Posts Tagged ‘corruption’


And another thing…

In Chinese blogs,Han Han,Most popular on April 21, 2010 by chinascribe Tagged: , ,

Han Han followed his original posting on Han Feng with this… as of today, 330,429 votes have been cast in Han Feng’s poll, 96% agreeing that Han Feng is a good cadre. Compared to other corruption cases that have recently attracted attention (see the recent anti-corruption campaigns in Chongqing led by Bo Xilai, for example via China Digital Times), Han Feng is a very small fish indeed – but Han Han’s point – that corruption eats away the livelihoods of China’s poorest, even if creates no headlines at all – is an important one.

Where would I find people as good as you? Han Han, March 14, 2010 original post

In my last post but one, I set up a poll, and so far votes have come from a total of 210,000 unique IP addresses. The result is clear: 96% of you – 200,000 people – felt that Han Feng is a good official and should stay in post; only 4% – fewer than 10,000 – felt that he was a bad official who should be severely punished. Of course, I can do many more polls, to make up for everyone’s sense that they have elected so many representatives to the National People’s Congress without ever seeing a ballot paper. From today, I will set up strategic, unilateral co-operation with all major government websites, so that when they set up a votes on some question or other, I will be able to reflect that here; I won’t write anything, so as to avoid influencing the outcome – we will see how the results differ.

Among the voters were people who felt in their hearts that Han Feng was all right that his appetites were rather modest – and others who felt sincerely that he was more civilised than the average official; others who jeered or who mocked him. But everyone was pretty resigned… And we all know now that China has good officials and bad officials. The result of the Han Feng poll shows that we have reached formally a point where almost all our officials are corrupt – the only distinction is between good corrupt officials and bad corrupt officials. Clearly, everyone believes that Han Feng is a good corrupt official.

Although Han Feng has just been arrested for taking a bribe in a land transaction, as we read the press reports we shouldn’t just pay attention to the stuff about his mobile phone, misuse of powers, and petty corruption. In an interview with New Century Weekly, Han Feng’s boss said, “Guangxi’s spending on tobacco is low by national standards, and Laibing district’s spending is lower still. One of Han Feng’s achievements in Laibing is that in 2007 he raised spending on tobacco… above the national average.”

In this fine place, people originally smoked relatively little, but the state set up an organisation in which an official made the local people, who never used to spend much on tobacco, smoke heavily, so that they spent more, and this became the mark of a good leader. Somehow, getting people to smoke became a political or bureaucratic achievement. In any decent country, maybe you don’t ban smoking – but how can you also set up a government department dedicated to making people smoke more? How can you trade people’s health for this minute fraction of your GDP? But when I think about it, it’s quite normal, and this is how it has always been done.

As the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee meet, the media often asks me to suggest proposals for them, or to contribute to documentaries, or even to go to Beijing to be near the congresses, but I always refuse. What would be the point of that? I have my laptop, and I don’t perform like that.

But as the two congresses end, I feel like saying that in fact, our government really is very fortunate. Most people have always believed that the high-ups’ policy is right and only gets distorted when it’s handed down for implementation. After several decades, they still believe that the high-ups’ policy is right – but wonder how it always gets distorted at lower levels. They have never doubted the first proposition, and they still have an instinctive trust in the ‘high-ups’. When they see a problem, they can always, as a last resort, report it to the capital… If they are bullied by the village chief, they think of the township chief; when the township chief turns a blind eye, they turn to the county chief; when the county chief does nothing, they think of the mayor; but they can never get hold of the mayor, so they dream of finding a minister at the centre, or someone even higher up. They think the only problem is that these lower officials have prevented the truth of the injustice being passed on – it never occurs to them that they irritate the hell out of the people they’re trying to see… They just keep chasing their fragile rights, without asking what rights they really have; they remain convinced that it’s no more than a problem with local officials, and if an official in an Audi asks after them at New Year they feel all warm inside. Of course, these people aren’t just poor – they’re the very archetype of poverty. They feel that officials like Han Feng are all right; they have no expectation that officials will serve the people and are happy as long as they don’t make their lives harder. You live in your big house, drive around in your smart car, nurse your petty corruptions – we just don’t care. As long as you don’t trample on the few rights we have, demolish our little houses or mess with our good name, you’re a good official. If netizens despise you, posts can be deleted; if writers despise you, that can be smoothed over; if journalists despise you, all it takes is a word, and nothing untoward need be reported.

So I’d say that this government is lucky – people are so simple and gentle, so easily satisfied – although they have many discontents, they do have a basic trust in the government. They do protest, sometimes, mostly when they get less than they feel they deserve – deal with that, and they will go home happy. With people like that, I would hope that the government could forget the glories of GDP, cut the flowery talk at congress time, take the pressure off people and allow them some dignity – you don’t do that with a Xinhua press release. You can starve, poison or crush these people, let them die of illness, drink or poverty or a hundred other things, but you will find none more honest then they are.