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The Olympics and Property Rights Violations in China:

The Boston Globe reports that as many as 1.25 million people have been evicted from their homes in Beijing by the Chinese government, so that the property they live on can be used to "beautify" the city in preparation for the 2008 Olympics [HT: Yefim Somin]. Numerous small businesses have also been forcibly displaced.

Although today's Chinese government shows greater respect for property rights than it did in the days of Mao Zedong, there is still a long way to go. As I noted in this 2007 post, some 40 million Chinese have been forcibly displaced by government-sponsored development projects in recent years.

Perhaps this human rights issue should be added to the list of those the athletes might want to protest while in Beijing. Unlike the better-known Tibet and Darfur issues, these violations are directly connected to the Olympics, because many of the Beijing expulsions were part of the government's strategy for preparing for the games.

Visitor Again:
Hmm, the Chinese Communist government must not be all it's cracked up to be if, as you write, "the Chinese government have been evicted from their homes in Beijing."
7.18.2008 12:58am
Ilya Somin:
VA,

Typo noted and fixed.
7.18.2008 1:04am
Duffy Pratt (mail):
I know people who have been displaced from their homes in Shanghai. Each of them got compensated well enough so that they could move into a better place after the eviction. The main difficulty they had was the lost of neighbors and a neighborhood.

As an aside, don't you think that preparation for the Olympics counts as a public purpose? I have a hard time seeing why you are getting so worked up about this, at least without more facts.
7.18.2008 1:22am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Actually, judging from the enormous cost overruns and other problems that have already occurred with the preparation for the Vancouver Olympics, together with past experience, the Olympics is an enormous ripoff of the general public. Large amounts of tax dollars go to subsidize an event that generates a great deal of profit for a certain set of large businesses and not very much economic benefit for the host area, certainly not enough to make up for the subsidies and inconvenience. So, no, the Olympics is no more a legitimate public purpose than a baseball stadium. Actually, less, since at least the people who pay for most of the subsidy get to watch the baseball games, whether few local people will be able to afford to attend the Olympics.

And let's not hear about the noble purpose of the Olympics. Athletic competition is fine, but there's no good reason to have the Olympics in addition to the various other international events, and far from being a source of international understanding, the Olympics are surpassed only by the UN as a locus for the more nauseating forms of nationalism.
7.18.2008 1:31am
Ilya Somin:
As an aside, don't you think that preparation for the Olympics counts as a public purpose? I have a hard time seeing why you are getting so worked up about this, at least without more facts.

The fact that something might be a "public purpose" doesn't mean that it justifies displacing people from their homes. As for getting "worked up," I think there is good reason to be worked up anytime over 1 million people are forcibly displaced from their homes. I doubt that any "public purpose" - and certainly not a sporting event lasting a few weeks - is sufficient to justify that.
7.18.2008 1:42am
Ilya Somin:
I know people who have been displaced from their homes in Shanghai. Each of them got compensated well enough so that they could move into a better place after the eviction. The main difficulty they had was the lost of neighbors and a neighborhood.

The fact that they got some compensation doesn't mean that their rights weren't violated. Moreover, as noted in my 2007 post (linked in this one), many people displaced by the Chinese government get little or no compensation.
7.18.2008 1:43am
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
I think you have been taken in by a case of bad reporting. Most foreign reporters based-China do not speak Chinese, know little or nothing about Chinese society, and often have self-interested reasons for portraying China in the worst possible light.

Think about this for a moment. Do you really think they evicted over a million people for the Olympics? That is at least ten percent of Beijing's population. It would very difficult to do economically and the logistics of such a massive relocation of people would be very, very difficult.

Furthermore, evicting so many people from their homes would be politically impossible in Beijing. Believe it or not deputies to the local People's Congresses are directly elected and incumbents are routinely defeated. 100,000 people? 100% possible. 1,000,000 people? No way. Maintaining political stability is priority one for the Chinese. There is no way they would do something so risky.
7.18.2008 2:05am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Jerome Cole,

I wouldn't be surprised if the reports conflate preparations specific to the Olympics with other, also sometimes controversial, urban renewal projects. For example, Beijing has been attempting to "renew" the hu tong, which the government regards as old-fashioned, a den of reaction, and hard to control. There is much resistance to this by old-time Beijing residents, especially the residents of the hu tong.
7.18.2008 2:10am
Ilya Somin:
Think about this for a moment. Do you really think they evicted over a million people for the Olympics? That is at least ten percent of Beijing's population. It would very difficult to do economically and the logistics of such a massive relocation of people would be very, very difficult.

