Flutterby™! : Decentral control

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Decentral control

2006-07-18 17:13:16.602704+00 by petronius 4 comments

I caught this story in the London Times about a civil rights lawyer in China being tried for threatening lawsuits against harsh family planning measures in the provinces. While the story is interesting in itself as a measure of what the Chinese really think about these laws, it brings up a question even more interesting: How much control does Beijing actually have over the interior?

Conservative commentators treat even today's foreign-trade driven Chinese regime as being little different from the old Maost one, but even if you believe that they can run a capitalist economy while maintaining strict centralized party control, incidents like this are strange. Local officials are running their own show, and have local "gangsters" to help them keep control on the locals. The patently fake reports Beijing was getting over the SARS epidemic proves that they can't trust data coming from local officials. The creation of a civil society, even on authoritarian lines, is hampered by obstructionists and petty satraps. Even the central government admits that there are thousands of riots and disturbances each year. I suspect that the jury is still out on whether or not China can keep things running. If the central government cleaned up the local officaldoms they might gain the trust of the people, but can a one-party state admit that some parts are corrupt?

[ related topics: Sociology Law Civil Liberties ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2006-07-18 20:21:40.210696+00 by: Dan Lyke

One of the reasons that I've said that Cantonese will be the dominant Chinese language, not Mandarin, is exactly this: I believe that much of China's economic power right now exists despite Beijing, not because of it, and that a lot of that is coming from what are essentially autonomous zones in the southern regions (ie: Guandong). I believe that there are regions of China that are essentially free-market capitalist, or as close as can be with the organized crime inducing aspects of a repressive regime, and that China's central government knows it can't do anything about those, so instead it leeches off that prosperity to give the illusion of economic growth elsewhere.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-07-18 21:57:27.314737+00 by: petronius

This may be true, but there is more evidence about stuff going on in the sticks that neither the central nor local parties know anything about. This item from TCS Daily has a Western observer asking about private schools in a backward province, and the local grandees saying there might be few for the elite in the big cities (that whirring sound is the last Red Guard spinning in his grave). Yet a little research found 600 tiny schools in poor villages. Some new society is self-organizing in China, and I don't think the Party is in contol.

#Comment Re: made: 2006-07-18 22:18:06.552543+00 by: Dan Lyke

Time to update Gibson to "the street finds its own uses for social structures"?

#Comment Re: made: 2006-07-19 11:51:12.161792+00 by: petronius

More confusion coming: Salon has a short piece on that famous figure of 87,000 civil disturbances in China. It turns out it was released by the cops themselves. Some observers say its part of an internal power struggle within the Party itself. The police may release the figures to embarass the other faction to slow down economic growth while the country catches up to the big city. Is this a sly leftist tactic, or a policeman's general dislike of disorder? I suppose its better that they are fighting it out through press releases rather than thru dueling purges, which shows a big change in China all by itself.