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Friday, 2 July 2010

The Chinese consul general Hu Shan takes the plunge today with an opinion piece on the website of the National Times. It's a brave step for the local top functionary of a secretive and controlling country - a look at the comment thread shows some people are sceptical of Hu's complacent pacifism.

China's big problem is that it cannot release its controls on the press as it struggles to allow development, without opening the doors to civil strife. The "harmony" it seeks will always come at a cost, however. One of the most costly elements being, of course, the blank-faced incredulity foreigners exibit when confronted by this type of fatuous pabulum.

We know, for instance, that the Chinese government is quite capable of turning on the taps of xenophobia when it chooses. Demonstrations against Japan are tolerated while demonstrations against the ruling Communist regime are not. Hypocrisy is the only word for such duplicitousness.

Hu's commenters are not all genuine, furthermore. It's quite clear that there are prepared statements among the comments left on the piece. It's just further proof of the kind of control the Chinese government demands of its media - one of the least free in the world.

Releasing controls on the press might go some way toward alleviating the perception problems that Hu's piece is designed to address. By giving the Chinese media a free rein, outsiders will be able to see what actually goes on inside this dark and tumltuous country. "Harmony" is a rhetorical veneer covering a toxic melange of corruption and dissatisfaction. Strip away the plastic cover and the wall-space is filled with rats and roaches.

Leaving things the way they are, at present, is merely another way of saying that China does not care what foreigners think about it. Civil strife would be better, perhaps?

Pic credit: Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Sydney.

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