Given that the evictions (according to the article) took place over a 7 year period, it is certainly quite possible that they did remove over 1 million people. Removing about 150,000 people per year is surely feasible in a country as large as China. Even if the total is "only" 500,000 or 100,000, it's still a very large number.

Furthermore, evicting so many people from their homes would be politically impossible in Beijing. Believe it or not deputies to the local People's Congresses are directly elected and incumbents are routinely defeated. 100,000 people? 100% possible. 1,000,000 people? No way. Maintaining political stability is priority one for the Chinese. There is no way they would do something so risky.

This assumes that the process is under the control of the local government. In reality, Olympic planning is likely under the control of the national government. And a police state like China can undertake many unpopular actions without undermining "political stability" because that stability is ultimately guaranteed by the army, the secret police, and other tools of repression.

And, as I noted, in the earlier post cited in this one, the Chinese government routinely evicts large numbers of people in many parts of the country. They clearly have good reason to believe (or think they do) that such actions won't undermine political stability because the victims have little power to resist.
7.18.2008 2:19am
Brian G (mail) (www):
Yet, if Mao or today's Chinese leaders ran for President of the United States (yeah, I know the natural born rule, but) against Bush, half of America would vote for them.
7.18.2008 3:06am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
1. Of course they evicted these people. This is the same government that kicked a million people out of their homes for the Three Gorges Dam.

2. I share Ilya's condemnation of this.

3. However, I must note, that in the scheme of Chinese human rights violations, this is actually one of the minor ones. One might start with Tibet, political prisoners, Tiananmen Square, the 1 child policy and coerced abortions, prison labor, and the sale of organs harvested from executed prisoners, to just name a few things.
7.18.2008 3:14am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
This all begs the question of what form of property rights these tenents have. Little or no compensation for someone evicted from what is basically rental property does not seem unreasonable to me, even for commercial space.

In the same breath you would argue against these Chinese policies you would be just as happy to argue against rent control. So depending on who owns the actual buildings this may well be a made up issue.
7.18.2008 3:18am
K. Dackson (mail):
I lived in China for a year (2005-06). Here are some things you may not know.

1) The number can certainly be in dispute. In english, we use specific words for "thousand", "million", "billion", etc. that go by 3 orders of magnitude. The Chinese go a different route, with specific characters for "hundred", "ten thousand", "hundred thousand". There is no single syllabe (character) for "million". One million is literally "ten hundred thousand". Also note that Chinese society is heavily governed by numbers - if it is one thing they can do is count. If a Chinese says it is 1.25 million, you can bet is "12 and a half hundred thousand".

2) The Chinese people do NOT own property. Generally, the Chinese people own the contents of their apartments and their clothes and bank accounts (at least those that actually trust the government enough to to have a bank account). Eviction can simply be allowing a lease to run out and the landlord simply not renewing. People are given plenty of notice. There was one episode when on riding to the factory one morning, we saw a demonstration - people were being forced to leave a building that was going to be demolished for a road. That evening, the building was gone - without the use of heavy equipment.

3) Most of the relocated were due to the Three Gorges Dam project. They actually had a simple choice - move or drown. The level of review we rely on in this country is alien to the Chinese government, and has been for 5,000 years.
7.18.2008 7:47am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
It's so cute that we have apologists for a brutal police state.

They only evicted 125,000 and really, their leases were expired and really, they don't own anything anyway. So, what's the big deal.

Any they have local elections! And the authorities let them decide between Party Loyalist #1 and Party Loyalist #2! Democracy in action!
7.18.2008 12:10pm
Randy R. (mail):
" There is much resistance to this by old-time Beijing residents, especially the residents of the hu tong."

Ah, the hu tongs. My first trip to Beijing, I made a point of seeing one that was about to be demolished. I walked around the alleyways that were several hundred years old. Old men playing cards. Women stirring ancient pots filled with boiling water for dumplings. Old carts holding strange and exotic fruits. Once in a while, you could peer into a courtyard and see trees and laundry hanging. It was like a movie, only much much better.

