• Wed
  • Sep 24, 2014
  • Updated: 11:31am
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PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 7:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 2:42am

Post June 4, the party has thrived, but so has corruption

Frank Ching laments the Communist Party's failure to rein in corruption, 25 years after a show of public anger against it was brutally crushed

Twenty-five years ago, the world was shocked. Tanks rumbled through the streets of Beijing and shots were fired at students and other civilians who had gathered to protest against inflation and corruption. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed.

Across the world, communism was in retreat. Six months previously, the Soviet Union pledged to withdraw troops from Eastern Europe. In Hungary, the communist party proposed a multiparty political system. In Poland, the newly legalised Solidarity trade union was holding talks with the government, which would lead to elections and a non-communist government. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia declared themselves independent of the Soviet Union.

The writing was on the wall.

But in China, Communist Party elders led by Deng Xiaoping decided they would not go passively. Deng saw a link between events in China and abroad and decided to suppress what he called a "counter-revolutionary uprising", regardless of the cost in human lives.

A quarter of a century later, Deng's successors feel vindicated. "Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate?" Xi Jinping asked while pondering the collapse of the Soviet party. He concluded: "In the end nobody was a real man, nobody came out to resist" and so "a great party was gone".

Xi, like Deng 25 years ago, is obsessed with the survival of the party and is doing everything possible to ensure that it remains in power indefinitely.

In the 1980s, the party offered a bargain to the people: wealth but not political reform. And the party has delivered. While in 1989 per capita gross domestic product was only US$400 a year, by last year it had increased nearly 17-fold, to US$6,800.

As a result, the Pew Research Centre found, 86 per cent of Chinese in 2008 were satisfied with their country's direction.

The party has also stoked nationalism in the form of a "Chinese dream" of national grandeur. Love of country is being equated to love of the party.

But while the party is undoubtedly pleased with the achievements of the past 25 years, it must find shameful what it did on June 4, 1989. Why else will it not allow those historic events to even be mentioned in public?

What fanned the flames of opposition in 1989 was not so much the desire for democracy as outrage at official corruption. On this score, the party has not done so well. In recent months, many calling for the disclosure of officials' assets have been arrested.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has reported that more than 18,000 officials fled between 1995 and 2008, taking with them US$145 billion in assets. When even officials don't have confidence in the country's future, what will the common people think?

And why is it that the vast majority of high rollers in casinos around the world come from China? And whose money are they gambling with?

Unless the party can rule justly, it will be difficult for it to argue that it should rule at all.

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator. frank.ching@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FrankChing1

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This article is now closed to comments

321manu
Hey, nice rant. But I won't "dignify" it by referring to the author by name. Let's just call him the CCP worshipper who throws out terms like "malicious lies" without any reference whatsoever. But understandably, when blinded by faith in the CCP, he can't help but strike out at those who challenge and question that belief system. After all, bereft of that belief system, what is he?
It is ironic that this CCP worshipper so frequently makes reference to religion. He certainly holds to the CCP way firmly, much like practitioners of other religions. And like all religious practitioners, he is rather fast and loose with what he considers "facts", and what he considers "lies", the better to ensure that the ideological cocoon in which he resides not be disturbed by the need for independent thought. But rather than giving penitence at the altar of a church, he performs he duty online and anonymously, hoping to strike down the infidels who would question his beloved CCP. And that's ok. Everybody needs their own unique crutches to get them through the day. And while his methods might be less solemn, they are much more entertaining for others who witness it. I mean, this is much more fun than watching a guy on bended knee, right?
Indeed, democracy is not perfect. Neither is the CCP. When faced with imperfect choices, would one opt for that which offers some input and control, or one where he has none. The choice is clear, but for religious preachings of course.
whymak
How About:
I don't suffer liars and fools in this column gladly. I refuse to dignify their malicious lies to undermine our social fabric and subvert HK governance – bad as it is – with direct answers.
A principle in competitive marketing and political canvassing calls for the avoidance to persuade hardcore folks with bad attitudes. Useful conversations are not about preaching to the choir but in discovering new facts and recognizing legitimate views of others. Perhaps you should not waste time conversing with malicious liars.
Just to give you an example. A reader objected when I mentioned Pew survey rating China’s government approval #1 in 2008 at 86%. But the survey dealt with other issues in which China is nowhere near the top. Moreover, in 2002, CCP had only 48% approval in people’s trust.
Instead of recognizing this fact, this deranged China hater went into his lying frenzy denigrating the Pew methodology.
CCP is no longer the same Party in Mao’s China. Its due processes of inclusive diversified inputs to decision making, term limits and meritocratic promotions are not only a far cry from 1989, but also a shining governance experiment for the modern day.
Democracy has merit because it provides outlets for venting frustrations. Elections are a programmed strategy to further the illusion that the people are governing themselves.
whymak
HA: (cont)
Elected government is only another major component of a balanced machine – unbalanced for dysfunctional democracies – with many other non-government stakeholders. K Street and Israeli government control both policies and opinions of the US government in many matters of national interest.
The reason that functioning democracies could survive with mediocre governance is because most of the powers are already in the hands of vested interests, which control a nation’s vital processes and institutions. Yet denizens of democratic republics still persist in the myth that they govern themselves.
All empires follow rise and decline cycles. Democracy has seen better days but I won’t be foolish enough to predict its demise. Indeed, despite China’s rise, America’s momentum might easily carry it through for another half century. Of course, the China phoenix rising from the ashes might yet see its demise and another rebirth.
But self-hate Chinese and China bashing expats’ mindset about Democracy is akin to religious fundamentalists stuck in a 6000-year old universe and Virgin Birth of Jesus. Convince them with facts about zygotes and cosmic microwave background radiation unbeknownst to Jesus and Mohammed is a galloping futility, just like facts about China today.
While criticizing the US, remember its monumental achievements, to which China should aspire and hopefully accomplish despite mutual conflicting interests.
Arguing with Democracy Cultists is counter productive.
321manu
Hey whymak, still conflating the CCP for CHina itself, I see. For the truly and deeply indoctrinated, old (and wrong) habits die hard.
Let's see about your "logic" here. Now, "so much information (is already) available today". But more information will be " fodders for more media lies"?!? How does that work? Less information is better? The only way that makes any sense at all is if some of this remaining unseen "information" is not so flattering to the CCP...which is the only reason why the CCP won't want to come clean. Think about it (well, try as best as you can to closely approximate the concept), if there was information that vindicates the decisions the CCP made that night, why wouldn't they want to share it? And with the army of apologists they have on hand to "debunk" stuff, what fear do they have that they would lose the narrative, assuming they weren't covering up a colossal ****-up all this time? ONce again, the only people who fear the light are those with something to hide. Not a difficult concept to grasp if you put your mind to it.
You still can't discern the forest for the trees. Yeah, let's call it Chang'an Ave massacre, or maybe just BJ massacre to satisfy wingnuts like you who remain fixated on the precise geography.
At least you're philosophically consistent with the CCP that you worship. Less info is better. Don't let people make up their own minds. It's too bad you aren't on the mainland to enjoy all that the CCP truly has to offer.
whymak
With so much information available today, we are pretty sure who the cast of pro and con decision makers were. Obviously, Li Peng called for tough actions and Zhao Ziyang, reconciliations with naïve students who had no other clue about the national crisis -- part of their own making -- except raw passions.

