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From the Editor

U.S. President Bush’s visit to China in November was a step to keep close ties with Asia and a perceived opportunity to nudge China’s reform toward Western democracy and freedoms. This was reflected by Bush’s remarks on the success of a democratic transformation in Taiwan and Mongolia, and his attending a church service in Beijing before meetings with Chinese leaders. These gestures, as usual, fell on deaf ears with the Chinese communist regime.

Shortly after Bush’s departure, gunfire erupted at Dongzhou Village in Shanwei City, Guangdong Province, where defenseless farmers and fishermen fell before bullets fired by the People’s Police. Dozens were left dead and many more injured, according to locals. This tragedy occurred on December 6, 2005, while some local residents were protesting the seizure of their lands by the government for power plant development. The protests had lasted for nearly half a year.

The timing of the incident was hardly accidental. Choosing to act shortly after Bush’s Asia trip, the Chinese regime thus gave a response to Bush’s "request" for a more democratic China. Meanwhile, it might also have served as a test to see how the world would react. Amidst the ever-worsening social unrest, the regime has probably felt increasingly insecure about its grip on power and turned to the tried-and-true method of ending a messy problem with bloodshed.

Amazingly, responses from the international community have been unusually indifferent. Perhaps Western democracies feel hopeless in trying to reason with an irrational regime, or they are simply desensitized after witnessing so many brutalities over the years. Meanwhile, various Chinese weiquan (rights protection) groups, both inside and outside China, have unanimously condemned the regime’s latest killings. The local residents turned to media based outside of China for help to expose the killings; the media then transmitted the news back to China. Two radio stations, Radio Free Asia and a recent upstart Sound of Hope (featured story in the current issue), were the first to report the incident and played a pivotal role in making the Chinese people aware of what had happened.

In the aftermath, the regime sent a delegation to investigate the incident, claiming that it was the on-site official who gave the open-fire order and that only three were killed. It’s pointless to argue with the regime over how many actually died, as the impartiality of the investigation is dubious at best. One thing is certain, however. With today’s communication tools, it’s nearly impossible to completely cover up the truth. Chinese weiquan activists are already conducting their own investigation. As the Chinese weiquan movement gains prominence, one can only hope that the regime will find killing off those that it finds troublesome, embarrassing, or simply inconvenient less and less attractive as an option for solving its problems.

The Mystery of the Terra Cotta Warriors

Xi’an, the capital of northeast China’s Shaanxi Province, is famous for its rich and deep-rooted historical and cultural heritage through a wealth of cultural relics, museums, and historical sites—including the world-famous terra cotta army of Emperor Qin Shihuang.

In 1974, while a group of peasants in Lintong County, a suburban area of Xi’an City, were digging a well, they discovered some pottery nearby the royal tomb. This instantly caught the attention of various archeologists, who then traveled to Xi’an, in hopes of further findings. The terra cotta warriors were discovered in rows, and three vaults have been excavated thus far.

A museum was built on the site in 1975. The entire museum is 16,300 square meters (175,451 square feet) and divided into three sections (pit No. 1, 2, and 3). The museum became a great attraction for tourists all around the world after the grand opening of pit No.1 to the public on October 1, 1979. Pit No.1 is the largest, extending 230 meters (755 feet) by 62 meters (203 feet) wide. Displays of life-size terra cotta figures of warriors and horses arranged in battle formations are the main features of the museum. They serve as an exact duplication of what an imperial guard would have looked like in ancient days.

Pit No.2, found in 1976, is 20 meters (66 feet) northeast of pit No.1. It contains over 1,000 warriors and 90 chariots of wood. Pit No.3, also found in 1976, is 25 meters (82 feet) northwest of pit No.1. It went on display in 1989 and exhibits 73 terra cotta warriors that carry hand weapons and stand around a chariot; similar to the command center of the armed forces. Overall, more than 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots, and even weapons are displayed in these pits.

