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Can bloggers bring down the Chinese economy?

ROME (AsiaNews): Leaders of the Chinese Communist Party gathered in the resort town of Beidaihe on the Bohai Sea in Hebei province on August 5 to discuss ways to deal with the stuttering economy, rampant corruption and the upcoming trial of Bo Xilai.

“They will also have to address the issue of political reform in the country or at least within the party” Bernardo Cervellera, from
AsiaNews writes.

Issues like greater democracy inside and outside the party, as well as laws that apply to party members were on the agenda during the previous administration of Hu Jintao and are still there under Xi Jinping.

State media have been also involved in a campaign against the dangers democracy and the rule of law (sometimes called constitutionalism) pose for the country.

On August 5, The People’s Daily published an editorial warning against constitutionalism and the idea that laws should guarantee and protect the rights of citizens.

According to the Communist Party’s official newspaper, this idea is actually part of a western plot to destroy socialism and impose capitalist ideals on China.

It claims that the campaign is financed by intelligence agencies in the United States of America (US) and has been underway since the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union.

Xinhua published a similar article, but with a much a greater punch, on August 1, headlined, If unrest comes to China, it will be worse than in the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), penned by Wang Xiaoshi.

The 5,000-character piece warns China that following in the footsteps of the USSR, or making democratic reforms, would lead to misery and poverty.

The author blames activists and bloggers for spreading discontent among the population with false news.

China has always looked at the end of the Soviet empire with dread. The Party blamed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 on Poland’s Solidarity (Solidarnosc) trade union and Pope John Paul II.

This is why Beijing has been especially wary of free trade unions, regional autonomy, religion in general and Catholicism in particular.

Wang’s analysis is one of a kind. Calling the Soviet Union some kind of heaven on earth, he says, “People truly awakened to democratisation and universal values of happiness (discovered that) the gross domestic product had fallen by half; access to the sea—achieved through the centuries—had been lost and the nation’s fleet was eroded with age… where new domestic oligarchs plundered state assets.”

It adds, “Russians lined up on the street facing supply shortages and veterans had to sell their medals in exchange for bread.”

Wang claims that China could end up in the same boat, because many bloggers espouse the same ideals that led to the collapse of the USSR.

“Every day,” he writes, “microbloggers and their mentors in the same cause pass on rumours, fabricate negative news about China’s society, create an apocalyptic vision of China’s imminent collapse and denigrate the existing socialist system—all to promote the European and American model of capitalism and constitutionalism.”

Wang then counsels, “Coldly look at your western world slaves! You cheat people on the Internet every day. You deceive Chinese people and allow others to bully China, making China poor and its military weak! You are dogs of the US (United States of America). You bring shame and disaster to China.”

He ends on a patriotic note, saying, “Anglers, mentors and well-known people who have malicious motives, if you want to provoke turmoil in China by controlling public opinion, you’ll have to step over my body. I won’t let you succeed as long as I live!”

Trashed online as typical Communist propaganda, Wang projects onto the victims the traits of their executioners, accusing them of spreading false news.

However, Cervellera argues, “Post-Soviet poverty is not that different from what exists in China where oligarchs get away with not paying loans, stealing workers’ wages or grabbing land from farmers, thus widening the gap between rich and poor.”

But Yu Jianrong, the director of the Social Issues Research Centre at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, takes a different tack.

“Let’s talk about who will lead China into unrest first. Isn’t it the bigwigs that made the gap between rich and poor larger? You don’t look at these, but only criticise people’s speech. What’s your motivation?” he asks.

Wang may simply be echoing Xi, who warned the party that the People’s Republic might go the way of the Soviet Union.

“Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and beliefs had been shaken,” Xi pointed out.

“To dismiss the history of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party, to dismiss Lenin and Stalin, and to dismiss everything else is to engage in historical nihilism and confuse our thoughts and undermine Party organisations on all levels,” Xi said.

In practice, this goes back to Deng Xiaoping, who led China’s technical and economic modernisation, but omitted its fifth modernisation, democracy, bringing China to its current state of widespread corruption and entrenched oligarchy.

 

Either way, Chinese authorities have intensified their violent crackdown on bloggers for reporting false news, reminiscent of the Soviet Union before Mikhail Gorbachev came to power.

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