The Sayings Of The Sichuan County Government Chairman

For some time, the following post has been circulating among the Chinese forums and bulletin board systems (see for example, Yahoo! News).  These sayings are attributed to Xiang Huili, the chairman of the county government of Tianchuen County in Sichuan Province, China.  Here is the translation:

  1. When I punish a cadre, it is like stomping an ant to death.  Do I need a reason?  "If I need an alleged crime, how hard is it to find one?"  There will be some way of coming up with a reason.
  2. I used to dislike holding meetings.  But I have discovered that a meeting allows me to air my view.  This showcases the democratic spirit.  Then when trouble occurs, we can all be held responsible.
  3. Uncultured people are pigs.  Actually, they are worse than pigs.  At least, pigs can be eaten, but what can uncultured people do?
  4. Some people want to reason with me on the Internet, so it is said.  Never mind Tianchuen county, no one in all of Ya'an are qualified to discuss theory and reasoning me.  I can identify these people easily, and I will make sure that they suffer bloodily horrible deaths!
  5. When you do something and the masses are happy but the leaders are not, then this shows that you did not do it right.  You do right only when the leaders are happy, because the leaders represent the wishes of the people!
  6. It will take just a few days to hold these meetings (namely, the National People's Congress and the Political Consultative Committee Congress).  I want to finish these meetings before the Chinese New Year holidays.
  7. "Govern the county by law with the people in mind."  I think that if having the people in mind requires studying the people, then I will study the people."
  8. Some people in Tianchuen complain to my superiors about me.  I am not afraid of anyone, and I will treat them as dogs barking on the roadside.  Don't think that I am afraid of anyone.  I came from above, and we have people up there.
  9. Let me give you a piece of wisdom.  A boss told me this during a meal, and I said that is was great.  "Never oppose government officials, because civilians never win against officials!"
  10. When I go into the countryside, I can't go into the homes of some of the peasants.  Instead of spending a night at their homes, I'd rather sleep in the detention center.
  11. All cadres must follow orders like dogs.  Our relationship is like that between father and son.

It is easy to see how people recognize these sayings as horrendous expressions of abuse of authority and contempt towards the masses as well as his subordinates, and that was why this particular list was being circulated.  This is an indictment not just of one particular official, but possibly of the entire system.

Except this gets back to the usual problematic associated with anonymous providers of information.  The usual argument is that anonymity is essential to protect the whistleblower from retaliation.  The counter-argument is that anonymity permits total calumnies to be propagated without punishment.

So what do we know about this particular case?  Did Xiang really say those things?  Or was it a hoax designed to discredit him?  The following section is based upon the investigation of a reporter with "Well-Off" magazine (via Wenxue City).  Here is a section of the interview with Xiang.

[translation]  Xiang's temper is famous, and he admits it as such: "I have a temper.  When I see something that I don't like, I'll speak up.  They won't dare say anything to me."

He said, "For example, I set up some rules of conduct for this year's New Year holidays.  One of the rules was: no presents during the New Year holidays.  If you send any presents to me, you'll be dismissed from your job immediately."  According to Xiang, not a single person even gave him a pack of cigarettes during this Chinese New Year.

A certain cadre was hoping for a job transfer and came to see Xiang on a Sunday.  As the cadre began to take out an envelop, Xiang said, "Are you trying to change my ideas about you?  If you ever do this, you won't have a job."

The most extreme example was when Xiang told everybody: "If my relatives get into business and use my name to open up mines, or offer water and electricity, you should investigate them and denounce them."  This stunned everybody.

The reporter asked Xiang whether such extreme behavior may alienate people.  Xiang said that sometimes corrections have to be extreme.  "Tianchuen is a tough place.  If the leader is ambivalent, then nothing will ever get solved."

Xiang does not deny that he is "overbearing" but he denies the so-called "sayings" published on the Internet.  "Whoever posted those things on the Internet did not dare to stand in front of me to say that, or to speak up amongst the people.  If all that were real, they ought to be spoken out in the open."  He explains: "If I acted against the opinions of the standing committee of the county and all the cadres, do you think I could stay as the county government chairman?"

Xiang knows what his situation is: "I have personally offended many people.  People have stirred up trouble on the Internet to destroy the reputation of the Tianchuen country government chairman.  I have written the party, the provincial government, the provincial party and the provincial disciplinary committee.  I am not up against just one or two people, but a large number of people."

According to the investigation of the reporter, some of the "sayings" on the Internet were in fact spoken by Xiang.  But it is necessary to understand the specific contexts of those sayings.  For example, consider Sayings #3.  At the time, Xiang was talking about the importance of education.  He said, "Children must receive education.  If children do not study, then you are better off rearing pigs."  When the context was omitted, this became "Uncultured people are pigs.  Actually, they are worse than pigs.  At least, pigs can be eaten, but what can uncultured people do?"  Thus Saying #3 now implies a contempt towards people without education.

The reporter then goes on to describe a number of concrete actions that Xiang took when he became the county government chairman.

Example 1:  The Longjiahe coal mine was government-controlled.  The principal shareholder is named Zhang, who is a public official representing the 51% of the government's share while holding another 24.5% share under his own name.  Xiang went to see Zhang and told him bluntly: "You are the legal appointee for the government and you also represent the shareholders.  The success of the economic reform for the Longjiahe coal mine depends solely on you.  Let me tell you clearly.  If you come through, you will live a long and happy life.  If you screw up, you will be in deep pain."  Afterwards, the Longjiahe coal mine was auctioned off successfully, and there was not a single complaint from anyone.  

Example 2:  One of the first things that Xiang did when he became the county party chairman was to install an open and transparent system for showing how government-owned assets were being privatized.  "We have to show whether the procedure is in accordance with the law, whether the authority has been delegated appropriately, whether a proper assessment had been made and whether the national interest had been protected."  As a result, the county raised more than 230 million yuan last year.  Immediately, all the residual problems about stripped assets, unpaid bank loans, unfunded retirement plans and dismissed workers were addressed.  Xiang added, "There is at least 200 million yuan in their hands and I will continue to work on it."  Who are 'they'?  There are several dozens of government and party leaders who hold shares in enterprises that were privatized, and Xiang says that at least 80% of those deals were problematic.

Example 3: At an expanded meeting of the Tianchuen Standing Committee, Xiang demanded that the cadre leaders to promise not to engage in illegal profiteering.  Specifically, he demanded that the cadres and their family members be barred from entering the fields of mining, water and electricity supply.  Soon afterwards, the sayings of Xiang appeared on the Internet.

It is impossible for outsiders to know which is the truth.  The reporter offers this subjective opinion: "For Xiang and his supporters, the Internet attacks occurred because the economic reforms damaged the interests of certain people in Tianchuen county.  On one hand, the Internet critics seem to engage in a lot of subjective speculations.  On the other hand, Xiang's supporters seem to be able to cite numerous facts, and that would make them more credible."

I submit that it is impossible for a reader such as myself to tell what the truth is from the above information alone.  My discomfort is that this is asymmetric warfare: Xiang has no chance against the anonymous attacks.  Another example is at this previous post What If It Were False?.