Author Wei Ling Chua has written two interesting books contrasting western government and media narratives toward China, which Chua exposes as disinformation: Democracy: What the West Can Learn from China (review) Tiananmen Square “Massacre”?: The Power of Words vs. Silent Evidence (review).
Chua paints a very favorable picture of the Chinese Communist party. Certainly I have noticed great development having taken place in China since I first was there in 2002. It is my anecdotal experience that there is at least mild discontent among ordinary Chinese people toward the Communist Party, contrary to polls cited by Chua in his books. It may be that this is just a case of the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
To explore further the narratives revolving around China, I carried out an email interview with Wei Ling Chua. I let him know beforehand that I’d refrain from lobbing questions and would endeavor to play the a Devil’s advocate to challenge any Communist-Party-can-do-no-wrong impression. I think any institution is only as good as the people in it and their striving to do good within that institution.
Wei Ling Chua: Thanks for the opportunity Kim. Before I begin to answer your questions, I would like to draw to people attention about this series of books. This series of books come with two titles:
1) Series title: The Art of Media Disinformation is hurting the world and humanity
2) Main theme title of the respective series. In this case, the first of the series of 10 books is: Democracy: What the West can learn from China.
People will find in this book 5 main issues:
1) Media disinformation about the superiority of Western “democracy”.
2) Is there a one-size-fix-all political system?
3) People should realise that the root of Western “democracy” is a capitalist democracy. The voting system was not originally meant for the average people. The western voting system was designed to maintain peace and order among the wealthy class, and the way its functions today is still open for the rich to dictate public opinion and government policies through the corrupt practice of political donation, advertising and lobbying.
4) You are right to point out that “any institution is only as good as the people in it and the fidelity of the people to do good within that institution” This is why I raise the issue of political belief and culture democracy in the book.
5) English is not my native language, and I hope that people will not judge my book by my English, just like people should not judge a book by its cover. The attention should be focused on the hundreds of actual examples I documented in the book that demonstrates the flaws revealed by countries that have adopted the western-styled voting system are similar from country to country. It is very time consuming to collect such a huge volume of examples to prove how the design of a political system affects the behaviour of people within the system. So I hope that the examples given in the book will inspire policy makers to reform the currently inferior form of Western political model for the common good of humanity across the world including people living in the West.
Kim Petersen: You mentioned the pay and perks of US and Australian politicians, but you neglected to mention such salaries and perks for Chinese Communist Party officials. The Chinese Communist Party, according to an article in Bloomberg, is a circle of the wealthy – hardly representative of average Chinese, and such wealth disparity is hardly a harbinger of socialism. Then there are the stories of family members of Communist Party officials using familial connections for personal enrichment. New York Times, a notorious disseminator of disinformation and propaganda, takes China to the task. You do mention that there is corruption in China as elsewhere, but you add there are mechanisms in place to mitigate corruption more effectively than in the west. Given, however, that elitists are in political positions of power, could this not be a case of foxes guarding the henhouse?
WLC: One of the major flaws with many western writers is a common lack of detailed study and understanding of policy development on the respective issues in developing countries such as China; journalists and writers alike simply hop in and begin all kind of negativity against the Central government in Beijing as and when an incident took place within some corners of the society. It is not worth reading the reports produced by the agenda-based mass media as very often there are elements of made up stories as my second book: Tiananmen Square “Massacre”? The Power of Words vs. Silent evidence has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt.
