Crackdown in China

A reversal in fortunes for Chinese liberties


Orville Schell, who's been covering China for decades, worries that the country is taking another authoritarian turn:

Will the Chairman have the last laugh?
Liberty Maniacs

China has long been a one-party Leninist state with extensive censorship and perhaps the largest secret police establishment in the world. But what has been happening lately in Beijing under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping is no such simple fluctuation. It is a fundamental shift in ideological and organizational direction that is beginning to influence both China's reform agenda and its foreign relations.

At the center of this retrograde trend is Xi's enormously ambitious initiative to purge the Chinese Communist Party of what he calls "tigers and flies," namely corrupt officials and businessmen both high and low. Since it began in 2012, the campaign has already netted more than 160 "tigers" whose rank is above or equivalent to that of the deputy provincial or deputy ministerial level, and more than 1,400 "flies," all lower-level officials. But it has also morphed from an anticorruption drive into a broader neo-Maoist-style mass purge aimed at political rivals and others with differing ideological or political views.

To carry out this mass movement, the Party has mobilized its unique and extensive network of surveillance, security, and secret police in ways that have affected many areas of Chinese life. Media organizations dealing with news and information have been hit particularly hard. Pressured to conform to old Maoist models requiring them to serve as megaphones for the Party, editors and reporters have found themselves increasingly constrained by Central Propaganda Department diktats. Told what they can and cannot cover, they find that the limited freedom they had to report on events has been drastically curtailed….

[T]he crackdown has hardly been limited to the media. Hundreds of crosses have been ripped from the steeples of Christian churches, entire churches have been demolished, pastors arrested, and their defense lawyers detained and forced to make public confessions. And even as civil society has grown over the past few decades, a constraining new civil society law is now being drafted that promises to put NGOs on notice against collaborating with foreign counterparts or challenging the government.

There is much more, which you can read here.

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  1. That guy looks familiar. I think I had him as a waiter once.

    1. "Seinfeld, four?"

      1. David Lo Pan is going to kick your ass.

  2. Trump approves.

    1. That pic looks like Mao Tse Trump.

  3. Orville Schell, who's been covering China for decades, worries that the country is taking another authoritarian turn

    I blame the Wall.

    1. As opposed to the last 60 or so years they were run by a communist dictatorship

      1. Yeah, not honestly sure why this is even news. Is literally anyone at all surprised that a communist dictatorship is going to crack down on freedoms?

        As long as they don't stop making the majority of our products, no one actually gives a shit what they do to themselves or their neighbors. After all, it's not like there's any example in modern history of a country stealing intellectual property rights, technology, or manufacturing techniques to divorce themselves from the country they stole them from. None whatsoever.


      2. I heard somebody on the radio this morning whining about how the government is arresting people for doing stuff that was actually government-sanctioned at the time and how unfair it is that they're retroactively making these people criminals. It's like they've never even heard of the Chinese government. Just because you're doing what they tell you to do doesn't mean they can't later punish you for doing it.

  4. They always fall for the "ret a thousand frowers broom" ruse.

      1. Fine. *Hangs giant placard around neck*

    1. That's fried rice, you plick!

      1. I thought it was flied lice.

  5. Maybe Bernie will praise the CCP's crackdown on the press like he did that of the Sandinistas.


  6. Thomas Friedman is jacking off right now.

    1. No, that would be the BernieBros.

  7. Anybody who thought that the Communist Party would react to economic and political unrest with anything other than naked force was fooling themselves.

    1. Did anyone? I mean, I'm sure somebody must have, I guess. But you'd have to have never read anything to believe that.

      1. The Guardian provides an example:

        It's intriguing to contemplate China evolving into some sort of innovative democratic experiment, combining tricameralism with all the high-tech features of deliberative democracy methods to mold a new type of political accountability, as well as separation of powers. Daniel Bell, a Canadian-born professor of political theory at Tsinghua University in Beijing, says China may be groping toward "a political model that works better than western-style democracy".

        Former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping was quoted in 1987 as saying there would be national elections in 50 years. So China's democratic trajectory may be ahead of schedule. President Obama should confidently engage President Hu on this most important subject. Who knows, Hu might even have some suggestions about how to improve American democracy?

        1. They will free have elections as soon as the ChiComs master cold fusion.Hang in there.

        2. To be fair*, that was in 2011 when Hu Jintao was at the head of the CPC. If someone had praised Gorbachev and Perestroika in 1990 but the coup had succeeded in 1991 then the earlier assessment would seem similarly clueless.