It’s the kind of heated disagreements one expects to see and hear from strong-willed leaders. But we already know this. If Beijing gave a truthful account similar to what I stated in another column, what purpose does it serve except fodders for more media lies? Let the sleeping dog lie for another 2 decades is probably as good decision as any. 平反六四 should have a simple meaning: Stop all lies about student massacre at Tiananmen Square.

I was totally wrong too during 1989. I thought what China did would lead to chaos. With the information I possess now, I am glad Deng Xiaoping’s heroic decision saved the nation. We actually purged the nation of lingering doubts that order and national construction are for real.

If you are not addicted to this ideological opiate – populist rule is the End of History, you’re likely to take so-called Democracy as just another phase of ineluctable rise and fall of all empires. This ubiquitous decline is happening in all democracies even as I speak.

China is on the ascent. China haters can eat your heart out. China rising for how long? Who knows.
I doubt hate China readers could read history in Chinese at 2nd grade level.
How About
I was just about to post this before the axing of threads by SCMP yesterday, someone is obviously very sensitive about what we post. Anyhow half the story of the Victoria Park June4 vigil was about a commemoration of the fallen. So how did the authorities deal with the students is tantamount to the commemoration. I agree with you that were Beijing to publish a death toll today, another bigger media witch-hunt will be afoot. Short of the published death-count, is it therefore conscionable for the freedom-thinking-speaking-and-loving Western media to be not the least bit apologetic in conjuring up thousands of deaths, massacre and rivers of blood? Repent China repent?
.
No blood should have been spilled 25 years so by all means press China to be more open. I too support the vigil, the other half of the annual message would be that freedom means much, if not everything, to everyone. Somewhere in that message and just as important I hope, we are also passing on a torch of Truth and Integrity.
.
Everything else would be propaganda.
.
whymak
Mr. Ching,
平反六四 should mean only one thing: Stop all lies about student massacre at Tiananmen Square, including ones in your ancient columns.
whymak
XYZ:
From the tone of your complaints here and elsewhere in this publication, you seem to have wealth envy. Of course, China has more quid pro quo corruptions than Hong Kong. So instead of celebrating hundreds of millions prodigious rise out of abysmal poverty, you make corruption in China your most convenient scapegoat for personal failure. Hate passion of a loser is very scary indeed!
If you're a HK resident, allow me to guess that you have little or no accumulated wealth, let alone a successful career when given all opportunities available in this former Crown Colony and today's one country two systems.
With your attitude -- relentlessly demonizing China and its government, you will never get the wealth and status desired because even the most corrupted Chinese won't touch a talentless nobody with a ten-foot pole.
321manu
Who is Gregory Clark, and what earth shattering things did he have to say to warrant multiple CCP apologists making repeated references to his article at Japan Times on multiple threads?
Beats me. If you don't feel like reading Clark, I've left a summary on SCMP article 1524848 comment 89936.
321manu
"Deng Xiaoping made the correct decision that saved China."
---what part of which decision "saved" China? Are you suggesting that the way TAM played out was the one and only way for China to end up in its current state?
Indeed, the rededication to opening up the economy started China on its current path. WHat indispensible direct causal role did June 4 have to do with that?
I would agree that the exact sequence of his decisions saved the CCP. But as always, people shouldn't conflate the CCP with China itself.

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