Observations On Some Previous Posts

For the first set of posts, I will relate a set of experiences that are commonly shared by everybody.

When we were young, we went to school, sometimes more than one (my own personal experience covered two kindergartens, three elementary schools, two secondary schools, six universities and two graduate schools).  Usually, we are told that the school is there to provide us with an education and the teachers are there to help us learn and become good people.  We observe carefully and we find that the teachers are a mixed lot -- some are lazy, some are annoyed with us because they would rather stay home and play mahjong, some are wrapped up in their own thoughts, some are sadists, some are inspirational figures that changed our lives and so on.  Thus, we learn to decipher the individualities of our teachers and make the best that we can.  What we can be certain about is that these people were not there solely to provide us with an education, as advertised.

After we got out of school, we began to work for companies and government agencies.  For example, at one company, the chief executive lectured us that we were there for two and only two reasons: to increase cash flow and to maximize shareholder value.  We observe our co-workers and superiors carefully, and we find that they are a mixed lot -- some are lazy, some are thieves, some are just doing time here just to earn money and vacation time, some are bullies, some are saints, some are founts of knowledge and wisdom that never cease to amaze us and so on.  Thus, we learn to decipher the individualities of our co-workers and make the best that we can.  What we can be certain about is that these people were not all working for the reasons that the chief executive told us about.

None of this is surprising.  In the words of Jiang Zemin,  you would be "too simple -- sometimes naïve" to take anyone's word for the total truth.

But where am I leading to?

Consider a government (whether this is the government of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the United States, Ecuador, or wherever).  Usually, we are told that the government is there to 'serve the people.'  We observe carefully and we find the people in the government are a mixed lot -- some are lazy, some are idealists, some are corrupt, some are incompetent, some are visionaries, some are master builders, some are cold-hearted pricks, some are pathological liars, some define our ideals for public servants, some are conniving careerists, and so on.  What we can be certain about is that the people in government do not all work for the same reasons or towards the same objectives.

In the post Are The Anti-Japanese Demonstrations Spontaneous or Stage-Managed?, published one day after the 4/16 anti-Japanese demonstration in Shanghai, I noted some obvious differences between the Shanghai demonstration and the Beijing one a week ago.  Beginning with an assertion that the Communist Party is not a single block of undifferentiated steel, I offered a theory that the observed differences may be indicative of factional fighting between Beijing and Shanghai.  At the time, I said that this was a paranoid theory that I have no means of proving this theory.

In the post Shanghai Clamps Down On Anti-Japanese Demonstrations (dated 4/26), I referred to some more evidence such as the editorial in the Liberation Daily of Shanghai.  Again, I said that I have no means of proving this theory.  But since Joseph Kahn of the New York Times (State-Run Chinese Paper Lashes Anti-Japan Protests as 'Evil Plot, April 27, 2005) now seems to be talking along the same lines, I am convinced that this must be false.  

But a political analyst in Beijing offered a different explanation. He said the government had been sending conflicting signals about the protests because Japan policy has become a source of internal contention.

"I think you cannot rule out the possibility that the tension is not between the authorities and the people, but between some rival elements inside the party," this person said.

The analyst said there were similarities between the Monday editorial and one that appeared in People's Daily in late April 1989. It condemned student-led pro-democracy protests that spring as "counter-revolutionary," and gave early evidence of a power struggle that paralyzed the government for weeks before the military crushed the protests.

Ahem.  Of course, I am just kidding about the NYT.  Whatever the NYT says does not make it more or less true.  I still don't how to prove or disprove this.

But the real purpose of my post is to direct attention to the complex nature of organizations.  Consider the Chinese government.  Do you believe that when Hu Jintao-Wen Jiaobao issue a directive, the entire 60 million Communist Party organization will mobilize and implement it to the letter?  You do!?  Well, how many times have those party leaders denounced corruption and asked the party members to combat and denounce corrupt practices?  And has corruption been weeded out as a result?  As with any large organization, the people in the Chinese government are a mixed lot, and you can compile your own list about the varieties of Communist Party members.  This time, if the Hu-Wen team really did issue a directive to the local party bosses to organize anti-Japanese demonstrations, then the responses have ranged from over-enthusiasm to lip service to passive resistance to active contrarianism.

Again, none of this is surprising.  What is surprising is why anyone would continue to think of the Chinese government as that one monolithic block of black steel.

If you don't find this presentation convincing, I will ask you to consider yesterday's post The Big Brawl in Taipei about the mass riot at CKS International Airport.  Near the bottom of that post is a job performance report for Chen Jei-tien, chief of the Aviation Police Bureau.  What can you say about Chen?  Was he incompetent?  Was he over-matched for this job?  Was he fooled by the gentlemen's agreement that he thought he had with with the demonstration organizers?  Did he have political motivations to cause a huge scandal?  What we can be certain about is that he was not serving the people's interest and he knowingly refused to carry the orders from his superior, who called him more than twenty times directly.  But, in this case, no one seems to think that this one middle-level government functionary represents the entire government structure in Taiwan.  In this case, Chen's ass is grass and so are a dozen or so of his subordinates.

In Hong Kong, the supposed story of the day was that the National People's Congress has ruled that the next Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR shall only serve out the remaining term of two years of the previous Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.  From the previous posts Hong Kong By The Numbers (4/20), Hong Kong By The Numbers (4/22) and Hong Kong By The Numbers (4/25), the population doesn't seem to care too much whereas the Article 45 Concern Group of lawyers seem to think this is the end of the rule of law and the entire concept of "One Country Two Systems."

