By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
August 11, 2007
China’s President Hu Jintao has announced that the role and authority of local government communist bosses will be reduced in light of the many scandals Beijing was forced to handle this year.
A China watcher who once served at the Heritage Foundation, a noted conservative think tank, told us on Friday, “What you at Peace and Freedom have so rightly dubbed the “stooges” are both taking the ‘rap’ and being forced to ‘shrink’ in light of all this pre-Olympic controversy. You can call this Chinese-style ‘shrink wrap’ but please do not quote me by name. This isn’t politically correct.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in Friday’s editions that, “Provincial and city governments in China have for decades had broad freedom to run their own affairs, as long as they delivered economic expansion and kept social conflict in check.”
“Yet too often, critic say, that focus on growth has led local authorities to turn a blind eye to violations of safety, labor and environmental standards.”
Earlier this year, when it became apparent that the environmental goals for reducing pollution that the central government in Beijing had pledged to the U.N. it would achieve were being completely ignored by local governments and businesses, the central communist rulers in Beijing threatened local government functionaries.
Also earlier this year, China ordered local authorities to address the root causes of rising public discontent, state media reported, in an apparent sign of growing concern over social stability.
Local officials were told they will be denied promotions unless they minimize social unrest in their areas, Xinhua news agency quoted a top Community Party official as saying.
“Officials who perform poorly in maintaining social stability in rural areas will not be qualified for promotion,” it quoted Ouyang Song, a senior party official in charge of personnel matters, as saying.
Beijing blamed inept local communist party officials for illicit CD factories, air and water pollution, and rioting over the “one child” policy near Hong Kong.
One local party official told me, “We are the whipping boys” for Beijing. “Beijing will not take responsibility in front of the west, but they will shift the blame on to us, poor education and other policy problems.”
Now, today we learn Beijing is yanking some of the autonomy away from those local and loyal communist bureaucrats.
Andrew Batson wrote in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, “Having made sweeping public commitment to China’s 1.3 billion people to improve living standards and equality, the government needs to make sure it can keep its word.”
Xu Shaoshi, China’s Minister of Land and Resources, said, “This is a major test of our strength and credibility.”
Many China watchers believe that reducing some of the authority and autonomy of what we at Peace and Freedom have called the “stooges,” and vesting more authority in the central Beijing government is essential.
“On health, on education on many other things, the central government has to play a larger role,” said Khalid Malik, head of the United Nations Development Program in China.
But there may be a downside, too, as so many decisions already have to percolate to the top of China’s government for policy direction and control. Earlier this year we here at Peace and Freedom wrote, “The fact is, too many issues have to be cleared up at the very top of China’s government.”
We also wrote, in our column now referred to as “Stooges,” (“China’s Worthless Stooges,” August 9, 2007) “So we stand by our not-so-politically-correct assertions. Below the elite in China the government is largely run by worthless stooges. Many (even most) are immature, naïve, and not very worldly.”
Now the “stooges” face “shrink rap.”
China’s Worthless Stooges