After Xinhua reported that county officials in Weng’an—including its Communist Party secretary, Wang Qin, and head of the county government, Wang Haiping—were fired on Friday following the June 28 riots, Western media has hailed Weng’an as a turning point for China. Both WSJ and TIME remark that Xinhua’s handling of the Weng’an incident is remarkable in itself; not only did state media report the riots almost immediately, but quickly produced “unusually long investigative stories.” Adding to this assemblage of information are the voices of Chinese bloggers, who are doing their part to increase transparency in China. “Aggressive Chinese bloggers make an art of challenging Chinese government propaganda. This week, they can claim a victory,” writes Geoffrey Fowler and Juliet Ye for the Wall Street Journal. “The Weng’an incident and its seemingly more open coverage are signs of the greater latitude enjoyed by the state media in the wake of the May 12 Sichuan earthquake,” adds Simon Elegant of TIME.
But as Western media stories about the Weng’an riots address their aftermath (an “increasingly open media,” impassioned bloggers, and the growing power of China’s community of Netizens), an article translated by Anton Lee Wishik II on Mei-Zhong Guanxi addresses its precipitates. In “Every County is Weng’an,” Xu Zhiyong states that Weng’an and other incidents like it are symptoms of a larger problem in China:
“…the reason why these feelings accumulate is because of China’s unique power system. In the ‘only above’ system in which authority only has a duty to those above and no duty to those below, local officials almost never consider whether or not the people are satisfied or whether society is just. They only consider their own position within the government, and in their view, the most important thing is that their superiors are satisfied… At about the same time as the Weng’an incident, in order to welcome the Olympics, across the country a new round of projects was carried out in which county secretaries received many of those seeking an audience with higher authorities. However, it was still a case of treating the symptoms and not the disease, and it was still a case of power being bestowed from above. In August 2008, when the last slogan China can use to solidify popular feeling has been exhausted, where will China look to?”
Photo by voxeros.