It has long been believed that the terra cotta warriors are part of the accompanied burials surrounding the tomb of the Emperor Qin Shihuang, the first Emperor of China. When Qin ascended the throne at the age of 13 (in 246 B.C.), he began to work on two massive projects: his mausoleum and the infamous Great Wall of China. Situated at the North foot of Mount Li in Lintong County, Shaanxi Province, the mausoleum took 700,000 people and 11 years to complete. Qin is the most hated emperor in Chinese history because of his reputation of cruelty, burying alive several hundreds of highly respected intellectuals under his order.

This widely held theory is now being challenged. A report on (website for People’s Daily) on December 1, 2005, questioned that Qin Shihuang was the master of the terra cotta warriors. This report created a widespread commotion within the archeological communities in China. Chen Jing Yuan, a 69-year-old scholar of architecture provided three important points of evidence to prove that the artifacts were not associated with the Emperor Qin Shihuang:{mospagebreak}

1. The distance between the terra cotta warriors and Qin’s mausoleum is too great—over 1.5 km (about one mile). Usually, artifacts buried along with the dead are relatively close in proximity. Thus, the artifacts should have been buried close to Qin’s mausoleum.

2. The terra cotta warriors are facing the east side of Qin’s mausoleum. This is unusual because the mausoleums in all kingdoms customrily face a north-south direction.

3. When Qin Shihuang unified China, he demanded that everything be black. However, almost all the terra cotta warriors are in red and green robes with purple-blue pants. In addition, Qin only used soldiers who marched or rode horses. However, the terra cotta warriors are shown with combat vehicles and weapons.

4. In unifying China, Qin Shihuang also demanded that all war chariots be the same. The vaults, however, reveal various kinds of war chariots.

The debate will probably continue for a while. Research is still being conducted in China by a group of scholars. No matter what the result will be, this "World Heritage Site" named by UNESCO will always be a fascinating attraction for both tourists and archeologists.

The Resurgence of Organized Crime in China

When the authorities tried to seize farmland for a state-owned power plant, a group of farmers who thought they were treated unfairly pitched tents and dug foxholes and trenches in an attempt to prevent the seizure. Hundreds of men armed with shotguns, clubs, and pipes fitted with sharp hooks attacked the farmers, killing six of them and seriously injuring as many as 100 others. The Washington Post reported the incident on June 15, 2005.[1]

What took place was unusual because the attackers appeared to be hired thugs rather than police. It was reported that the assailants were well prepared. They arrived before dawn in six white buses, and most of them were wearing hard hats and combat fatigues. They fired on the farmers with hunting shotguns and flare guns, and struck using metal pipes fitted with sharp hooks on the end. Some have suggested the assailants were organized crime groups who regularly work with local officials. In fact, although the farmers contacted the police, law enforcement officers did no arrive until long after the assailants were gone.

During an earlier attempt by assailants to drive the farmers from their land, the farmers captured one of the attackers. The man, Zhu Xiaorui, 23, said a man he met at the Beijing nightclub where he worked had recruited him. He said he was taken to the village, given a metal pipe, told to "teach a lesson" to the farmers, and was promised US$12 for the job.

The incident occurred on June 11, 2005, in a wheat-and peanut-farming village named Shengyou in Dingzhou City, Hebei Province.

Organized Crime an Increasing Problem in China

Rounds of Government Campaigns

According to a report from on March 11, 2006, a total of 313 mafia-style or organized crime gangs had been destroyed in the five previous months in Zhejiang Province, an economic powerhouse on China’s coast, in a campaign to crack down on organized crime. Hong Juping, Deputy Director of the Zhejiang Bureau of Public Security, said that since October 2005, 2,375 suspects had been detained in the campaign. The police have dealt with 1,388 cases, seized 26 weapons and confiscated 23.05 million yuan (US$2.84 million) in the operation, according to Hong.[2]

Zhejiang Province is not alone. In late 2005, China launched a nationwide campaign against underground organized crime syndicates.

