Corrupt Chinese Officials Plan Escape Routes.
April 23, 2001 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Corrupt Chinese Officials Plan Escape Routes. Why? Because they believe the collapse of the Chinese government is imminent. Their planning is premature, experts quoted here say. But we all know that experts can often be . . . well, not so expert. Wild headline, to say the least.
posted by raysmj (36 comments total)
This week's New Yorker mentions an explosion in a Chinese fireworks factory where 38 school children were killed---(the children were making fireworks as a part of "hands-on" learning exercise.....right). The article, though, is mainly about how chatrooms and the internet have changed things in China and how the wealth of information available has forced the government to be more accountable---and it has also made the population more incendiary (think: Bush and his "apology.") So, basically, in terms of this article and the New Yorker article--thinks aren't looking very good for China.
posted by AdamR218 at 10:39 PM on April 23, 2001

I don't think a "Collapse of Communism" is all that likely in China. Contrary to popular opinion in the United States, China stopped being communist about 20 years ago.
posted by lagado at 11:15 PM on April 23, 2001

actually, they're socialist.
posted by elle at 11:19 PM on April 23, 2001

Yes, it's more nationalist, which is why I didn't state "communist" in my description even though its stated as such in the article. The government's collapse would, however, still be a very big deal.
posted by raysmj at 11:21 PM on April 23, 2001

nationalist/authoritarian, quasi-state capitalist/socialist actually.
posted by raysmj at 11:24 PM on April 23, 2001

We've been hearing about the Evil Corrupt Chinese Leaders preparing for a Glorious Capitalistic life in the Great Satan almost as long as we've been hearing about The Imminent Downfall of Fidel Castro. North Korea's been under far more stress the last few years, and they're still far from government collapse.

Until there's a Mikhail Gorbachev in either place, those totalitarian regimes are there to stay. The revolution must be at least partially internal in places where running over citizens with the military is acceptable.
posted by swell at 11:35 PM on April 23, 2001

Nice one, swell (or should that have been Nice One? but I digress). Articles like that pop all over the place to, I think, reassure your average westerner -- look! commie bastards suck! their downfall is imminent! -- that their position on the top of the food chain is secure. It's much easier to take media soundbites like "Evil Corrupt Chinese Leaders" at face value, than to actually take the time to learn about what's happening in other countries, or to even think about the billions of people that live there as actual people.
posted by lia at 11:49 PM on April 23, 2001

lia ... no kidding? they're actual people?!

I'm not so sure that I'd bet on a quick revolution in China. The bigger question at hand is who is to follow Jiang Zemin: politically he only has a few years left. I'm among those speculating that in the Hainan plane incident the military wasn't telling the civilian government everything, as part of denouement power plays. Unfortunately, there isn't any apparent restiveness among the people right now for greater political freedom ... and this "exit plan" anti-corruption hysteria breeds the perfect environment for destroying the careers of reformers. With the standard of living skyrocketing, there's broad popular support for the status quo.

That said, it has been quite amazing to see the transformation of governments such as Indonesia's. Though far from a fully open Western democracy, they quickly transformed sham institutions like Suharto's hand-picked legislature to reasonable facsimiles of democratic institutions that could provide a voice for the people. If that can happen in one Asian authoritarian régime, it can happen in China, too.
posted by dhartung at 12:27 AM on April 24, 2001

a good way to get a feel of a people is through art.
and no, not the tacky bamboo dragon embroidery-iron-on crap from the mall ......
posted by elle at 12:30 AM on April 24, 2001

After Tienanmen, the Chinese leadership starting emphasizing heavy doses of state patriotism in the schools. They figured that a little nationalism would stop the kids from having a chance of growing up into a bunch of soft banner-waving wussies that dreamt of unwelcome vague idealistic concepts like democracy. It worked, too. Now they've raised a generation of angry, hardcore jingoists who think the leaders in Beijing are the wussies. And as lagado says, the country isn't even really Communist anymore (just authoritarian), and thus there's no ideological stability holding the government together. Combine that simmering mass of barely-mature humanity with the lack of Communist teachings to point everyone in the same direction, and you've got a prescription for disaster.

Indeed, I think the Bush Administration is on to this, and that's why they're going a bit softer than you might expect on Taiwan arms sales and other China policies. Why risk taunting Beijing when you can just play it cool, sit back, and watch them implode on their own?

Sidenote: The Chicoms (I love that term, it's so '50s!) are falling into the same trap as the Soviets. They're pouring way too much money into a military buildup, money they really don't yet have. This will only destabilize their domestic situation over time, as it did in the USSR, and thus destabilize the regime. That's why the US keeps the heat on to at least some extent, IMHO.
posted by aaron at 12:35 AM on April 24, 2001

And of course kids in the U.S. don't get heavy doses of state patriotism in their schools, do they? Of course!