Bob: "It's so cute that we have apologists for a brutal police state."

I didn't get that anyone was apologizing for the state. The point is that if you are going to report the news, you have to get the facts right. Of course, viewers of Fox News would disagree, but generally speaking, even if you are talking about a vile regime, you should get the story straight and not propagandize.
7.18.2008 12:36pm
Snarky:
So, how important is this compared to the other human rights abuses that China engages in?
7.18.2008 12:50pm
sort_of_knowledgeable (mail):

It's so cute that we have apologists for a brutal police state.

They only evicted 125,000 and really, their leases were expired and really, they don't own anything anyway. So, what's the big deal.

Any they have local elections! And the authorities let them decide between Party Loyalist #1 and Party Loyalist #2! Democracy in action!


During the dot com boom, thousands were evicted to make space for soon to be busted dot com firms but their lease was and they didn't own anything and there were less than 100,000 of them so it wasn't a big deal.
7.18.2008 1:37pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
@Bob

I am not an apologist for anything. I simply don't go out of my way to demonize the Chinese government. If you think I am afraid to criticize the PRC you need to take a look at my blog.

You also seem to have some deep misunderstandings about the nature of Chinese society. It is not paradise, but it is also not a "brutal police state." If it were I would have been deported, arrested, or even executed a long time ago. In fact China has made massive strides towards becoming an open society. Unfortunately, the political and social reforms implemented since 1978 have been almost completely overlooked in the West.

@Dilan

Evicting people from their homes because a dam will create a massive lake and submerge them was simply a necessity. Chinese are different from Westerners, but they can't breathe underwater.

BTW the decision to build the Three Gorges Dam was very controversial here in China and it was the focus of vigorous and widespread public debate. The bill authorizing (Yes, China actually legislates. If I see anyone throw out the old "There is no law in China" crap I might puke.) the dam came within a few votes of being defeated in the National People's Congress.

@Ilya

"Given that the evictions (according to the article) took place over a 7 year period, it is certainly quite possible that they did remove over 1 million people. Removing about 150,000 people per year is surely feasible in a country as large as China. Even if the total is "only" 500,000 or 100,000, it's still a very large number. "

Ilya the article specifically claimed that there were more than 1 million evictions in Beijing, not the whole country. That number of people over that period of time is very plausible if we were talking about the whole country, but were not. Now, think again. Imagine demolishing more than 10% of New York over a seven year period and then rebuilding it while relocating and compensating everyone affected. Would it be easy to do physically? Absolutely not. Possible? Sure, but really, really hard.

Then think of the political problems you would run into. Like New York, Beijing has a highly educated, well-connected population. Beijingers routinely raise holy hell over relatively minor issues. If what was described in the article you link to I can't imagine how horrible the reaction would be.

"This assumes that the process is under the control of the local government. In reality, Olympic planning is likely under the control of the national government. And a police state like China can undertake many unpopular actions without undermining "political stability" because that stability is ultimately guaranteed by the army, the secret police, and other tools of repression. "

Actually you are dead wrong on all points.

While China is theoretically a unitary state it does not usually function as such. Even important functions such as immigration and naturalization are administered by local governments. Local governments have wide authority to interpret and apply national laws and regulations according to their own circumstances. Some local governments even openly refuse to implement national policies. To address your specific point, the planning for the Olympics is in absolute chaos. National ministries and agencies aren't even on the same page and often issue conflicting public statements. I can't imagine what is going on inside the Beijing municipal government! The most likely scenario is that local agencies are doing most of the work and planning under varying degrees of supervision by a whole plethora of state-level organizations. There does not seem to be very effective co-ordination, vertically or horizontally.

As for these "tools of repression" I just don't know what to say. You just have to come here. I routinely see public demonstrations, there is vigorous public debate on nearly every political and social issue that you can think of (I found a copy of Seven Years in Tibet in a local government-owned bookstore. It had "Banned in China" emblazoned on the cover.), and I have yet to run into a person who is afraid to criticize the government, publicly or privately. My neighbor (a civil servant) even has named her dog "Party Member." This is no haven of liberalism, but it is not North Korea. If you are not engaging in expression that has a substantial chance of causing violence or massive public disorder (Rumors alone often cause massive riots here.) you are almost certainly going to be left alone.

