice. And China's central government had done a fantastic job in the rescue and recovery effort. This cannot be denied. Those who were responsible were sentenced and punished. And President Wen was on the site immediately after the tragedy hit, directing the rescue effort. There was nothing fake about it, nothing 'Communism' about it, it was just a good leader trying to take care of the situation and its people. It's things like this that slowly, graudally but surely won over Chinese citizens' support over the past few years.


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  • 31. At 00:37am on 30 Jul 2008, bluebraeburn wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 32. At 00:38am on 30 Jul 2008, jakexu wrote:

    By the way James,

    I would really appreciate it, if next time the sky's clear and air's 'sparkling', you would post a picture of Beijing for all to see. Otherwise, the image of Beijing that would stick to people's minds are those smoggy ones. I bet the skyline of Beijing would look stunning.

    I know it wouldn't make good news story, especially when it comes to the BBC, where no news' like the bad news, but at least it would earn you some brownie points for 'fair reporting' and presenting both sides of the story?


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  • 33. At 01:03am on 30 Jul 2008, adls12 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 34. At 03:07am on 30 Jul 2008, mpknight wrote:

    What is Communism? It's better you find out about the definition before attacking the system. The problem existing in China is not a problem about the system itself, but about an immature government that has been developing for only 60 years, compared to America's 232 years. It doesn't make any sense to blame all kinds of problems China has on Communism.

    I myself am not at all interested in if China would one day reach the "ideal society" at all, but I have to say Communism has nothing to do with these problems, at least the eviction violence. It's the government who is to blame.

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  • 35. At 03:29am on 30 Jul 2008, bluejeansbj wrote:

    OH James,

    You have so misunderstood the Chinese people in this regard. And you have so under-estimated the wisdom of the grassroot mass in China.

    One "heritage" from the 10 years cultural revolution is that Chinese people do not blindly believe in their leaders any more. Nobody can fool the entire nation for a long time (a few days, a couple of months, maybe), no matter how high a position he holds.

    When Li Peng was still the premier, criticisms against him never stopped. There were all kinds of jokes about him, a lot of them are still being told today. When he stepped down and Zhu Rongji took his place, the entire nation applauded.

    Zhu is largely regarded as a good leader in the sense that he does care about the wellbeing of the people and that he implemented a number of reforms. People expected a lot from him. But towards the later half of his term people showed disappointments as to the results of his economic reforms. And he himself was aware of that.

    Jiang Zemin, during his term, was also criticized against and even made fun of by all the people.

    Now with respect to Wen and Zhu, the feedback of their leadership is very positive, generally because of their low-key profile, their down-to-earth style, and the care that they show towards the wellbeing of the people.

    Even so, there are all kinds of criticism against them. I hear taxi drivers complain against them all the time.

    For example, during the Sichuan earthquake, while most people are impressed with the speed of reaction by the government and the performance of Wen, some people questioned why it has to be Wen himself all the time. Could he have delegated it to somebody else? Would it be more efficient that way? Was he trying to stage some political show?

    James, the truth is, the current leadership enjoys high supporting rate, which is a GOOD thing about China. Just accept this fact.

    And I don't think Hu and Wen should be held responsible for the existing system - they have been in their positions for just a few years, while the system has been in place for much longer. All educated Chinese are aware of the lack of checks and balances in the system (and criticize it for that), and I bet Hu and Wen are aware of that too. But this is not something that can be changed overnight, even if Hu and Wen want to.

    One significant fact about the CCP which seems to have been ignored by the western media is that it started to accept members who are private business owners quite a few years ago (during Jiang Zemin's term). Private business owners are deemed "capitalists" under the traditional communist way of thinking, while the CCP was meant to represent the interests of those "capital-less". So even though the name has not changed, the nature of CCP is already undergoing some quite yet fundamental changes.

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  • 36. At 03:33am on 30 Jul 2008, democracy101 wrote:

    James, right on.
    You have summarized the Chinese attitude, of faith and worship of their leaders. It is no different from the Mao days, except for just a different kind of clothing the leaders wear - Western business suits instead of silk garb or denim Mao jacket. The good will and faith Chinese placed in their leaders is akin to faith to a God in religion, except the leaders are mortals who have human weaknesses, are prone to make mistakes and with a self-interest for entrenched power.
    In the West, our leaders are subjected to much comedic redicule and challenge. Brown and Bush are not having an easy time at the moment.

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  • 37. At 03:42am on 30 Jul 2008, jglfrank wrote:

    James' observation is not new. Similar comments by young Chinese flood around all major news websites.

    In the past sixty years the CCP has successfully created and strengthened an identity trilogy - the government, the party, and the nation. The three elements are so closely integrated that attacking on any of them is often perceived as an insult on the whole. Here is the equation:

    critisting the top officials = critising the whole party = insult on the national identiy.

    And we have all seen the results of attacking the national identiy of the Chinese, particularly the youth. Most of them are unaware of the atrocities committed by the CCP on its own people. They cannot afford wholesale dismissing the party because the intrinsic connection to the national identity.

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  • 38. At 03:43am on 30 Jul 2008, chinayan wrote:

    I am wondering who are the Chinese you meet in China? how do you meet them? and How you make conversation? it will be chanlenging to cover 1.3billion people when you are talking 'chinese' are such and such.

    thirty years in China I could not tell what the Chinese think.

    It is true many Chinese like Mr. Hu.(he even has a lot of fans on internet), although I could not say if most people do. It is not for no reason. the fact is our former leader, Mr. Jiang, is the target of mocking by Chinese people, especially his silly attitude towards the west.

    Mr. Hu is a traditional positive figure in Chinese culture" serious, sober and temperate.

    In every country you might happen to have a lovely top man, isn't it?

    apart from olympic and so on, the most important policy during Hu era is farmer's benefits improvements. This, will not interest the west. for the western people tend to care about human right of terrorists and corrupted officers in China instead of the ordinary citizens, and that is why we no longer trust the once sacret BBC.

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  • 39. At 03:45am on 30 Jul 2008, tinyFromchina wrote:

    good, James. Go on.

    Do more research on China, you'll find out more about this country.

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  • 40. At 05:01am on 30 Jul 2008, lzeng99 wrote:

    James, gosh, I can't believe I'm writing this. I see progress in you in understanding China since your first log. Dig deeper, ask more questions, listen, observe and learn more about Chinese history. The world doesn't evolve around the West, and Western perspective may not be THE truth. This will set you apart from almost 99% of the western reporters covering China.

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  • 41. At 05:21am on 30 Jul 2008, hughye wrote:

    to some extent, you overstated and u knew it is not the case!

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  • 42. At 05:22am on 30 Jul 2008, JimTsinghua wrote:

    James is correct about one thing - - - that China is still being run in a similar way an ancient emperor did it. It is called neo-authoritarism, also practiced in Singapore. Actually any place with a large amount of Chinese population would choose such a system, like the province named Taiwan before the 1990s. Why people in this blog are still talking about this boring subject?

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  • 43. At 06:11am on 30 Jul 2008, hizento wrote:

    In China "the Emperor is the Father of the nation", that philosophy goes back to the teaching of Confucius. While it is not always true that Chinese leaders has acted well on behalf of its people I would say the current leadership has acted on the greater good of China. There may be things that they authorised that may not be sympathetic but still it is necessary in the name of stability and progress. This idea of uncorruptable leadership has spread to other parts of eastern politics. In Japan too their emperor remains unshakable and blameless even the attrocities of WW2 committed by his military does not stein his character in his people's eyes.
    In the West I know people are less obedience to their parents and to the state so it is hardly surprising why they criticise those at the top including the PM and the Royal family.

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  • 44. At 07:23am on 30 Jul 2008, njstone9 wrote:

    This article is absolutely spot on in its simple and easy-to-understand explanation of the difference in mindsets between westerners and the Chinese.

    While the latter get very hurt by any kind of negative comment about their country, people living in western democracies are used to criticising their leaders and governments, sometimes to great extremes.

    The key point made in the article is that westerners would indeed see the leaders of the CCP as being responsible for the creation and maintaing of a system which allows those lower officials to abuse their power.

    If there were a free and independent press and legal system, no doubt the rule of law would be strengthened, more officials would be successfully prosecuted, and such crimes as corruption would decrease.

