Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Campaign, but no election

There is no election pending in China. But the campaign is in full swing. And when you have government-run media to broadcast your campaign messages while shutting off competition, you probably have it made. But, there was never any doubt about that.

So why did they ban Winnie the Pooh?

China rolls out TV series eulogising Xi Jinping ahead of key congress
A documentary series extolling President Xi Jinping’s ideas and achievements in pushing for reforms is airing on state-run TV in China as the country’s propaganda apparatus steps up efforts to burnish his image ahead of a key Communist Party congress this autumn.

The 10-episode series, "Carrying Reform through to the End," started airing at 8pm on the state broadcaster CCTV on Monday. The programmes will also be replayed on local TV channels the following day and streamed on online media platforms.

The series debut came after China’s broadcast regulator banned TV stations from airing programmes such as costume dramas during the “major propaganda period” ahead of the party congress…

The party’s 19th national congress, to be held in the last quarter of this year, is expected to see Xi’s political theory written into the party’s constitution as part of its “guiding ideology”. A formal report will also give an official verdict on Xi’s first term in office…

Xi was eulogised in Monday’s programme as a great reformer who inherited and further developed the “opening up and reform” policies of the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping…

Wu Qiang, a former lecturer in politics at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said the documentary was clearly aimed at strengthening the personal cult around Xi to pave way for the autumn congress…

The documentary is likely to dominate the prime-time TV schedules in the coming weeks, but Chinese TV viewers will find their choice of soap operas and other entertainment programmes increasingly limited in the lead up to the autumn congress.

The country’s broadcast regulator has banned CCTV and provincial TV stations from airing entertainment shows such as costume dramas during the period ahead of the 19th party congress and the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army on August 1.

Stations were told to prioritise the purchase and broadcast of a list of “recommended” propaganda TV shows, most of which portray positive images of the PLA, police, firefighters or other civil servants.

The notice, issued by the television department of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television on June 27, circulating online in early July, triggered strong criticism among internet users, many of whom resorted to sarcasm to vent their anger over the changes.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Winnie (not in China)

This reminds me of the political jokes that used to come out of the Soviet Union — published in mimeographed samizdat and smuggled out from behind the Iron Curtain.

Why China censors banned Winnie the Pooh
The blocking of Winnie the Pooh might seem like a bizarre move by the Chinese authorities but it is part of a struggle to restrict clever bloggers from getting around their country's censorship…

Winnie the Pooh has joined a line of crazy, funny internet references to China's top leaders.

The Chinese name for and images of the plump, cute cartoon character are being blocked on social media sites here because bloggers have been comparing him to China's president.

When Xi Jinping and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe endured one of the more awkward handshakes in history netizens responded with Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore shaking hands…

It is not only that China's censors will not tolerate ridicule of the country's leader, they do not want this beloved children's character becoming a kind of online euphemism for the Communist Party's general secretary.

In other countries such comparisons might be thought of as harmless enough and some might even think that having Winnie as your mascot could even be quite endearing: not in China.

Here the president is "Mr Grey." He doesn't do silly things; he has no quirky elements; he makes no mistakes and that is why he is above the population and unable to be questioned…

Winnie the Pooh has actually fallen foul of the authorities here before. This renewed push against online Pooh is because we are now in the run-up to the Communist Party Congress this autumn.

The meeting takes place every five years and, amongst other things, sees the appointment of the new Politburo Standing Committee: the now seven-member group at the top of the Chinese political system.

Xi Jinping will also be using the Congress, which marks the beginning of his second term in office, to further solidify his grip on power by promoting allies and sidelining those seen as a threat…

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Women without power in China

Under Mao Zedong, especially during the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party loudly proclaimed gender equality. While some women achieved positions of power, they were rare exceptions. Since the Cultural Revolution, the power positions of women have become more rare.

As China Prepares for New Top Leaders, Women Are Still Shut Out
China’s Communist Party leaders will gather this fall for a closely watched congress to decide who will take the party into its eighth decade of power. Yet for all the speculation about who will emerge at the top of the ruling party, one result seems certain: Few, if any, will be women.

Not once since the Communists came to power in 1949 has a woman sat on the party’s highest body, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee… The 25-member Politburo has just two women…

Despite China’s constitutional commitments to gender equality, discrimination remains widespread, academics and feminists say…

Mandatory early retirement for women doesn’t help. Women must retire up to 10 years earlier than men, on the assumption that they are the primary caregivers for grandchildren and elderly relatives…

[T]he percentage of women among full members of the party’s Central Committee has declined in recent years, from 6.4 percent in 2012 before the last party congress to 4.9 percent today.

The figures signal that China is out of step with global trends. According to U.N. Women, more than twice as many women lead a country today than about a decade ago, though the number is still low at 17…

The road to power, controlled by the Communist Party, is more difficult for women on an even more fundamental level, statistics suggest. Only 25.1 percent of China’s 88 million party members are female, according to the latest figures, from 2015…

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Another tool for autocrats

If China is not a "rule of law" state, it's definitely a "rule of regulations" state. What's the difference?

