Do China’s Citizens Trust the People in Charge?

Several articles in the Chinese media are saying the leadership has lost its credibility with its citizens. Chinese experts say that the majority of the people have no trust or confidence in the authorities.
Here’s a summary from Chinascope of quotes compiled from Chinese media:

… Today, the sentiment of ‘mistrust’ has penetrated into the very fabric of Chinese people’s lives: when we Chinese eat, we can’t trust the safety of our food; … when we go to the hospital, we can’t trust that the doctor won’t over-prescribe medication; when we go to court, we can’t trust that the judiciary system will make a just decision. …
… we can’t trust anything: what the local government’s say, media reports, the people next to us, and particularly ‘it has become the habit of most people to question whatever the government says.’

‘Some people say that due to the radioactive impact of the Japan earthquake, salt from a contaminated ocean will not be edible. Then the TV news tried to quash the rumor and said it would not impact the Mainland. However, the people on the Mainland have lost confidence in the government. Every time the government makes some high profile statement, it means the truth is exactly the opposite. Starting on March 16th, all salt in stores (in Shanghai) had completely sold out, and the next day even all of the soy sauce was gone…milk products contain melamine… glutinous rice wine includes preservatives, and Sudan Red was found in salted duck eggs. Didn’t the government deny all of it?  Yet these violations are real and are continuing today.’

Are the authorities in China losing credibility?
We spoke with Richard P. Madsen, Professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego. Here is what he told us over the phone:

I think this lack of trust has existed for some time now, for example the scandals about the tainted milk… have been going on for four or five years, and there are many other things like that. So people are used to being skeptical about official claims, about anything.

Besides of the official media there are all sorts of other kinds of media, for instance the Internet nowadays… So sometimes people trust those more than the official media.
Also within the media itself there are some media that are more willing to speak the truth than others. And people look for knowledge of what’s really going on through that. After all, the issue of the food safety was exposed in the end through certain aspects of the media in China, so you can find out what’s going on. Maybe too late but… Actually for generations people in China have developed skills of gleaning what’s really going on, from statements in the official media, and not taking the official statements as face value, but kind of digging beneath it and try to figure out what’s really going on. And I think they will continue to do that.
There really is an outrage about a lot of things in China. There are hundreds of thousands riots and things like that every year, at different levels of the society… that’s going on constantly and it could be explosive.
However I don’t see this kind of explosion taking place in the near term because it’s balanced by a general feeling that things are kind of moving forward economically. And the government is also quiet skilled at isolating and containing various kinds of dissent and keeping it from spreading.
Vent it down…

Professor Martin Whyte, from the department of sociology at Harvard University explains over the phone how the authorities keep it from spreading.

People feel that their lives are not as predictable as they would like, and that the rules aren’t being followed the same way they would like…
But research I have done and research others have done have shown that there is a strong gradient in feelings toward trust in the government in different levels. The people tend to have quite high levels of trust in the Central Government, but much lower levels of trust for the low level— particularly lower levels of government.
… the leadership at the very top works as hard as they can to try to reinforce this gradient, in other words, they try to stress to their population, ‘ your government at the top cares about you and we have wise policies, it’s only those corrupt, inefficient, inattentive corrupt people at the bottom that are supposed to be enforcing our policies that are not doing it well’. It’s seems to be relatively successful, in other words, instead of blaming the entire system, and particularly the leaders at the top, people tend to get angry with their local officials, and local private interests…
Do the higher levels can make the lower levels do their job?
It varies from issue to issue. In some sense they have the capacity, if they made it a high priority.
…it’s often the case that local officials are told ‘you have to promote economic growth, you have to promote employment, don’t worry about pollution and don’t worry about these other things’.
In other words, as an outside observer, I would say that the central leadership deserves blame as well, but they do very good job of sort of absolving this self blame saying you know “we’re trying to make the system better” and most Chinese seem to agree with that.

When they [the people] feel that they have not been treated fairly they don’t automatically say ‘it’s the system that’s corrupt and unfair’. They tend to say ‘it’s a problem of implementation and enforcement’ and these are very standard responses in any authoritarian political system.
People who studied Russia before the Soviet Union talked about “if the Czar only knew” in other words, if only the Czar ruling all of Russia were aware with what’s going on with the “little guy” he would be concerned and he would set things straight. It’s a feature that authoritarian systems can make use of to try to maintain the legitimacy of the system itself, even if people are unhappy about a lot of things about how they’re treated in their daily lives.
In fact, because of this phenomenon, China is a very turbulent society today; there are a lot of protests, about local issues and against local leadership and against abuses of people and so forth. People don’t just sit back and accept it. …they are saying that they can’t get fair treatment from local officials by playing by the rules, so there for they have to take to the streets and to organize people and call attention to themselves…. But at the same time, they’re hoping to get favorable responses from the higher levels, and sometimes they do. There was a recent strike of truck drivers in the Shanghai area. They eventually ended up in getting some favorable actions about fuel prices and other kinds of things that were part of the demands that the protesters wanted.
One is the reason why it has been so relatively stable despite all this turbulence is clearly because of the fact that there is so much economic growth, with so much improvement in peoples’ material lives, that people are willing to give to the system as a whole, and its top leadership, the benefit of the doubt. So one question mark – can they maintain that growth?