          * = It is from the The Guardian, though

          1. To expand on the asterisk, we have this lovely example of The Guardian being its usual self:

            Who knows, Hu might even have some suggestions about how to improve American democracy?

            This bit is mendacious and indefensible and would still be even if Xi Jinping and his skull cracking coalition hadn't come to power.

            1. The Guardian just envies the CCP's capability to stifle impure thoughts among its subjects.

            2. Assigning any rational meaning to the random emissions from The Guardian is a bit of a stretch.

        3. Hu might even have some suggestions about how to improve American democracy?

          Yeah, I'm sure any commie would have lots of ideas on how to "improve" American democracy.

          1. I imagine they think we should all go camping, and will both provide the camps and mandate their use. Democracy!

      2. There were plenty of people who said that trade with China would bring moderation and even personnel freedom.

        They don't mention that much anymore.

        1. Oh well, then fuck that, then. Because that's the *only* benefit of trade.

          1. Ban free trade, retard. It helps no one.

            1. Look, not until I get a better mail order bride, m'kay?

          2. Another benefit of trade, in which we provide them both the means and blueprints to produce our goods, is that they can skip all the in-between steps of innovation and give us the finger when we try to sell our products to them.


        2. Trade provides opportunities, not guarantees.

        3. Considering what China was like under Mao, I would say that people who said trade would improve things for the Chinese were spot on.

          1. Did trade improve things or did things improve allowing for trade? I think the people who see trade as some magic recipe for freedom get the causality backwards. Things improving is what caused the trade, not vice versa. Contrast China to Cuba. Cuba trades with the world and has a big tourism industry. And things are in many ways worse in Cuba today than they were in the 1970s. The trade didn't improve the government.

            1. I recall talking to folks back in the 90s about how business was really struggling with doing business in China. Lots of people saw the opportunities, but the legal system there was pretty much guaranteed to fuck the gaijin.

              So, you don't get trade until you get the conditions for trade, which requires internal reform. The hope is that trade will also drive more internal reform (not without reason).

              But if NK were to say "Hey, Intel, howsabout building a billion dollar plant here? We have cheaper labor, etc.", Intel would be foolish to take them up on it, because Intel would have zero confidence that the Norks would let them keep the plant or otherwise not screw them first chance they got.

              1. Whenever I see "Nork", I think, "That's my boy, Norton Nork. You've done it again."

            2. RC touches on it, but trade is a net benefit regardless of the political climate.

              I know someone who grew up in Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) in the late 70's and 80's. The stories she tells are fucking chilling. They basically had nothing. She slept on wooden boards and got new clothes once per year, before Tet. Protein was an occasional egg and chicken a couple times per year.

              It's better there now, both politically and economically. But you don't get the economic improvement without trade.

              1. AGain. its better but that doesn't mean the trade made it better. What happened is that it got better and the improvement allowed the trade to occur.

        4. I would say it has (or contributed to the growth of those things), compared to the China of the 1980s (there is probably feedback between trade leading to some moderation and moderation leading to more trade). And increasing exposure to freer societies may yet lead to greater freedom in China (but I don't expect the government to go along with that willingly).

      3. The transition was peaceful in E. Germany.

  8. You know how it works - you invest there, and in order to do business you have to bribe and grease wheels. Then eventually commie government launches some crackdown like this pretending they didn't know it was going on all along.

    There's all this talk about Cuba opening up to investment. Americans can invest there now. Well, why the hell would we? Europeans and Canadians have been free to do so and a lot have stayed away. Some who have gone in have profited, but some have ended up in Cuban prisons for their trouble.

    1. The other issue with your more heavy-handed Total State dictators is that the profits don't go to anyone but them and their cronies. How making the bad guys rich is supposed to help the good guys is . . . unclear.

      Look at the hotel workers in Cuba. We're going to open a bunch of new hotels, pay really good wages to the locals . . . oops, no, we are paying really good wages to the State, who skims most of it and pays the workers subsistence-level pay.

      How that game is going to be a driver of reform is . . . unclear.

    2. So I guess Jim Rogers' advice from about 2000 to 2010 was wrong. But probably not his fault for misreading the long term.

  9. "At the center of this retrograde trend is Xi's enormously ambitious initiative to purge the Chinese Communist Party of what he calls "tigers and flies," namely corrupt officials and businessmen both high and low."

    The more arbitrary power you give government officials, the more they will use it arbitrarily.

