David Bandurski, editor of China Media Project, recently translated an article that Sun Liping—a sociologist at Tsinghua University who served as President Xi Jinping’s dissertation advisor— has published harshly criticizing the Hu administration’s decade in power, and even comparing China under their administration to North Korea.
Sun begins the article by noting that when Hu first took over power in 2002 there was hope among Chinese that he would further open up the system, and a number of incidents in the earlier part of his tenure seemed to confirm he would.
“But then,” Sun continues, “without explanation, the new administration lowered its banners and muffled its drums. It studied the ways of North Korea. Control and stability preservation (维稳) become the salient priority, and this approach was relentless.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
In considering possible explanations for this crackdown, Sun comes to focus, interestingly enough, on the 2008 Beijing Olympics. According to Sun the preparation for the international sporting event marked the beginning “of the ascendance of the stability preservation regime in China.” As a result:
“In the 21st century, China’s two most obvious characteristics have been the inflation of power (权力膨胀) and the failure of power (权力溃败), and the way the two of these have woven together. The process of the strengthening of the government’s capacity to extract resources, which had already begun before, concentrated more and more money in the hands of the government [during this decade]. And he who has wealth speaks loudest.”
The rest of the article is available on China Media Project’s website here, and is well worth the read (as are Bandurski’s insights preceding the article).
The gist of what Sun goes on to argue is that after the Beijing Olympics the leadership began touting all the great things China was capable of, even as interest groups became more powerful, social inequality rose, and the government became “utterly helpless” of doing anything to rectify the situation. Instead, the Hu administration merely tried to preserve regime instability in the face of it. However, Sun contends, “Preservation of this sort, has preserved China right down into the gutter.”