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China: People's Conferences

If you've been following the glorious progress being made in this year's rounds of the parliamentary-ish National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, where members of China's government and military from across the country meet in the highest halls of power, make proposals and decide the future of the country, then you've probably seen this photo being blogged around.

‘One look and you know these people sleep a lot,’ reads the caption given the photo by blogger Wang Xiaofeng. And his readers?

会不会是写提案累的?

Maybe they've proposed themselves to sleep?

好像每年他们都是这么睡着开会的
反正醒着也做不了什么事

I think they slept through all the meetings last year too
But even if they wake up there's not a lot they can do

如果他们平时都这样的话,和谐社会很快就实现了。

If they were always like this, society would harmonize a lot more quickly.

前头那个,开会前在我床上几个晚上。现在当然累了。

That one in the front, he slept with me for last few nights. Of course he's tired.

Bullog blogger Lian Yue's Eight Continent posted the picture as well. Here's what his readers said:

呵呵,不知道美国开议会的时候,议员会不会睡觉

Hehe, in American Senate sessions, do the Senators sleep as well?

他们大多争论得很激烈,怎么可能睡觉?我们因为根本就没有争论,所以睡觉的也就多了…
再说了,你要是在议会上睡觉,被电视拍下来之后,下次选民就会抛弃你了

Most of their debates are too intense, how could anyone sleep? Because we have no debates here, that's why so many of them just sleep…
Then again, if you fell asleep in Senate, after it got put on TV, voters would dump you in the next election

三千多人挤在一个旮旯地方,导致空气中CO2含量上升,O2含量急剧下降,为了减少氧气消耗,保持体力,只好打瞌睡

Over 3000 people squeezed in a tiny place, it's filling up with carbon dioxide as all the oxygen is getting used up. To reduce the oxygen consumption and preserve their body strength, they might as well snooze.

有没有那位牛友能点出这些人的名字啊?

Is there anyone cool enough to point out these people's names?

Fellow Bullog blogger and journalist Ten Years of Chopping Timber, looks back over years of reporting on the two annual meetings with memoirs of an ex-NPC/CPPCC reporter:

到了后面几次,学油了,知道写这类稿件的窍门,打个电话聊几句,就能弄出一篇花团锦簇的东西来。看看其他上会的记者,热衷于和老家来的官员、企业家拉关系,花花轿子人抬人,给他们写几篇稿子,彼此皆大欢喜。我也学着别人这样干过,但心里还是不舒服,觉得自己有些低贱。我心里能猜到那些官员、看我等这些人的心思,别看他们满脸堆笑,夸你为家乡的俊才,心里没准在想:这小子是不是让我给他办什么事?这人将来的前景如何呀?值不值得搭理?

By the last few times, I'd learned to be slick. I knew the trick to writing pieces like this: make a phone call, chat for a while, and then make something beautiful out of it. Look at the other reporters there, scrambling over each other to get in good with the old NPC hack officials and businessmen. Next they'll be carrying them around on sedans. They write a few articles for them and both sides are happy. I picked this up too, but I'm still not comfortable doing it. I feel I'm cheapening myself. I can imagine what those officials think when they see journalists like me: not looking to see if we're full of smiles, or exaggeratedly praising them as the pride of their hometowns, but rather wondering: what's this punk gonna ask me to do for him? How good are his future prospects? Is he worth paying any attention to?

[snip]

领导很器重我,连续几次在大会堂第一次发布会上,都让我出镜提问,我问过一个最傻的问题,在中外同行的众目睽睽之下,竟然问发言人:有境外媒体说中国现在的腐败是制度性腐败、结构性腐败,你如何评价这种评断。当然被断然否定,前不久中纪委干副书记说过腐败和制度无关的一席话,好像当时那位发言人已经说过了。

The leaders regard me very highly; several years in a row during the first press conference, they'd even let me ask questions with foreign media present. I once asked the stupidest of questions, in full view of my Chinese and foreign colleagues, I actually asked the spokesperson: Some foreign media say that corruption in China is systematic corruption, inherent. How do you see this kind of judgement? Of course, it was flatly denied. Not long before the Deputy Secretary of the Central Discipline Committee had said that corruption had nothing to do with the system, I think that's what that spokesperson said at the time.

Also a Bullog blogger and experienced journalist, writer of the well-read Web News This Week Wen Yunchao notes:

今年全国两会言路自由度之高,舆论开放度之大,非以往两会所能比拟。报道中说,”代表真敢说、网友真敢骂、媒体真敢写”。

The freedom with which people are making their views known regarding the Two Meetings is quite high this year and public opinion is quite open, dissimilar to ‘Two Meetings‘ of the past. Reports are saying, ‘the representatives are speaking, the netizens are cursing and the media are writing.’