CPC issues revised regulation on inspection to strengthen Party supervision
The Communist Party of China (CPC) Friday issued a revised regulation on inspection, in a renewed effort to improve supervision and governance of its more than 89 million members…

The revised rules clearly stipulate that "political inspection should be deepened, and inspections should mainly focus on upholding the Party leadership, improving Party building, and advancing comprehensive and strict rule of the Party."

The inspections should staunchly safeguard the authority and the centralized, unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, and ensure the CPC is always the firm and core leadership of the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics, it said…

The regulation made public Friday also stipulates that Party committees at both the central and provincial levels should conduct inspections on Party organizations of all localities, departments, public institutions and enterprises under their jurisdiction.

In addition, Party committees at the municipal and county levels are also required to establish special agencies to conduct inspections…

Such internal supervision has proven effective in exposing problems.

According to the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, more than 50 percent of investigations into centrally-administered officials were as a result of information found by discipline inspectors…

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

The politics of law enforcement

We can only wonder about the connection between the alleged crime and the electoral politics in Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's brother detained
The brother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Hossein Ferydoun, has been detained, a judiciary spokesman says…

He [Ferydoun] has been linked to officials at the centre of a scandal involving inflated salaries for managers at the state insurance company. He has always denied any wrongdoing.

The saga has dogged President Rouhani for more than a year.

The judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejeie, said:… "Yesterday, bail was issued for him but because he failed to secure it he was referred to prison."…

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Threatened journalists and information

Information and a free press are usually seen as vital to the existence of a free state. What happens if the press is discredited or if journalists are killed off? Is controlling the press necessary for an authoritarian system?

Is this a case of limited state capacity? Or is the state actively suppressing journalism? Maybe the title question should be "Does Mexico want to save its journalists?"

Can Mexico save its journalists?
Journalists are being murdered in Mexico and this is nothing new. This is one of the most dangerous countries for reporters, rights groups say, and more die here than in any other nation at peace.

But even for a place so used to drugs-related violence and organised crime, the recent bloodshed has been shocking.

Seven journalists have been killed in the country so far this year, most shot by gunmen in broad daylight. Yet virtually all cases of attacks on the press end up unsolved and, in many, corrupt officials are suspected of partnering with criminals…

Since 2000, at least 106 journalists have been killed across Mexico, according to rights group Article 19. Exact numbers are hard to come by as investigations often get nowhere and different studies apply different criteria in counting the dead…

In 2010, pressure from campaigners led to the creation of a special office of the federal prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression, known as the Feadle, which investigates attacks on journalists.

But the authorities have often ruled that the victims themselves are not journalists or that the incidents have no connection to their work, according to critics.

Like last month. When the charred remains of Salvador Adame, the head of a TV station in the western state of Michoacán, were found, state prosecutors said that the case had to do with personal disputes, possibly a love affair, angering relatives and campaigners…

[Journalist Ismael Bolorquez said,] "The [Feadle] doesn't have resources or teams to investigate. Our system of protection of journalists doesn't work... The government's policies to protect us are a failure."

The result is that journalism itself has become a victim. "Investigative journalism in many places in Mexico is just impossible to be exercised," said Carlos Luria, CPJ's senior programme co-ordinator for the Americas.

"There are no guarantees, no condition, no protection, there is an absence of the state. This is decimating journalism in Mexico."…

Ana Cristina Ruelas, Article 19's director for Mexico and Central America [asserted that]… Corruption is rife in Mexico, and rogue police and politicians were the suspects in more than half of the incidents against the media in the last six years… And most cases were never looked into.

"The state doesn't investigate itself. There is a direct link between the level of impunity and corruption," Ms Ruelas said. "This impunity allows the aggressors to continue attacking the press in broad daylight."…

Distrust grew even further last month, after the New York Times accused the Mexican government of spying on several top journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders by hacking their phones with spyware meant to be used against criminals and terrorists - a claim the Mexican presidency denied.
No silence

"It's very hard to connect the words of the presidency with actions because until now we haven't found a clear reflection of these words in actions that provide results," said Ms Ruelas, from Article 19.

Reporters, however, say the latest killings prove that their work is more urgent than ever: "No to silence".

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hukou reform

Urbanization means there are many rural migrants to cities. However, China's hukou system makes life difficult for the migrants.

The household registration system (hukou) determines where children go to school, where families receive medical care, and where people can take advantage of most government services. The registrations are not transferable. If your family is registered in rural Shandong, you'll not be eligible for any services if you move to Beijing.

This puts a break on recruiting workers who are needed in urban areas and great hardships on those who migrate.

Is the Vice-Premier a high enough official to prompt reforms?

Vice Premier calls for accelerating household registration reform
Zhang Gaoli
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli Friday urged increased efforts to meet urbanization reform targets while speeding up household registration system reform.

Zhang, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, made the remarks when addressing a teleconference on the reform of the national household registration system…

Zhang stressed the target of increasing the ratio of registered urban residents to 45 percent of the total population by 2020. The ratio was 35.9 percent at the end of 2014…

He also called for reforming accompanying policies of urbanization and providing newly-settled urban residents with better public services.

The household registration system, which has divided the nation into rural and urban populations since the 1950s, provides access to education, health care and other public services.

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