Also, your thinking seems to have the underlying assumption that the Chinese government, or at least the Chinese Communist Party, functions as a cohesive unit with common values and priorities. The Chinese Communist Party is split into numerous factions based on ethnic, regional, ideological, and personal ties. The CCP has everyone you could imagine. The CCP is a mish-mash of old-school Maoists, democratic socialists, classical liberals, nationalists, Confucianists, conservatives, racial-bigots, pragmatists, and political opportunists. Strangely enough, the most liberal and free-thinking institution in the country seems to be the Communist Party School in Beijing which routinely proselytizes for more freedom of expression, free trade, better protections for property rights, constitution-based judicial review, etc. The only thing they agree on is maintaining their own personal power. Ditto for the police and the military.


"And, as I noted, in the earlier post cited in this one, the Chinese government routinely evicts large numbers of people in many parts of the country. They clearly have good reason to believe (or think they do) that such actions won't undermine political stability because the victims have little power to resist."

Actually the Chinese government does consider such evictions to be a threat to social stability. In fact, the Chinese government just amended their constitution to broaden recognition of private property rights and then promptly passed implementing legislation that effectively prohibits the type of evictions you describe under most circumstances, clarified certain property-related legal issues, and significantly enhanced compensation given to citizens. Government leaders at all levels have expressed concern about improper takings threatening political stability. You are just plain wrong.

Finally, if you think the Chinese have no power to resist then you don't know China. The Chinese have a long tradition of violently opposing government actions that they perceive as threatening or unjust. It is not uncommon for people in rural areas to loot and burn every government building they can get their hands on until the officialdom steps into address their grievances. The Chinese people (including those working in the government) are also increasingly coming to view themselves as citizens with constitutional rights, not subjects of a totalitarian state. This has led to a legal revolution in China. People now routinely speak in terms of legal rights and obligations. This isn't just a change in the way people think either. Government action is now subject to vigorous judicial review (Only on the basis of statues and regulations. There is no mechanism for constitutional review in China.) and citizens routinely sue the government. Hearings are public and the government loses about 70% of the time.

The situation here is very complicated. China is a former totalitarian country that is simultaneously trying to liberalize its economy, reform its political system, pull itself out of crushing poverty, and stop the state from collapsing. Crying "Police state!" is at best just avoiding the thorny issues that China is trying to address and at worst might be a sign of bigotry and jingoism.

One last thing, Ilya. You should do some reading on the Dictatorship-Democracy Equivalency Theorem. It is an interesting topic in and of itself. It is especially relevant to your point about the Chinese government being able to flout public opinion. Tthe government here is hypersensitive to changes in public opinion and constantly has to shift stances on all kinds of issues. The reason for this is very simple. If they lose power at best they become just another political party competing with other political parties. The more likely outcome is that a lot of Communists would end up in exile or sleeping with the fishes. Naturally, the CCP cares a lot about what the average Zhou (Forgive my horrific pun!) wants.
7.18.2008 1:45pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The fact that they got some compensation doesn't mean that their rights weren't violated. Moreover, as noted in my 2007 post (linked in this one), many people displaced by the Chinese government get little or no compensation.

But Ilya, don't you constantly deride the concept of international law. In China, until last year, it was impossible to own land in a western sense. If you don't think the international community should tell the U.S. to run its internal affairs, why on earth should you be lecturing the Chinese about western concepts of property rights? I guess quaint concepts about human rights only apply when they are being violated by a government you don't like.
7.18.2008 1:46pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
BTW the link to my blog is incorrect. It is actually at http://jeromecole.blogspot.com.

I changed my account info and the correct link should be in future comments.
7.18.2008 1:58pm
SFAlphageek (mail):
What "western concepts of property rights" do we have to point to here? Given Kelo, I don't think our protests of human rights violations related to the forcible eviction of persons from their homes have a lot of moral force.
7.18.2008 2:20pm
Justin (mail):
Anyone named J. Cole apparently blogs :).
7.18.2008 2:36pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
Hey. I am deeply ashamed to have a name so similar to that other Mr. Cole. Talk about apologists. Yuck.
7.18.2008 2:40pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Evicting people from their homes because a dam will create a massive lake and submerge them was simply a necessity. Chinese are different from Westerners, but they can't breathe underwater. BTW the decision to build the Three Gorges Dam was very controversial here in China and it was the focus of vigorous and widespread public debate. The bill authorizing (Yes, China actually legislates. If I see anyone throw out the old "There is no law in China" crap I might puke.) the dam came within a few votes of being defeated in the National People's Congress.