As a professor of mine pointed out, it's all propaganda anyway -- we just tend to think of it as propaganda, with all the negative conotations of that word, when it comes from people we don't like.
posted by lia at 1:01 AM on April 24, 2001

Pehaps Clinton can pardon them. Or they could come here and teach at our universities or write for our think tanks. Better yet, we might arrange an exchange and send our corrupt leaders there and take in theirs.
posted by Postroad at 1:53 AM on April 24, 2001

That said, it has been quite amazing to see the transformation of governments such as Indonesia's. Though far from a fully open Western democracy, they quickly transformed sham institutions like Suharto's hand-picked legislature to reasonable facsimiles of democratic institutions that could provide a voice for the people. If that can happen in one Asian authoritarian régime, it can happen in China, too.

Actually, dhartung, far from being the rosy picture that you paint it, the Republic of Indonesia might actually serve as a good counter example.

Suharto's cronies are far from finished. Some are even ministers in a government that they are actively undermining. The President is a lame duck and is hamstrung by scandals and impeachment proceedings. The military is tacitly and sometimes openly supporting sectarian and separatist violence right across the country.

Indonesia is actually far closer to collapse and/or civil war than China is. No doubt the next strongman is just waiting in the wings.
posted by lagado at 5:51 AM on April 24, 2001

aaron is right that the main doctrinal force operating in China today is nationalism. However, I wouldn't underestimate it's ability to galvanize the population behind its government. Take American nationalism (chauvinism) as your example.

The emergence of nationalism in China is, of course, more than a little worrisome to the rest of the region.
posted by lagado at 6:05 AM on April 24, 2001

Sure, America has propoganda too, sure there is nationalism here too. But this article was not played up much, nor was anything else printed elsewhere. I despise the way people have written that, oh, capitalism and general stuff triumphed over the Communist countries in the Cold War. But the summer after I graduated from college the Chinese government conducted a massacre of peacefully protesting students. Not just shooting rubber bullets at them, shooting them and rolling over them with tanks, etc. That government can't go soon enough. Tell me we'd do the same thing, and I'd point you toward compadre and wheeler-dealer with corrupt governments everywhere, Henry Kissinger. Maybe he'd give you a job, and you can suck up to repressive authoritarian goverments worldwide with him. America has lot of work to do on its end before preaching to anyone else is unquestionable -- that this means taking up for China and blowing off any news about them as "capitalist propoganda" is a highly dubious reponse.
posted by raysmj at 7:52 AM on April 24, 2001

I'd love to see the repressive communist Chinese government fall, let's hope it falls like a ton of bricks faster that you can "Chairman Mao"
posted by ImAlwaysRight at 9:50 AM on April 24, 2001

Great, now a troll. A few intelligent posts here, but mostly knee-jerk media conspiracy crap, plus a new post from from a troll. I'll remember not to post anything regarding China again.
posted by raysmj at 10:21 AM on April 24, 2001

Not just your garden-variety troll, raysmj, but a troll with a perfect troll name! Smells like persistent MeFi troll FreeSpeech has reregistered...
posted by lia at 10:28 AM on April 24, 2001

A hope, however naive it may be, is not a troll. Especially since few people actual want the current regime in China to survive.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:44 AM on April 24, 2001

It seems The "Western Garden" is trying to keep all the HK$ in the central commitee coffers. Give them a refrigerator and a Buick...but portable wealth keeps your options open. Where would they run, Taiwan, Langley,Auckland? by leaking the "exisistence" of escape routes one lights up the path those routes follow. very, very good post. Make western winkie-winks think 2765 times before coming to an inconclusion, no?
posted by clavdivs at 11:37 AM on April 24, 2001

Didn't the National Guard kill four peaceful protesting students at Kent State University during the Viet Nam War, raysmj?

That is a perfect troll name by the way. I guess it is a pun, as in ImAlwaysRight(Winger).
posted by donkeymon at 11:41 AM on April 24, 2001

The National Guard did not kill hundreds or possibly thousands of people at one time, and was not "nationalized" at the time, either, if I remember my history correctly. And, sheesh, I only grew up hearing about it "the real story," so to speak, on TV retrospectives and history books and whatnot, in less than a decade after the event actually occured. Next comparison?
posted by raysmj at 11:53 AM on April 24, 2001

I was just asking; I don't really remember much about Kent State except the Neil Young song. I think that for the most part the social engineering is, to some exctent, more subtle and powerful so that actual physical violence is not as necessary as often. Americans are in large part fairly pliant as long as the can have their Christina Aguilera and Lincoln Navigators. That I feel is more insidious than an oppresive regime and strongarm tactics.
posted by donkeymon at 1:01 PM on April 24, 2001

Now that was a troll!
posted by ParisParamus at 1:05 PM on April 24, 2001

Yes. Donkeymon, don't be ridiculous. And let me guess what you used to send your post, Mr. Pliant Tool of Capitalism. Actually, just read a whole ton of Christian slams, and hear people make fun of her all the time. It's a national sport.
posted by raysmj at 1:08 PM on April 24, 2001

I am (alas) old enough to recall Kent State. Four guys were killed by the National Guard, who, it was later claimed, were ill prepared for crowd control and had (wrong move) live ammo. The incident was so horrendous in terms of tv coverage etc that it helped galvanize the anti-Viet Nam movement and over an extended period of time of course Americans lost their appetite for this war and we called it quits.
I remember the incident because I had a friend, a professor, who went from Washing state to Kent State for a teaching job and wrote to tell me how peaceful, buccolic and rural the place was!
I love Christina. I love nice cars. I love capitalism. If only it wouldn't kill democracy as it seems to have done.
posted by Postroad at 2:18 PM on April 24, 2001

Should we forget here, though, that one of the reasons America "normalized" relations with China, and Bush the Elder refused to say anything about the massacre even immediately after it happened, was, er, trade with China? And now Congress is all in a dither as to whether it should let said trade continue as is. Pat Robertson has changed his mind as to whether mass abortion is bad in China and America - it's fine in China, and for much the same reason Pat loves doing the stock market report. Besides, Rupert Murdoch's son feels much the same way.