As a human society, Chinese people are not free from crimes, greed and temptations. However, unlike Western politicians who legalised corruption through endorsing political donation, lobbying and advertising (Truthout (2011), RT (2012) and The Daily Beast (2013)), the Chinese leadership actually undertook a series of actions to root out corruption within its own ranks. This article — ‘China’s Wukan Protest and Corruption- Another Side of the Story‘ (16 Jan 2012) — allows us to understand the issues in an objective manner. Most importantly, since Chairman Xi took over as leader, the crackdown effort has escalated despite China still being a developing country, with its bureaucrats still receiving a wage much lower than those working in the private sector. The Wall Street Journal (13 June, 2014) acknowledged such problems in an article titled ‘Corruption Crackdown Presents New Problem for Xi’). The effectiveness of the crackdown has seen many corrupt officials escape to the United State, and only a few have been extradited back to China due to resistance from the US side. (Want China Times, 13 May, 2014). There are so many genuine policies and actions being taken against corruption in China but not reported by the western media, and that some of the high ranking officials such as Bo Xilai has been tried publicly with footage of the trial broadcasted on state TV. I have no doubt that given time, China will be one of the world least corrupt country.
It is also very important to take into consideration that China is a country with 20% of the world population. It is run by a political party with over 85 million members. The size of the Communist Party is bigger than the entire population of many European countries combined. It is therefore unfair to pick out cases of corruption committed by individuals and demonise the entire Central government. Besides, the latest anti-corruption campaign has seen many western corporations targeted and executives arrested — such as the GlaxoSmithKline case. Corruption is not always a one way traffic, many western corporations are notorious in initiating bribery to gain advantage in a market. A Financial Times article (25 February 2014) acknowledged that “Chinese anti-corruption laws worry US companies”.
KP: The thrust of my question was not directed at corruption per se but rather at a wealthy elitist group governing in a purportedly socialist country. I use western media as sources (in line with what you mainly do in very compelling fashion in your books); however, I am in China and have been for quite a while, and it seems clear to me that corruption is the greatest complaint of Chinese people, in particular, corruption among police. For instance, the mobilization to recover from the Sichuan earthquake that you document so well in your book is pointed to by some as an incident where citizens donated money and corrupt police siphoned off earthquake relief funds. You point to the hard work and merit through which Xi Jinping rose to become chairman, but by the same token Jiang Zemin’s alleged corruption is relayed to me, unbidden, by Chinese. When there is wealth disparity is it not conceivable that people with wealth can use their wealth to open doors to political power? From your response can I surmise that you consider that the system already in place is impermeable to further corruption and that it is indeed ridding China of political corruption?
WLC: Corruption is just like prostitution. It is an age old problem hard to be fully eliminated. The transactions are usually carried out in the dark, in a corner, under the table, in cash or indirectly as a gift to somebody’s children, relatives or a trusted friend in the form of scholarship, highly paid job or a high-value present such as brand-name watches, etc. It is very hard to detect.
In a developed country like Australia, corruption is supposed to be under control. However, cases of reported corruption have been taking place across the country year on year, in virtually every public institution. Just a few links below:
- Reserve Bank of Australia
- Police corruption across Australia (Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth, Victoria, NSW and Victoria, Victoria Police’s forensic services centre, Police and drug, etc.)
- Prison officers
- NSW Crime commission
- Judicial Corruption
- Hospital cash for contracts
Despite the fact that there are only 226 parliamentarians in the Australia Federal Parliament. There are dozens of corruption probe or unexplained transaction in the form of gifts, cash and services received by politicians each year. Just a few quick links below,
- Former official tells a royal commission of the day he visited Julia Gillard’s (former PM) home – armed with $7000 in cash
- Files on Gillard’s union fund links missing
- The NSW Coalition Government is showing itself to be one of the most corrupt in the nation’s history, with questions now arising about the conduct of Prime Minister Abbott…
- Tony Abbott defends his daughter Frances’ scholarship
- Tony Abbott’s royal commission into union slush funds and corruption threatens to ensnare Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
- Former Labor MP Jodi McKay says Nathan Tinkler offered her a bribe – and Eric Roozendaal knew about it
- Mike Baird has delivered a stern warning to any government MPs found guilty of corrupt conduct
According to a 2011 survey by the Australia’s corporate auditors: “85% of the country businesses face a high or medium risk of bribery and corruption because of inadequate controls.”
As we can imagine, the Chinese economy has expanded well over 45 times in the last three decades, there are massive economic activities everywhere across the country, and the anti-corruption regime is still at its infant stage. Corruption in China is an issue openly acknowledged by the leadership, and there are daily report of corrupt officers arrested, jailed, executed or lost their jobs.
