Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Hereís how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Reading the tea-leaves in China

By Brian Hennessy - posted Monday, 18 March 2013


It's official now. The sometimes deadly jockeying for power has run its course and Xi Jinping has replaced Hu Jintau as President of China. Li Keqiang, who replaces Wen Jia Bao is now Premier.

The experts are offering their commentaries and predictions. For example; Hu Jintau's stewardship of China over the last ten years is seen as a wasted opportunity. Wen Jiabao was all talk and no action. Xi Jinping was a compromise candidate who had no strong qualification for the top job other than that he has kept his nose clean and is a princeling. He and his colleagues in the seven-member Standing Committee (China's cabinet) have a long 'to-do' list which if not attended to may result in social chaos and the implosion of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Number one on that list is government corruption.

There are doubts about the governing model: Can Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang work together given that they belong to different factions? Will the remaining five committee members cooperate with them given that they are conservative faction appointments? And even though Xi Jinping has the loyalty of the military how can he restrain their aggressive forays into foreign policy? How can he make bold decisions if he is constrained by the need for consensus?

Advertisement

These big-picture observations are informative and necessary. They are provided however, by professional China-watchers from academia, government think-tanks, and the international media, who despite their excellent credentials, have limited access to the corridors of power in Beijing. One suspects that they plagiarise each others' opinions.

Perhaps their work could best be described as intelligent speculation. Valuable information as far as it goes, but not the kind of data you would bet your house on.

There is another source of information however, that should be added to the mix. Bottom-up opinion from Chinese people themselves. Long experience has taught this group of battlers how to read between the lines and intuit the message behind the message. This is how they keep abreast of the factional battles and policy deliberations which are always going on behind the scenes and which they know will impact on their lives in one way or another. It's a survival skill.

These days, ordinary people around China are sniffing the breeze to see which way the wind will blow. The Chongqing political scandals of last year, and the brutal jockeying for positions on the Standing Committee that preceded the leadership changeover this year have shaken middle China to its core. The CCP is in crisis and everybody is waiting to see what happens next.

Middle-class folk smell trouble. Not from any dip in the economy or from the possibility of social unrest, but rather from a loss of confidence in their own government and society. Firstly, they know that many thousands of government officers have been quietly shifting their corrupt wealth offshore, sending their families abroad, before they disappear themselves. Are these so-called 'naked officials' rats leaving a sinking ship. Secondly, they are worried about their children and the kind of Chinese society that they will inherit. And thirdly, they are worried about their money. They fear that the government will get its hands on it.

Until now, this demographic has tolerated China's totalitarian government provided the money kept rolling in. Now however, it is criticising the government and worrying about money rolling out. For example; one Chinese friend has told me recently that, "The Communist Party is empty". Another has described his fear that the government, "will take over our business and steal our money."

Advertisement

Something is happening in China at the grass-roots level. Businessmen are complaining that they are being squeezed by local governments which are hocked to the eyeballs over massive infrastructure projects which will not show a return on investment for quite some time. Local officials have already appropriated peasants' land for collateral, and have bled them dry. And they can't sell the land that's left, because it's practically worthless. It always has been – its value was inflated in order to get those juicy loans.

Now that the county piggy-bank is empty, the middle-class is asking where will the money come from to pay the interest on the huge loans that were taken out to finance these grand schemes?

The answer is obvious. They're the next group to be skinned.

Suddenly, my wife and I are being asked if we can arrange to have their children educated abroad, can we help them to buy a house in Australia, and what do they have to do to "get a green card." These worried folk are preparing Plan B.

I am reminded of the fall of the Communist regime in Russia. Prior to the fall, ordinary Russian folk had been telling foreigners that all the signs were saying that the government and the system could not survive much longer. Yet the professional Russia-watchers from academia, government think-tanks, and the international media refused to believe them.

At that time I remember asking myself how could these experts get it so wrong? Now I know.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

4 posts so far.

Share this:
bookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed Newsvinereddit this reddit thisStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Brian is an Australian author, commercial consultant, educator, psychologist, and Vietnam veteran (he was an infantryman with 6 Battalion, RAR). He has lived in China for the last ten years, and has published on the topics of Vietnam, trauma, stress, anxiety, depression, traditional Chinese culture, and cultural adaptation. He is married to assistant professor Yirong Li who is an expert in Chinese language (Mandarin) and culture. Brian and Yirong now divide their time between Chongqing in China; and Cairns in Australia. You can contact Brian via his website here for more information on China.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Brian Hennessy

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Brian Hennessy
Article Tools
Comment 4 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy