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Small 'd' Democracy in China

Some good news for Chinese miners and their families today is also good news about the growing importance of public opinion in that technically Communist country.

From the VOA:

Rescuers have pulled 22 Chinese coal miners from a flooded underground pit in north China where they were trapped for a week.

Chinese news media reported the miners were brought to the surface Tuesday morning in apparently good condition.

In the old days in China, the state run media would not have reported the mine accident, and little would have been done to rescue the trapped.  These days, word spreads, and government understands that it must be seen to be acting vigorously.  Dramatic mine rescues make very good TV; officials want to be there to greet the rescued miners in front of the cameras.

This doesn’t just mean that officials will throw more resources at catastrophes.  It means that the pressure is growing to enforce regulations and laws that will minimize incidents like this in the future.  Those who permitted this illegal mine to reopen will likely be punished, as they should be.  Other officials around the country, many happily pocketing bribes from various illegal and quasi-legal businesses in their districts, will think twice about the dangers of exposure.

Of course there is a down side to an empowered public opinion.  China’s rulers increasingly feel they must take a harder line in disputes with neighboring countries to court nationalists at home.

China is changing in unpredictable ways; the Chinese themselves do not know where they are headed.  The rest of us can only watch, hope, and prepare.

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  • Jim.

    Conventionally, petty corruption has been viewed as the cause of China’s 300-year revolutions. If the central government can be seen as effective in combating corruption, their “Mandate of Heaven” is safe.

    It will be interesting to see if the Chinese discover the wisdom that the West has had for centuries — that the (peaceful) turnover of public officials through the democratic process can be a powerful and effective means of keeping corruption in check.

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