In late February 2006, Luo Gan, a Politburo member in the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and a state councilor, announced the onset of another round of the campaign. Unlike previous ones, this new round targets organized crime groups and their insiders in the government. The purpose is to prevent organized crime syndicates from infiltrating the government.[3]{mospagebreak}

Underground Organized Crime in China

As of November 2005, underground criminal organizations owned and operated 70 percent of entertainment businesses with an annual revenue of over 100 billion yuan (US$12.5 billion). For example, in Guangdong Province, over 95 percent of the over 123,000 nightclubs, karaoke, saunas and bars are controlled by underground criminal organizations.

Underground criminal organizations control 30 percent of highways in counties, towns and villages; over 60 percent of construction projects in small and medium cities; and over 60 percent of small coalmines; 90 percent of coalmines of 200,000 metric ton annual output are controlled by underground criminal organizations in collusion with local authorities.

Over 2,130 officials were investigated and reprimanded for aiding and abetting underground criminals.

Over 1,520 local officials were arrested and sentenced for aiding and abetting underground criminals.

As of October 2005, 1,920 companies, 2,180 casinos, 377 farmers markets, 117 construction projects and 250 coalmines owned by underground criminal organizations had been shut down.

As of 2005, 2,120 underground criminal organizations were destroyed and dissolved, and over 70,000 ringleaders were arrested and sentenced.

Source: Cheng Ming Monthly, December 2005 issue. First published on November 1, 1977, in Hong Kong, Cheng Ming is a magazine that provides exclusive reports and in-depth analysis on the political situations in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Red Hats

According to Chinese media reports on March 12, 2006, Mr. Zhu Entao, Honorary Vice-Chairman of Interpol and former assistant to China’s Minister of Public Security, warned that organized crime syndicates are increasingly wearing "red hats," meaning more and more syndicate members are government officials.[4]

Zhu’s statement underlines an alarming trend. As shown in court proceedings, government officials acting as these red hats have been rampant. For example, in the 2005 case of the Chen Kai triad, the red hats included 76 government insiders—from high-level officials to local police. In the 2004 case of Chen Yi in Shenzhen, Chen, as chairman of his company, was also the official advisor to the Guandong provincial government and won the title of one of the top ten national champions in eliminating rural poverty.{mospagebreak}

Underground Criminal Organizations

The characteristics of organized crime syndicates in China include territorial control, wealth, infiltration of the government for political protection, and low turnover rate.

Based on official statistics, there are over 20,000 organized crime syndicates in China with over 15 millions members.[5]

According to a statement issued by the China Ministry of Public Security at a press conference held on February 14, 2006, 10,034 policemen were suspended in the past nine years because of their affiliation with organized crime.[6]

Organized crime syndicates have been collaborating with the police in suppressing political dissidents. Recent examples including Chinese weiquan[7] activist Zhao Xin who was beaten up by seven unidentified mobsters during a family vacation, Lu Banglie who was dragged out of his car and severely attacked when he accompanied a U.K. Guardian reporter to investigate government abuse in Guangzhou Taishi Village, and attorney Tang Jiling who was followed and assaulted after visiting another rights activist.

Well-known Chinese economist Ms. He Qinglian has summarized the behavior of organized crime in China: First, local officials have hired thugs to assist in official duties in matters related to commerce, tax and public security; second, Party officials are members of the organized crime syndicate; and third, the authorities have walked hand-in-hand with organized crime syndicates in business joint ventures.[8]

Ming Xia, professor in the Department of Politics at New York University, in his ongoing research project on organized crime in China, observed that Party officials at provincial and central levels are in control of state resources and are not involved in organized crime. Yet, Professor Xia stated that it is local officials at the municipal, county, and township levels among whom organized crime is the most rampant. It is not surprising that the Chinese communist regime, which rose to power through violence, is finding organized crime more helpful than democracy.

