Politburo member? No better than your typical Chinese bureaucrat

Posted: December 5th, 2010 | Tags: , | No Comments »

News that China would be amenable to a reunification of the Korean peninsula was one of the surprise revelations this week from WikiLeak’s so-called #cablegate – the release of 250,000 confidential dispatches from American embassies worldwide. Likewise, the absurd story that a Politburo member ordered the Google China hacking after finding personal criticism of him available from the company. I suspect the average person would get on with their life. This man – one of nine responsible for governing 1.3 billion people – instead orders state apparatus to break into Google.

This has potential to change Chinese public opinion of the Communist Party. Foreigners are sometimes surprised when they ask mainland Chinese for their opinions on the party. Apathy and sometimes irritation is reserved for local government officials but the leaders in Beijing escape criticism. This is because of China’s transformation in the past 20 years. A high-rise apartment home, a foreign brand name car, overseas holidays – all commonplace in China nowadays but non-existent in the 1980s. People cut the leadership slack because they believe it works for their betterment. And the evidence, for them, is in their rising quality of life.

The Google China story shows otherwise. The search engine is widely used in China and still retains roughly a 25 percent market share even after relocating its operations to Hong Kong. When Google said it would “review” its Chinese operations, there was much hand wringing and concern over a possible pullout. News that the cause was a petty and spiteful Politburo member is unlikely to impress the public. It smacks of the arrogance, petulance and privilege that ordinary Chinese encounter in everyday officialdom, from the “my dad is Li Gang” incident to countless bribery cases. Most of all, it dents the carefully cultivated image that the party works for the people.

The story will generate no mass protest. There will no calls for the Politburo member to reveal himself. But less public enamour for the leadership will give nine men in Beijing some sleepless nights.

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