Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Nanny Knows Best in China

When I studied Chinese Language, Business and International Relations with Sheffield University (by distance learning as I was in China at the time) we started with a fascinating course on China and Society. One of our main coursebooks was by Tony Saich "Governance and Politics of China" which is an excellent introduction to Chinese politics (if perhaps a little bit in need of revision now post-Jiang Zemin).

One of the themes which sprang out at me and frankly angered me was how Chinese Government officials always somehow presume to know best (does that seem familiar fellow Liberals?). In putting this thesis to the test on a number of occasions in my discussions related to Small and Medium Enterprise Development policy in Jiangxi Province I often found that rarely did Government officials speak to their own local businesses and find out what they needed when framing policy, they would prefer to import solutions from overseas. They treated local businesses with comtempt.

In effect, Government Officials in China would treat the very people they are supposed to serve (so much for "为人民服务") as children. This is what Saich describes as the "infantisation" of the population. This comtempt for the intelligence of the ordinary Chinese citizen has its roots in the Republican era. Even Sun Yat-Sen was prone to it.

Unfortunately this infantisation process continues today and relates to the internet. People in China are incapable, it seems, of working out what is "good" for them, so they have to have an internet police to protect them from evil influences on the internet such as (sharp intake of breath):

"Websites that incite secession, promote superstition, gambling and fraud".

Presumably that means any website that supports Taiwan's, Tibet or Xinjiang's independence, Falun Gong (which has been ruthlessly suppressed) and probably a range of non-approved Christian sites, bookmakers and online poker and other sites etc.

Apparently Chinese citizens lack the maturity and intelligence that we Westerners have to determine for themselves what they can and can't see.

The BBC has more information on this here which is just as well really since Chinese citizens are also not allowed to read the news sections of the BBC website.

The Chinese Government is continually trying to keep the freedom of information that the internet brings under control to maintain it's weakening grip on power. It is our responsibility to see to it that they ultimately fail and the Chinese people learn the truth surrounding 64, corruption and other human rights abuses going on in their country.

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