A couple of comments:

1. There's a couple of issues on the dam. One is whether they needed to build it at all-- I am agnostic on that. But what is absolutely clear is that they wanted to build a big, grandiose dam just like all the other big, grandiose projects that they are doing. And they kicked all those people out of their homes because they stood in the way of the big, grandiose project that the regime favored.

2. I think you are reading too much into the vote. Sure, China has a sort of political system, with a parliament and representation and the like. But it's a show. In reality, no serious project that the regime wants to do gets blocked. Further, any political group that becomes powerful enough to threaten the regime sees their members thrown into prison or reeducation camp. There is no free speech, and the Chinese government throws huge amounts of resources at monitoring the expressive activities of its population.

In the only measure that matters, the Chinese government is the most evil regime on the planet, because their bad acts oppress far more people than any other government's bad acts. And until they are willing to stand in a free election against an opposition party that they are willing to cede power to in the event of a loss, I don't see any reason why anyone in the west should be defending them or minimizing their acts.
7.18.2008 2:59pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
Also, I want to point out that some other commenters have mistaken ideas about real estate title and land tenure here in China. Technically, all urban land is owned by the state. However, you can buy "land use rights" that allow you possession of the property, the right to build any structures allowed by current zoning and urban planning policies, the right to sell your interest in the property to third parties without government approval, etc. The structures on the land are the private property of whomever holds title. Residential real estate is treated somewhat differently from commercial real estate. Land use rights for housing developments almost always have 70 year terms and are automatically renewed upon expiration. It is currently unclear under present law if the land premium would be paid every seventy years or if land use rights would be renewed without additional payment. Strangely enough many localities require that you "top-up" your land use rights to the maximum term when purchasing on the secondary market. In other words, in many places, every time a home is sold the term on the land use rights reverts back to 70 years. Theoretically, if a home was sold at least once every seventy years the land use rights would never expire.Unlike leases in common law jurisdictions the title to residential buildings is not transferred to the government if land use rights expire.

Apartment buildings are where it really gets weird. There really aren't any condominiums here in the common law sense. In some cases, residences of apartment buildings all hold fractional land-use rights on the same piece of ground that expire at different times. As you can see, the Chinese have created a system that gives homeowners rights (in a very convoluted fashion) that approximate those of freeholders in common law countries.

Commercial development is treated very differently. The maximum tenure for office buildings, stores, factories, is 50 years and is not automatically renewed. If the government declined to renew land use rights it would automatically acquire title to the commercial buildings sitting on it. In some areas this can be avoided by "topping up" as I described above.
7.18.2008 3:19pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
I don't usually (ever?) say this but Dilan is absolutely right.

And Jerome Cole, sorry, but your entire comment is one big justification for a regime totally beyond justification.
7.18.2008 3:24pm
Jeff R.:
"reforms implemented since 1978"?

You mean like that big 'reform' in 1989?

Sorry, as far as I'm concerned the day China can be considered a part of the civilized world is the day after the war crimes tribunals finish sentencing everybody involved in that, from the soldiers on up to the surviving personal staffs of the top leadership. Until then, the very idea of holding Olympic games there is flat-out obscene, and a few hundred thousand evictions isn't even a drop in the bucket by comparison.
7.18.2008 3:44pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):



A couple of comments:

1. There's a couple of issues on the dam. One is whether they needed to build it at all-- I am agnostic on that. But what is absolutely clear is that they wanted to build a big, grandiose dam just like all the other big, grandiose projects that they are doing. And they kicked all those people out of their homes because they stood in the way of the big, grandiose project that the regime favored.

2. I think you are reading too much into the vote. Sure, China has a sort of political system, with a parliament and representation and the like. But it's a show. In reality, no serious project that the regime wants to do gets blocked. Further, any political group that becomes powerful enough to threaten the regime sees their members thrown into prison or reeducation camp. There is no free speech, and the Chinese government throws huge amounts of resources at monitoring the expressive activities of its population.