    On the other hand, allowing these positive developments would in itself open the doors for the Communist leadership to be questioned, criticised, and possibly one day overthrown or replaced. This the CCP leaders cannot abide by, and, use the self-serving argument that moving towards democracy now would bring social chaos.

    My response to this line of thinking is this:

    The Chinese I have spoken to seem to assume that it is a black and white situation: that westerners are asking China to give up its economic progress in order to protect human rights. Therefore they strongly defend the record of the CCP.

    However, westerners don't see it as an either-or situation. They are simply asking, why can't you have BOTH economic progress AND greater freedoms?

    Would, for example, protecting the farmers who are illegally evicted from their property genuinely threaten economic growth in China? The championing of justice is in fact the CCP's greatest friend, as much as increasing injustice poses a threat to their rule.

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  • 45. At 07:59am on 30 Jul 2008, dj1979 wrote:

    I live in Poland - a country formerly forced to adopt communism - and I lived in China in 2003 and 2005/6. I think I can make fair comparisons between what China is and what Eastern Bloc countries used to be. The feeling that the top leaders are always right and it's just the officials on the ground who are corrupt may derive in China from a centuries-old imperial system, but it was just as widespread in Soviet Russia and other communist states. In the peak of stalinist persecutions people used to say "If only Stalin knew about that!" If they could, they criticized lower-ranking official, but any critical comments aimed at the top leaders were perceived as an attack on the system as a whole. It is also a sort of a psychological device helping to balance emotions - people living in the harsh reality of authoritarian oppression have to have some spark of hope. This spark is the belief that the top leaders are benevolent and "if only my local officials did what the leaders would do..."

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  • 46. At 08:22am on 30 Jul 2008, Bleahdom wrote:

    I'm sorry, but it's getting increasingly annoying how all English media I read attempt to cast a strange view over the whole of China and make out how their method of thinking is completely different from that of the "West" (the idea of a collective western "mindset" has been blown out proportion anyway).

    Hu Jintao and wen Jiabao are looked upon as good leaders because they have good publicity. Leaders that are lauded by people and the press as to being just with relatively little bad publicity will be looked upon as just. Local officials that can be openly denounced will be denounced and in the case of a system where they are the only ones that can be openly criticised, they will more than likely receive even more criticism than they deserve.

    The old Chinese thought of how Emperors were more just than local officials was created by communication issues. China is a large country, an absolutely ruler that is supposed to be divine and just will always remain divine and just when all the information you ever receive about them are proclamations of a grand event. Nothing foreign, nothing special, nothing mystical, just normal human psychology.

    The fact that you can bring up such a disturbing ridiculous topic shows that you have some deeply ingrained views on China that an unbiased reporter most definitely should not have. Yet many reporters do have these views and yet refuse to admit that these views carry over to their reports and create further bias and misinterpretation of views, whether intended or unintended.

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  • 47. At 08:41am on 30 Jul 2008, baoning2008 wrote:

    If westerners have problem with communists, deal with that yourself, but don't kidnap our Olympics, you boycott Olympics Games, we boycott you, as simple as that, take a look at your hand pointing at China, it's full blood of Iraq adn Afghanestan people, how ridiculous is that! I even don't want to call it "double standard", because there is no standard at all, it's all about jealoucy, westerners are simply unhappy with China's stable economy as theirs are in deep trouble, its a sign that confident American and European are gone

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  • 48. At 09:20am on 30 Jul 2008, D Zhang wrote:

    Again, an utterly superficial understanding of Chinese people showed here.

    We believe in our leaders simply because of the actual achievements during the past dacades. Like general public around the world, the judgement of a government is based on the daily observation of our living conditions. If we are getting better and better, it's reasonable for us to keep supporting our central government. Simply as that.

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  • 49. At 09:22am on 30 Jul 2008, bookclips wrote:

    I can understand why Western people view China's Communist system with anxiety and a threat to Western style democracy, and so often caste non-western style system as corrupt and inferior.

    The truth is Chinese system has brought Chinese people prosperity and has lifted millions of people out of absolute poverty.

    In contrast to rich western countries, the Chinese openly admit that their system is not perfect, while the West sees western style democracy as gospel even though the system has kept many ex-colonies poor and corrupt for centuries (of course this is their fault as they failed to implement democracy “properly” laid down by their ex-colonial masters).

    While China openly admits there are corruptions and human right issues, do you seriously believe that western style democracy implemented in South Asia and African countries have less corruptions and human right issues? And do you seriously believe that the parties in charge in those countries care more about the people they govern and not about getting into power so they can share bounties with their friends and relatives? When will the West accept some imperfection in their system?

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  • 50. At 09:28am on 30 Jul 2008, nonothing wrote:

    when you don't understand something, the first thing you should do as an decent person is to learn rather than to judge. unfortunately, you've done otherwise.

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  • 51. At 09:36am on 30 Jul 2008, beetlefan wrote:

    All comments are deleted? I would give BBC blog moderator benefit of the doubt that these comments violate the House Rule. But still, I'd like to hear what they say.

    While there may be a need to maintain proper decorum on the web, but I don't think it outweigh the need for different opinions to be heard, however stupid, vulgar or vicious they may be, short of instigating an outright criminal act, of course. I am not a child, I can handle reading a few inappropriate comments and I can make up my own mind whether they should be disregarded or not.

    So, please, try not to delete so many comments. You are running the risk of doing what the Chinese government does: censorship.

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  • 52. At 09:40am on 30 Jul 2008, beetlefan wrote:

    Oops, my mistake. Previous comments are not delete, yet. They are just awaiting moderation. Let's hope all of them make it to the blog.

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  • 53. At 10:52am on 30 Jul 2008, sier521 wrote:

    As a Chinese I want to say something about this. To be frank I don't like your reports on China, not because you may critise top leaders or the Communist Party or the legal systerm of China, or as you said it's the responsibility of journalist to question and criticize. I do understand your ctiticism for in China, there are the problems as you mentioned, independent legal systerm, human right and so on, however I really don't like your report, like most of Chinese, why?

    The problem is not for criticizing but for misunderstanding. I often feel that few foreign journalist really understand the Chinese society and what have happened in the past decades after reading your reports, some reports even make me laugh. Not as you thought Chinese have no awareness of democracy, Chinese like one-party ruling. Yes, one big problem in China is that media controlled by the government however citizen are free to talk and everybody has his own judgement in his mind. I also think PM Wei and Present Hu are good. we should not criticize them for how many problems still unsovled in China, we should see what they are trying to do to solve these unsovled problems. The problems of China are not formed in one day, of course will not be solved through a night. This is a nation under feadual society for more than 5000 years, this is a nation suffered so many pains in recent 100 years, this is a nation experienced so many absurd matters in the Culture Revolution and so many bad habits and problems left. How long did Western countries take to be democratic and civilized? How long do you ask us reach it? In the latest century we have no choice because China is a colony of West, including UK. We just begin from late of 1970's. I think most Westerns are not aware they unconsciously put themself in a higher positon than Chinese (don't deny, asking yourself if you feel a sense of superiority compared with Chinese) and point here and there with your fingers, telling us we have so many problems, puzzling why you fight for Chinese but Chinese don't like it even hate it. Yes, we hate it. It's our country, right? Mind your own business. most importantly, you don't really understand us at all, besides endless criticises.

    Could criticises solve the problems in China? Our people have felt and seen so many improvement so far and, of course, we'll continue to make progress, step by step, in our own rhythm. The problems have existed so long and we're trying to change it. That's why most Chinese think Hu and Wei are good, we saw their efforts and actions so we are confident of the top leaders. Yes, many problems unsolved but China is changing and will be better.

    Your problem is, no matter what China is doing you will always criticize. eg. the government takes measures to reduce the air pollution you say the measures make people unconvinient (restrition on car). if the government didn't do this, you say Beijing did nothing to improve air quality. You complain the security measures too tight but if Beijing didn't do this, you will question if the security measures enough. Construction worker left Beijing you say it's a misery story, if they don't leave you will say how crowed or disorder Beijing is. In one word, no matter how we did, you used to criticize. It's the real reason why Chinese don't like your kind help. You are always stand at one side.

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  • 54. At 10:55am on 30 Jul 2008, yiqinuk wrote:

    I disagree with you. There are lot of criticisms circulating in china about jiang (previous one) when he was in power and even after. Hu and wen is doing much better compare with previous top official.

