The Blame Game and Paranoia in China
May 12, 2011 Leave a comment
Politicians in many countries are fond of taking credit for everything that goes well and blaming all troubles and failures on others. So China is not unique in blaming everything that goes wrong or doesn’t work well on “foreign forces.” But this practice by the Party in China is even more egregious because people in China live in an information vacuum.
In the absence of intelligent debate or critical opinions – and blasted and bolstered armies of by government-paid bloggers — too many people in China believe this baloney. As a result, anti-foreign nationalism increasingly lies just below the surface in Chinese society.
The past quarter century of exponential growth in China has created a society in which anybody under age 40 considers breathtaking improvements in their living standards to be the basic benchmark of life. The Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution are distant historic events that their parents and grandparents talk about, much like my generation born in the US in the 1950s couldn’t relate to the Great Depression.
The Chinese government now runs scared of the Chinese people’s outsized expectations. As the Party is increasingly unable to meet these expectations, let’s hope that the blame game doesn’t get out of control. China has been on a path to be a rational and reasonable member of the global community of nations. It won’t be able to continue on that path if demonizing foreigners is the government’s best defense against its own people’s unfulfilled hopes and dreams.
Ed Wong of the New York Times provides an interesting look into the growing paranoia.
In the past three months, some significant foreign groups have been subjected to intensifying pressure from the authorities, reflecting growing fears here about the influence of foreigners and Western liberal ideas…
At least 60 activities organized by the United States Embassy in Beijing — including cultural forums, school programs, ambassadorial visits — were canceled between February and April because of interference by the Chinese authorities, and some European missions have been similarly pressured. Several university conferences involving foreigners have been canceled, and the Ministry of Education is stepping up warnings to Chinese scholars heading abroad that they not take part in “anti-China” activities or engage with groups that promote democracy.
The scrutiny has applied to some nonprofit groups, too, with several — particularly those that receive financing from the United States government or the European Union — being visited more frequently by tax officials.
At the same time, China has waged its harshest crackdown on liberal speech in years: hundreds of Chinese have been detained, imprisoned, beaten, interrogated or put under house arrest.
The government had for years guarded against Western influences, including blocking sites like Twitter and Facebook, but those restrictions have intensified since revolts began sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.
…Senior Chinese officials appear to believe that the United States in particular helped set off and sustain the uprisings that toppled dictators in the Arab world. In mid-February, messages appeared on the Chinese Internet calling for people to hold similar protests across the nation. Some of the people spreading word of the so-called Jasmine Revolution are Chinese who live overseas.