In the only measure that matters, the Chinese government is the most evil regime on the planet, because their bad acts oppress far more people than any other government's bad acts. And until they are willing to stand in a free election against an opposition party that they are willing to cede power to in the event of a loss, I don't see any reason why anyone in the west should be defending them or minimizing their acts.

"The regime" is not a thinking, breathing, living entity. It is just the China's system of government. It does not want anything. What the government does is the result of a complex interaction between government officials' self-dealing and public opinion, just like most other countries. Officials naturally want to curry favor with the public in order to further their own interests. Given that the only thing the Chinese people can seem to agree on is a deep sense of nationalism the Chinese government builds big dams, launches big rockets, hosts the Olympics, and engages in all sorts of projects to enhance China's sense of national greatness. A democratically elected government might do a lot more of these kind of things. Inefficient? Yes. Evil? No way.

As for any organization being powerful enough to threaten the government getting smashed in the manner you described, it just isn't very likely. The military, Chinese Catholic Church, Chinese Protestant Church, and the house-church movement all have the resources to bring the government down overnight.

The Chinese government has responded by bribing the military with big budget increases and allowing them to elect a very large percentage of the deputies to the National People's Congress.

The Chinese Catholic Church has effective control (Ever heard of public choice theory?) over the organization the Communists created to control it called the All China Catholic Patriotic Association and has been very successful at simultaneously extracting tons of financial and political concessions from the government. The church I attend, The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Guangzhou, just got a multi-million dollar renovation courtesy of Uncle Mao.

The Chinese Protestant Church hasn't been very good at getting government money but they have gotten the government off their backs and now nearly all Protestant churches are de-facto free of government control. In addition to their formal organizations the Protestants have constructed a vast network of house churches. In recent years the Chinese government has almost entirely stopped hassling these groups for fear of alienating Chinese protestants.

Then of course there is the relatively young general population that has grown up with uninterrupted economic growth and unprecedented freedom. When China's economy inevitably falters the Communists are going to be in for a rough ride. China's "Me Generation" won't like it the first time the run into any trouble or hear "no" for the first time.

As for China's lawmaking bodies all being just for show, don't tell that to all the lawmakers across the country amending bills, vetoing budgets, impeaching judges, rejecting government appointments, and fighting for re-election. They're all really committed to the lie.

As for China being evil, I just don't know what i can say to you, Apparently your mind is already made up. However, I have this to say. A country that has rejected totalitarianism and dramatically expanded individual and economic freedom can't be all that bad. China is taking two steps forward, one step back, and five sideways, but it is moving forward towards becoming a free country. That's not perfect, but it is also nothing to look down upon with such scorn.
7.18.2008 4:04pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Some points:

Around 1960, the residents of Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles were evicted to make way for Dodger Stadium.

The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics did not cost the government a significant amount of money. Money was saved by using mostly existing facilities, and the Games were paid for by corporate donations, ticket sales, etc.. Even I helped fund the Games by buying an Olympic auto license plate for $100. The Games actually generated a big surplus.
7.18.2008 4:30pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
I'll address 1989 directly. The government pleaded, begged, and bribed the students in Tiananmen Square and the other protesters around the country to either make coherent demands and negotiate or go home. Right up until the order to send in the army China's senior leadership was prepared to make major concessions. It was a fantastic opportunity for reform. Unfortunately, the protest movement didn't really have anything to offer except for anger and in the end violence.

Using reason, negotiation, and law to solve problems are all ideas that were just recently introduced into Chinese culture. As I mentioned in a previous post Chinese people do not hesitate to use maximum violence when they don't get their way. This is common in developing countries.

The Chinese military tried to enter Beijing and was violently repulsed. Many military units refused to enter the city. The government then ordered different units to fight their way to the center of the city. Those soldiers were cursed, stoned, fire-bombed, machine-gunned, etc. After gaining control of the city they went on a rampage for days. People were shot at random. Soldiers fired wildly into buildings.

All of it was wrong. But why is it that CNN and other Western media outlets only show video of the military's retaliation against Beijing's civilian population? The police officers hanging from street lamps, burning armored vehicles, and dead soldiers never get any air time outside of China.

