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Behind The Scenes In China

Just a quick note about what I see happening behind the scenes in China.

The administration of Hu Jintao has made a recent effort to push for transparency and accountability in China, especially related to disbursement of funds related to the Sichuan earthquake, and then acting quickly against corrupt local officials in Wengan in Guizhou province.

The center in Beijing is responding to a popular demand for greater accountability and transparency, and is using this as an opportunity clean house within the ruling party. The message from Beijing to the local party officials is simple: Shape up or be removed from your position.

When Deng Xiaoping introduced his reforms beginning in 1978, he gave local officials wide leeway as to how investment was brought in. The reason for this was simple: Beijing had no money; it was bankrupt. The side effect of this policy has been rampant local corruption. All kinds of games have been played in the name of making the numbers reported back to Beijing. Many of these corrupt officials have escaped China, and are living in the US in multi-million dollar mansions paid for in cash. Behind the scenes, the Hu administration has been quietly working with the US’s Justice Department to bring these officials back to China for prosecution.

As the amounts of the corruption have grown, so has popular resentment. Beijing knows that it must act to clean house. The failure of local governments and party organizations to act forcefully and clean up their own houses have handed Beijing an excellent excuse to act forcefully, and handed multiple PR victories to the center. Chinese bloggers who highlight local corruption have become the eyes and ears of Beijing on the local level. When the decision is made that local corruption needs to be escalated to the national level, then Xinhua mobilizes its formidable machine to shape public opinion on the national level. Then Beijing comes in and acts forcefully, removing the corrupt officials, and making them an example to local government and party organizations all over China.

If you believe that this is simply about accountability and transparency though, you would be naive. It is also about money and how investment decisions are made in China.

Beijing is seeking to recover many of the financial and investment decision making powers which Deng handed over to the provinces and local party officials. In the context of this drive against local corruption, the local administrations and organizations are in a weak position to resist Beijing’s efforts to recover investment-making decisions. China needs higher value-added, higher technology industries which rely more on research, development and IP. Provincial governments and party organizations have not acted quickly enough to upgrade from inefficient, dirty industries which rely on cheap labor. This means that now the investment decisions need to be made from the center in Beijing, with the support of public opinion, of course.

While the Chinese government does not understand PR in a western context, it knows exactly what it’s doing in a Chinese context.




6 Responses to “Behind The Scenes In China”

  1. [...] theory on the link between the central government’s push for greater accountability and transparency [...]

  2. SinaSource says:

    “Behind the scenes”? Please tell us about your access to decisions and policy-making in China. Are you in touch with high officials? Examining documents? Where is this information coming from? A careful analysis of Party doctrine and statements? Speeches of leading cadres? A presentation of the subtle differences within the leadership?

    No, it does not. It comes from using a Western source or two, and then giving your opinion of the news reports of others–an opinion which is pretty much meaningless without any evidence to back it up. Anyone can do that from their desk, and tell prospective clients that you really know China.

    By the way, where exactly has Beijing come in and removed party officials? (What is “Beijing” anyway–everybody in the leadership agrees? That would come as a surprise to anyone who actually studied the country instead of simply jumping on the bandwagon of commenting about it.) Apart from Weng’an, not anywhere else, nor has it done so for months, for reasons clear to anyone who actually studies the subject instead of making ill-founded and unstudied pronouncements about it.

    But then again, this blog is completely about the latter–that, and telling everyone that others get China wrong but you do not. What–apart from boundless ego and imagination–entitles you to make such a claim?

  3. someonesomeone says:

    @sinasource
    Beijing hasn’t come in and removed corrupt officials, apart from Weng’an, in these few months? I think you should stop thinking that western media will catch all acts of CCP cleaning itself. It would look too good for CCP. Beijing have removed dozens of officials for earthquake relief negligence; a official and his son got sentenced life for taking public fund to open a real estate company; some officials involved in tiger gate are removed. There are more cases that are reported by the media by I don’t know. There are definitely more cases that went through with the public knowing. CCP, as a policy, do not publicize anything, including corrupt officials getting removed. The ones that the public knows about are the ones that got leaked or the ones that quell public anger.

    I like this blog. Maybe it doesn’t provide sources, but it provide educated and insightful observation of China that aren’t mainstreamed already. Did you expect blogs to be researched quality, Sinasource?

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