(AP via SCMP)  HK quietly accepts Beijing’s constitutional ruling on next leader’s term.  April 28, 2005

The decision failed to make the front pages of most major newspapers, which splashed news of moviemakers waging a legal war against people who share movie files on the Internet.

When Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, Beijing promised it would enjoy a wide degree of autonomy. Some opposition lawmakers believe Wednesday’s ruling violated that pledge.  But many residents said they agreed with the government that Beijing should quickly resolve the dispute and eliminate the risk of a legal battle that might delay the July 10 election for the next leader.

“I agree that Beijing should issue a legal interpretation,” said financial analyst Angus Yip, 25. “It is the only solution to make sure we’ll have a new leader by July 10.”  
Yip said he agreed with the government that if the mainland’s top legislative panel has the final say over disputes on the Basic Law, there is little point to wait for the territory’s courts to issue a ruling.

Others showed little interest in the controversy.  “These disputes are petty. It doesn’t really matter to us ordinary citizens how long the chief executive will serve,” said restaurant manager Au Chi-hung, 54.

In an editorial, the mass-market Ming Pao Daily News said Beijing has meant well in wanting to quickly resolve the controversy, but has “underestimated the differences” between the mainland and Hong Kong systems.  The newspaper urged China to refrain from issuing legal rulings in future and to handle Hong Kong’s affairs with “more openness and respect.” 

I bolded the last sentence to note the earnest desire for autonomy.  That is a universally undestandable and popular sentiment.  Nobody wants to be told what to do by a distant "uncle" every time.

And then I was reading through this following article today and came across the paragraph that I marked in bold.

(AFP via The Standard)  Cheers, jeers as Lien starts historic trip.  April 27, 2005

Analysts said Beijing will use the visit to try to woo Taiwanese people and remind them of the benefits of accepting Beijing's stance that the island belongs to China and should be reunified with the mainland.

Taiwan's independence-leaning President Chen Shui-bian has reversed his earlier criticism of the trip, reportedly under pressure from Washington.

Ordinarily, one would have considered this quite ordinary, but the brouhaha over the NPC interpretation makes this extraordinary because the interference is so direct.  People have been conditioned to think that this is ordinary and normal, but it really is not.  What ever happened to the ideas of autonomy, national sovereignty and self-determination?  Is it normal and acceptable for the head of state of the Republic of China to take dictation from the United States embassy?  I don't know whether this particular story is true or not, but what bothers me is the lack of outrage at the idea that "pressure from Washington" can or should decide what the president of Taiwan should say or not say.  Why is AFP printing an outrageous statement like this, but everyone just shrugs and yawns in utter indifference?  Why has so much been said about the NPC interpretation of Hong Kong's Basic Law, but no one speaks of American interference around the world?

But there was more today, this time from Ecuador.  Here are two stories about the ouster of the legally elected president Lucio Gutiérrez last week.

(Inter Press Service News Agency)  A Controversial Solution to the Crisis - Yet Again.  April 21, 2005.

Middle and upper-middle class demonstrators not organized in political parties or social movements played a central role in the week-long protests that preceded the downfall of former president Lucio Gutiérrez.  However, it was U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Kristie Kenney, the armed forces, which withdrew their support from the government, and Congress, which sacked Gutiérrez Wednesday, that were decisive in coming up with a solution to the crisis.

The beginning of the end of the Gutiérrez administration, besieged by massive protests, was Kenney's visit to the government palace to discuss the crisis with Gutiérrez.  After the meeting, the Embassy's press officer, Glenn Warren, said "We are very concerned by what is happening in Ecuador. We want all the problems to be resolved well and for Ecuadorians to live in peace."

Observers in Ecuador saw the message as a strong hint that triggered the following events. 

(Venezuelanalysis.com)  Comparing Ecuador and Venezuela: Similar Opposition, Very Different Governments.  April 26, 2005.

We know Lucio was removed from office and by now most everybody knows the answer: It was a coup. The congress gathered on the 20th in the afternoon and voted to remove Lucio for "abandono del cargo" (abandonment of his job). After that announcement, Lucio goes on national media reading his last decree as president where he appoints a new head of the police among other changes. In other words Lucio was removed from office for abandoning his post while he was still exercising it!!! A phony reason. Furthermore, the constitution dictates that the congress needs 2/3 of the vote to remove the president. In a congress of 100 members that is 66 votes. The emergency congress that met had only 62 members, only 60 of which voted to remove Lucio from office. In other words, they were 6 votes short of the constitutional requirement to remove a president. The removal of Lucio, as the military withdrew their support is, thus, unconstitutional: a coup d’état.

Why was Lucio removed from power if there was no real popular uprising against him? Why did he relinquish power at 14:28 on the 20th after saying on the night of the 19th that he would not resign and played tough? The answer might be in the fact that early on the 20th he was visited by the ambassador of the US!! Why would the US want anything to do with it? Lucio counted on the support of the US from the beginning and Condoleezza Rice backed him up, but only so long as the country was calm. Once unrest set-in, Lucio was no longer the person the US wanted here.

Again, why is it normal and acceptable for the United States ambassador to tell the president of Ecuador whether he should stay or go?  What is this rubbish about autonomy, national soverignty and self-determination in democratic countries then?