China’s ruling Communist party has succeeded in “raising the ideological and moral qualities as well as scientific and cultural qualities of the entire nation”. Or so it claimed at the end of its recent Central Committee plenum. But the story that has gripped and shamed billions of Chinese citizens suggests otherwise.
“How much should I pay?”
That was the reaction of a truck driver in western China’s Sichuan Province after he crushed a five-year old child beneath the wheels of his vehicle.
The incident came a week after a similar tragedy in which two-year-old Yueyue (above) was ignored by dozens of passers-by after being run over twice by the same vehicle. According to one account:
The van driver stops for a moment, presumably realising in horror that he has just hit a toddler. Then he drives on – crushing her again beneath his rear wheels. What follows is arguably even more horrifying: a dozen passersby ignore two-year-old Yueyue as she lies in agony in a busy market in southern China. Several glance at her bloodied body before continuing, while others walk or wheel around it.
Their apparent indifference means that she is hit again, by a truck. Surveillance camera footage from the busy wholesale market in Foshan, Guangdong, shows that it takes seven minutes before a woman finally stops to help.
Yueyue has since died.
There’s a lot of sense in that. I believe that the lack of a value system is also deepening the moral crisis. Before Mao, the indifference towards others …. existed but was mitigated by a traditional moral and religious system. That system was then almost destroyed by the communists, especially during the 10 mad years of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. Nowadays communism, the ideology that dominated Chinese people’s lives like a religion, has also more or less collapsed. As a result, there’s a spiritual vacuum that cannot be filled by the mere opportunity of money-making.
But China’s ruling Communist party appears more concerned to stifle political dissent than address the moral depravity its Market Leninism has cultivated, as China Digital Times reports on What’s Behind the Communist Party’s Focus on Cultural Reform?
At the recent CCP Central Committee plenum in Beijing, the focus seemed to be not on the leadership transition coming up next year, as pundits predicted, but instead on “cultural reform,” (at least, from the glimmer of information the foreign media has been able to obtain on the highly-secretive meetings).
The main document released after the meetings was titled, “Central Committee Decision Concerning the Major Issue of Deepening Cultural System Reforms, Promoting the Great Development and Prosperity of Socialist Culture.” (Update: Full text now available) Russell Leigh Moses writes on the Wall Street Journal’s blog:
What’s the purpose of all this effort at putting the need for a uniform Chinese culture front and center now, at a major Party conclave?
One aim is that many officials want to put the Party back front and center in the lives of people—be that through revolutionary nostalgia or providing cultural guidance. An increasing proportion of Party discourse has taken note of the mental pressures of modernization and the concomitant decline in social morality. Some officials write and act as if a lot more guidance from the top is needed, and that cultural direction supplied by the Party will address moral shortcomings in society. More than a few cadres clearly believe that using “the greatness of Chinese culture” is one way back into the daily lives of citizens—that is, something that they think all Chinese can agree on and celebrate around, and therefore thank the Party’s brand of socialism for.
There was another agenda being pushed at the plenum: combatting the deepening influence of social media. The speed and reach of micro-blogging–and the competition that Weibo and others now pose for the official media—worry many cadres who think that it is the public, and not the Party, that is shaping society. While Chinese officials cannot yet agree on how to move against those netizens who are nasty towards political authority, the more conservative in the leadership continue to push for a harder line.
An article in the Economist looks at the Central Committee plenum in light of the hit-and-run accident which killed toddler Yueyue in Foshan, which has ignited an outpouring of sorrow and condemnation among Chinese netizens:
This outpouring began even before the central committee wrapped up its typically secretive meeting. The furore thus created a problem for the party’s propagandists. The central committee’s resolution may have implied that China was lagging behind in the development of soft power, but officials certainly did not intend to signal that China was in a state of moral collapse. The party’s main mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, tried to rally enthusiasm with a commentary on October 18th saying the meeting had ended “victoriously” and that the party had already succeeded in “raising the ideological and moral qualities as well as scientific and cultural qualities of the entire nation”. Little Yue Yue’s mourners have begged to differ.
The Economist does mention one bright spot for “civic consciousness” in China: the online and real life effort to support Chen Guangcheng (left), an activist now under house arrest in Shandong. Yet the government’s harsh crackdown on activists and journalists who try to visit him, and the resulting international media coverage, does not bode well for their “cultural soft power” efforts either.