Rich Soil for Underworld Prosperity

High Crime and Disorder in China{mospagebreak}

Since the economic reform in 1978, the Chinese communist government has been confronted by two most serious challenges: corruption and crime. These are what have led to the underworld’s quick development. According to Professor Xia, for the past three decades, crime in China has grown much faster than China’s economic development. From 1973 to 2002, the annual rate of increase in criminal cases averaged 17 percent. In 1974, reported crime cases passed the benchmark of half a million, a record high compared to the previous 20 years. In less than 10 years, this number soon approached one million, coming close to 2.5 million in 1991, passing 3.5 million in 2000, and reaching 4.4 million in 2001. Official authorities have reported that the number of destroyed criminal groups swelled from 30,000 in 1986 to 150,000 in 1994, while arrested members also increased from 114,000 to 570,000. From 1992 to 1999, the public security agencies nationwide destroyed more than a million criminal groups with members totaling 3.76 million. In the first half of 2005, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security reported a conservative figure of 2.13 million criminal cases. Professor Ming Xia concluded that Chinese society has entered a stage of high crime and disorder.

Source: "Corruption and Organized Crime" by MING XIA, except for data from 2005, which was estimated based on a report by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.


So-called "mafia capitalism" has increasingly become a large part of the Chinese economy. The economic activities controlled by the criminal underworld—the so-called "black economy"—have constituted a large portion of China’s economic growth, in addition to the gray income such as bribes and embezzlement. One scholar affiliated with the Ministry of Public Security estimated that in the late 1990s, the amount of money spent every year on drugs may have been as high as 100 billion yuan (US$12.5 billion). It was also estimated that the sex industry generated revenue of at least 500 billion yuan (US$6.25 billion) per year. For many places, "Prostitution promotes prosperity" (PPP) has been an open maxim.

For example, in 1998, the "sweeping out sex industry" campaign (sao huang) in Shenzhen drove out thousands of prostitutes and bar girls. Within a few days of their departure, at least 10 billion yuan (US$1.25 billion) in savings deposits was removed from local financial institutions. This gave an economic boon to the surrounding cities and forced the Shenzhen municipal government to temper its campaign. Due to the activity of such criminal groups, every year smuggling alone causes the nation to lose more than 30 billion yuan (US$3.75 billion); money laundering through underground private banks has resulted in 200 billion yuan (US$25 billion) being transferred out of the country. As for piracy, it is generating even more income.

Social Uncertainties and Moral Vacuum

Organized crime is much more than an isolated criminal phenomenon. There are interdependent links between the political, socio-economic, criminal justice, and legal domains. "Corruption," which is defined broadly as "the abuse of public power for private gain," usually goes hand-in-hand with organized crime. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (General Assembly resolution 55/25, annex I) defines an organized criminal group as "a structured group, committing serious crimes for profit."[9] That very broad definition was favored over the listing of the most common types of organized crime such as trafficking in drugs, arms, persons, stolen cars, or protected species, and terrorism.

During Mao Zedong’s era, other than the organized crimes committed by the Chinese Communist Party itself in its quest for power, there was no other form of underground organized crime because the Communist Party and its ideology largely controlled the society. Indeed, China officially announced that there were neither sexually transmitted diseases nor drug problems in China in 1964. One of the reasons was that under Mao’s rule, people in the cities were put in a danwai (work unit); and in the rural areas, they were put in communes. Unless someone got permission, no one had the freedom to relocate to any other places in China, which in turn limited the opportunity for committing any organized crime.{mospagebreak}

At that time, anything not expressly permitted was forbidden, which is the opposite of Western law (in keeping with the Roman tradition) in which those things not expressly forbidden are permitted. In Chinese society, people’s acts are either legal (hefa), illegal (feifa), or somewhere in between-which is referred to as "not in the law" (weifa). Weifa refers particularly to situations where the law is intentionally ambiguous. The three terms have established three sets of behavior; yet, since the economic reform, the official definitions of being legal, illegal, and "not in the law" have constantly changed.

The economic reforms inspired by Deng Xiaoping opened the floodgates for a market economy. Testing the water as reform goes along not only allows but also encourages behavior that in the past was "not in the law." In order to create an impression that the old political rulings were still suitable for the capitalist market economic, Deng kept using socialism in describing the economic reform, indicating that the old political and social rules could still be used without much change.

