Wednesday, August 29, 2012

India and the Chinese Model

“We told you so!” is what China is now saying to India.
In an article entitled ‘Exodus result of unchecked websites’ published in The Global Times, the Party’s mouthpiece notices: “Wary of social networking sites' ability to spread rumors, New Delhi has asked websites including Facebook and Twitter to come up with IP addresses suspected of spreading rumors. Pressed by the Indian government, these websites have signaled a willingness to cooperate”.
The question is, should India walk into China’s footsteps?
It is what The Global Times suggests: “The scene is familiar to Chinese. What happened in India can help us understand more objectively whether the Internet can foment social instability and how it does so. The exodus was a result of public panic that was easily ignited by rumors.”
As the internal situation in the Middle Kingdom deteriorates day by day and repression and censure rapidly increase, common men and women have come to disbelieve the veracity of what is reported in the Chinese ‘official’ media.
It is not only true about China’s defence budget or the reliability of the bullet trains, but also of more worldly subjects.
A Chinese blog, The Anti-Social List mentions a posting by the Chinese writer Zhang Yihe about “the crippling climate of doubt and credibility created by the control of information in China”. Zhang’s statement was, of course, deleted from Sina Weibo, China’s most active microblogging site, soon after it was posted (though Zhang Yihe has more than 275,000 followers on Weibo).
Zhang had dared saying: “Was Liu Xiang’s appearance at the Olympics all just a performance? Was Ye Shiwen on steroids or not? Was that really Gu Kailai in the courtroom? Was it really Zhou Kehua who was beaten to death? …and on and on.”
Zhang recalls the ancient story of the boy who cried wolf, who lied over and over so no one believed him anymore, until he was eaten himself by the wolf. She concludes “China’s propaganda machine has cranked out lies for 60 years. Now it has come to the point that whatever they say is met with doubt.”
Liu Xiang is the hurdler, a former Olympic champion and China's idol who abandoned the race on the first hurdle in the 110 m hurdle race in London. He apparently knew that he was injured, but was 'told' to participate.
Ye Shiwen is the 16-year old swimmer and Olympic champion whose performance raised many eyebrows in London and elsewhere.
Zhou Kehua is the serial killer who would have been killed by the Chinese police in a much publicized police operation.
Gu Kailai is the wife of the former major of Chongqing who was recently given a suspended death sentence for the murder of a British businessman.
Sina Weibo, and Baidu, the largest Chinese Internet search engine, have both blocked the term tishen (literally ‘body replacement’) after tens of thousands of citizens discussed whether the woman shown standing in the courtroom was really Ms. Gu.
An article in The Epoch Times explains: “Chinese Internet users have passed around a composite photo contrasting the plump, puffy-cheeked Ms. Gu with an earlier image of her in which she appears as the poised, sharp-featured attorney referred to by some as China’s Jackie Kennedy.”
The journalist rightly concluded: "By blocking searches online, of course, China’s censors could end up just feeding the conspiracy theories further."
The most ironic part of the story is that The Global Times believes that India should follow the Chinese model, adding: "China's situation is relatively good. It is hard to imagine rumors causing an exodus.”
It might be ‘relatively’ good, but Tibetans have to immolate themselves to make the world aware of their plight.
Were India to emulate the Chinese model, it would be disastrous.
India’s great superiority over China has not been the strength of its defence forces or its road infrastructure, but in the unbelievable independence of its press and the freedom of the social networks.
You may not have heard of Li Changchun? But Mr. Li is a powerful man; he is no. 5 in the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In China, he is responsible for Propaganda. One of his objectives is to 'repopularize’ Marxism with Chinese Characteristics. As Chairman of the Party’s Central Guidance Commission for Building Spiritual Civilization, Mr. Li is also in charge for the Party's image.
The functions of the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department under the responsibility of Mr. Li are: directing the propaganda; guiding the public opinion; directing the production of culture products; planning overall ideological and political work; creating propaganda policies and coordinating propaganda organizations; providing public opinion intelligence to Party leadership and leading cultural system reform (an euphemism for more censure of whatever is not in line with the Party's ideology).
Mr Li’s idea is to “enhance public faith in the country’s political theory amid social conflict and to answer the public’s doubts, reach a consensus and generate strength”. He has little chance to succeed.
Take one example, you will understand why. The city of Shifang, in Sichuan Province recently witnessed serious protests. The reason? The building of a new heavy-metals refinery in town; a crowd assembled outside the gates of a municipal government building, and soon the events turned sour for the project’s promoters. Though the police had warned that anyone using the Internet, cell phones or SMSs to spread information about the protest would be 'severely' punished; microbloggers nevertheless passed the word: "The government has repeatedly squandered the people’s patience. It is time for us to be independent.” Eventually, the Government had to back out and close the factory.
It appears that the Chinese people have learned from Deng Xiaoping advised, 'Seek Truth from Facts'.
But the party does not see the situation thus, though it might be aware that lies and propaganda can’t solve problems like corruption or pollution. It is why the Internet has become the most important instrument of change in China; in fact the only opposition.
These days, the leadership has two obsessions: stability and loyalty to the Party. The fact that the leadership stresses so much on these two issues tends to prove that the Party is facing a serious problem in these domains.
The State Council (cabinet) and the Central Military Commission recently issued orders in view of the forthcoming Party’s Congress. Hundreds of thousands of military and para-military personnel have been summoned to Beijing to ‘control’ the masses during the ‘change of guard’.
Mao used to say: "Revolution is not a tea party. It is not like writing an essay, painting or embroidering flowers.” Compared to Mao’s days, China has changed for good; the advent of new information technologies has brought a new Revolution, the masses can now express themselves. This makes it all the more dangerous for a tense regime, which is not ready to change; how could India follow China’s backward steps.
In a couple of months from now, when the White Smoke appears in the polluted sky above the Great Hall of People, a new leadership will take over. Then we shall know if China can really change.
Whatever direction the smoke takes, the Indian democratic system, with all its imperfections and its different ‘gates’ (Coalgate, 2Ggate, etc.), its injustice and its big bags of ‘mining’ money, is not that bad.
Can you imagine a Propaganda Ministry in Manmohan Singh’s government? In any case, who will believe it?

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