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  • 55. At 10:59am on 30 Jul 2008, fanxiangru wrote:

    there are people in china who have blamed the system.but the majority chinese didnot think so,there may be only 6 persent of chinese college student care about the how the country are rouled.

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  • 56. At 11:54am on 30 Jul 2008, Gomeying wrote:

    James observation may be partly true. However, even in Hong Kong where there is a very free media, people do put their faith in the top leaders in China.

    Hu and Wen's popularity is due to the (humble) way they lead the country.

    Hu was born in a poor family in Jiangsu province and entered the top university in Beijing before he became the leader of China. He had no powerful relatives when he joined the party.

    Wen was born in a normal but educated family in Tianjin province. He started working in Gansu province as a geological engineer. Wen travelled to many of the poorest villages in the country before he became 'the Men'.

    In 1989 Wen accompanied Zhao Ziyang to speak to the Tiananmen Square students. Zhao was then under house arrest for the rest of his life.

    When Hu and Wen became 'the Men', they abolished taxes for all farmers, punished corrupted government officials, improved the health care system, sorted out border problems with Russia, Japan and India peacefully, maintained economic growth, addressed environmental problems in China (banned plastic bags, wooden chopsticks, increased the use of renewable energy, etc), improved ties with Taiwan, peacefully assisted in sorting out the North Korea nuclear programme, changed Hong Kong's recession to growth, reduced the number of death penalties, improved religious freedom e.g. improved tie with Vatican, revived many of the traditional cultures and festivals etc.

    A mainstream Hong Kong newspaper once commented that the current leaders in China care the normal people more than any other leaders in China's modern history.

    Bad things of the leaders? Of course there are e.g. arrested journalists, allowed the heirs of the previous president continuing to be corrupted, ignored the problems in Sudan and continued to bring oil to China.

    However, good things are far more than bad things.

    What did the leader do in Sichuan earthquake? How do they compared with George Bush and Gordon Brown?

    The top leaders are popular because they are good but not because of the system. Bad news spreads fast!

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  • 57. At 11:58am on 30 Jul 2008, pat_cheung wrote:

    One interesting thing to note is that the current administration especially the duo of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao enjoy great popularity because of their general performance and their relative lack of scandals. Jiang Zemin was not nearly as popular or unchallenged especially in his last few years as the top leader.

    Maybe it's just a common honeymoon period for any (OK, most) political leaders, but it's also possible, and the Chinese definitely hope, that a seemingly flawed system actually continues to come up with good (or right) choices of leaders once in a while.

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  • 58. At 12:00pm on 30 Jul 2008, KennethWu wrote:

    James' assumption that more 'independent monitoring organisations' will act as a counter force to stop balatent corruption by local officials is some what flawed. The simple reason is that they can be bought off, sure you can argue that the more organisations you have means that it would be harder for the corrupt local officials to buy them off, but more independent monitoring systems will also require more organisations to monitor this vast net work of monitors, and from here a huge pyramide of hierachy will be built up which would a be alot harder to govern and inefficiency will be staring you in the face. Also whats to say all these monitors weren't abuse their power?
    just look at the vast mafia empires of early 20th centrury america. there were the free press, free judicial systems, independent police departments, but all of these were bought off and the elections were rigged by the mafia so that favourable politicians could be in power. It is only the interference of the central government in the form of 'feds' that managed to curb the rising power of gangs.
    The current PRC monitoring system is not inadiquete, its about as adequete as any other system out there, it catches criminals and it also creates a power balance between the local government and central government, so no single system gets too powerful. Its just that corruption is such a rife problem that some manage to get through the net.
    The current high level of corruption is due to a very simple reason. Money. No local official are born evil, none of them do it to look 'cool', they don't steal land of peasents to sell on to businesses because it feels good. They do it for the money. There is a very simple explanation for why they do so, its because your average local official, or governer doesn't get paid enough for the amount of work they have to do. Because china is so big, there is alot of levels of hierachy and alot of government workers, this means that the wages of these lower level workers will be totally inadequet. If they do get paid what they deserves then they won't have the need to steal from public funds to pay for their kids uni tuition, or for them get a bigger house etc. This has been the historic reason for local corruption and it is still the current reason. To stamp out the wide spread corruption, the key is to pay the local officials more, and as china economically gets stronger this will happen, and as the rising federalist movements within and with out of china gets stronger, corruption will be erradicated. Even the higher up officials doesn't get paid enough (it can be said that they do it for the alturistic reasons and for the job satisfaction), in about march 2008, the former vice president madame Wu Yi (who was discribed as the iron lady of the east, headed various trade delegations, replaced the sacked health minister during the SARS crisis ) resigned, and as she resigned she mentioned that her wage was only about 150,000rmb (she also urged business people to only take the money that is rightfully theirs), this really isn't very much considering she lives in BeiJing.

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  • 59. At 12:53pm on 30 Jul 2008, growingwhordcitizen wrote:


    Be patient. China has just emerged from her isolation engineered by The West barely 40 years ago. In real nation building, she is hardly 30 years old, a teenager at best in term of human development.
    Take a good look at the various websites in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore etc. the discussions on Democracy, Freedom of Expressions and Human Right are in the rage. Unfortunately for you, they are mainly written in MANDARIN. ( Am I wrong in assuming that u r not proficient in the language. If it is, do accept my apology.)
    China will change, adapt and rise to the occasions. Why? For thousands of years, a change of power always meant war, violence, destructions, bloodshed . Now, the CCP has cracked the very touch nut of succession problem. The next generation of leadership is well laid out. The opportunities to serve as apprentice is there for all to see. The founding father of Singapore Mr. Lee Kuan Yew gave a glorious thump-up for the appointment of the leadership.
    The democratic route, the idea of human right, the development of freedom of speech will be different from that of the West, that is for sure. The West and its associated allies can keep its high horses, sanctimony and arrogance
    Hu and Wen are trying their best to do the job. Judging by the result produced in the last 6 years, they are not doing too badly.

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  • 60. At 12:59pm on 30 Jul 2008, yetingsong wrote:

    I think people here has commented enough on this topic and I agree with most of them - you'd need to understand the Chinese collectivism culture to be able to understand the reliance on the central government. And, as people have been pointing correctly, president Hu is no emperor, his presidential term will end in a few years time. And not all CCP leaders are popular.

    One thing I would like to say, is that the West isn't so different than the Chinese in believing in their system. People in the West may not agree with their leaders but they believe whole heartedly in the Western political/economical system that involves reprehensive democracy and market economy.

    I remember a line from the movie Matrix: The architect of the artificial Matrix system says: If people living inside the Matrix are given "free will", in the forms of "false choice" and "destiny", 99% of the population will be happy with the system.

    In the West, "Democracy" gives people this false choice. And the rest of the system ensures that people will ultimately work for companies, paying income tax. With the help of a global financing system, the wealth they produce will ultimately go to the global corporations and rich families. So long as this system exist, no matter which president is in power, the rich stays rich, the hard working people stays working, and the poor stays poor.

    To be honest, such is not really that bad a system – it keeps thing stable, people have their place in he society and they are more or less content. But it's not that great either, as people are being taken advantage of and they just don’t realise.

    So please don't go around the world and preach on other countries to follow the Western system, as it ultimately feed in to the richest of the West. Please give China a chance, let her work out her own system that can benefit all.

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  • 61. At 1:19pm on 30 Jul 2008, lhobdrak wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 62. At 1:30pm on 30 Jul 2008, bookclips wrote:

    Don't forget that both "communism" and "capitalism" are western ideas. The Chinese are just smart enough to employ them to suit the conditions of their country.

    Ideology is not important to the Chinese as long as it works. Remember the famous quote of Deng Xiaoping? "No matter if it is a white cat or a black cat; as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat".

    Ironically, the advanced nations i.e, the West is still stuck in the ideology war (the Cold War) while the Chinese have move on...

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  • 63. At 1:57pm on 30 Jul 2008, wayjayth wrote:

    I think you have written a very good report again, James.

    To those who think otherwise, isn't there a Chinese saying which goes: "the observer from the (out)side sees clearer than the people inside"? There is another Chinese saying which goes:"good advice hurts the ears".