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Dramatic U.S Raid on Bin Laden in Pakistan

Osama Bin Laden was found  by a U.S military special forces operation in  Abbotabad Pakistan on Sunday May 2nd.  He was killed after an intense fight against the special forces team.

The al-Qaeda founder, Osama Bin Laden is held responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States. He also counts as the leading  muslim-extremist-  and terror Intelligence head.

According to a senior administration official who spoke to ABC News, Bin Laden was shot twice, once in the head and once in the chest.

There have been several cases in the past were Bin Laden was thought dead but turned out to still be alive.

For example, in 2001 when the U.S military was ordered to bombard his mountain hideout in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan.  After a short rejoice the reports of Osama’s death turned out to be false.

Or 2006 when a leaked French intelligence claims that Bin Laden is dead, due to a health deficiency. But soon after this claim was refuted.

This time however, both military and government officials claim to have sufficient  proof  “that the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks” is finally dead. (NBC)

The evidence, verbal ID, face recognition analyses and DNA, which are all said to match. As it seems the real Bin Laden responsible for so many devastating terror attacks has finally been put to rest.

Much of the reports on Bin Laden draw an intimidating picture of him in his last moments. A bad guy finally gunned down. As news spread about his death celebrated by mostly young people in the United States, thousands gathered in front of the white house and on Times Square in New York, to celebrate Bin Laden’s death.

How does the Muslim community respond?

Reports of Bin Laden’s death are said to have created a new martyr, an icon of anti American ideology.

In central London hundreds of Muslim supporters protested and mourned for Bin Laden. Some carried signs saying: “Islam will dominate the World” and “Jihad to defend the Muslims”. Others saying: “ It is only a matter of time before another atrocity- the West is the enemy.”

But there are also some in the Muslim community who respond to Osama bin Laden’s death with happiness, disbelief, relief and hope.  For example in New York on Tuesday May.10th, according to the HuffPost New York, Muslims expressed their emotions to the long-standing stigma that bin Laden’s actions had attached to Islam.

In an interview by the HuffPost New York a female Muslim with Pakistani origin, who is studying in the States had the following to say.

“As an American Muslim, I was happy to see crowds celebrating in the streets and reacting positively to Obama’s statement.”

“I was also glad that Obama reiterated that America is not at war with Islam and that people such as [Bin Laden] do not represent the majority of Muslims.”

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One Spark can light a flame

The Spark of Revolution

The French revolution began 1789. On July 14 of that same year, the Bastille was stormed:  As the associate professor of English, Hartwick College, David Cody would put it: “In its early stages it portrayed itself as a triumph of the forces of reason over those of superstition and privilege”.

Soon after the civilian success of the revolution in France, its essence spread like a bush fire over the French borders to surrounding countries, to inspire many more successors.

Let us move to our present day. The present situation many middle eastern countries today are facing is similar to the one in France over two centuries ago.  Though the settings may have changed, the ideas behind the rage of human masses, calling for values such as Liberty, Egality and Fraternity, stay the same.

Today the Monarchy has become a regime and the king a dictator. Yet the fire of confidence that led the people of old France to unite against the strains of injustice, jet again seems to have lit the fire in the hearts of millions of Middle East civilians. Together they are now staging what media calls a Democratic Revolution. Should similar Regimes in Asia and their authorities be worried?

Some call it: “The Rise of Civil Resistance in Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Beyond”

What began as a little protest in Tunisia, this January, wanting the entire old leadership to be removed, rapidly spread to Libya and Algeria. Movements in Egypt, Jordan and Yemen have most recently been ignited by this spark of revolution . The anti-government protest has brought unrest to the majority of Middle East countries.

The question you might ask is: Will this blaze of Revolution, demanding the tare-down of Dictatorship and Regimes stay a matter of the civilians in the middle east only? Or could this idea, similar to France and the bastille, even spread beyond the borders of the Middle East to Asia? Forcing for example the Chinese Regime to consider its dictatorship before the masses of civil determination, to have Democratic justice restored?

We cannot say. But apparently the Chinese government is preventing news about the Middle East revolution to seep threw to the Chinese people.

According to the Washington Post, Chinese authorities are nervous about the unrest in the Middle East and are blocking Websites and search terms related to the unrest of the Middle East World.

But while the news recourses of the affected countries are being restricted, the people them selves are becoming a new type of Journalist. Using social networks such as Twitter and Face book to share, document and group up. For every Web site blocked by the governments, it seems the people create two new ones in the vast open space of the world wide web.

What started as an Idea, in the heart of those seeking justice, has turned in to a blazing fire on a cornfield surrounded by a dry forest.

Should we ask our self if this could spark a global revolution?


Hermann Rohr

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