Tuesday 22 February 2011

The Great Fall of China — 1

On 28 January 2011, the State Council Information Office and Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security of China issued the following notice to its people:
"For the disturbances in Egypt, media across the nation must use copy circulated from Xinhua.  Websites are to strengthen [monitoring] of posts, forums, blogs, and particularly posts on microblogs.  Our bureaus will forcibly shut down websites that are lax in monitoring."

 This was soon after the Jasmine Revolution ousted Ben Ali in Tunisia and the Egyptians were flowing into Tahrir Square, which ultimately led to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. People's protests are now infiltrating the streets of Beijing and other major Chinese cities, giving the Communist Party of China led by Hu Jintao splitting headaches almost to a point of nervous breakdowns. The harmony of the Party's absolute rule may be in danger.

This is underscored by the disproportionate  response from security forces to the protestors who, unlike the massive crowds in Egypt and Tunisia, numbered only a hundred or so. Many large cities in China now have heavy armed police presence since the Chinese version of Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution surfaced.

In a further sign of the Chinese authorities' growing nervousness, the Party boss Hu Jintao summoned top leaders to a special 'study session' on last Saturday and commanded them to address growing social problems before they became threats to stability.

In almost Orwellian doublespeak, Hu told the top ruling elites that “...the overall requirements for enhancing and innovating social management are to stimulate vitality in the society and increase harmonious elements to the greatest extent, while reducing inharmonious factors to the minimum.”

Hu's 'inharmonious factors' are people who demand a fair share in their lives, like the old woman whose land was grabbed by a well-connected property dealer, and others who want a greater say in their future, like a young displaced factory worker.

In the case of Tibet, Hu's ‘inharmonious factors' can mean anything from singing Tibetan songs to downloading a 'reactionary' tune into your mobile phone or refusing to sell your livestock to State-operated slaughterhouses. The thuggish Chinese security apparatus can fabricate anything and arrest any Tibetan anytime anywhere. Since 2008 over 80 well-known Tibetan intellectuals have been arrested and incarcerated. The number of ordinary people detained or disappeared may never be known.

The reason why Hu and the gang go to such an extent to hammer down any dissenting voices is because they know that one voice leads to another and soon the sounds of popular people’s chants can topple Zhongnanhai. They also understand that the system they are juggling has many weak tangents.

The corruption is rampant and reaches the highest echelons of power. A number of China experts believe that corruption has become indispensable as it makes the political system more stable. Party cadres, who run the system, are lowly paid and their only option is to earn in any 'unofficial' way they can. If corruption is stamped out there is a possibility that millions of cadres will simply discard their allegiance to the Party.

The Chinese economic miracle, that is widely talked, discussed and analyzed, is fundamentally not as sound as it appears. According to the 7 January issue of The Guardian Weekly, the cost of China's environmental degradation was a whopping $197 billion in 2008, which is 3.9 percent of the GDP. The cost of pollution spills and the other eco-disasters rose by more than 74% in the  last five years.

Unbridled 'development' and the get-rich-at-any-cost ethos have done massive and lasting damage to China's water systems, forests and soil. This is doubly worse in Tibet, where the glaciers are melting faster than elsewhere and the excessive mining is damaging the fragile eco-system beyond repair. However, the economic machine cannot be slowed down since the Party's legitimacy and authority to rule is derived solely from economic growth. The Party assumes that as long as the Chinese people enjoy economic development everything else in their lives can be co-opted.

However, the gap between rich and poor is at its greatest in history. While some have accumulated enormous wealth, millions still live in abject poverty. Moreover, in today's China it is critical to have guanxi, or personal connections, for getting ahead in life. the poor, and  recent migrants from the countryside or graduates with degrees from second-tier universities, lack such connections. Yet they witness the rich and the children of high Party cadres achieve everything through guanxi. The disaffection felt then multiplies by millions.

The political system under which these angst develop is deeply flawed. The Party is the government. The Party is the judiciary. The Party is the media. The Party is the law enforcement. It is a baffling system where the 'Party trumps all else.' Since only less than 5 percent of 1.3 billion Chinese are members of the Party, that makes 95 percent outsiders. Hu's 'inharmonious factors' stem from this great majority in the form of riots numbering over 75,000 a year. The balance is one day bound to tip over in favour of this majority.

These are the Party's great dilemmas. These are the reasons why Hu called in key decision-makers for a special 'study session' to discuss ways to quell any public protest to prevent this house of cards from collapsing.

We Tibetans must realize that the conditions for popular people's uprisings are as ripe today in China as we have seen in Egypt,  Tunisia and elsewhere. The fact that impromptu gatherings over the last few days in a few major Chinese cities almost coalesced into a Chinese Jasmine Revolution is a potent sign. Since popular uprisings against authoritarian rule in China are bound to continue, we must prepare for our own Yak Revolution and for any other eventualities.

When that happens unlike the protestors in China who were urged to shout "We want food, We want work, We want housing, We want fairness," our chant will be: "Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!"


  1. The Yak Revolution must be sparked by the Yaks living in Buffalo's country, and eventually must join the yaks back in Tibet!
    Yes yaks, this is the perfect time for us to have a yak revolution.
    Yes yaks yalongshock, yell it "Free Tibet" and let us have a yak revolution.

  2. Corruption is a good medicine for China democracy .