The fact is that the government started with the best of intentions. Soldiers were initially ordered to use extreme restraint (Don't believe it? Just take a look at the single protestor who stopped a single column of tanks just by standing in the road. If the Chinese leadership was really as evil as you think they are that guy would have been shot on the spot.) until things got out of control. Is it really too much to ask that both sides of the story be heard? This whole China=evil meme is just absurd.
7.18.2008 4:33pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Jerome, you really need to stop digging your hole.

It was the 1989 protestors' fault they were killed or thrown in prison? Yet, you are not an apologist for the Chinese regime?

I guess those Hungarians in 1956 or Checzks in 1968 were at fault too. Darn pesky desire for freedom!
7.18.2008 5:36pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Jerome, it is of course true that the Chinese government is more than an iron fist-- it certainly does buy, barter and horse trade in an effort to stay in power.

Where you go wrong is equating that with the sorts of buying, bartering, and horsetrading that goes on in free societies. Yes, the Republican and Democratic Party also buy, barter, and horsetrade, but neither party, when it is in power, spends billions of dollars monitoring all of the internet communications in the US and throwing people in jail for advocating disapproved ideas. For instance, for all my complaints about George W. Bush, there was never a day when I felt I couldn't go onto the Internet and espouse my opposition to his policies. In contrast, the Chinese government arrests, jails, and "reeducates" people who advocate the independence of Tibet or Taiwan or Falun Gong or multiparty democracy.

So, the Chinese government brutally represses the civil liberties of its people, and then, on top of that, bribes and barters to maintain sufficient public popularity to stay in power. In contrast, the US government does do some bribing and bartering, but if the Republicans lose the 2008 election despite their best efforts, they will leave and allow the Democrats to take power. Just as the Democrats left after 2000.

What you are doing is therefore pointing out the aspects of the Chinese political system that might be said to mirror western systems, while ignoring the crucial point, which is that they are an attempt to keep a dictatorial regime that crushes the liberties of its people in power, whereas those same aspects in the west are attempts by the government to obtain the freely-given consent of the people so that they may remain in power. The two systems are completely the opposite of each other.

A thought experiment would prove this. If the Chinese government allowed opposition parties and stood for free elections, would they win? I suspect not, because it's a bit easier to buy people's loyalties when their alternative is prison. And if you believe that the Chinese government would win such an election, why haven't they had one? I suspect they know better and know that if the Chinese people whom they purport to speak for were actually given a chance to speak, they would be out on their behinds.
7.18.2008 5:56pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
After reading my last post how could you say that I am an apologist for China? A great deal of what I have written does not reflect well on China or its government. Go through and read my posts carefully. I don't object to exposing human rights abuses in China or criticizing the Chinese government. In fact I do some of that myself.

But I really can't stand the one sided, one dimensional "Chinese Communists bad, Chinese dissidents good" crap that permeates the Western media. Chinese dissidents have personal, political, and economic interests in making the human rights situation in China look much worse than it really is. The same goes for human rights NGOs. Western journalists have a shameful lack of knowledge about China and seldom have any Chinese language ability. Instead they let the '89 activists, Falun Gong, and NGOs spoon feed them information that is either outright wrong or taken completely out of context.

The Chinese government's poor PR abilities and complete lack of empathy for Westerners is equally frustrating. China could dramatically enhance its image if it were more aggressively defending itself. Fessing up to past wrongdoing wouldn't hurt either. Unfortunately, the Communists learn slowly.

The Chinese have accomplished a lot and they deserve our respect and helpful criticism. Blind demonization of the Chinese government will only slow the pace of reform. The China's government and society are in dire need of reform. Constructive engagement is the answer, not invective.
7.18.2008 6:01pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
Dilan, thank you for your thoughtful post. I think your ideas are well reasoned but still mistaken. I agree that you can't draw a very good analogy along the lines you described. Unfortunately it is past five in the morning in China and I have to go back to bed. I will ponder what you wrote and try to reply in a productive manner. I must say I am having fun using English. I'm a law student here and my English writing ability has deteriorated to the point that I am sometimes mistaken for non-native speaker when posting online.
7.18.2008 6:08pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
I will also carefully consider your thought experiment about an open election. I'll give you my thoughts later.
7.18.2008 6:11pm