    I can totally understand why the Chinese feel frustrated when they see negative reports about China. China is trying hard, no doubt. A lot of Chinese are trying very hard to bring the best out and show the world, that's a natural thing to do. It's a really big chance for China.

    BUT, many Chinese fail to understand how the foreigners really think! What if it's not jealousy? (maybe for some, but definitely not all) Foreigners are also very frustrated and furious . This is maybe one of the main reasons why the two sides fail to reconcile.

    I wonder if the Chinese know that many people(both inside and outside) are suffering tremendously because of the Chinese government??? Does China not have hundreds of missiles directing at Taiwan? Does Taiwan even have a choice? Do people know how the Mongolians feel about China? And why do they feel so? Do people know that there is a big black market for organs from prisoners of conscience? What about Falun gong? Darfur?

    Seriously, there are reasons why people don't like the Chinese government and find it very hard to forgive, it's not always jealousy! It's also very difficult to just focus on the bright side of China, I just can't get rid of the negative parts. Pls understand!

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  • 64. At 2:07pm on 30 Jul 2008, fayfayrock wrote:

    i can c...u really work hard on some Chinese issues.....
    however, I only can find out the negative points from this page.
    different states have different political systems, and that is what u called "freedom", right?
    and u can't say that the UK is completely perfect, right?
    hence why donot u say some nice things about China?
    at least, we don't have such kind of race discrimination in the UK!!!
    our people are friendly to foreigners, and the British people [well, I think half of the British], especially in some colleges, even the tutors are discriminating the overseas students!!!!! that is what i had experienced in the UK in the past 4years.
    Honestly, in some Birtish cities, it is really really dirty.
    I can c, a lot of foreigners are trying to discover the negative parts of China, and some things u cannot understand. so why donot u just leave it????? That is our business.

    therefore, please, please ,
    be honest, be fair, be justice,
    find something really nice while u r reporting something really really unhappy.
    Hope u can discover some positive things in BJ. Enjoy life^_^V

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  • 65. At 2:18pm on 30 Jul 2008, uk_cref wrote:

    So what do you suggest? A complete knock down of the system and make it like another uk? Wake up.

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  • 66. At 2:27pm on 30 Jul 2008, fayfayrock wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 67. At 3:02pm on 30 Jul 2008, ad0919 wrote:

    Remarkably resilient and widespread in Chinese society is the belief in fatalism: People's stations in this human world have been predestined and can hardly be altered through any external influence. Therefore, Hu Jintao is predestined to be China's ruler as his birth place has extraordinarily good geomancy that helps produce emperors, his birthday is an auspicious one based on the lunar calendar, his eyes, nose, ears, mouth, forehead, eyebrows (extremely long and seem like dancing with the wind), etc. are in line with the descriptions of "royal faces" in traditional Chinese face-reading books.

    James, you might have used the title - Benevolent Emperor - in a slightly caustic and castigating way, but many Chinese would take it very seriously: many of my relatives still perceive Hu as the emperor and one of them has once said that "of course the country belongs to him [Hu]" -- there will always be a person that receives the mandate of heaven to rule this land, regardless of how political system varies. Even a democratically elected president will not challenge this Chinese mindset - that elected individual is still predestined to rule otherwise why he would become interested in politics, join the right party at the first place...

    Culture, as I've articulated somewhere else in this blog, is also one of the most important analytical dimensions that needs to be examined and understood if anyone aims to have a meaningful attempt at understanding the Chinese and our political life.

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  • 68. At 3:45pm on 30 Jul 2008, politequisling wrote:

    hey James!
    So I read some of comments about your articles. Most people argue that it not necessary to blame the communist system and top leaders basically for the country’s remarkable economic achievements during the past 20 years, after Deng’s reform. However, I disagree.

    I concede it is true that the current government policies and reform has made most of the population free from the bother of bloody political movements starvations and wars for the longest period in contemporary history. Every Chinese who has access to read this article has witnessed a significant progression in modernization, experienced a great improvement of our living standard. A lot people, including myself, a college graduate, are generally happy about our living condition knowing the suffering of the previous generations. Therefore, to such extent, I can understand the reason why most people decide to be less critical to our current political system. However, from reading the comments I still found my disagreements with some generally accepted assertions.

    First of all, I highly doubt with any statement starts with the term “the Chinese people”. I can possibly assert that 99 percent of the people comes to the Blog and post comment have received fairly good education which also grant them middle or upper class social statues. It is accord to common sense that the middle and upper class have distinguish life experience and standing points from the lower class, which in China means the other ten hundred millions agriculture population who literally obtain a second class citizenship. Without the life experience of those humblest people who can be contented with a shabby shelter and a slice of bread, I think it is irresponsible to make any conclusion about this nation.

    Secondly, I am hard-pressed to agree with the assertion that communism is chosen by the majority Chinese people. From my collective life experience and the knowledge I know about my people, “the Chinese” would embrace any political system bring them peace and a comfortable life. Whoever won the civil war would be welcomed for bringing back peace to the country. Moreover, we can find more evidence from people’s reaction to Deng’s political reform----nobody actually mind if we are still communism or capitalism or something else as long as we are having a better life than before, the example also illustrate that even the government does not really care about the communism ideology and willing to do what they can to stay in power. Throughout history, we have never been a nation activity involved with political lives. Just imagine if we ask people about their opinion about the government in the 1960s during starvation, most people would still give positive answers. In short, the victory of communism in China is nothing but one accomplishment of military force and propagandas.

    Thirdly, I disagree to judge a government by its materialistic achievement. It is almost cliché to say the government has done a great job in economy and I could not agree with it more .however, there are soo many other factors to judge the quality of life. The feudalistic destinies also had remarkable economical materialistic achievements. As a matter of fact, it is vital for any dictatorship to improve people’s living standard by developing economy in order to survive. The mean problem about this country is not about economy is not about human-right, it is about the authority’s unlimited power, nobody knows our when it changes into a destructive force.

    so that is my thoughts about your aritcle and about my country. hope it provide something contributive ideas to all!

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  • 69. At 4:14pm on 30 Jul 2008, tclim38 wrote:

    Putting Hu Jin-Tao's picture up and calling him "emperor" might be enjoyed by some people in UK, but, the over-exaggeration could damage your credibility as a journalist to all Chinese people, including those who live overseas.

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  • 70. At 4:27pm on 30 Jul 2008, rylain wrote:

    Good job James!

    I suggest you to go to Tianya forum to know more about what Chinese people are discussing.

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  • 71. At 4:38pm on 30 Jul 2008, churchgore wrote:

    The West repeats they are for the goodness of Chinese people.However,repeated anti-Chinese riots occur in Europe from Spain to Italy.Chinese Americans are imprisoned for selling cameras back home.Amnesty International has not said a word on these suppressions.Amnesty focuses attack on the Chinese government.Their critiques lack scientific merit.The only explanation is that China is seen as a godless commy by the West.From the UK to Canada,AI is greeted as heroes in the media.Intolerance is to blame.

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  • 72. At 4:43pm on 30 Jul 2008, churchgore wrote:

    I live in the West for decades; I simply do not observe “people living in the western democracies are sued to criticizing their leaders and government.” Unless the West can look at itself in a fairy way, their “advises” are trash.

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  • 73. At 4:51pm on 30 Jul 2008, churchgore wrote:

    I agree with Sier521. But Sier, imagine the Westerners are told a derogatory image of China throughout the Cold War. Their Christianity sees China as a dangerous heretic rebellion. You should see where the West comes from.

    To all the Westerners, including the Catholic polish: you really have to improve as much as China. Democracy is in NO WAY better than the current Chinese system. Chinese human rights is in NO WAY inferior to the current situation in Europe. It is a two way street. Please open up your mind and learn.

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  • 74. At 8:40pm on 30 Jul 2008, RL wrote:

    Well, you have to understand that China is huge with 1.3 billion population, not like UK island, you could run the country over a day. Being Chinese leadership are most difficult jobs in the world. Basically, they have to make sure that 1.3 billion people not in hunger. None else would be qualified for the jobs. Not Bush, either Gordon Brown, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel ? What big joke. The western leaders should really learn more from Chinese leadership.