    You cannot have unaccountable government officials without corruption. No amount of purging will ever get rid of it.

    The problem isn't the individual bureaucrats that are wielding the power. The problem is that power is being wielded by unaccountable bureaucrats.

    You can help address that with democracy and a free press, but the CCP isn't about to try that. And even with democracy and a free press, the more power is wielded by unaccountable bureaucrats, the more arbitrarily they will wield their power.

    There's an ancient Chinese proverb that can be traced back to the imperial examination system and the bureaucracy that was established during the Han dynasty. That saying has been especially popular with bureaucrats ever since, and it goes, "All your base are belong to us".

    1. "All your base are belong to us".

      I thought that was a Japanese proverb.

      1. Some kind of Asian.

      2. "You require additional pylons"

    2. The trouble with democracy in this case is that, according to the linked article, the anti-corruption campaign is widely popular with regular folks, & is seen as a reform movement that comes from above. So if they did have democracy, they'd just be cemented into power further, because mandate.

  10. Any day now, governors will begin to ban state trade officials from traveling to China, and a long list of U.S. companies will be refusing to do business there.

    1. Probably not, because China does stuff like this:

      China Demands Shutdown of DisneyLife Service

      Unlike the yokels in our Southern states, China can put the hurt on a US company's ROI.

      1. I think he was being sarcastic.

        1. Rhywun's sarc meter is always operating in top fashion.

  11. The consequences of running afoul of government orders have become ever more grave. Last August, for instance, a financial journalist for the weekly business magazine Caijing was detained after reporting on government manipulation of China's stock markets and forced to denounce his own coverage in a humiliating self-confession on China Central Television (CCTV).

    And here in the US we have elites calling for the same treatment of climate change dissidents, but no way they'd ever acknowledge the equivalence.

    1. "All news media run by the Party must work to speak for the Party's will and its propositions, and protect the Party's authority and unity," Xi Thomas Friedman warned.

      1. I wish we could be China for a day, you know. God I hate that guy.

        1. It might be worth it if we got to see Friedman put up against a wall and shot.

    2. Plenty of progressive environmentalists respect the Chinese government on population control.

      "It is only as demographic growth begins to slow that the country is able to embark on an ambitious journey of ecological rehabilitation."

      ----"In Praise of China's One-Child Policy", Huffiana Post

      The enforcement of a one-child policy might seem like it would be problematic for progressives who are on the record saying things like, "My body, my choice", but it's important to remember that progressives aren't limited by the petty constraints of consistency.

      1. It's just those slanty-eyed Chinks that are getting abused by their government, no reason to be concerned about it at all.

        The proggy left never fails to amaze me with their overt racism while they accuse everyone else of the same.

        1. And how does enforcement of a one-child policy work with, say, low income, devout Catholic, Mexican-Americans?

          If they're not going to imprison those women and forcibly abort their children (like they've done in China), what are the progressives going to do to enforce a one-child policy?

          I suppose they could make women pay a penaltax, but 1) we're talking about taxing people specifically because of their religious beliefs (in this case), and 2) we're talking about taxing people of low income.

          1. Progressives love regressive taxation when it comes to vice taxes.

          2. Considering we've shown that we have no problem taxing people for being alive with the ACA, I can't see how anything past that (which is basically everything) would be shocking to anyone.

            1. Well, it would certainly be hypocritical of progressives to effectively tax poor Mexican-Americans for being Mexican-Americans, and that's what we were talking about--progressive hypocrisy.

        2. It's as Jules Feiffer wrote many YA about how Chinese regimes always get off easy here, because, "China is China."

      2. "My body, my choice" applies solely to abortion. Choosing to have a child is not the correct choice.

        1. You would think, perhaps incorrectly, that such a stance would repair itself over time.

          1. It's just an application of their general stance on liberty: you're free to do as we say. And, like most of their policies, it's a catastrophic failure in practice, both in securing the ends they want and compelling people to accept it.

      3. Progressives don't believe "your body, your choice". They just believe, "Abortions, fuck yeah!"

  12. The Chinese government loosening the grip was a sign of confidence and strength. They had been through the insanity of Mao and the dissidents were either dead or so broken that they would go along with about anything that ensured Mao never happened again.

    The fact that they are tightening up is conversely a sign of weakness. They are terrified of upheval and unrest and no longer have the confidence they can control their people through any means except brute force. This fear is especially acute in Chinese leaders since the country's entire history has been one long repeating cycle of stability followed by societal chaos.

