NPC and the internet Thunders: Browsing TourWritten by Julen Madariaga on March 11th, 2009
There was some buzz last week on the Chinese internet about this supposedly new concept of Online Democracy. The excitement started with the weird “elude the cat” story, and then continued when Premier Wen JiaBao chatted online with “internet friends” . David Bandurski of the China Media Project, who has been watching these things for a long time, was rather sceptical, although some interesting ideas appeared in his comments.
I go back to this because I am surprised there hasn’t been much said about the internet chats that for the first time have been organized with legislators participating in the NPC-CPCC Annual Sessions. Where has all this gone? Not even the Chinese language internet seems to be very interested, judging by the search 网络民主. It is obvious that without a strong push of the propaganda machinery the “internet friends” don’tpay much attention to these initiatives.
And why didn’t the State Media push it this time? Perhaps they are bored of it already, or perhaps not everyone was very hot for the idea of “online democracy”. For example, NPC chairman Wu Bangguo, one of the strong men in the politburo standing committee, who made these encouraging statements yesterday.
In the end, it is not so much about democracy (that’s too big a word for the NPC), but more about trying to give it some sort of role in participatory politics that would allow the legislators to take into account at least some requests of the public. The problem is, this year again, the NPC has given an image of being just a big annoying “Carnival”, where the guest’s only role was to clap at the words of Mr. Wu.
Did I say the only role? No wait, the deputies also have the duty of making proposals, and some of them must be pretty talented, judging by their phrases “amazing like thunder”.
ULN takes you for a browse
But follow me for a minute as I browse the Chinese internets, see what interesting things we can find on this subject. A good place to start is izaobao, with their daily roundup of bloggy stories:
I used to pay attention to the NPC-CPCC, because I was stupid and innocent, I used to think these 2 “carnivals” were really going to change the destiny of the Chinese people. Nowadays I still pay attention to them, because there are always “thundering statements”（雷人语录), which bring interest to an otherwise boring life (… ) this also brings another problem: everyone is paying too much attention to the “thundering statements” and possibly missing some of the “spring breeze” - that is, those proposals that might have some value and professionalism. I am sure in our NPC-CPCC not all have the IQ of NiPing, there must be some with excellent proposals. But why don’t they do it in public, with the technological means we have today?
And that’s what I ask myself, why not in public? Let’s try to follow some links and find out:
First, this cue of deputy NiPing, it is not linked here but we will easily google it. There you are, it is a funny story: the typical embarrasing situation where an older lady that could be anybody’s mum tries to use buzz words of the online community, like shanzhai (山寨). The uncoolness she radiated could be sensed all the way from Guangzhou, were finally this blogger saved the World by proving that she had no idea of what she was talking about, even though nobody really knows what this rapidly morphing word means.
Forget NiPing. Let’s follow the links on the Izabao article. One of them goes to our familiar “3 watches” blogger, who attempts to coin or re-coin the term 雷人语录 (thundering statements) into the shorter and perhaps cooler 雷语 (er.. thundering statements). Wondering if the Chinese internet slang really needs any more innovations, we leave this blog and continue our quest for some Thunder material, wishing “3 watches” luck with the promotion of his new word.
According to China News, the NPC-CPCC is on, and the deputees are enthusiastically advising, with a rumble like a cannon. But apart from the “cannon” activity, there are also some atypical points of view, that the internet friends describe with the buzz word “thundering“
What are these thundering points of view? Something we need to look into more carefully. The article gives 3 interesting examples that we will skim-translate, so that you can get the gist of it:
Thunder N.1 : “For 5 Million, I’d sure admit you 20 points down”
This is about the problem of access to schools. Deputy and Schoolmaster Liu ChengMing says: ”It is a normal phenomenon, some people’s children are only missing a few points to get into a school, they wish there was another way to compensate, and there you go: you spend a little bit of money and get in, that is the most normal thing in the World. Some experts say that the money shouldn’t break the equality given by the points, but this is a rigid attitude. If someone gives me 5Million, even with 20 points less for sure I would admit him, then keep 1Million for the school and give 4 to other schools!!
Thunder N.2: Lin JiaXiang is a great Cadre!