Feifa (illegal) behavior was forbidden. But, because of the ongoing structural reforms, many things that were forbidden could in any given moment easily become hefa (legal). For example, city dwellers’ houses were allotted to them as individuals. However, they sublet or even sold these houses they lived in even though, in theory, they still belonged to their work units. Things like this occurred but were widely tolerated although they were not strictly legal, or hefa. Thus, throughout the whole society, changes in what actually happened preceded changes in the rules. Regulations were, and still are, drafted on the basis of concrete cases; regulators try to see how things work first and then regulate based on the actual occurrences.

Despite all the operational changes without a regulatory base, the general legal culture has moved toward the Roman concept-everything not expressly forbidden is permitted. There is general confusion between what is legal and what is illegal. There is an even larger confusion about what is morally right and morally wrong, as both Confucian and communist values have fallen apart and new values have not been established in their place. Many social actions—arguably most of them—in China are still weifa, as much social behavior was and still is in a no-man’s land.

In addition to the above-mentioned lack of definite laws and moral standards, there is a lack of transparency in the Chinese system. The communist regime doesn’t want to show its dirty linen, and it is afraid of the domestic political impact of this complex situation.

In an article in Asia Times, Francesco Sisci pointed out, "These difficulties take place while ongoing structural change moves the goalposts every few months, and while the burgeoning middle class would often rather side with the triads than with the police; thus the central government, certain that it must back the middle class for national development, tries to rein in some police action. In this situation the police, feeling left out and wanting part of the action, get into bed with the triads. Furthermore, the successful triads shed their criminal activities and turn 100 percent legal. In other words, it is a jungle."[10]{mospagebreak}

Ambiguous Law

China is ill-prepared to deal with the underworld of organized crime. Even though the word "underworld" (hei she hui) has been widely used in reporting the increasingly rampant organized crime, the judicial system does not even have a clear definition of it.

Is "underworld" a legal term? Some legal experts in China hold that the term is not a legal concept but a sociological concept. It is for this reason that it is impossible to interpret the term in the statutes. Penal codes of countries outside China define crimes such as assault, torts, homicide, and robbery, but no such crime as "underworld" exists.

As underground organized crime emerged and became rampant along with the economic growth in China, the term "organizations in the nature of a criminal syndicate" first appeared in Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China adopted in March 1997.

Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China adopted in 1977

Article 294

Whoever forms, leads or takes an active part in organizations in the nature of a criminal syndicate to commit organized illegal or criminal acts through violence, threat or other means, such as lording it over the people in an area, perpetrating outrages, riding roughshod over or cruelly injuring or killing people, thus seriously disrupting the economic order and people’s daily activities, shall be sentenced to a fixed-term of imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than 10 years; other participants shall be sentenced to a fixed- term of imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights.

Another issue in dispute is how to define "organizations in the nature of criminal syndicates" in relation to the role of government official who may provide a "black umbrella" (illegal protection).

In 2000, when the authorities launched the first campaign against underworld criminal organizations, the Chinese Supreme Court issued an interpretation of Article 294 stating that the elements of the "organizations in the nature of criminal syndicates" should be defined as a tightly controlled structure with economic gains as its goal, government officials providing illegal protection, and violent disruptive capability.

However, confusion ensued particularly about the black umbrella (government officials providing illegal protection). Numerous cases were dismissed in court due to lack of evidence of a black umbrella.{mospagebreak}

In January 2001, the People’s Congress of China issued an interpretation of the legislation: the black umbrella is not required to find that an "organization is in the nature of a criminal syndicate."

In reality, an organization can hardly become an "organization in the nature of a criminal syndicate" without aid and assistance from government officials.

The above interpretation was passed in April 2002 at the 27th session of the People’s Congress of China.

Involvement of Government Officials and Police

In a large number of mafia-type organizations, government officers are often deeply involved in and benefit from the mafia-type business defined as the "red hats" of the underworld. They are well entrenched in the local political structure, particularly in law enforcement agencies, and thus are well protected by corrupt public officials. Below are several examples:

Zhang Wei is from Wenling, Zhejiang Province. Not only was he the boss of his criminal organization, but he also held eight public official titles in several provinces and municipalities:

Vice Chairman of the People’s Political Consultative Conference of Yidu City, Hubei Province

Member of the Municipal Youth League Committee of Taizhou City

Honorary President of a newspaper in Zhejiang Province

Vice President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Taizhou City

Legal Representative and Chairman of the East Sea Group in Zhejiang Province

Legal Representative and Manager of the Dongsheng Corporation in Shanghai

Legal Representative and General Manager of Wenling Hengji lndustrial Corporation

Legal Representative and General Manager of Taizhou New Century Decoration Co. Ltd.