    No one ever believes a country is going to fall apart until it does. I think there is a good chance China comes apart at the seems sometime in the next 20 years.

    1. no longer have the confidence they can control their people through any means except brute force

      I thought whipping up the youth with nationalistic propaganda that accelerated in recent decades was bad enough but yeah it probably gets worse.

      1. The people I have talked to who have done business in China tell me it is hard to imagine the scale of the corruption there if you haven't experienced. Everyone is on the take and you can't do anything if you don't have the means to bribe the right people. No amount of "we want revenge on the Japanese" is going to get the average Chinese to ignore that amount of corruption and incompetence.

        1. Sounds like what America is becoming.

          1. Obama and the poo bahs in Congress are working hard to get there. They haven't gotten there yet but no one can say they don't have a dream or are not trying to achieve it.

            Most of our political leaders drool a little bit when they imagine what life must be like for elites in places like China or Latin America.

            1. If you were looking for a way to enrich yourself and your buddies off the backs of your countrymen you couldn't do much better than CCP - that have it down to a science.

    2. There's always a slight chance of coming apart at the seams, but more likely another cycle wherein Xi is repudiated, a bunch of cronies take the fall, and there's liberaliz'n for another round of 10-20 yrs.

  13. At the center of this retrograde trend is Xi's enormously ambitious initiative to purge the Chinese Communist Party of what he calls "tigers and flies," namely corrupt officials and businessmen both high and low.

    The Four Pests campaign, Part Deux.

  14. The Chinese people had their chance at liberty and they blew it. Why? I guess they just don't really want it. It's more fun to abuse and exploit people as a party apparatchik - if you can hide your ill-gotten wealth to make people think you are not motivated by greed. I don't think it's too late for a revolution. But it's not gonna get any easier.

    1. When did they have their chance at liberty?

      1. 1989. If the entire country had risen up, the government would have not stood a chance. The country did not rise up and that wasn't' just because the government stopped them. It was because the population as a whole valued stability and security more than they did liberty. They were not just afraid of being shot. They supported shooting the demonstrators because they were more afraid of the chaos that might result from actual liberty.

        whatever you think of that attitude, it is what happened. China is not under a foreign occupation the way Eastern Europe was. The Chinese are oppressing themselves.

        1. It was because the population as a whole valued stability and security more than they did liberty.

          Sounds familiar.

          1. It is both common and not always irrational. A real revolution is a nightmare. It is easy for you and I to think there should be one. We won't suffer the consequences. The people who will are understandably a bit more hesitant.

          2. "Sounds familiar."

            But not true. Most common-folk Chinese did not support the regime out of fear of liberty, an unsupported and ridiculous claim. They supported the regime because they viewed the protesting students much like John and many others here do. The students were societies most privileged and they were ingrates. They should have been studying rather than taking to the streets causing trouble. We see the same sentiments repeated here almost daily.

            1. If mtrueman was a Chinese tank driver he would've run right over that one dude.

              1. He wouldn't have stopped at just one.

              2. "If mtrueman was a Chinese tank driver he would've run right over that one dude."

                Same could be said of anyone here. Although I would insist on 'if mtueman were,,,' Military isn't military if orders aren't followed.

                I think this is being misconstrued. Tiananmen was not over liberty but democracy. Chinese had gained quite a number of liberties in that decade of economic reforms. But on the question of democracy, nothing had budged. I suppose another swing to the left is as good a way to stave off democracy for the time being.

  15. So Bernie Sanders is popular there, too. Sad.

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  17. As popular as Xi's battle against corruption has been among ordinary people?a 2014 Harvard study showed him as having the highest approval ratings of any world leader

    LOL. Imagine that.

  18. Media serving as propaganda megaphones for "The Party," dissent being punished, churches being blown up; sounds like a model for a progressive utopia [here].

  19. Xi 's Reds sounds like a role model for the cadre of Naomi Klein Greens who want to jail and reeducate deviants from the Climate Party line:

    "Demanding...dissidents be refused foreign platforms; threatening the advertising bases of overseas media outlets that challenge its positions; and now even abducting foreign nationals abroad and "renditioning" them back to China where it forces them into making televised "confessions. It is hardly surprising that Chinese have started whispering about a new "climate of fear" (kongbude qifen)

    1. "and now even abducting foreign nationals abroad and "renditioning" them back to China"

      What's more important, if past campaigns like the one not long ago against crime are a model, there will be purges (executions) in every county in the country. The numbers quickly become enormous.

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