In the UK, when 325 MPs were caught rorting tax payers money via the abuse of the allowance claim system in 2009, their solution is to demand them to “pay back or explain”, and then offered them a pay rise to £74,000 a year. Despite all these, a report by the Independent (12 September 2013) found “MPs’ expenses higher than before scandal.”
In Australia, the situation is the same. Elected politicians rorting tax payer money by abusing the allowance claim system is so common that very few people are innocent within the system. Their solution is similar to UK: a 32% pay rise in 2011 for politicians while allowing their staff only a 3% increment. That is, a staggering $90,000 pay increment for the Prime Minister alone. However, the abuses in claiming expenses did not stop there. Here is a list of MPs’ expenses in 2014 compiled by Sydney Morning Herald. The reason is simple, as elected politicians, they are the law makers. Everyone is benefiting from the system and no one wants to do anything about it.
Yes, like any country, China has a corruption problem. But the attitude of the political leadership is different from the UK and Australia. The Chinese leadership do not tolerate corruption. There are bribery websites, and a special task force to correct information from social media on reported cases of corruptions or possible corruption. An official website (www.12388.gov.cn) for the public to report possible official misconduct and corruption and a policy to inform those who report official misconduct the outcome of their investigation. According to a report by the Japan Times (11 January 2014), more than 182,000 officials were punished in a 2013 crackdown on corruption.
The scale and determination is unprecedented in the history of good governance. Ignore those unproven rumours you come across about Jiang Zemin or whoever. There is a US government funded network of people inside and outside of China to spread rumours against their top leadership. I will address the issue of the career Chinese “dissidents” and their relationship with the US government in an upcoming instalment.
KP: I did state Jiang’s “alleged corruption,” and it represents, nonetheless, a perception rife in China. You describe the reports of corruption in China as “rumours,” yet a person could respond likewise to reports of corruption in Australia — a rather nugatory back-and-forth.
Moving on, you state the attaining higher positions within the Communist Party is based on merit, but only about 25% of Communist Party members are women, and there are no women in the Politburo Standing Committee. What is one to assume from such facts – that women are not as meritorious as men? And is not the hierarchical structure of the Communist Party itself elitist, something that might be considered anathema to socialist principles?
WLC: There are many reasons for that; whether or not to join a political party is the personal choice of individual. I don’t think people should be chosen into a leadership team based on their gender, but rather their personal qualifications and suitability. It took President Xi over 40 years begin at village level to get to where he is today. How many people have the stamina and determination to get that far? This has got nothing to do with whether or not women are as meritorious as men. According to the 2012 World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index (PDF), China ranked 69th globally based on economic, political, education- and health-based criteria. A 2012 survey in Chongqing found that 73% of the women believe they’re equal. Of course, there are always room for improvement.
KP: You do mention in your book, Democracy, that income disparity is decreasing; however, the GINI coefficient for China is still indicative of a wide gap between the haves and have-nots. It causes many to doubt the socialist intentions of the Communist Party and deride “socialism with Chinese characteristics” as a ruse for capitalism. How did such income (and even worse, wealth) disparity come about under Communism?
WLC: As a developing country with 20% of the world population, it is not easy for China to achieve income equality after just six decades of nation building and after more than a century of foreign invasions and lootings.
In a supposedly developed country like the United States which can afford to maintain up to 1100 military bases across the world, and a budget of up to $56b a year to promote the so-called American values, income inequality is still a very serious problem today. As an example, there are issues with 400 Americans making $200b a year, while the number of homeless and people surviving solely on food aid has risen sharply since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.
