A reminder that no-one has a clue

Eeewww – pass the sick-bag…

There is China coverage that we assume reflects what they want us to think. An example today is increasingly state-directed Alibaba’s owner Jack Ma’s South China Morning Post passing on blood-curdling revelations about Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang having plotted a coup. And at the other end of the spectrum there is serious analysis from veteran and respected observers (such as…).

But whether it is designed to mislead or attempting to be objective, it is all focused on a black box, given the slightly more accessible name ‘China’s elite politics’. Only a small number of people really know what is going on within the box (even that number – it might be half a dozen, a couple of dozen, or more – is purely conjecture).

Some quick weekend reading from ChinaFile reminds us how little we know. The current Communist Party Congress declares Xi Jinping Chairman for Eternity and enshrines Xi Jinping Thought as the nation’s sole guiding philosophy – but what does it mean? That Xi has personally assumed total control? Or that a certain number of people have decided that it should look like he has? For all we know, he is just a puppet.

The article offers the Chinese leadership’s famous factions as a good example. Outside commentators knowingly talk about (say) Communist Youth League alumni as a specific grouping with clannish ties that differentiate members from other, rival cliques. To outsiders accustomed to inter- or intra-party divisions in other countries, it sounds familiar, thus tempting. But there is limited hard evidence that the CCP is split, certainly not along the lines we often hear about (how ever much common sense tells us power struggles must take place).

This tendency to elaborate barely existent details extends to personality. The ChinaFile piece mentions the belief five years ago that Xi would push market-based reforms. A year or two later, the accepted wisdom was that he was clamping down to prepare the ground for these market-based reforms. Now we know better (we think). This is not new: remember Yuri Andropov, with the (by Brezhnev-era standards) glamorous wife and reputed fondness for jazz, who was to re-invent Soviet Communism?

This is basically just Donald Rumsfeld’s known unknowns and unknown unknowns applied to something very current. And we need the reminder.

The article mentions a small number of things that are visible – like published speeches and personnel moves – from which we might draw conclusions about what is happening in the black box. I would add the outflow of elites’ funds and family members to the West, notably the US. It’s happening; we can only guess why.

I declare the weekend open with a new sign of Hong Kong’s space shortage – a subdivided vending machine…

… for all your SIM card and canned coffee needs (maybe for when you phone someone who puts you to sleep).


This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A reminder that no-one has a clue

  1. Big Al says:

    Xi’s meteoric rise is unstoppable. I want to know when he plans to evolve into a being of pure energy …

  2. Regina’s O Face says:

    At least you know where the machine is should you ever plan to phone Adams.

    Not that I recommend such a thing, you understand.

  3. Stanley Lieber says:

    “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” – Lao Tsu

  4. Knownot says:

    For the weekend

    Jackie Chan appeared in a soft-porn (or, at least, an erotic) film before he became famous.

    Jackie Chan apppears in a soft-propopaganda film which has to be shown in Chinese cinemas.

    Jackie, oh Jackie
    Humping a starlet
    With great ardour.
    Good old Jackie,
    Said the starlet,
    Do it harder.

    Jackie, oh Jackie’s
    Soft-porn loving
    Was a fake.
    Good old Jackie
    Stands up straight
    For China’s sake.

    Jackie, oh Jackie
    Serves his country
    True, correct.
    Good old Jackie
    Forearm loyally
    Raised erect.

    With acknowledgement to HillnotPeak:
    Jackie, oh Jackie
    Bouffant wig
    Thick-rimmed specs.
    Poor old Jackie
    Cool no more
    Of doubtful sex.

  5. WTF says:

    I’m pretty confident no one with money wants to know how the sausage gets made anywhere, much less by the CCP.


  6. LRE says:

    The CPC, at its heart, seems very much about everyone for his own corrupt self. The raw naked greed of “keep power, so we can keep stealing stuff: get more power so we can steal more stuff more safely” doesn’t really need an overarching schemer plotting so I think we can dispose with the shadowy-vested-interests-controlling-a-puppet scenario with the help of Hanlon’s Razor: the politburo and so on are the vested interests, and everyone behaves in far too paranoid a fashion to trust anyone else to do things for them. Calling them paranoid is a little unfair of me, given that much of the rest of the CPC are indeed actually out to get them. Our Chief Exoneratives — even though their strings have been more visible and heavy-handed than early Captain Scarlet episodes for quite sometime — are something of an exception to the puppet rule, but their use is a necessary political convenience, maintaining the wafer-thin veneer of separation and smooth, gradual transition.

    Here’s a jolly gedankenexperiment to try at home…
    The doublethink required for being in the CPC is best illustrated or experienced by playing the role-playing game “Paranoia”.
    In Paranoia, you and your colleagues are tasked with rooting out and killing traitors who come in two main flavours — mutants and people in secret societies, in order to safeguard the hugely heirarchical society and it’s infallible overlord, the Computer [“Trust the Computer. The computer is your friend.”]. This is the only method of advancement and social mobility open to you in this openly stratified society.
    There are a few wrinkles in your path to advancement: firstly, you are a mutant and also a member of a secret society, and are surrounded by people who have lasers and whose only method of advancement is rooting out and killing traitors, mutants and secret society members.
    Secondly the computer is as mad as a balloon, and has made the entire society hampered by a stupefying and wilfully evil bureaucracy that makes almost everything technically illegal or impossible, unless you do it with some credits or other bribes/favours on the sly — an offence that, obviously, makes you a traitor and thus fair game for your fellow teammates. (eg. “You want a chapstick lid? Do you have a properly filled-in chapstick lid replacement form?” “Where do I get a chapstick lid replacement form?” “You’ll need to fill in a form request form.” “Where do I get a form request form?” “You’ll need to fill in a form request form…” ) 
    As if that weren’t muderous enough, your team are given missions by higher ups or the Computer itself with briefings like: “Go to [Redacted] District and [Redacted] [Redacted].” 
    “Friend Computer, which District are we supposed to go to?” “I’m sorry citizen: that information is not available at your security clearance. Please continue with the mission.”

    Download a copy of the rules and — if you’re an normal person, bereft of funny-shaped dice — a dice throwing app and have a game with your more foolish friends, and you can come back a bit the wiser about the CPC and their ways.

  7. Headache says:

    @ LRE

    Wow. I faintly recall playing Paranoia as a spotty teenager more than two decades ago. I might have had greater success armed with the cynicism I’ve since acquired. My character’s mutant power was empathy, which seemed useless at the time and I now know to be practically a disability.

  8. Joe Blow says:

    Knownot, not many people know this, but Jacky Chan is a certified poof, wife in LA notwithstanding. I don’t think there was much starlet humping going on, unless he played the role of starlet.

Comments are closed.