Daily SG: 25 Mar 2008

Prison Break, Singapore Style
– Yawning Bread: Improving the Internal Security Act
– BothSidesOfTheJohorStraits: Jail the hoaxer; but what about the guy in uniform who didn’t do his job in the 1st place?

Free Tibet
– Celluloid Reality(s): PLA troops kill Tibetan pilgrims
– Hard Hitting in the Lion City: Talk

Freedom, Choice and a place for my Voice
– Sgpolitics.net: Post-Modern Authoritarian Singapore

6 in 10 new jobs go to foreigners
– Kojakbt’s Blog: Less job creations for SINGAPOREANS!

– Enblocing Singapore: Pandering to “the Greed of Developers”: 10 Year Predictions – Parliamentary Debate on 1999 Amendment to LTSA
– Modern Burrow: Modern Burrow

Starhub EPL, Singtel CL, Football Fans LPPL
– THE armchair critic: Oh you are such a cock-teaser!

There goes aesthetic for GPs
– The World As I Know It: Beautiful no more
– Angry Doctor: Confidence Goods 12

Daily Discourse
– To Fix a Mocking Peasant: Send this to the ST Forum 2
– Alice Cheong in Wonderland: NTU bond-free research scholarship “controversy”
– Majulah Singapura: Graciousness vs Service Quality
– NOTES FROM SERANGOON ROAD: We need SIFF more than it needs us.

Life, the universe and everything
– Sam’s Thoughts: The ‘de Souza’-isation of Eurasians
– A L V I N O L O G Y: NTU triple room sharing parody videos

– thegreatsze: House-Hunting: More Satisfying Than Going After Mas Selamat
– Random Thoughts Of A Free Thinker: Earth Hour 2008 in Singapore

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One Response to Daily SG: 25 Mar 2008



    It’s often been said, the Beijing Olympics this summer is supposed to be China’s coming of age bash, celebrating the end of nearly two centuries of weakness, poverty and humiliation.

    Really? How true is it?

    Truth is stranger than fiction – no one can deny there is much of China’s painful history that requires righting – the humiliating defeat of the Manchu’s by the world powers in the 18th century – the tumult of the Japanese occupation of China. These are narratives which are sheered in the mind of every Chinese.

    China has come a long way – these days, she’s the world’s fastest growing economy – outstripping even the EU and US put together – the leading manufacturer of laptop computers to Teflon coated woks – she has even managed to sent a man into space and by all accounts, as far as appearances goes, the Beijing Olympics is simply an extension of this new found nationalistic pride to celebrate it’s arrival in the world stage.

    But look again! Carefully this time with the brotherhood magnifying glass, what’s really behind the chimera of all the ongoing preoccupation with success icons that simply say, “we have arrived?” Why is China exhibiting all the maturity of a testosterone pumped teenager just before the graduation prom?


    One clue according to our resident China expert Cerebus lies in the psyche of the ruling communist party (CCP). China’s leaders face a troubling paradox: the more developed, educated and prosperous the country, the more the party elite run the risk of being marginalized and sidelined by the masses. They are justifiably insecure and even threatened by this turn of events. Men like President Hu Jintao and former President Jiang Zemin have always struggled with two diametrically opposed realities every since China opened her doors in the early 80’s; how to sustain economic growth and yet preserve the fragile communist regime. Indeed at times, it seems keeping to one’s balance on the razor’s edge has been touch and go, in 1989, the Tiananmen Square incident was a stark reminder things can go very wrong in a blink of an eye. And the disintegration of the Soviet Union serves only to sharpen the paranoia, the Chinese leaders harbor; the days of the communist party are numbered.

    As Cerebus, our China expert noted:

    “Now if you ask me why China is so obsessed with the Olympics? It’s the same reason why people who suffer from osteoporosis frequently consume large doses of calcium – the need is driven by the deficiency psychology, but lets be crystal clear; it’s powered by one underlying impulse; fear – To understand the divide better one needs to appreciate certain realities. Firstly, while the rest of China has changed by leaps and bounds – the Communist party has remained virtually unchanged and this naturally accounts for a lag between the China that is and the China that simply must be. In this changing landscape the communist party is very brittle, as she is the one with the least capacity to effect change– this calcified state is very much reflected not only in China’s blend of foreign policy but also how the communist party carries itself. Let me just give you a few visual motifs to illustrate my point; every year there is one event in the calendar which marks the starting line, the China Congress; what do we see? Old men in dark suits laying out in Soviet style centrally planned policies in a huge cavernous hall to a sea of clapping bureaucrats; Question: how plausible does that image measure up to reality when you consider the sheer size and diversity of China? Not very, not even by a long shot. I’ve mentioned this only because it’s a fitting metaphor that effectively conveys how little has actually changed in the political psyche of communist party.

    When I use the term communist party – it’s nothing short of the personification of the state. That’s the vital difference between political parties in the West and the party political reality in China. In effect, the state is considered the “People’s Party” (although the CCP is an oligarchy of only 5% of the population). To paraphrase it’s often marketed as the proxy of the people and so there is a certain degree of reciprocity here; most Chinese cannot divorce the state from life and culture, it’s very different from the Western psyche of how most of us typically view our own political oligarchies; you stay here and I stay there, see the line! In China this mental border doesn’t exist –State and citizenry are one of the same reality – if the state says, you should have only one child, then you will have only one child – all further dialogues starts and ends there. This in essence is the very bedrock on which the Communist party seeks a justificatory beach head in the minds of most Chinese. The assumption here; that a non-elected minority knows what’s best for the masses.

