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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07SHANGHAI653
2007-10-05 09:20:00
SECRET
Consulate Shanghai
Cable title:  

(C) EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION? ACADEMICS ON CHANGING CHINA'S

Tags:   PGOV  PINR  SOCI  ECON  CH 
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VZCZCXRO7639
RR RUEHCN RUEHVC
DE RUEHGH #0653/01 2780920
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 050920Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6330
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 6812
						S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 SHANGHAI 000653 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/CM, INR/B AND INR/EAP
TREAS FOR OASIA - DOHNER/CUSHMAN, WRIGHT
NSC FOR WILDER AND TONG

E.O. 12958: DECL: MR, X1
TAGS: PGOV PINR SOCI ECON CH
SUBJECT: (C) EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION? ACADEMICS ON CHANGING CHINA'S
POLITICAL SYSTEM

REF: 06 SHANGHAI 7139

SHANGHAI 00000653 001.2 OF 003


CLASSIFIED BY: Kenneth Jarrett, Consul General, U.S. Consulate
General, Shanghai, Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (c), (d)



S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 SHANGHAI 000653

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/CM, INR/B AND INR/EAP
TREAS FOR OASIA - DOHNER/CUSHMAN, WRIGHT
NSC FOR WILDER AND TONG

E.O. 12958: DECL: MR, X1
TAGS: PGOV PINR SOCI ECON CH
SUBJECT: (C) EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION? ACADEMICS ON CHANGING CHINA'S
POLITICAL SYSTEM

REF: 06 SHANGHAI 7139

SHANGHAI 00000653 001.2 OF 003


CLASSIFIED BY: Kenneth Jarrett, Consul General, U.S. Consulate
General, Shanghai, Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (c), (d)




1. (C) Summary: We offer the views of several local experts on
China's political development. While the consensus view is that
the Central Government has a firm hold on power, and that
economic growth dulls popular demand for political change, there
is also a strong undercurrent that unrest at the local level
could challenge the system. The inability of locals to form
political organizations remains the biggest impediment to a
grass-roots challenge to authority. However, the seeds of such
organizations may already be being sown through economic
organizations and the encouragement, in part with the Central
Government's blessing, of the building of civil society. End
summary.

--------------
You Say You Want a Revolution
--------------


2. (S) During a September 17 discussion in Shanghai, democracy
activist and head of the NGO World China Institute Li Fan
(strictly protect) said that relations between local governments
and their citizens are strained to the point that one of two
things will happen: either the party will begin implementing
political reforms or it will dig in and try to hold the line.
Li (whose father Li Qinghua, an aide to late Premier Zhou Enlai,
was China's Ambassador to East Germany and India, and later the
head of CCTV), believes that the party is currently opting for a
"hold-the-line" approach, aware that it must eventually reform
but cautiously seeking a safe path to do so. However,
grassroots pressure for meaningful change is growing stronger
and may force the party's hand sooner than it would like.


3. (S) According to Li, the current political system is too

old, too entrenched, and too ossified to implement the sorts of
democratic changes that the public will demand. Eventually
Chinese society and the state will come into conflict. Whether
through an armed conflict or a "color revolution," Li believes
that the current system must be overthrown to establish a new,
more democratic order. Society is becoming more radical and
violent, Li said. While he still hopes and works for peaceful
reforms within the system, his conclusion from working with
people at the grassroots level across the country is that
revolution is inevitable.

-------------- --------------
Anger in the Localities: One Henan Village's Tale of Woe
-------------- --------------


4. (C) For instance, in March 2007, Li and his organization
helped a candidate in Rongcheng County in Henan Province win a
seat on the county-level People's Congress. In this man's
village, there had been no village elections for the past 7-8
years, because local leaders feared they would be defeated.
After this man was elected, he began raising the issue of
village elections, eventually bringing enough pressure to bear
from the county government that the village government
acquiesced to demands to hold such elections. In early
September, when the elections were supposed to take place, there
was a violent confrontation between backers of local officials
and the farmers who showed up to vote. The police arrived and
detained everyone. The police eventually let the friends of the
local officials go but refused to allow the farmers to leave.


5. (C) The newly elected county-level People's Congress
representative was enraged by this turn of events and went to
see the county government to demand to know why the farmers were
still being held. The county government officials refused to
see him and he returned to his home in the village. The next
day, the police detained him for 6-8 hours for questioning. Out
of shame over his inability to assist the people he had been
trying to protect, the man went home and killed himself. His
relatives tried to take the body to the county government
building in protest but were detained at the highway off ramp
leading into the county seat. The police refused to let the
family leave the area, forcing them to stay with the decomposing
body for three days in intense heat. Li Fan said it is
impossible to introduce reforms from within the system in a
place like this.