(The Robertson stock update on "The 700 Club" is an incredibly hilarious thing to watch. If you ever flip past the Pat show, watch or keep flipping back for the stock market update, after which all the staff turns to Pat in E.F. Hutton fashion to hear what wisdom Pat has today.)

The not-so-secret story of the decade, maybe, is that Congress isn't as gung-ho about the whoe anything-for-trade bit as the major media are.
posted by raysmj at 9:16 PM on April 24, 2001

that this means taking up for China and blowing off any news about them as "capitalist propoganda" is a highly dubious reponse.

I didn't see anyone actually "taking up for China", raysmj. Perhaps pouring a little cold water on wishful thinking could be misconstrued that way.

Unfortunately, wishing the Chinese government out of existence isn't going to do you much good, really. The USA has been wishing for something along similar lines since 1949.
posted by lagado at 6:26 AM on April 25, 2001

I don't think it's wishful thinking. I wanted some real insight into this article, which I received, in part. The rest was standard "American media lie to you, just like they do in China" crap, which doesn't explain this isolated article, but is merely speculation, with no facts backing up the argument. I was fairly appalled, especially by the last two or three which dealt with "democracy's being killed by capitalism" or "capitalism is worse." Sheesh, get off it. Not the metafilter quality I'd expected, at all.
posted by raysmj at 8:46 AM on April 25, 2001

They weren't pouring any cold water, in other words. They were merely posting bulls*** that came off the top of their heads, which is a totally different thing.
posted by raysmj at 8:48 AM on April 25, 2001

Raysmj- comments may have rolled off my mind, but what are you saying, what are you looking for. Asian policy is hard to evaluate as you know. This story seems to be someone taking to a minor chinese offical whos gonna dee-dee-MAO for what ever reason. You want facts? I'll post some facts but you would not have time as it has taken me 4 years to forget what I was taught. Read Lao-tz, chung-tzu, the history of Ch'in, the 1949 revolution. They shot drug dealers in the street. (with a warning) IT STOPPED THE PROBLEM. I'm not picking a fight nor wish to chat. Most of the rest of the world cannot hardly fathom America, Hell we can hardly.Besides, you are all mostly wrong as I was once. China thinks Globally. Heard anything from Japan Lately...not really, we have a new problem. recognize the article as it is, something for us to digest, like theater. I have come to really like this site, a friend told me it was about 7000 of the best on the web. I believe it. I do aplogize for the length and unconvential responce procedures.(and grammar)
posted by clavdivs at 11:20 AM on April 25, 2001

clavdivs: that was exactly more the type of message I was looking for. An analysis, a fairly informed analysis, rather than a typical, "Corporate America is brainwashing you," bit of crap. Some in-depth analysis, rather than a knee-jerk leftie or . . . well, the word "reactionary," explains the other side of the ideological problem, but the knee-jerk leftie (it's all a media conspiracy, America sucks because it destroys your mind, this is all a lie because American media are always this way and want you to hate the commies, blah blah) responses outweighted the one reactionary one here.
posted by raysmj at 11:55 AM on April 25, 2001

Bingo, Tis hard the middle road. It seems that people want one to be left or right. Iv'e been both. It is hard to criticize ones country. i feel you were positing what the story means to the reader, why this story?, what is the journalist saying, how valid is the source.Great post. (Got me thinking)
posted by clavdivs at 4:07 PM on April 25, 2001

Also, one final note here, the story's tone was, "We have this information regarding the planning of escape routes, but still don't believe anything will happen." That seems rather curious. The headline was a bit misleading as far the story went, maybe, but the article wasn't custom-made for Media Brainwashing, I don't think. What the heck were they brainwashing you for? Makes me think people who had a knee-jerk reaction didn't even bother to read the actual story. China's sort of neo-corporatist now, or so I hear, has more dispersed power. I would've loved to hear more about that, but maybe in a future day.
posted by raysmj at 4:12 PM on April 25, 2001

Not the metafilter quality I'd expected, at all.

raysmj, calm down. If you wanted debate I think your ranting pretty much killed that possibility stone dead.

To paraphrase someone else in another thread:
If you weren't so rabid, I would have taken you for a troll.
posted by lagado at 5:18 PM on April 25, 2001

Um, no, people brought it up to me again and asked me questions, so I answered. Wasn't in the best of moods already, but I just answered questions. Sorry.
posted by raysmj at 5:33 PM on April 25, 2001

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