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  • 75. At 9:00pm on 30 Jul 2008, redtibetan wrote:

    Dear Bluejeansbj,
    you mentioned the Wen as.. "their down-to-earth style, and the care that they show towards the wellbeing of the people". at first I belived that too when he shed tears in front of the cameras now if you look today he was nowhere to be seen when the local officials and the police are harrasing these poor family members who are not even allowed to gather at their burial areas some were even threatened when they tried to submit the petition at the court. what ever many chinese says here, it is still very secretive regime and they will kill many more for their own survival. sometime it make me wonder how the educated young chinese falls under their trap. in the recent leaked document from thje communist regime, they are using chinese people's sentiment for their own benefit. China will prosper when she would have democratic leader for thepeople by the people and of the people but not definetely under these leaders. china today have major social problems belief it or not time will come the society will bring down this regime. it is never too late to change for the benefit of millions of chinese common citizen rather than few thousand who are directly benefiting from the close connections with the regimes.

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  • 76. At 10:54pm on 30 Jul 2008, cuildave wrote:

    Well that is not hard to explain, at least for myself.

    Now just imagine you are a employee working with a asseenting colossal coorperate, the management is dfficult, not flexible, not listening, but then they can deliver. So your salary keep rising at 10% every year, investors are happy, funds snowball from there, the coorperate keep swelling.... emplyees mutter but mostly keep to themselves. Then you don't want to sink the boat by doing something extreme, do you?

    That's exactly wut happening there. Of cousre it will be great if people can enjoy prosperity and democracy at the same time, but I know the ordinary Chinese mass crave for their long due utmost prosperity more than anything.

    One more de factor force is the mirracle of the succesful Shenzhen and Shanghai city. They overwhelm convince people that in a same system it's all about how local officals' performance matters.

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  • 77. At 10:55pm on 30 Jul 2008, nihaorain2007 wrote:

    In fact, every former chinese leader before Houjing tao like to push ' individual belief ' with their chinese official media. But , Houjing tao is good one.

    After succeeding to chinese president since 2003, He changed china slowly with more opener and laudable manner at different angle.

    Before, i often saw many joke against chinese leader or saw many messages left in web to criticize them even communist system some time( so , Jame are wrong also in this case) ( message like: i like china, i don't like communist! or ' with taiwain gov, we could push voting ')

    China is so huge country, it's very difficult to govern. But, i think very friendly and industrious chinese people can understand this and will help gov to change china!

    Trust me, chinese isn't enslaved people and most of them know what is suited with our country!

    Anyway, the west and the east is different in their mind!

    Last thing, i hope our gov need to give their people press freedom like other country, because i think that doesn't matter with gov's prestige even their people touch some anti chinese gov web.

    With my experience, most of oversea chinese firm their support to chinese gov even after touching and comparing loads of western report about china.

    I am keen to propose more chinese visit web like 'free tibe','falungong' ect.. you will see why more and more oversea chinese suddenly understand some thing...

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  • 78. At 01:10am on 31 Jul 2008, ricecake202 wrote:

    Hello everyone,

    Again so many great comments here. And thanks to James once again create another blog to get the great discussion coming.

    To those who are upset by James, please don't take him too seriously. He means to be controversial otherwise we would have not much to say if it's all good. Right? It's good of him to create debate like this and get it clarified by so many great comments. I can always learn so much from Jame's blogs.

    Keep up the good job James.

    That being said, I especially like the following comments:


    "You are partially wrong again, I think you must be heard of 6.4 in 1989. This is a case where students blame the top of the govt. No comment for both students and govt."


    " I think that I need to correct you that we do dare to criticise Hu Jin Tao, our president. the issue is he must do something wrong or unforgivable. but you are right, it is not allowed any practicing to pull over the the whole country or government. we don't want to do it also because we have not found a better one."


    "irst, it makes it look like it is a widespread situation that ordinary Chinese are at the mercy of the local officials who are all corrupt and evil. This is not really how things usually are in China, you cannot have economic development or a growing middle class in a repressive environment. Many overseas Chinese who travelled to China feel that China is just as free as any Western country. Why are their views often ignored or not believed?"

    I would like to add the following:

    1) There are many many good local government officials. A bad apple does not represent all the good ones out there. My families living in South China can tell you that. They have job performance contract policy in hiring government officials. The officials too, are like other employees, must deliver the goods. Base on what my families stories, their local leaders are not bad at all.

    2) It's the rule of thumb and you got to believe in common sense. The great improvement in China speaks for itself. Perfection? No. It's unrealistic every one knows. But overall current CCP performance? At least >75% if not more. You look at the big picture.

    3) China is a dream country for good career politicians. In the West good politicians are thankless no matter what they do. Someone, usually his opponents will scheming hard to drag him down sooner or later. In China they often teach their kids that when drinking the water, never forget to thank the well diggers. As a leader, If you are truly good and kind to them, you will be greatly rewarded in China.

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  • 79. At 01:12am on 31 Jul 2008, ricecake202 wrote:

    @ Godasse: "You're absolutely spot on. Chinese people don't value independent institutions. They still believe that, as if by magic, they could have a fair country where state (politicians) could control decisions made by judges and reports by journalists.

    Quick, give them democracy."

    The above statement is very shallow. The commenter obviously has no idea what you are talking about.

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  • 80. At 02:38am on 31 Jul 2008, kenchamwu wrote:

    Regarding post #7: "years of communist press and the school system have convinced the chinese that china is good, chinese goverment is good and that the bad people are all around trying to tear china in to shreds - bad people like russia in the north , Japan and Taiwan in the west, India and Dalai in the south, and the western nations from the air."

    Years of Western press and the school system have convinced Western people that the West is good, Western government (i.e. liberal democracy) is the ultimate form of political system in the world (and should be the system till the end of the world), and no other ideas of governance is acceptable. It is generally accepted and justified by these press and school system that any country, including China, that prefers a different political system is evil, and therefore it is acceptable to use all means, including "covert operations" and formenting instabililty by funding some fringe extremist groups, to try to effect "regime change" in order to convert these target governments into liberal democracies.

    Talk about hypocracy and intolerance !!!!!

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  • 81. At 02:41am on 31 Jul 2008, KrSund70 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 82. At 03:21am on 31 Jul 2008, KrSund70 wrote:

    Why is it that they won't allow my post?

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  • 83. At 03:25am on 31 Jul 2008, chinayan wrote:

    really fed up with all these bullocks.

    is it true that the west and east will never understand each other?

    Millions of Chinese adopt the 'main stream west thinking' including myself, and most Chinese who post here( otherwise they won't bother to read this silly BBC website).

    Now I realize we are regarded as enemies. Yes, but it won't change anything. Some nation goes on deteriorating and aging, what they could no is merely mocking the emerging and pretend to be superior.

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  • 84. At 03:28am on 31 Jul 2008, KrSund70 wrote:

    Outrageous censorship!

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  • 85. At 03:31am on 31 Jul 2008, KrSund70 wrote:


    Either let me post what I have to say about this article or allow me to e-mail it to you.

    Not allowing me to post my retort is hypocrisy of the basest sort.

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  • 86. At 03:33am on 31 Jul 2008, KrSund70 wrote:

    When service is bad at a restaurant, do you blame your waiter and tip him less in return ... OR ... do you automatically assume the manager is irresponsible or crooked or worse and demand his firing instead?

    The lack of sensibility astounds me ...

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  • 87. At 04:01am on 31 Jul 2008, JimTsinghua wrote:

    Highly recommended readings on this issue raised by our thoughtful James:

    China's new intelligentsia
    by Mark Leonard

    I believe Mr. Leonard knows better.


    "I will never forget my first visit, in 2003, to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing. I was welcomed by Wang Luolin, the academy's vice-president, whose grandfather had translated Marx's Das Kapital into Chinese, and Huang Ping, a former Red Guard. Sitting in oversized armchairs, we sipped ceremonial tea and introduced ourselves. Wang Luolin nodded politely and smiled, then told me that his academy had 50 research centres covering 260 disciplines with 4,000 full-time researchers.

    As he said this, I could feel myself shrink into the seams of my vast chair: Britain's entire think tank community is numbered in the hundreds, Europe's in the low thousands; even the think-tank heaven of the US cannot have more than 10,000. But here in China, a single institution—and there are another dozen or so think tanks in Beijing alone—had 4,000 researchers. Admittedly, the people at CASS think that many of the researchers are not up to scratch, but the raw figures were enough.