The issue here is not about if there is an income disparity within a society, people should focus more on government attitudes towards the distressed people within their own society. In the US, the government allows big banks to take over people homes at a time of economic distress while in China, the government invested heavily in massive affordable housing construction (36 million units alone for the period 2011 to 2015). This article: ‘Democracy Needs Reform: Human Rights – Housing Policy – Australia and China Compare’ (7 Feb 2012) allows us to look into the issue of human rights from the perspective of resource availability at a government disposal and the government attitude towards basic human rights such as the series of policy to control residential property price and the investment in affordable housing.
The GINI coefficient for China can only be used as a form of reference, it may not be 100% accurate. The important thing is that we should focus on the attitude of the Chinese government towards the disadvantaged, and what the Chinese people think about their living standard over time? Any improvement? For example, this US based Statista survey shows that share of Chinese population satisfied with the standard of living from 2009 to 2011 are improving from 60% in 2009 to 66% in 2010 and 72% in 2011. A new 2013 World bank study found that American inequality is on the rise while global (particularly China) inequality is falling.
KP: My experience is that media control operates in China as elsewhere. I remember well speaking to a journalist in Hebei province who refused to go on record saying it would be dangerous for him to do so. If this is indeed indicative of media censorship in China, then it speaks ill of openness in China. Wikipedia, which you often use as a source, claims a Communist Party “control of information.” The best that might be argued in such a case is that censorship is less pernicious than disinformation.
WLC: Unfortunately, we are not living in a perfect world where nations learn to respect each other’s rights for social stability, and development based on their own unique history, culture, economic conditions, social and ethnic fabrics. With the ongoing well-funded agenda-based mass media propaganda network aimed at destabilising countries across the world, it is sometime hard for developing countries not to use censorship as a way to protect its citizens from the ill-intended imperialist Western propaganda machine. There are a series of articles here on actual cases of media disinformation against China. So who should bear the responsibility for media censorship in developing country like China? Western media disinformation or censorship itself?
KP: My review of your book, Tiananmen Square “Massacre”? brought in quite a bit of response. Most I found were quite willing to accept that it was (and is) a western media disinformation campaign. Kevin Zeese posted my review to his list and was taken aback by the refusal to accept another narrative. I responded:
If you read the book, the author relies on mass media itself to expose the falsehoods surrounding Tiananmen Square. There were deaths (but not in Tiananmen Square, and, according to the author, they were soldiers killed and people killed by soldiers in acts of self-defense). I can tell you, that I know one of the “protestors” (in quotation marks because she admits she had no idea what it was all about but was attracted by the number of people there and saw it more as a festivity) who was there up to 3 June and had no idea that anything had transpired there on 4 June until I told her. Most people in China still have no idea. The conclusion is that Chinese authorities are able to confine every single detail to the memory hole or the western media has perpetrated a massive act of disinformation. Given the disinformation that surrounded the Gulf of Tonkin, the lead-up to an aggression of Iraq, etc and given that the author gives evidence of CIA involvement in the events of 4 June should one rely on western media sources? What is it they say? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…
How has the response been at your end to the story of a concocted massacre?
WLC: Your statement is accurate. Just read the content of the then premier Li Peng’s martial law speech (pg. 95 to 101) to understand that it was a radical few who incited the crowds, and that the reason behind the Chinese government’s 7 weeks of restraint is because of trying not to hurt the innocent people within the mass.
I have screenshots of the confessions made by Western journalists to preserve as evidence for the future generation who might be interested in the history. Those screenshots have convinced many people about the dishonest nature of the mass media. I received much feedback from readers. I would like to quote one that just came in as follows:
I was in my undergraduate degree at this time and remember one of my history professors commenting on this “event”. I could tell he was upset about everything. I know, now, that he was just as brainwashed as the rest of us with the MSM, etc. I haven’t watched TV for 7 yrs now and will not go back. People are waking up to the lies we have been fed since birth. Not just the Americans but the world. Anyway, I will read the book and thank you for speaking out for truth. Take care,
KP: I look forward to reading more in your series. Your skeptical perspective toward western mass media and government is refreshing, albeit I extend more skepticism to the Chinese government than you do. Although I perceive such appears to be the case, only time will tell whether China is being steered genuinely along a path toward socialism.