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China: A Crumbling Government?

Updated on August 8, 2012
The Great Wall Of China
The Great Wall Of China | Source

China's Crumbling Credibility

China: A fine example of the amount of control a government can exert on its people in order to maintain its control over them. This authoritarian regime has maintained its control in many ways and the control of information has been one of its largest aids.

However in this modern world, how well can you really control information? As we have seen in Syria things like Camera Phones can easily prove that a government is lying about what it is doing with pictures of the military murdering children and related incidents. This can be carried over to China as well. China does not commit such blatant murders (anymore) but it does lie or twist facts to their own gain. With the increase of technology, more people are able to report the truth before China can cover it up, leading to the credibility of the government slowly crumbling away.

Could this lead to the fall of the Chinese Communist Party? Here we will look at China's control of the media, how that is slipping, censorship, a few cover ups, and then a look at what China's government is and what it would take for it to fall.

The Control of Media

China has famously had a firm grasp on the media, all forms of it. From news having to follow official lines to the removal of all sources of information that go against it, China has maintained a tight grasp on what news its people are allowed to hear. This can be seen in many cases and has innumerable examples, the largest of which is the Great Firewall of China, or the Golden Shield Project which is constantly monitoring the internet, blocking sites and scrubbing information China is not comfortable with.

A recent example of the government scrubbing information: Flooding in Beijing is killing a lot of people and creating a lot of damage, however they want to limit the information because most of the damage was to the more poor areas of the city, and illustrates a failure of proper response by the government, a failure of the new systems that were just put in, and possible corruptions within those areas.

Beijing. Clockwise from top: Tiananmen, Temple of Heaven, National Grand Theatre, and Beijing National Stadium
Beijing. Clockwise from top: Tiananmen, Temple of Heaven, National Grand Theatre, and Beijing National Stadium | Source

The Official Line Falters

The flooding in Beijing is where we shall look at how technology can interfere with The Official Line, causing cracks to form in the system of information. Because the flooding is a natural disaster there are a lot of people displaced by it and aware of it, many of which have technology that they are able to report with. The Chinese site Weibo which is similar to Twitter has been a pain for Chinese government because it is hard to keep up with scrubbing all the comments, and then some of the comments go to Twitter - which the government has no control over at all. Why would the government want to scrub these Tweets? The failures of the government to adequately respond to these disasters are causing people to be upset, however if those people are comparing Tweets with the government news they are beginning to see blatant lies - a growing gap between the truth of pictures from people on the scenes and the official version of events which is making the people furious.

The distrust felt by people viewing Weibo is not just with this event, but it has been growing with many reports such as this that show what is happening and illustrate just how much the government is keeping from its people.

A Short List of Government Censorships

A few examples of censorships, which all mention of are removed, and sometimes the people who bring them up are removed, such as news commentators losing jobs, government officials fired, etc.

Falun Gong, a religious group.

In 2005, customs officials in China seized a shipment of textbooks intended for a Japanese school because maps in the books depicted mainland China and Taiwan using different colors.

A new standard world history textbook introduced in Shanghai high schools in 2006 supposedly omits several wars; it mentions Mao Zedong, founder of the CCP, only once.

All reference to Tiananmen Square and anything concerning Democracy. Etc.

The Great Firewall of China

Numerous media contents which have been blacked out has included references to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the Dalai Lama, the death of Zhao Ziyang, the 2008 Tibetan unrest, the 2008 Chinese milk scandal and negative developments about the Beijing Olympics.

So How Can This Lead To The CCP's Downfall?

The last half of this article will explain what the government is like, and how this could be its downfall.

What Kind of Government is China Anyways?

Though it is Authoritarian right now, it could be classified as a post-totalitarian which is frozen between post-totalitarian and a mature post-totalitarian regime.

In other words: The Communist Party heavily suppresses the people in order to not be overturned by any thoughts of democracy out of fear that the people will unite against them.

Chinese Communist Party Congress, 2007
Chinese Communist Party Congress, 2007 | Source

The Extent of Control of the CCP

Leaders of the Chinese Communist Party impose all important decisions on those below them, and a lot of times those who don’t agree are generally removed.

The Chinese political system has a premier, a parliament, and bureaucratic ministries, but party officials and organizations orchestrate the policy process and direct the votes of all party members who hold elected and appointed offices, more than 4/5ths of them.

Technically all members of the government are elected, however how is one able to not get elected when they are the only name on the ballot? The seats are set before the ballots are cast.

Tienanmen Square
Tienanmen Square | Source

Uprisings and a New Government for China

The Tiananmen Square incident is mainly why there have not been any uprisings. This incident is highly important, I will not go into it here but the very brief version of the story was that a group of students started protesting, asking for economic reform and some liberalization. They started hunger striking and making a scene, the government told them to stop, and when they wouldn't the Chinese government sent in the military and killed them all. The Chinese Government said 241 died. Chinese Red Cross said 2600 died. Soviet Report recently uncovered stated 10,000 dead.

The aftermath was great. Any newscasters that said the wrong thing were removed, foreign news people were deported, investigations spread, 4 million people were investigated for their role in the protests, 30,000 communist officers were sent to watch more than 1 million government officials and their families, etc.

That, among others, are why the people will not rise up. However, according to political theory in a mature post-totalitarian government there starts to be group of people which create a second culture that has underground literature that begins to question the government. This has been mostly broken by the Chinese government's grip on media - but could we start seeing a change now? A split from the official line? People beginning to have a little more free speech than they used to could spell the end of a silent people.

We will have to wait to see if people will be able to speak freely about their thoughts and feelings and begin to have any say in their government. Will this resolve as some political models would describe, with an end for the CCP? We can only wait and see what the future holds, but it is interesting to think about and watch.

Want to Know More?

I'm the first to say "Do not believe everything you hear." Even when I am saying it. Please, if you want to know more look up the following subjects yourself and consider them, even if it is just Wikipedia. If you want more, look at Wikipedia entry's Citations to read the book yourself.

Tienanmen Square Incident
Chinese Censorship
The Great Firewall of China
Weibo and Twitter Censorship, Disconnects from the official line, etc.
Chinese Government Corruption

You get the picture, there are a lot of interesting things to learn from this as it is happening, so stay informed.

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    • Danieljohnston profile imageAUTHOR

      Daniel Johnston 

      6 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      This was actually cut down from a much larger presentation from a political science class, so I had way too much material to try to get rid of and feared it would impact the article, so I am glad to hear it didn't.

      Filial piety, or the respect for parents, elders, leaders etc can be a big part, but what separates totalitarianism from authoritarianism is totalitarians rule by charisma and don't have to resort to fear. The Chinese Government has secret police, payments for reports, favors, and horrible punishments for those who do wrong so it is very much a state of fear for most people as well. If people can overcome the fear or get angered enough to see past it, then they may progress to a new stage of government.

    • Prakash Dighe profile image

      Prakash Dighe 

      6 years ago from Dallas, Texas, USA

      I have not traveled to China nor do I claim to be knowledgeable on Chinese affairs. You are quite right in expressing doubts about how long the Government can maintain a tight control on their people. My feeling from what I know about the Chinese is that they are very disciplined and greatly respect their masters and the elders, and do not question their superior's authority, as is done in some other cultures. This perhaps explains their success in economic progress and high productivity, but possibly explains their reluctance to rise against the authorities in any substantial way. Your observations are very keen and very well presented!

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