Could it be that NPC/CPPCC delegates used to be just as afraid of speaking on the issues at hand as the civilians of China were? Daniel Wu of the Lobby China blog makes the fascinating observation that there are a few China's Congressperson who keep blogs, open comments and all, and not just no-name rural despots, but bureau heads at the provincial and municipal levels, several Party members, several NPC representatives and even one president of a state-owned enterprise, most with many fascinating comments and much more active and personalized than the over one hundred blogs officially set up for NPC/CPPCC representatives, journalists and civilians hosted at Xinhua. Has a committee been set up to mobilize the Party faithful like the PLA-educated Zhang Chaohan, to blog the Party line on propaganda arm People's Daily blogs with the aim of shaping public discourse? Have yet to see mention of such in any of the many comments being left.

For sure, this session of the NPC and CPPCC meetings has been a breakthrough for the role blogs have played in facilitating discussion. Spin maybe be inevitable, but issues can no longer be ignored or covered up, even if they aren't brought up. Which many bloggers have done their best to do, like the August 1st Military blog, with quite a few posts over the last couple weeks blogging on such topics as the opening press release for the two meetings, issues put forth by the powerless Democratic party, the government's determination to build a harmonious socialist society against the backdrop of a growing wealth gap, corruption, China's territorial waters and the power role in Asia, the tax system, and the news of upcoming selection of CPPCC representatives for China's millions of migrant workers.

And then there's bloggers like The Fallen Leaves are Flying Again who blog on delegates’ work reports and exactly what stances leaders, namely Hu Jintao, are committing themselves, as well as those bloggers with 50,000 readers like Water of Surging Waves’, who admonish the Communist Party of China leaders to keep things ‘real’ in their speech and action, and things transparent in their work as well as reflecting the growing demand at the local levels of government for more capitalist reforms, very similar to reporter Luo Changping's recent piece in Caijing magazine as translated by Jonathan Ansfield at China Digital Times:

“As the story describes it, the four provinces are vying for official approvals, preferential status or other forms of political support for their trophy projects. The contingent from Hubei tell Caijing they envision creating a new zone around Wuhan in the image of Tianjin‘s experimental Binhai – it's time for the experiment to spread, a Hubei vice-statistics chief argues on his NPC blog – but they admit that their planners aren't as far along as counterparts from neighboring Hunan.”

Many bloggers continue to see the two meetings as not much more than rubber-stamping processes, and there's a strong cynicical tone as bloggers are left writing about proposals like renaming streets and mountains. But, asks the Ten Years of Chopping Timber blogger in another post, has the entire affair become a celebration of parody in itself?

Then there's CCTV news reporter Wang Xiaoya, blogging live from the two meetings, complete with photos, comments and even a Sina blog to boot.

Hong Kong-based Pheonix TV has set up a blog to cover this round of bill-stamping as well, with, as usual, some of the best day-to-day analysis around.

Speaking of Hong Kong, what about the Taiwan issue?

People's Liberation Army representatives criticize wording of [a recent Chen Shui-bian statement calling for an independent Taiwan],’ writes china.com bbs user Strong Country Hawk. ‘It would be tragic if both sides of the strait broke out in war,’ to which commenters respond:

“Attack.”

攘外必先安内!!

“To throw the outside world into disorder first requires stability at home!!”

先安内!!

“Stability first at home!!”

早点打,打他个措手不及。

“Attack them now, catch them off guard.”

Give literate citizens blogs but no public space to discuss society's ills and you've got a million Chinese Instapundits with a million solutions to all of China's problems. Like the third-world situation in which the corruption-plagued countryside remains. Government, says Hexun blogger CCTV-1000, give the allocated money straight to the ‘peasants‘ themselves instead to local authorities where it gets diverted. Keep finances transparent, he writes, and they're easier to manage than officials, and corruption will be prevented:

为了保证这些钱真正用在了建设新农村并且确实发挥它应有的作用,国家是以审计的办法来监督使用。实践证明,这种上级监督的办法并不能完全制止乱花滥用。办法只有一个,把使用权和监督权交给农民。

In order to ensure that this money is properly used towards the building of a new countryside and that it is spent where it will have effect, the state supervises its use through audits. Experience shows that this kind of supervision by higher-ups is not able to completely stop frivolous spending. There's only one solution: give peasants the rights to use and supervise the money.

以往我们也说要让农民来当家作主,监督举报,但那都是口头上的承诺,名义上的权力,实际上那都是空的。为啥?农民手中并没有真正掌握说话的资本___金钱。现在,我们把国家用于新农村建设的资金,以现金的形式直接发给农民,相当于把建设新农村的权利直接交给了农民,也相当于交给了农民的选择权。交给了农民的话语权,交给了农民的监督权。

In the past we've all said we want to put the peasants in control and supervise them, but that was just lip service, promises of authority in name only. Why? Peasants lack grasp of the thing that talks—money. If we were to give the capital the state uses in the building of the new countryside directly to the peasants in the form of cash, it would be the equivalent of directly handing them the power to build this new countryside. It would also amount to giving peasants the right to elect. Give the peasants the power to speak, and give them the authority to supervise.