He obtained the first four titles by bribing public officials, and those titles served him well. He was found to have connections with officials in key positions, including the mayor and the police chief. Of the 67 public officials having close ties with him, 42 were in government or Party offices, 15 were in the judiciary, and 10 were in banking. For this reason his organization was called the "Red-Black Gang," and this is indeed an accurate description.{mospagebreak}

Liang Xudong, head of the largest criminal organization in Jilin Province, was a police officer and also had ties with over 30 government and Party officials. Of these connections, there were political appointees as well as those holding offices in the Public Security Bureau. Liang Xudong had access to 35 public officials; his network included 12 department heads in the government, 10 police officers, five public procurators, and four judges. It was under the protection of these public officials that Liang Xudong and his gang developed into a powerful force in that region, in Jilin’s Helong City.

Gu Decheng and his gang had grown to a criminal organization with considerable notoriety when Gu himself was elected a member of the city’s People’s Political Consultative Conference and representative of the city’s People’s Congress.

Liu Yong of Liaoning Province was both a gang boss and a well-known public figure. To outsiders, he was a member of Shenyang City’s People’s Congress, in addition to being president of the Shenyang Jiayang Group, and year after year his company was granted the title of Advanced Enterprise by the municipal government. Of the 16 key members of this gang, three were police officers.

Zhou Shounan was head of a criminal group in Baise, Guangxi Province. The public knew him as general manager of the entertainment department of the Baise Hotel while in the underground he led a gang, the Hongxing Society, which controlled the gambling business in the city. When his criminal activities were brought to light, the involvement of several key officials became known, including the former chief of the city police, Nong Jiayi, and the police chief in office, Li Hongzhuan. Also involved were the political commissar of the police department Ma Sike, deputy police chief Huang Zhengxian, former commander of the public security team within the police department Liang Xincheng, and former deputy chief of the prefecture police department Tan Xueren.

People have been shocked by a criminal organization in Pingdingshan City, Henan Province. This organization had 11 members. Among them, six were members of a village committee, one was a probationary member of the Chinese Communist Party, and three were candidates for Party membership. In eight years they committed over 300 armed robberies targeted at private coal mine owners, victimized more than 120 innocent people of whom six were murdered, and got away with a total of one and a half million yuan (US$1.9 million). The fact that these people are able to hold dual roles-one in public and one in the underground-is more alarming than those criminals relying exclusively on the bribery of officials.{mospagebreak}

More disturbing is the fact that gangsters have infiltrated county- and municipal-level governing bodies. They pick their "surrogates" from other officials, even playing a role in assigning county and municipal administrative positions. In this way, social establishments controlled by corrupt officials have become a tool for organized criminals to prey upon their communities. In the worst-case scenario, the "good side" and the "bad side" merge. Then the public officials who rule society, particularly those in law enforcement, are those who collaborate with organized crime, which in effect gains control of society.

Organized Crime and the Chinese Communist Party

If the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had managed to completely wipe out prostitution, drugs, triads, and other organized crime in China before the 1980s, why has it allowed these crimes to reemerge and grow rampant in the underworld today? Where is the CCP going to lead China?

Minxin Pei, director of the China Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, believes that the CCP has turned into a neo-Leninist regime and that China’s future will be decay, not democracy. In his recent article in Foreign Policy (March/April 2006), Pei wrote, "Behind the glowing headlines are fundamental frailties rooted in the Chinese neo-Leninist state. Unlike Maoism, neo-Leninism blends one-party rule and state control of key sectors of the economy with partial market reforms and an end to self-imposed isolation from the world economy. The Maoist state preached egalitarianism and relied on the loyalty of workers and peasants. The neo-Leninist state practices elitism, draws its support from technocrats, the military, and the police, and co-opts new social elites (professionals and private entrepreneurs) and foreign capital—all vilified under Maoism."

