Petition is a new Chinese documentary containing amazing hidden-camera footage of people trying to get simple justice under a one-party dictatorship. It’s pretty hair-raising and a nice antidote to all the champagne-oiled mutual congratulations taking place in Washington right now where the smiles of the rich and powerful are so blinding as to suggest sustained aerobic training of the facial muscles.
People all over China are pretty much at the mercy of corrupt local officials and their entrepreneur friends, and the narratives of the petitioners in the Zhao Liang film stand for untold thousands of others. Given how easy it is here to railroad someone through the criminal courts—as the newspapers detail almost daily—imagine what people face who can appeal to no newspapers at all and must rely on a corrupt judicial system run by terrified lackeys.
No one even notices any more the irony of our Cold War economic and business elite completely selling out the country’s industrial base to a communist state. But of course China can hardly be confused with a workers’ paradise these days no matter how many Marxist textbooks they shove down the kiddies’ throats. It must be one of the most cynical places on earth given the contrast between the rhetoric of bliss and the relentless, crushing struggle for survival that recent films from there have revealed. (I heartily recommend Last Train Home for another depressing vision.)
As usual, we convince ourselves of our political and moral superiority with pious bleatings to the Chinese about human rights but don’t stop to question our own eager collusion in shipping jobs to this totalitarian moonscape as part of a long-term and very successful scheme to undermine the unionized workforce at home and makes trillions in the meantime. Now that factories lie in ruins everywhere, only teachers and civil servants remain as the last bulwarks of an organized workforce—and guess who is in the firing line from both Republican and Democratic pols from coast to coast? Note today’s trial balloon about how to steal state workers’ pensions under the guise of state ‘bankruptcy’.
As a country we have never dared to dabble seriously in left-wing politics of the European stripe or even generate a decent version of social democracy. But that doesn’t stop the wealthy from waging class war against the rest of us, and no doubt president Hu, as a lifelong scholar of Marxist dialectics, could give Obama some useful pointers. Meanwhile, business is to be done, goods are to be shipped, and government bonds are to be bought.
Therefore, all’s right in heaven, so who cares about a few poor slobs tossed under the train? We think modernization means our model gets shipped around the world, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Mr Hu’s way of doings things represents the wave of the future.