Edgy blogger ProState in Flames hasn't missed a beat in blogging the meetings, with posts mocking delegates’ proposals to change the names of historical mountains,
troubled Huang Ju, part of Jiang Zemin‘s ‘Shanghai Gang‘, saying that important decisions made at these sessions of the NPC and CPPCC—the most important so far for Chairman Hu and Premier Wen Jiabaocannot be decided by one person alone! (Huang's emphasis) as well as posts on the proposed private property law [blogged in great detail here], global warming, and making it an act of treason to serve in foreign armies.

Speaking of which, and credit to Joel Martinsen at Danwei for guidance, of the more controversial proposals put forth being discussed on blogs is the anti-seditious speech law. The blogger at the Letters from China blog has translated part of an interview with Yu Quanyu, the CPPCC delegate who made the proposal:

“Yu is going to propose the following sentences for “Hanjian speech offence”: the maximum jail sentence for offenders who defend the invaders since 1840 (the first Opium War) will be 10 years; the maximum for those who defend the invader since 1931 (the September 18 Incident) will be 20 years. The person in charge of the newspaper which publishes the Hanjian speech shall be liable and the maximum sentence should be 3 years; however, he will be immune from prosecution if a rebuttal or apology is published within a week. When asked whether the proposed law would affect the freedom of speech and press freedom, he said although the freedom was protected by the constitution, it must not harm the public interests.”

Having made his proposal, Yu Quanyu then took a minute to bring light to the fact that due to lack of seating space, journalists in the meeting room had been sitting on the floor and demanded that something be done. Readers at independent blog aggregator Bullog had some interesting interesting feedback on this

diu

呵呵,恶搞的手段越来越拙劣,把前列腺脱出去剥光猪

hehe…the revolting tactics are becoming increasing despicable, ripping the prostate out of a naked pig.

中央六套
最后那一段把众记者拍舒服了.估计他也是觉得自己这提案太傻,所以猛拍一下记者,希望媒体不要太跟他过不去.
其实他太高估中国这帮残疾记者了,什么能说什么不能说他们明白得很呢.尤其是在这个时候,就是再傻的傻话冒出来,也得当圣旨听着,大不了回去在博客上发牢骚.

CCTV 6
That last part would sweeten things for the journalists. I bet even he thinks his proposal is too stupid, that's why he's mad sucking up to the reporters, hoping the media won't make too much trouble for him.

好兵帅克
不过还是要支持一把喻权域!
恶心,无聊,白痴比废话真诚。

Good Soldier, Handsome Guy
Although, we still have to support Yu Quanyu!
Revolting, boring and idiotic are all more honest than lies.

tank man
一点都不无聊,看看人家当驻外记者时写的文章,就知道人家嘴上是马克思主义,心里是马基亚维利主义,老谋深算得很呢!

tank man
It's not boring at all. Just look at all the pieces written by Chinese reporters sent overseas, you can see that they may have Marxism in their mouths, but in their hearts it's Machiavellianism. They know what's going on.

苏侃
喻权域,老政客,一贯装疯卖傻,无知无畏。跟李希光是宝一对。

SuKan
Yu Quanyu, an old politician, always pretending to be crazy and stupid, ignorant and fearless. Him and Li Xiguang..two of a kind.

Readers at Bo Yong's Bokee VIP blog, all anonymous except for the first three, had even more to say on the speech law:

bianzds

同意!杨忠科

I agree! -Yang Zhongke

瓦谷
喻权域作为一个高级知识分子,在言论上公然挑战人类的尊严,国家宪法的尊严,是否也应立法来惩治这个”汉贼”?真是堕落到了如此地步,还一副”大义凛然”的样子,国家的前途就落在这些人手上,悲哀!建议,立法将3月5日定为中国知识分子的”羞耻”日。

Wagu
As a high-ranking intellectual, in openly challenging human dignity and that of the national constitution, should a law be set up to punish this “renegade” Yu Quanyu? It's really gone too far with this, even with the “strong sense of righteousness”. The future of the coutry rests in the hands of these people? What shame! I propose that March 5th be designated as Chinese Intellectuals Shame Day.

3

顶!!!!!

Right onl!!!!!

4

惩治违法言论是应该的,关健是个定性的问题,而且汉奸这两字本身就存在争议,分裂祖国,为敌张目,违反宪法,为国外敌对势力当枪手都在打击之列。自由有底线这句话是对的,任何一个国家都是有限自由,所以提出这种动议的出发点并没有错,操作上要慎重。

Illegal speech should be punished. What's important is that there's a problem in the definition of this word. Traitor [the word in Chinese used is entirely Han-centric] to begin with is controversial: dividing up the motherland, spying for the enemy, violating the constitution and working for attacking foreign enemies are all words being thrown around. Freedom has limits, this is true; all countries have limits on freedoms, that's why there's nothing wrong with where this kind of proposal comes from, it's the carrying out that requires caution.

5

喻某可耻!!!!!

Yu Quanyu has no shame!!!!!

So many proposals, it's hard to keep up. Were there any that you thought should have been explained in more detail? Let me know.

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