STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
China's Blogging Culture Bringing Changes?
By Staff News & Analysis - May 20, 2013

Beijing has long maintained control in part by tacitly promising that over time everyone will benefit from the country's new wealth. Rampant corruption and the garish displays of affluence by senior officials and their families strike at the heart of Beijing's promise that it is working to make life better for all. Ordinary Chinese, often through microblogs and other social media, have increasingly lashed out at what they see as a privileged class of political elites. – LA Times

Dominant Social Theme: When it comes to Leviathan, nothing will change because nothing can change.

Free-Market Analysis: This article tells of changes in China based in part on Internet exposure. It has become ubiquitous in the alternative media community to explain that the Internet is merely buttressing authoritarianism and making governments more efficient when it comes to repression. This article provides us with a stated antidote.

About time, too. It is a kind of exasperating meme – that the Internet was created by shadowy authoritarian forces to undermine freedom – because it is so obviously flawed. Whatever the Internet manages to do to on behalf of government, it will also manage to do on behalf of those who would rather see less government intrusion in their lives.

Here's more from the article:

In the last few months, China's new leader, President Xi Jinping, has been pressing a campaign to rein in the lavish ways of the nation's political and military elite. Warning that corruption could threaten the Communist Party's survival, Xi has waged a highly public effort to rid officialdom of ostentatious living.

Ceremonial red carpets and floral decor are out. Flying coach is in. Party cadres are being told to double up in hotel rooms.

And in what has become a particular crowd pleaser with the public, Beijing is going after those who have long abused the privileges of military license plates, which almost guarantee immunity from traffic laws and other such inconveniences.

It's a much-debated question here whether this wide-ranging campaign is aimed at the root causes of corruption and income inequality, or only addressing the most visible symptoms. Whichever the case, Xi and his lieutenants have good reason for their frugality program …

Minxin Pei, an expert on Chinese governance at Claremont McKenna College, thinks Xi has two objectives with his anticorruption program: "To appease the Chinese public to show that he has heard their voice … [and] to tell officials throughout the system that the new leadership has absolute authority."

Whatever the government's purpose, the campaign has affected spending on all kinds of high-end goods and services. Some analysts blame Xi's crackdown for China's disappointing economic growth in the first quarter, which has brought financial pain to many workers.

… Xi has made examples of officials who have been publicly criticized, fired or prosecuted, mostly at low levels of government, for using taxpayer money on banquets and trips, for example, or keeping a public vehicle for personal use.

It's less clear how effective he has been in going after flagrant cases of corruption in the upper ranks of power, although last week, the deputy head of China's main economic planning agency, Liu Tienan, was dismissed amid allegations that he had colluded with a private business for personal gain.

To this latter point, we say, "Just wait." Already in the US, cell phones that can upload video instantaneously to the Internet are making the lives of corrupt and violent police officials miserable. And from our point of view, the scandals surrounding President Barack Obama have in part expanded because of transmission via the 'Net. It is increasingly more difficult for Leviathan to keep its secrets.

The more repressive a government is, and the more secretive, the more trouble it will have in keeping and holding its secrets in the modern era. It is not a coincidence that the alternative media is filled with narratives regarding government "false flags" and how they operate.

While some of these reports are obviously false, others are certainly credible, and the more of them there are, the more corrupt government officials and those who stand behind them will have difficulty in manipulating public opinion. In this sense, Internet disclosures act like rain, very gradually reshaping the terrain.

Ordinarily, because the process is slow, we don't notice the totality of the differences. But surely the Chinese are noticing. And public officials in the West, as well, are cognizant by now of what is occurring, even if they don't speak of it. But they are probably uneasily aware that even if their actions are not currently in danger of any exposure, they will be eventually as technology improves.

After Thoughts

Yes, the Internet makes repressive actions more feasible, but it also helps with their eventual exposure.

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