Old Grumbles from the New China

A Chinese investor watches share prices reverse their recent slides. (AP photo)

A Chinese investor watches share prices reverse their recent slides.
(AP photo)

Slowing economic growth in China, but especially public distrust of the official numbers, is causing unrest in the Middle Kingdom:

Because of the Internet, and despite Chinese efforts to “control” (censor and influence) information, it is possible to gather enough economic data to seriously challenge official government numbers. This is forcing the Chinese to reveal ugly truths they would prefer to keep hidden. The government is trying to clean up the corruption in the banking sector and state owned enterprises but does not want the public watching. That’s partly because a lot of senior officials (present and past) were criminally responsible for this mess and partly because if these credit and government budget problems are not fixed there could be a major financial crises and years of economic depression. Most Chinese also know that if a crises is imminent government officials want to get the information first so they can save their own personal wealth before the Chinese currency and stock markets lose most of their value. This is one reason why the government wants to control anti-corruption efforts, lest the public find out too many details of how badly behaved their leaders still are. This is particularly true of cases where corrupt officials with powerful friends use that influence to escape punishment. This is particularly the case with children and grandchildren of families that were in leadership positions when the communists took over in the 1940s. Nearly as frightening is growing publicity (despite efforts by censors) of corruption in state owned companies. This is no secret to most Chinese but the details create public anger towards the government that seems to tolerate all this misbehavior. Equally embarrassing are the official and unofficial revelations about senior people in charge of anti-corruption efforts who are found to be corrupt. Publicity of this sort of corruption is particularly dangerous to the government because it makes the ruling (since the 1940s) Chinese Communist Party look incapable of reforming itself.

Parties don’t generally reform themselves until they’ve spent some time out of power. Democratic republics hold elections to throw the bums out when they deserve it, but in single-party states only violence or political collapse does the trick.

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