    China is not an intellectually open society. But the emergence of freer political debate, the throng of returning students from the west and huge international events like the Olympics are making it more so. And it is so big, so pragmatic and so desperate to succeed that its leaders are constantly experimenting with new ways of doing things. They used special economic zones to test out a market philosophy. Now they are testing a thousand other ideas—from deliberative democracy to regional alliances. From this laboratory of social experiments, a new world-view is emerging that may in time crystallise into a recognisable Chinese model—an alternative, non-western path for the rest of the world to follow."

    (To the moderator: I am in China and have to wait for 7 hours before my post get through. Are there no night shifts in the BBC? Aren't you a GLOBAL media empire in which the sun should never set?)

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  • 88. At 05:33am on 31 Jul 2008, worlddonotforgetibet wrote:

    The Communist Party’s survival hedges on the people’s unflinching loyalty. Thus the Party must assume the figure of power and benevolent leader. Olympic restores that.
    Mao was more than mere Emperor and his little Red Book became the gospel. So the fate of billions of Chinese people fell in the hand of one Party.
    Yet little do the faithful Chinese know that to the out side their Party is Emperor in disguise.


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  • 89. At 05:50am on 31 Jul 2008, gratefulcai wrote:

    The article tells the truth. Well done, James! As a chinese, I can promise you that you can always find answers to all of problems China facing today from its own histroy. And years after, if you are still in China, you will find out that China is actually a medieval country being covered up by its modern-looking shell.

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  • 90. At 06:52am on 31 Jul 2008, wonderfulchinese wrote:

    What a successful BBC propoganda machine. Wrote China back for at least a century. James presented some thoughts in peasants' heads, generalised it and imposed it back to every single Chinese. Does not surprise me he got so much feedback.

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  • 91. At 10:44am on 31 Jul 2008, EWONGNL wrote:

    Is he an emporer?

    In my view, too bad he is not. But no doubt he is much worse than an emporer. An emporer at least is not corrupted by definition: everything under the heaven belongs to the emporer. It makes no sense for an emporer to steal his own property. Plus, under an emporer, local officials dare not be corrupted at least publicly coz the emporer will chop his head off if he knows someone is stealing his money. It that simple?

    Why Chinese worship emporers?

    A huge question touches many dimentions. Regardless whether it is good or bad, there are fundamental confucius culture reasons behind it.
    In short:

    In the West, the head of state/govt means nothing but just a temporal representation of the people by design. If he is corrupted or bad, people will elect another one.

    In the East (confucius culture states, including Japan and Korea, even they are "democratic" now) and in China particular, head of state/govt has moral obligation to perform for the people and the people, in return, has moral obligation to support them to overcome difficuties for better future in the long run. This is one of the core areas of confucius value system. A centries-old moral contract between the rulers and the people. This is the only reason why CCP could still manage to survive till today.

    To post # 1: your car example is not totally convincing. CCP is not only the driver but also the engineer. The car goes all right so far is not because he drives fast and the engine is good. It is because that 1.4 billion passengers (people) are pushing the cars with ther bare hands! CCP can choose to fix the engine gradually or just touch superficial stuffs to make people believe that he is doing something. Obviously, Chinese can not afford to change a new car all of a sudden, as Russian did and proved fatal. The best the soultion is to touch that crap engine, but step by step.

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  • 92. At 12:07pm on 31 Jul 2008, WinnieWu wrote:

    China is not a democratic country, but an empire. the system is similar with any empires in history of China. If James wants to understand more about China, please read history of Ming Dynasty. If people lose confidence to leader at top, they will lose confidence to the whole country.

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  • 93. At 1:05pm on 31 Jul 2008, democracy101 wrote:

    It sounds like this topic is as controversial and explosive as the National Sentiment posting for the Chinese bloggers.

    I would agree with the insights of some bloggers on this topic.
    #67 ad0910 on Chinese fatalism:
    Chinese are fatalistic because they have not had the right for self-determination in their political or familial system for as long as Chinese history began. The emperors ruled with mandate from heaven, the father ruled with mandate from Confuscious. Children growing up within the family have been taught respect and obedience of the parents, their elders and the State. I know personally from contacts with Chinese Ph.D. students in the U.S. the tremendous pressure they are under to succeed because the family’s future and name is so intertwined with the student’s graduation and an eventual job in U.S leading to an immigration permit. Our biggest problem in the university is to counsel the students that the family pressure is a distraction, but to concentrate on their studies for the moment so they can succeed. In China’s collective society, individualism is not nurtured but rather suppressed. Everyone is shackled to everyone else’s fate for good or bad and the fate is always beyond ones’ control. In old days, the emperor or official would execute the entire family for the crime of one. Today, the Chinese government would threaten with mistreatment or loss of privilege to relatives of Chinese dissidents, again the act of one will affect the entire family. Without the ability to affect change for the positive, people turn to either acceptance of what is - fatalism, to superstition and religion, or to the benevolent emperors; to some mystical higher power that would effect change for them. For this reason, Chinese are known as big gamblers when given the opportunity.

    “Culture, as I've articulated somewhere else in this blog, is also one of the most important analytical dimensions that needs to be examined and understood if anyone aims to have a meaningful attempt at understanding the Chinese and our political life.”

    This is really the main theme, foundation that defines Chinese character, beliefs and politics. I could not agree more. In that sense, Chinese culture needs to be examined closely, to determine the impact China will have on the World as it becomes an economic power. China is a nation of 1.3 billion people, of enormous potential or enormous catastrophe, ruled by their one party system without any check and balance. The West is watching and hoping that the system will let people have a voice, a chance for self-determination. But, first Chinese must begin some self-examination, introspection and make change from the old traditional culture. I know that Chinese are well aware of the problems of their old traditions had caused. Mao for one had tried to institute change in his own tyrannical way, in that he had improved the lives of women in China by a hundred fold is a good change from old tradition that cannot be disputed

    #68 politequisling:
    “I disagree to judge a government by its materialistic achievement. It is almost clich? to say the government has done a great job in economy and I could not agree with it more .however, there are soo many other factors to judge the quality of life. The feudalistic destinies also had remarkable economical materialistic achievements. As a matter of fact, it is vital for any dictatorship to improve people?s living standard by developing economy in order to survive. The mean problem about this country is not about economy is not about human-right, it is about the authority?s unlimited power, nobody knows our when it changes into a destructive force.”

    I am in total agreement on this.

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  • 94. At 2:36pm on 31 Jul 2008, WiseFortuneCookie wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 95. At 2:49pm on 31 Jul 2008, mediacynic wrote:

    Take thousands of year of repeated small person bashing history. Add a good dose of Confuscian writings, put in place to remind people that refined manners are divine and hence bring you closer to the divinity incarnate: the Emperor. Build a wall to protect yourself from an invading race. Make it great so that it can survive the ages and eventually become more than just a wall; let it become a metaphor for the idea of "us vs. them". What do you get? Thought control. And this is why your question a bit off target. Leaders in China are very much protected by the system. And sure, as you grant power and rights to smaller people, the area of impunity shrinks upwards. Eventually, once China has developed, there may come a time to question the top leader. But until then, the Chinese have much more to worry about than to question that which no matter what will not be blamed because it still sits too far above. Better pick a battle you can win. A local one.

    5 years in China and counting

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  • 96. At 2:58pm on 31 Jul 2008, mediacynic wrote:

    I forgot to add that I think that Chinese people would be a far happier bunch if they revered Wu DaoZi more than they do KongZi. I mean, yes, they do seem a happy bunch. That is, until the moment some bully mixes duty, Chinese culture, and KongZi, all in one same sentence. Then, the table or room becomes silent for a few seconds with what you at first believed was respectful contemplation but a few years later come to recognize as quiet bitterness at the memory of some abuse dealt out in the name of patriotic duty.


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  • 97. At 4:40pm on 31 Jul 2008, antimatterbomb wrote:

    2. At 6:13pm on 29 Jul 2008, Xabirules wrote:

    That's because you don't read as many posters on chinese forums as possible. If you go to Tianya, you will find out a lot of chinese netusers are actually questioning the whole system.