--------------

SHANGHAI 00000653 002.2 OF 003


Revolution? It's the Economy Stupid!
--------------


6. (S) During a September 20 discussion, Jiaotong University
International and Public Affairs School Dean Hu Wei (strictly
protect) agreed that a revolution was a theoretical possibility
but not within the next 10-20 years. The Central Government is
doing too good a job at providing opportunities for economic
growth for people to consider a complete overthrow of the entire
system. Although the countryside is growing slower than the
cities, farmers are still far better off today than they were 20
years ago. Farmers today have food, shelter, clothing, and a
chance to earn money. An economic catastrophe--severe
recession, currency crisis, etc.--would be needed to push people
over the edge, Hu said. During a September 28 discussion,
Nanjing University Professor Gu Su (strictly protect) echoed
Professor Hu's perspective, telling us he does not expect a
revolution anytime soon, as the "conditions are not mature."
The public is too wedded to stability and is enjoying too much
economic prosperity for people to think seriously about
revolution.

--------------
The Headless Dragons
--------------


7. (S) Shanghai Municipal People's Congress researcher Zhou
Meiyan (strictly protect) was also present at the September 17
discussion with Li Fan. She disagreed with Li's apocalyptic
vision of Chinese politics, arguing that there is no alternative
organizational structure in place that could carry out a
revolution. Moreover, the Central Government has done and is
doing a remarkable job of cracking down on any sort of political
organization in the countryside. While economic organizations
are tolerated, the state has repeatedly demonstrated both the
willingness and the ability to eliminate any sort of political
organization, particularly any that threatens stability.
Separately, Professor Hu agreed that the Chinese leadership does
a good job of keeping the people divided. The leadership fears
the people and has made every effort to keep them as "a group of
dragons with no heads" (qun long wu shou).

-------------- --------------
--------------
Old Wine in New Bottles: Can the 8 Democratic Parties Save
China?
-------------- --------------
--------------


8. (S) Zhou is optimistic that alternate centers of power could
arise to democratically challenge the Chinese Communist Party's
(CCP) monopoly on power without the necessity of revolution.
She said that the organizational structure and mobilization
know-how exists within China's so-called Eight Democratic
Parties--the minority parties supported by the CCP and used to
showcase China's "democracy." One of the parties had recently
asked Zhou to join. She declined, though, when it became clear
that the party was in lock-step with the CCP on all issues. She
expressed confidence, however, that ultimately, a challenge to
the CCP's supremacy will emanate through one of these parties.


9. (C) When we discussed the Eight Democratic Parties with
Professor Hu, however, he argued that these parties are merely
corrupt branches of a corrupt tree. He described them as
"parasites" leeching off of the largess of the Communist Party.
They owe their continued existence, funding, and whatever
limited power and influence they retain to the good graces of
the CCP. It is in their interest to maintain their subservient
role to the CCP. Professor Hu asserted that alternative parties
will ultimately arise, although he has no idea how, given
China's current political climate.


10. (S) As an interesting aside, Zhou mentioned that she had
met on September 12-13 with Zhejiang Province-based Chen Yiming
(strictly protect), Head of the Wenling Municipal Propaganda
Department's Theory Office, Deputy Director of the Wenling
Municipal People's Democratic Consultation Work Office, and
author of Wenling's political experimentation (Ref A). Chen had
approached her with the idea of working together to start a new
political party. Zhou told Poloff she had informed Chen that
such ideas are dangerous. She did not, however, say whether she
had refused Chen's proposal.

--------------
Organizational Seeds Already Being Sown
--------------

SHANGHAI 00000653 003.2 OF 003




11. (S) Li Fan acknowledged that lack of organization is a
problem for potential revolutionaries in China. He believes
that alternate centers of power will gradually coalesce, but
would not speculate on what form they will ultimately take. He
noted, however, that there are already people trying to organize
and mobilize people in the countryside. While these people are
not organizing political parties, per se, they are trying to
establish networks of like-minded people in geographical areas
and then connecting these networks with each other to accomplish
goals. These people understand that isolated, they are
impotent, but organized, they can implement change.


12. (S) As an example, Li cited Hubei People's Congress
Representative Yao Lifa. Yao, a former county-level People's
Congress representative, traveled to Hunan this summer to meet
with farmers and encourage them to participate in local
elections. No formal organization was set up, but in essence,
Yao was training people on the merits of working together.


13. (S) According to Li, the New Socialist Countryside program
developed by the Central Government to help ameliorate rural
poverty is also helping develop nascent civil organizations.
The Central Government knows it cannot possibly solve all of the
problems in the countryside on its own, due to lack of both
skills and the funding. To help the people help themselves and
to use outside expertise, the New Socialist Countryside program
encourages NGO participation--particularly in poverty
alleviation efforts--and the development of civil society. Li
said that the Central Government is aware of the potential
dangers of allowing the development of civil society in the
countryside, but assesses that the danger of the growing
rich-poor income distribution gap is greater.

--------------
Comment
--------------


15. (S) Although Zhou, Chen, and Li offered slightly different
predictions of China's political development, what they have in
common is years working together--often successfully--to empower
people to participate in the political system. In particular,
they have trained local People's Congresses on their rights in
an effort to help them assert greater oversight and authority
over the government. These three are also working closely with
other like-minded individuals throughout China to effect change
from within the system. All three seek implementation of a
truly democratic, multi-party system in China.
JARRETT