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Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Xi's corruption crusade doomed to fail in the absence of a free media

Everyone knows that "Mao" - as in Chairman Mao - means "cat", and it appears that China's fresh-minted head honcho, Xi Jinping, had this in mind when he announced recently that he would "crack down on both "tigers" and "flies" – powerful leaders and lowly bureaucrats – in his campaign against corruption and petty officialdom". If we can rely on the Guardian's translation, of course. Of course we can! Corruption and poor behaviour by state functionaries is a corrosive agent on the body politic, as Xi admits. Given his new crusade, though, it's a wonder that he has been so assiduous in blocking access to the New York Times, the paper that has in recent times exposed extraordinary levels of corruption at the highest levels of China's leadership. Because of course if Xi really wanted to crack down on criminal bureaucrats, lazy police, corrupt officials, thieving politicians etcetera he would allow the media to operate freely. We remember that it was bad behaviour by police in Tunisia that sparked the Arab Spring in early 2011. No doubt Xi has this in mind. His wariness viz-a-vis the media is the loathing for disclosure too close to home, however, which is why China continues to exert fearsome pressure on its journalists to conform to the Party line. The zombies of one-party rule continue to eat the living flesh of China's people. Long live the undead!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Whilst a free media is something we're accustomed to in the west, what we sometimes fail to realize is that we couldn't have that without an independent and well developed judicial system.

There is a fine line between freedom of speech and libel. We have a very well-functioning legal system and loads of case history to help keep these two apart.

I do appreciate that China - by simply granting more media 'freedom' before the legal system is ready - would be opening themselves up to a nightmare world of abuse of media power. Loads of misinformation would be the result, and in a society as large and broadly unaware of how things really work as China, it could result in chaos from which absolutely no one benefits.

More media freedom is the right direction for China, but if I were Xi, I'd be focusing on getting an independent legal system established first and feed the masses weibo in the meantime.

With weibo, the 'freedom' is developing, but it is not concentrated in the hands of a small group of people such as editors and media owners and as such not so easily abused. Not a bad start for China...