    Oh yah Tianya is way cool!!! According to Wiki it is the original exposure place of many social scandals including 2007 Chinese slave scandal, not to mention the legandary 'Human Flesh Search Engine', as well as prompt and detail info we got for many big events this yr (the snowstorm, torch relay around the world, the earthquake, the 6.28 incident in Guizhou...etc). I know it's sad, but many of us indeed rely on it for news around the country than on other media, namely CCTV. Although you do have to go through a lot of trash to find sth useful...I think it's totally worth it if James can write sth about the forum~:D

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  • 98. At 5:09pm on 31 Jul 2008, TommyJ1984 wrote:

    It's interesting James, that you said you can’t understand why most people in China are unwilling to blame their top leader and more importantly the political system. Well, I was puzzled as to why that is such a difficult concept for you to understand since you, and most of your fellow westerner never question your own political system in as much that although you do criticise your top leaders for things that may or may not be in his power to control, you do still clinch on the idea that democracy is THE best /least worst form of political system. Has any briton questioned their political system when Tony Blair lead the country to an illegal war against Iraq? Has any american questioned their system when their ELECTED president authorised the illegal wars in Afghan and Iraq? Sure, there are people blaming both top leaders, but no one for a second thought that maybe the so called 'democratic' system have failed to deliver what it was supposed to deliver, that maybe there are alternative systems, or that maybe they should for a moment stop forcing other countries to adopt it just because they ‘believe’ it works.

    Not only are you criticising a system that have achieved in the past 30 years far more than any other ‘democratic’ system achieved in the past 300 years, you are also criticising the people who believe the system. I would have thought that having lived in China for a year, you would’ve come up something new, yet it is hugely disappointing that all of your articles so far are full of arrogant cliché criticisms. Any journalist living in the UK could have written the same articles. In fact they have, with incredible unity. Maybe BBC is not bothered to send their best journalists to China, or maybe BBC is after all an anti-communist propaganda machine, or maybe the british are so pathetic that the only comfort they could get is by knowing that there are other people out there who are ‘lower’ than them and the only enjoyment you could get is by publishing your tunnel-vision assertion about the country you’re currently living in.

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  • 99. At 6:22pm on 31 Jul 2008, mediacynic wrote:

    Totalitarian regimes will always move faster in any direction than democracies, by definition, and they will _also_ trample on the small, the poor, and the old more often than their less nimble (democratic) counterpart. At what cost progress? But leave that to each society to decide on an acceptable loss to progress ratio.

    However, to call totalitarianism better than democracy is either ignorance, or hypocrisy.

    In my 5 years over here, I have fallen out of love with China not, as TJ1984 says because I love to bash it, but rather because of the way Chinese treat Chinese.

    I have seen abuse bestowed upon the poor by the rich. This abuse always, and I repeat, always, goes unchallenged by both victims and onlookers. This bullying of the small by the big (and more often than not, not so great) goes on with complete impunity. Like some people say over here: "a dragon to 3 insects". Another way to say: money talks while the little people walk.

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  • 100. At 7:11pm on 31 Jul 2008, churchgore wrote:

    Democracy 101,

    Culture is also one of the most important analytical dimensions that needs to be examined and understood if anyone aims to have a meaningful attempt to understanding the West and their political life.

    This is really the main theme, foundations that defines Western civilization, beliefs and politics. In that sense, Western Judea Christian culture needs to be examined closely. In Christianity, any truth is derived from inside the West – a Christian Bible. The Christian Bible is faithfully believed to be truth without any check and balance. The West has never let people have a voice, a chance for self-determination. Children are routinely pushed in the Christian indoctrination since infanthood. I know that Westerners are not aware of the problems of their traditional culture. Any question of the existence of God incurs passionate and fierce anger among Westerners.

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  • 101. At 9:53pm on 31 Jul 2008, kbwong wrote:

    Hey, didja see that Howard W. French is wrapping up his China column at the International Herald Tribune? He has some very interesting observations about China as well.

    As for the comments...well, just as, for an example, many Americans at an individual level wondered after 9/11, "why do they hate us so much?", the best thing, the most helpful thing, is not to simply wonder why other nations hold views about your country you feel aren't true, and not just to try and communicate or argue about why hatred and fear of your nation is unnecessary, but to make sure it is in fact unnecessary.

    I personally feel that those who feel that this is not their duty or job therefore really shouldn't get their knickers in a twist about outsiders calling for those who CAN make sure that this is all unnecessary to do so.

    Nationalistic fervour is all well and fine...well, actually, my bad, it's not all well and fine at all. Nations, borders, bigotry, racism...

    Aliens. I'm telling you, they're mankind's only hope for unity.

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  • 102. At 11:03pm on 31 Jul 2008, ricecake202 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 103. At 00:10am on 01 Aug 2008, kaliman9 wrote:

    The title 'Benevolent Emperor' is accurate, however, the article misses the mark on the fact that China, despite being a Communist/Capitalist state, it still runs as in its Imperial times. Under such system, the people can never publicly criticize the Emperor. Citizens can criticize the lower level officials, but never the person at the top.
    In 1989, the Tiananmen masssacre did not occur because University students started shouting slogans demanding democratic freedoms. Actually, those slogans were allowed by the government. At the later stages of the demonstrations, the students made the grave mistake of shouting 'Down, against Diang Xioping!' At that time, Xiaoping was the 'emperor' of China. That broke the camel's back, and the massacre of students took place, because rule of #1 was broken. So, that explains why all Chinese citizens look up to the Prime Minister, because it has been the norm for centuries.

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  • 104. At 00:30am on 01 Aug 2008, elduderino10 wrote:

    TommyJ1984 wrote: "Not only are you criticising a system that have achieved in the past 30 years far more than any other ?democratic? system achieved in the past 300 years, you are also criticising the people who believe the system. "

    Ridiculous point. Easy example of a democratic country which achieved the economic miracle years ago that China is only now experiencing: Japan.

    Much to the chagrin of the Chinese no doubt...

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  • 105. At 01:08am on 01 Aug 2008, hypocrisynone wrote:


    Your "Benevolent Emperor" was preceded by Democracy 101's "Father knows best mentality" by a sheer whisker of 2 days. At first I thought the timing is too close to be coincidental.

    However, having read what you and Democracy 101 respectively wrote (***below) about "principal/subordinates responsibility", I have to believe that the it is purely coincidental!

    ***You wrote "..widespread popular belief that China's principal leaders are benevolent and that the main problem is that their subordinates simply fail to carry out their wise orders properly."

    ***our friend Democracy 101 wrote
    (in post #54, in Protestors' Park) that "......Yes, Allende, a freely elected President was toppled by U.S. CIA operatives. .....Our Congress and the Senate held hearings and had reduced the power and increased supervision over CIA operations ever since."

    Poor CIA operatives, stop being busy body! For your bosses can do no wrongs!

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  • 106. At 02:59am on 01 Aug 2008, wonderfulchinese wrote:

    To democracy 101.

    Again I have to point out that your little knowledge about China is so out of date. What you remembered is China in culture revolution. You seems to be unable to get out of there. Talking about the destructive power, the only destructive power in the world is your dear US of A.

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  • 107. At 03:17am on 01 Aug 2008, wonderfulchinese wrote:

    Hu is an emperor? Then Jiand zemin must be an emperor? Then Dengxiaoping must be an emperor? Then China must be a feudal socienty? If so, why there are so much progress made over last 20-30 years in a feudal socienty? I forget one fact. MR reynold does not know or does not want to know that. He is on a mission to write China as a backward nation not to report her progress.

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  • 108. At 05:42am on 01 Aug 2008, democracy101 wrote:

    Is this a case of, "Ignorance is Bliss"? The less you know, the happier you will be. The Chinese government keeps her people in a fog with propaganda and censorship. It's no wonder they believe the central government top leasers, the modern day emperors, are moral and good and care about the people. Only local officials people have direct contact do bad things.

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  • 109. At 3:00pm on 01 Aug 2008, democracy101 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 110. At 5:00pm on 01 Aug 2008, ricecake202 wrote:

    I can't freaking believe this. I comment is removed because i mentioned the Royal Family! Can you believe that? BBC James of all people, attacking China for screen out FLG, while I can't even mentiona slightly about it's Royal family?


    Such atrocious first class hypocrisy!

    I'm not reading commenting you anymore. Bye!