    The problem with that assumption is it’s giving way progressively to a new compact between people and state; this is not a new development, it’s an ongoing story and we see this very clearly at every way point in Chinese social and political history, let me just run through these stages briefly; in 1950’s, the politics of wrath featured as the cohesive force i.e if you are not with us, you are against us; in the 1970’s this gave way to the mantra; the party knows best; leave it all to the great helmsman; in the 80’s, the an economic component featured for the very first time in the relationship and it was defined as, we will run the country, you just focus on getting rich; Today, the belief isn’t so clear, it’s very fuzzy – and that I believe it the nucleus of the problem.


    No doubt break neck economic growth was partly responsible for this re-definition, but what’s important here is increasingly the divide with the traditional communist party ethos and justificatory rationale is reaching a point when it is so stressed that it’s no longer a cohesive force; what the communist party is being increasingly confronted with these days is a new creed of intellectuals who openly challenge not only their authority but also the rationale which makes possible the current politics – I need to qualify myself here; we are not talking about democracy vs communism here! Most people in the West, I feel don’t realize how united the Chinese are as a people; believe it or not they actually trust the communist party more than the Western media gives them credit for. If you trawl the internet, you will soon pick out how many Chinese netizens see the coverage of CNN and the BBC in the recent Tibetan uprising as a double standard reportage – So let me emphasize this again, this not an ideological divide, it’s not even a difference of opinion as it is remains a methodological divide; where people may hold a different view from the State. In other words “I believe the pollution would be better solved this way, but I also believe it would be good, and not wrong, to do it the States way.” Here what we see is an accommodative stance, that one hand challenges the assumptions, yet preserves the status quo of “’Six’ of one, ‘half a dozen’ of the other.” This is very much Deng Xio Peng’s “black cat, white cat what does it matter as long as it catches the mouse” ghost being revived again – only this time, it’s directed squarely at the communist party! My point is this; this has never been done before. This is why the communist party feels the heat and even the need to reinforce the trite belief, they remain the gold standard of governance – staging the Olympics may be political pyrotechnics, but like blasting Chinese into orbit feasting on desiccated bird nest soup, it fulfills the necessary function of feeding the justificatory narrative – you can even say, it’s a strategic precondition, if the imperative is to remain in power! This is one of the main motivations why the coming games is so important – it’s nothing short of a mental bridge to close the great Chinese divide”

    Against this back drop of shifting sands what’s increasingly happening is one by one the levers which were once effective in controlling thought are fast frittering way. Zoo keeping the intellectual class through programs such as the “Patriotic Education Campaign’ (for all college students), which relies implicitly on nurturing ‘popular resentments against Japan and America and the Mickey Mouse club and fueling the expectation that Taiwan would soon be reunified is beginning to reach the point of diminishing returns – the communist party realizes this only too well.” Cerebus writes.

    Cerebus continues, “if one looks carefully at how the Chinese communist party replies to the Tibetan crisis or even something as mundane as shoddy products complaints from US consumer groups: Instead of acknowledging the cogent issues concerning the “autonomy” vs “independence” or quality control in Chinese manufacturing practices – the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda organs have goes into full scale defensive mode. They are in certain respects very similar to the brotherhood – where we will roll out darkness and off he goes ranting no end about, discrimination branding these moves as a campaign to isolate and weaken China.” The problem, as Cerebus observes, “that doesn’t work any longer – most Chinese intellectuals these days have not only the benefit of a first class Western education, but many have been integrated into the MNC culture of how to define personal and organizational success – so they know things are not so simple. They can connect the dots and make informed decisions. This naturally limits the effectiveness of relying on the traditional lever of nationalism that it has fomented to deliver the goods.”


    Another lever of power that’s rotting way is state censorship. As Cerebus observes: “Most Chinese have very little idea of what is actually happening in their own country, if you don’t believe me; go and ask any Chinese whether he agrees with China’s invasion of Vietnam in 1979; but don’t be surprised if the reaction is ‘was there a war?’ This merely showcases the pervasive extent of censorship. The communist party nurtures this state of selective amnesia very carefully, till most Chinese are left with the understanding that everything China does is always for the greater good. In a sense this accounts for why skepticism, denial, and infuriation usually accompany Western revelations about the truth.

    To overcome this state of infuriation, its expedient for them to make the source of their frustration disappear, than to subject it to critical analysis for fear that it may expose the ineptitude of the Communist party. Once again what we see here is censorship is not just a way of controlling people in the Western sense. In the Chinese context, you can even say it’s a necessary lie and without it life will simply cease to have any meaning. What we see here is not only the whole sale assassination of the truth in censorship, but also how it remains a very effective way to maintain the façade that the party is always right. Here what we see is a strain of Joseph Heller’s catch 22 crisis management 101 at work, ‘don’t recognize the symptoms and the disease automatically disappears.’

    In this regard the Beijing Olympics is simply extending the justificatory causes to further validate the communist party in the eyes of most Chinese – trust me, they care very little about us foreigners, things haven’t really changed that much from the vermillion days of the Manchu court, that’s usually the psychology of people who know that the art of how to stage circuses to keep the mob happy. Now you know why the Romans were big on coliseums – let the games begin!”


    [Harphoon & Scholarboy / Cerebus / ASDF – The Brotherhood Press 2008)


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