This is about a party secretary in Shenzhen who was suspected of molesting girls and removed from office. NCP deputy and minister of transport etc. Liu Gongchen said: “Lin is a great cadre, come on, who hasn’t been drunk sometime”. And adds: ” the internet can kill people, he is just an unlucky egg!!”
Thunder N.3: Just give a woman a hen…
全国政协委员张晓梅建议，应加大发挥女性的社会优势，倡导女性精神应对经济危机。她举例说:“如果给一个女人一只母鸡，她会节俭下自己的口粮， 饲养它生蛋孵鸡，并在鸡与蛋的循环中，帮持家用，供弟妹上学，继而产生无限生机和力量；如果同样一只母鸡给到一个男人手中，最有可能的结局是炖了被用来当 作下酒菜。”
This CPPCC member Zhang Xiaomei suggested the feminine spirit is the best to deal with the economic crisis. “If you give a woman a hen, she eats sparingly, feeds the chicken until it lays eggs..blahblah.. take the children to Beida with the proceedings and what not. But give the hen to a man, most probably he will eat it. An internet friend commented: then the best against the crisis is sex change surgery.
On to 1515
Whatever, that was a good read and we are beggining to get tired of so much translation, even if it is approximative. Let’s switch to the 1515.cn link, see what we can find there. Finally, we do find some kind of serious analysis here. Or perhaps not, it is a column posted on Xinhua’s herald.
[...] 前两天和一位政协的领导聊天，他说，你们媒体每年都会问，为何有些政协委员又请假了，追得紧了，自然会对这些老是清假的委员们产生压力，他们以后 就不敢了。我倒是没有这样乐观，因为对一批政协委员来说，这个头衔不是他们自己想要得，而是作为一种荣誉和社会地位主动给与他们的，既然他们从来没有想要 过，那来自外界的压力，又怎样会改变这样的状况 [...] 不过对于那些雷人的议案，公众在批评和议论之余，还应该看到这样一点，毕竟因为提案并不是完全公开，大家能够知道的，只不过是数千份议案 中的很小很小的一部分，因此这些被媒体曝光，或者是代表委员们自己向媒体透露，或者是透过代表委员们自己开设的博客主动向公众阐述的，不能够反映代表委员 们的普遍水平。[ ... ] 好的议案被忽略有几个原因，第一是媒体缺乏信息来源，因为不是每个委员代表都愿意公开自己的提案，很多人愿意低调的实实在在的做 事情，第二则是因为媒和公众本身，媒体觉得不吸引眼球，而这种判断，是因为公众对于严肃的问题缺乏兴趣，这也就让那些雷人的议案传播效应越来越大.
After explaining the origin of the expression ‘Thundering” (雷人）from Japanese cartoons and a few other things, the author speaks about his chat with a CPCC deputy, who says that media puts a lot of pressure on some members to attend the meetings and stop asking for holidays.
But the situation will not change because many didn’t really choose to be CPCC members, it is just a honour and social status given to them. They have no capability and no willingness to participate. Perhaps we should consider other ways to reward these guys instead of forcing them to seat in the boring NPC-CPCC every year. There are already enough proposals in the CPCC so perhaps they should just resign.
Among the thousands of proposals that are issued in the NPC-CPCC, the ones that everyone can see are only a tiny part. They surely don’t represent the general level of the deputies. The media does not publish many proposals of deputies either because many of them don’t want to make statements in public, or just because the proposals are too serious and would not attract the readers, which is precisely the reason why the ‘Thunders” do go public.
So there you go, a few different points of view from the chinese blogosphere. Note, these Chinese blogs are not necessarily representative of the mainstream opinions in the Chinese internet, but rather of what is - in my opinion anyway- the intelligent fraction of the Chinese internet.
I hope you have enjoyed the ride. This is my first attempt at bridge blogging proper, if you find it useful let me know and I will try to do more. Otherwise I guess I will stick to commentary in English, where I am more time-effective.
IMPORTANT: the translations above are not meant to be verbatim. Browsing with ULN means that you see what I see and you skip what I skip. I have tried to convey the tone and the message of the originals, but feel free to correct me if you see some translation error. Chinese readers, now is the time to take revenge for all my mocking of Chinglish signs.
Any thundering comments?