(孙立平) is a professor in the Sociology Department of Tsinghua University. He was also the PhD superviser of Xi Jinping, the current vice-president of the People’s Republic of China and probable successor to President Hu Jintao. Professor Sun’s main research area is modernization and transitional sociology. He wrote the following post on his sociology blog on Feb. 28. It is being widely read in the Chinese blogosphere, and has appeared in major news websites such as Netease and Southern Net.
The entire post has been translated by CDT’s Linjun Fan. Please click here to read Part I. Here is the second section:
7. People’s sense of social belonging and cohesion are declining rapidly. The State lost several billions in the CCTV fire accident. However, many people gloated over it on the Internet. There was no sadness or sorrow. This gloating sentiment reflects an unspoken pleasure. Some said that it reflects people’s indifference. Some said that our nation has fallen beyond rescue. Some asked those who gloated over the accident whether it ever came to their mind that they have a share in the billions of assets destroyed in the fire, since CCTV is owned by the state. I remembered that many people wept on street after a large fire accident took place in Shenyang in the 80s. So the reason is not that the Chinese people are ill-natured. What is the real problem? It is that people have lost their sense of belonging in the society. They cried in the Shenyang Fire because they felt that what was destroyed was “ours.” However, in the CCTV fire incident, some people said, let the billions of assets be burned, since it will be eaten away by officials anyway. Some even said that they felt bad that lots of water was used to put out the fire, since we are suffering from drought. These opinions reflect a sense of alienation among many in the public. They feel that the assets belong to “them,” instead of “us”. The psychological alienation reflects a structural alienation [in our society.]
8. The society has lost the ability to think ahead to the long-term. The interest group that formed from the combination of power and money just focused on the present. They don’t have either a sense of responsibility that ancient emperors felt towards future generations, or an aristocratic spirit of detachment and transcendence. In our society, there is a tendency to exaggerate short-term problems and ignore long-term ones. We are extremely nervous about the problems in front of our eyes, but have no sight on the issues that will impact our offspring and our long-term development. Getting drunk when there is some liquor available, this is our institutional behavior. We exhaust our reproductive capacity in resources and the environment. We procrastinate systematic reform again and again. Handan [a small city in Hebei provonce] has changed seven mayors in ten years. A mayor’s average term nationwide is 1.7 years. The new administration needs to have a transitional period from the previous one and then needs to look for successors… Officials only care about power and the immediate distribution of interests. They don’t have much time for real business.
9. Why are our anti-corruption measures ineffective? Those with vested interests are weighing their options: Which one is more threatening, corruption, or allowing the social institutional measures deal with the corruption? Anti-corruption measures have been very superficial in the past decades. They were mostly ceremonial, killing chicken to scare the monkeys, and failed to address the real problem. Although many people know the right tools to counter corruption, they refrain from adopting them. For those measures to be implemented in a socially institutionalized way would be particularly threatening to the leaders.
10. It is a tiring effort to maintain vested interests. However, our society has put so much energy and resources into this effort. To safeguard vested interests, (the government) has to suppress freedom of expression. Just think about it, how much energy and resources have we used to suppress freedom of expression? To safeguard vested interests, the government has to take all means to try to avoid democracy. Please consider this, how much effort have we devoted in order to avoid democracy? How many excuses and theories have we devised for this purpose? To safeguard vested interests, we have to suppress the righteous expression of opinions from the public, which has caused numerous mass incidents. How much energy have we devoted to deal with the problems of mass incidents? To safeguard vested interests, we are afraid to take the anti-corruption measures which have been proven effective in other countries. Instead, we have to use these cumbersome and useless means characterized in the mass mobilization era. How many resources and energy have been wasted? Take in mind that it is difficult to achieve the double goals of maximizing vested interests and keeping the society operating steadily. Thus, we have a system that’s tiring. Many government administrators are exhausted. They carry a heavy psychological burden. More importantly, we will pay a high price in the long-term for the purpose of safeguarding vested interests. For instance, why are we criticizing universal values so fiercely? Which elements in universal values make us so indignant? Well, it’s nothing but democracy and freedom, because the two things threaten vested interests. Since it doesn’t sound good to criticize democracy and freedom directly, the government targeted the term “universal values.” In an era of a spiritual and moral vacuum, when even universal values have become the object of political attack, one can only imagine the impact [to the public morality]. But in order to maintain their vested interests, the government has to do so.