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  • 111. At 5:39pm on 01 Aug 2008, tx1007 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 112. At 01:23am on 02 Aug 2008, ScimmiaForest wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 113. At 08:31am on 02 Aug 2008, alicefuchus wrote:

    You grasp the core problems of Chinese governemnt which we Chinese are too used to them to discover them, but it also means you are not aware of Chinese culture and history.

    What you say is ture: we do have a tendency to attribute all the problems to subordinates of central government rather than itself, and you say it's uncredible to westerners. But take a look at Japan, didn't its emperor restrain the country from waging the WWII? And after the war did the people of Japan blame their emperor of the lost they sufferred? DEFINITELY NOT. You ask why, then I'll tell you that's what Japan is. It is an Eastern country which shares the Easten culture and under this culture people simply adore their leaders because they think they must be very outstanding to reach the sovereinty. They choose a modest way to show their discontents rather than shouting and druming up the facts to accuse their leaders.

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  • 114. At 5:05pm on 02 Aug 2008, tclim38 wrote:

    If not the one party system, I don't think China could have grown so rapidly in the past 30 years and have had today's achievement. The country focuses on it's goal like a laser beam without distractions. It provides the stability, safety and prosperity to it's people.

    On the other side of the Taiwan Strait, the so-called 'democracy', where DDP and KMT have been fighting for power and ideology ever since, there's very little got done.

    "Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried".--- Keep trying and trying hard, there might be something better you never know.

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  • 115. At 3:19pm on 03 Aug 2008, tclim38 wrote:

    What the west want is not 'democracy'. They want China to be their 'pet boy' that they can easily take advantage of.
    Not long ago, the Palestinians had a democratically elected government, but they were denounced. The west still support the other guy. The west is not interested in 'human rights', either. They want to use whoever the opposition is to be against the government the west do not like. In other words, they want to get rid of the government they don't like by using their own people to do the job. Democracy, human rights are all just propaganda. Unfortunately some Chinese do believe those craps for whatever reasons.
    Emperor or not emperor is no west's business. When the emperor is not so good, the Chinese people will rise up and topple it. The west should need just mind their own business. Don't tell us they don't have their own internal problems to worry about.

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  • 116. At 9:51pm on 03 Aug 2008, chango70 wrote:

    This belief is quite simple really. The West went through period of feudalism where the elites are achieve by the merit of birth and kinship. Hence the French revolution and the subsequent mistrust of the elite embedded in Western Culture. In Chinese history on the other hand has most of the elite (with the exception of the Emperor himself) was the result of public examiniation. I.e. we achieved meritocracy in public administration long before the West. Those who get to the top tend to be more able than those at a local level. As a consequence the Chinese history can be read as a struggle betwen Central vs Local, instead of western Class struggle. Example. Best students in say Singapore gets snapped up by the government instead of private enterprise. Consequence, better quality of life and social equality in Singapore than Uk. Done and done.

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  • 117. At 10:54pm on 03 Aug 2008, wantafairworld wrote:

    Do people in the *democratic* western world really have the so-called freedom of speech? What is wrong with those comments which are not shown? I always look forward to reading Krsund70’s comments every time I look at Mr Reynolds’ blog, but I find some of them have been removed. James, has he become your unbearable pain so that you have informed the moderators to get rid of him? That is not fair!

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  • 118. At 01:43am on 04 Aug 2008, Kitty Antonik Wakfer wrote:

    You really stirred up a hornet's nest with this one, James, among those who defend the actions of governments, whether in China or anywhere in the world. Of course governments are comprised of individuals - all of whom in politically elected, appointed and most hired positions simply want power over the choices/decisions of others. These are the rulers, with the big boys just having more enforcers available. But it is the enforcers who make the rulers possible, a fact that very few appear to realize. Without those who are wiling to initiate physical harm to others, the rulers could dictate and bark orders all day and nothing would come of it but piles of paper and lots of hot air.

    **Kitty Antonik Wakfer
    Casa Grande AZ USA and Harcourt Park Ontario Canada

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  • 119. At 4:29pm on 04 Aug 2008, democracy101 wrote:

    I was a target of censorship on this blog by the harsh hand of the authoritarin British system. The topic that was removed was about the damage Christianity had done to the non-Christian world. You judge for yourself the reason for the removal. I will return to other US media blogs for full freedom of expression, but will continue my messages without using vulgarity, threats or racial slurs. Wish Chinese have more freedom that really counts - establishing a freely elected government.

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  • 120. At 8:38pm on 04 Aug 2008, starfire88 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 121. At 1:40pm on 05 Aug 2008, hypocrisynone wrote:

    To Democracy 101,
    you wrote "I was a target of censorship on this blog by the harsh hand of the authoritarin British system."

    This truly came as a total surprise. When I previously came to China's defense, purely out of sense of fair play, against the Western governments and media's relentless and hypocritical assault, you told me that I should not bite the hands that feed me, just because I was British educated.

    In fact, one of my earlier posts was also withdrawn due to, I think, a very insignificant and incidental reference to the royalty (about paparazzi's unruly behavior towards a member of the royalty).

    This simply proves my points about the dynamics of power in the world we live in. Anyway, don't be disheartened. Continue to express your views, but with an overriding principle of without fear or favor. Also try to learn to be more forgiving so that you can unlock yourself from whatever misery that you may have endured in the past. You will be a much happier man.

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  • 122. At 05:42am on 10 Aug 2008, omahhum wrote:

    Of course Hu and Wen are responsible! Just like a business, they can fire and hire anyone they like. Fire the evil-doers for their greed and prosecute them to the hilt.

    But they won't. Why? Because they're involved in a cycle of corruption and greed and self-aggrandizement so widespread and deep in the society that they only way to end it is to tear it down from the top.

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  • 123. At 05:47am on 10 Aug 2008, omahhum wrote:

    "Consequence, better quality of life and social equality in Singapore than Uk. Done and done."

    LOL!! You have got to be kidding...maybe you could have a decent life in Singapore if you make tons of money, but it's a draconian society by any standards. Tell us about the jails?

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  • 124. At 05:51am on 10 Aug 2008, omahhum wrote:

    "Please give China a chance, let her work out her own system that can benefit all."

    If China lived isolated in the world, that might work. But it doesn't, and even if it ever did, it never will again. CCP fascism has seen to that, since so many Chinese emigrate to get away from the pollution, the high cancer rates, the draconian punishments, torture, lack of rule of law, and so on. They come to the West and AU and bring their inherited ways of life with them, and those ways of life cause problems in the West. Simple.

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  • 125. At 05:53am on 10 Aug 2008, omahhum wrote:

    "James, the truth is, the current leadership enjoys high supporting rate, which is a GOOD thing about China. Just accept this fact."

    We who have free speech and a free press do not have to accept that fact or any other just because you say so. Get over it. That's part of your problem.

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  • 126. At 03:30am on 02 Sep 2008, dorianisaname wrote:

    To omahhum:

    "CCP fascism has seen to that, since so many Chinese emigrate to get away from the pollution, the high cancer rates, the draconian punishments, torture, lack of rule of law, and so on. They come to the West and AU and bring their inherited ways of life with them, and those ways of life cause problems in the West."

    Hey omahhum, you DO know that you just said "CCP (Chinese COMMUNIST Party) FASCISM", right? ......

    And I'm pretty sure those "inherited problems" can be found pretty well established in the West without the help of the Chinese (or whatever it was that you meant- how can regular people even bring in draconian punishments, I wonder?).

    "We who have free speech and a free press do not have to accept that fact or any other just because you say so"

    *Shrug*. Well, at least you said it's a fact. By the by, what good is free speech if all you're going to do is look at one side of the issue anyway?

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  • 127. At 9:31pm on 27 Nov 2008, candicechen wrote:

    'In this country, if you start to blame the system itself - and the men right at the top - you tend to get into all kinds of trouble.'
    -----------------isn't it the same with your country? Well, maybe not all kinds of trouble: just been thrown into mental hospital.
    I do agree, in your country, it seems that anyone can say anything, including loads of complains about the current government. All the civilians are actually the marionettes during the parties debate. Ask yourself please, how many complains made by civilians had been solved actively? If that's what freedom of speech is, I'd rather save my energy from doing those pointless stuff. Every country has its advantage and weakness, I wish I will be better at English, that I could write another blog called 'candice in U.K'--- anyway, I do not think people here are any better.

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