Chinese scholar Yang Guang recently analyzed a series of changes in the CCP political ecology that could explain the reemergence of organized crime ("Political Decay in Present China," Contemporary China Study, third issue, 2005). Those gradual changes included: 1) The communist ideology has been weakened and has become ineffective. 2) The regime’s cohesive force is lax; the traditional bureaucratic power structure has become unbalanced and obstructive. 3) The relationship between the populace and the group holding power has deteriorated. 4) Alliances of common interest between regional bureaucrats and business have grown stronger. 5) Official authority has weakened while unofficial authority has prospered. 6) Conflicts between the low-level local authorities and civilians have developed into complete opposition.

In such a political environment, the get-rich-first class, the influential families, and the leaders of the underworld have gained more and more political influence and energy by forming alliances with bureaucrats or their family members. They even unofficially "subcontracted" some key public authority such as law enforcement. As a result, the totalitarian power structure of the CCP is facing unprecedented internal erosion and external resistance.{mospagebreak}

Political decay has accompanied the open and reform process in China. Even though the open and reform policy is meant to make China rich and strong, it comes with a constraining condition attached—the CCP’s power and monopoly must be preserved. The CCP has not allowed independent political parties, not allowed political debates or competition, not allowed free media, not allowed independent civil organizations, and not allowed freedom of belief and religion. In the absence of the basic ingredients for a civil society, the CCP’s absolute power has inevitably led to absolute corruption that has then become the rich soil for the growth of organized crime.

Beijing Spring magazine’s chief editor, Hu Ping, recently warned people that the CCP itself is in the process of becoming an underworld organization. "I once wrote an article to discuss the CCP becoming an underworld organization. It referred to the facts that the communist government disrespected the minimal law and procedures when it hired hoodlums or directed the police to physically attack human right activists and to threaten their lives in an underworld manner. There is yet another manifestation: the CCP itself acts more and more like an underworld organization," Hu wrote in March.[11]

In an underworld criminal organization, it is a ritual to ask new members to commit a crime; it excludes anyone clean. The CCP’s corrupt culture is similar. Hu Ping used two recent examples to illustrate the similarity. One example involves Huang Jingao, the former Party secretary of Lianjiang County, Fujian Province. Huang did not like the corruption inside the government. He tried to expose other officials’ corruption, but instead, in the end, he himself was charged with corruption. Another example involves a corruption case in Qianwei County, Sichuan Province. The county Party secretary, Tian Yufei, was tried in court for taking bribes and possessing a huge amount of wealth from unidentifiable sources. Yang Guoyou, the former county magistrate, was one of the co-defendants. Yang explained to the court why he took bribes: He said that he was protecting his position. If he had not taken bribes, he would have had to face retaliation from Party secretary Tian Yufei; it’s the unspoken rule in the CCP regime that they commit crimes together.

Hu Ping further commented that the CCP regime had become completely corrupt. It’s no longer simply totalitarian. In a pure totalitarian dictatorship government, most of the bureaucrats act according to the laws and rules that are written on paper. The bureaucrats just work for their salary. If the top dictator one day decides to reform and change the laws, the bureaucrats can simply follow without worry of reprisal. However, in a government that is completely corrupt, the bureaucrats are themselves guilty of breaking the law and taking bribes. Even if the top dictator wants to reform, it will not work because all the bureaucrats in the whole system will resist.{mospagebreak}

Hu Ping is not alone in his pessimism about the CCP’s reform. Minxin Pei certainly shared a similar view when he wrote in his recent article, "To most Western observers, China’s economic success obscures the predatory characteristics of its neo-Leninist state. But Beijing’s brand of authoritarian politics is spawning a dangerous mix of crony capitalism, rampant corruption, and widening inequality. Dreams that the country’s economic liberalization will someday lead to political reform remain distant. Indeed, if current trends continue, China’s political system is more likely to experience decay than democracy."

