Friday, 12 September 2014

Law: Impossible for China to Have a Democratic Regime

Impossible for China to Have a Democratic Regime
Translated by Chen-t'ang 鎮棠, Edited by Karen L., Written by 羅沛霖 (Law Pui-lam)
Original: http://www.passiontimes.hk/article/09-10-2014/18765 

(Photo: Naixi Village in Beijing, which sounds the same in Cantonese as "Cunnilingus Village")
(Photo source: www.bjnxc.cn )


For decades, the "democratic-reunificationists" in Hong Kong have been chanting slogan in a futile manner, and never did it delve into the democratic development in China. The society of China simply cannot foster a democratic regime, of which this judgement is based on an investigation into a village election in China.

In 1999, the very first round of election among villages was held in the Guangdong province. By "one person, one vote", the committee was elected to take responsibility of managing the social and economic affairs for the village. Besides the right to vote, villagers can be elected as well. It was clearly stated that even if villagers are not nominated by the Villagers Nomination Committee as candidates, they will not be excluded the right to participate in the election, whereas the Branch Party Secretary and other posts were assigned directly by the Communist Party as usual. As for the village of my study object, it was a "trial spot", where the village election was carried one year before 1999.

In that village, all kinds of matters (e.g. selling lands, building factories, introducing FDI, building roads, executing policies from the central authorities) were controlled by the Party members originally, especially the Branch Party Secretary, who had hence brought a great deal of fortune within his family. Some villagers told me his "visible assets" (properties and flats) by the time were worth approximately 500 million RMB (1998, ~60 million USD). 

It was learnt that the secretary wanted to grasp the social and economic resources, so he decided to take part in that election. Yet many villagers, if not all, regarded this election as a hopeful one to elect a committee chairman against the secretary and for the reallocation of resources.

There's no reasons for me even back then not understanding what the function of election to CCP: a means to pacify the conflicts in the rural society brought by Reform and Opening Up. Yet I did see it as a precious chance to let the mainland society get onto the path towards democracy, however, it remains an unreasonable dream after all.

In the beginning there were villagers studying the regulation of election, attempting to figure out the methods to ensure nomination of their preferable candidates and ways of canvassing, even the preparation avoiding interference during the election processes. All of these made me feel that the crux of a democratic election is well-known in a village where such election never exist. I thought it was brought by the power of a free market, and I believed in the logic "economic reform will bring about changes in society, culture and politics" on China. But when I tried to understand more in their views, what I found happened to be another story and logic.

"When election takes place, we must vote for the members of our own clan (family members within some generations) regardless of their capabilities. Eventually, he is from our clan! He will surely help if anything happens to our family." This is what a young villager told me -- well, in fact, all villagers believed in such logic. It never comes to the villagers to elect someone with competency, because this one with ability, in their minds, will only make benefit within one's own clan and no advantages will be there for other villagers - just like the Branch Party Secretary and his clan.

Clans were there in villages rather than societies!

I later found out that "clan" relationship has been the deepest interpersonal relationship in mainland China. Since the CCP has taken over it, they changed the game rule of resource allocation: focus shifted from economic resources to political ones. The riches were lambasted with their properties and land confiscated. Politically they became the rags. This is not a sole change of personal status, but involved the entire family, or some referred it as clan. Let me put it this way, landlords and rich peasants or the elites in the past can only marry those with the same "political status". Clan, as it always do. It's just a matter of forms.

The game rule of CCP is merely reshuffling the social status of clans. A series of anti-feudalism political campaigns (from Land Reform to People's Commune to Cultural Revolution) were just suppressing the tradition, but not successful in faltering the traditional clansmen-ship. On the contrary, the rule of CCP is just a continuation of such "deep interpersonal relationship" which has last for thousands of years.

The election that year clearly showed the role of such traditional clansmen-ship. The secretary and another candidate made full use of their families to canvass. It is simple enough - if they can get the nod from the elders in the clan, they can get support from almost all of that clan. The secretary used his money and authority to benefit a few big clan, which enables himself of making much more supporters than the other candidates. That's why he won, not surprisingly, and became the chief of the Village Committee. Besides his political authorities, he kept on controlling the economic and social development of the village.

The secretary had gained himself with quite some numbers of "haters" before the election, but eventually these people still voted for him! I interviewed a few who once criticised him being greasy in terms of money and authority. But many of those had the same reason  the "satiated tiger, hungry wolf" theory.

The logic of clansmen culture made them feel that no matter who becomes the chairman of the committee, he will only look after his own clan without paying attention to the livelihood of the rest as a whole. This haven't even entered the core thought of them. Deep inside they possessed a thinking that for the other candidates who have not been controlling the resources will be like "hungry wolves" if elected, becoming more corrupted than those "satiated tigers". And to vote for a "hungry wolf" without any relationship with one's own clan, one will be more likely to suffer.

This "tiger-or-wolf" logic concludes the village-level politics in China.

More than 70 years earlier, such situation was already analysed by a famous Chinese anthropologist Fei Xiaotong. He pointed out that in the West, a person can have different identities at the same time  a scout member, a Methodist follower, a member of a party, a father in a family and etc. But in Chinese villages, people have one and only one identity  a part of the clan. In decades, the framework of rural interpersonal network has remained dominant.

A few years ago, I went back to that village again and saw how the following elections proceed – it's pretty much the same.

Rural politics can be seen as the epitome of the politics of China. In Chinese society, you'll not find possible to "detach" the identity of a part of a certain clan. When it comes to Buddhist temples, schools, colleges, relationship and seniority, "clan" is always included, let alone the CCP or PLA. There is no more existence of "friendships" in mainland China. They're replaced by calling each other "xiongdi" (brothers), or else they are not in the same clan. In other words, if two are real friends, then the "friendship" must be turned into "clansmen-ship", like that they're from the same family.

Wang Mingming, another anthropologist in China, belongs to Fei Xiaotong's clan. Although he was found plagiarism for tens of thousands of words in his publication, Fei's clan saved him by every means from being fired by the university. In the Chinese academia, such "clan-like" interpersonal relationship is just about guanxi, but not rights and wrongs, not to mention academic credibility.

The deplorable nature exists in Chinese academia, and no doubt there is even a higher degree of it in the party inside. How can it not make sense for commoners to understand Xi's anti-corruption acts as starting a turf war with "tiger-or-wolf" logic? It has already been told, by nature, that never has such moves been relevant to some sort of social justice. 

With the despotic one-and-only presence of "clan-like" relationship, mainland China can only be far from the civil-minded society where people dare to distinguish rights and wrongs regardless of getting into deadly accusations. Democratic regime for China stays, if no significant changes, impossible. 

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