February 16, 2009
Last week, a foreign correspondent from Singapore asked a Chinese researcher in psycho-sociology about the likelihood of revolution in China. His answer was: “nothing is impossible, but chances are minimal” (Courrier International). Is he to be believed ?
China´s evolution for the past forty years proves that major change in this country usually comes from above. To recall but one example, the major shift in China´s economic policy had been engineered in 1979 by the now-defunct Communist party strongman, Deng Xiaoping. In strictly economic terms, the results have been spectacular. Alas, China´s political system is antiquated, lacking in the openness and flexibility needed to better manage dissent and workers´revolts in the current economic downturn.
Chinese Communist party officials are these days bracing themselves to face potential social turmoil. They advocate the intervention of all party activists, who are counted upon to convince people, “man-to-man”, that protesting is not the way to react to economic stress. To make matters worse, the upcoming 20th anniversary of the brutal Tiananmen Square repression makes them jittery.
The cannons of the party propaganda machine are now squarely aimed at the press. Although state-controlled, the Chinese press counts thousands of newspapers and magazines, in fierce competition with each other for readership. Some regularly publish sensational news about official corruption cases and bureaucratic abuses. This is mainly why Li Dongdong, deputy chief of the General Administration of Press and Publication, is compiling “a full database of people who engage in unhealthy professional conduct” reporting “fake news”. More to the point, apparatchiks are preparing a blacklist of journalists who dare criticise censorship and expose corruption in China. Commenting on these additional shackles imposed on press freedoms, Li Datong, ousted ex-editor of China Youth Daily, says “This fighting fake news is a cloak. You can call all sorts of news fake”.(Source: China Post)
Led these days by the Communist party´s fourth generation of leaders, one can sense that China is eagerly awaiting its fifth generation of leaders to take the reins of government. Long eschewed by the party elders, democratisation would probably figure high on their agenda. Why ? Because the “one country-two systems” formula employed by Beijing bureaucracy to protect the market economy in Hong Kong and Macao has totally lost its appeal. Derided by Taiwanese as “bird-cage democracy”, the pro-democracy measures taken so far in these territories are, at best, regarded as an exercise in window-dressing aimed at Western officialdom.
If the fear of a repeat Tiananmen Square upheaval seems misplaced, the journalists´anxiety about the new press restrictions is not. The latter prove that Beijing officials haven´t yet learned how useful a tool a freer press could be in helping them gauge the levels of popular discontent and in exposing major economic fraud.
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* Read also ASIA’S OWN “GERMANS”Florian Pantazi