Leon Chao is an expert on China issues.

[1] Washington Post, June 14, 2005 article/2005/06/14/AR2005061401542_pf.html
[2] Xinhua News Agency, March 11, 2006 http://www. chinanews. cn//news/2005/2006-03-11 /20051.html
[3] Xinhua News Agency, Feb. 22, 2006 http:// politics. people. com. cn/GB/1 024/4132588.html
[4] China Daily, March 13, 2006 http://www.chinadaily. 541297.htm
[5] The Epoch Times, Dec. 12, 2005. http://www.epochtimes. com/gb/5/12/17/n 1157207.htm
[6] Hot topics, Feb. 13-Feb. 19, 2006 http://www.khbd. com cn/bbs/viewthread.php?tid=57907&extra=page% 3D1&page=2
[7] "Weiquan" is the Chinese word for rights movement.
[8] VOA News, Feb. 16, 2006 chinese/archive/2006-02/w2006-02-16-voa70. cfm
[9] The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the protocols thereto are available at cicp convention.html
[10] "The Triads and Emerging Legality in China" by Francesco Sisci, Asia Times, April 18, 2002

The New Myth in China: China’s Rising Middle Class Will Speed Up Democratization

Abstract: The Building of Political Democracy in China, a white paper issued by the Chinese regime in October 2005, amply expresses that the regime has instituted what it calls, "democracy with Chinese characteristics," a form that actually resists Western democracy.[2] For those who are optimistic about the prospects of democracy in China, the emerging middle class in China will not be the force to propel China toward Western democracy.

In the past few years people both inside and outside of China have enthusiastically discussed the rapid growth of the Chinese middle class. The expectation has been that this new class would speed up the democratization process in China. An authoritative research report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) simply claims that an "onion-shaped social structure" has taken place in China. It refers to a structure with the two small ends being the rich and the poor, with the middle class being the majority of the population. Currently all the democratic countries in Europe and North America have this type of onion-shaped social structure.

The purpose of these official scholars inside China, however, was not to study the emerging middle class itself. It was instead to provide "proof" that China is improving itself politically, and moving closer toward the social structure of a democratic country. Some "China experts" outside of China may also favor this theory. Their purpose is to justify praise for the Chinese regime. It is just like some overseas scholars and observers to try to prove that China is moving toward democracy by referring to the regime’s recently published white paper, "The Building of Political Democracy in China," despite the facts that the white paper clearly states that China’s democracy is "a socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics," totally different from Western-style democracy; and that political participation and human rights still fall short in Chinese people’s daily lives.

1. How Large Is the Middle Class in China?

The focal point of this debate on the middle class is how many middle-class people China really has. The following are some of the recent studies on this issue:

In my article written in 2000, I developed two criteria to separate social classes: economic income and professional acknowledgement .[3] Quoting data from the China Statistical Yearbook, using criteria to evaluate the income level and professional acknowledgement, I estimated that the upper-class level constitutes 4 percent of China’s population; the middle class counts for 11 percent; and the lower class including marginalized groups counts for about 85 percent.{mospagebreak}

In 2004, the CASS Sociology Research Institute developed four standards to determine population in the middle class: 1. profession; 2. income; 3. expenditure and life style; and 4. self-identification.[4] The report explained that expenditure and life style (3) depends on one’s economic income. Also, self-identification [4] is determined by one’s income and professional acknowledgement. Therefore, the core criteria are still two-fold. They are economic income and profession acknowledgement. This research report concluded that the middle class in China was growing rapidly and consisted of about 15 percent of the Chinese population. BNP Paribas Peregrine painted a more optimistic picture. This report suggested that, in 2002, there were around 50 million middle-class families in China, with an average annual income of 75,000 yuan (about US$9,375/year/family) and average assets of 310,000 yuan (about US$38,750/family). The report further predicted that by 2010, all the above numbers would double, suggesting that there will then be 100 million families that meet the standards of middle-class families, with an average family income of 150,000 yuan (about US$18,750/year/family) and average family assets of 620,000 yuan (about US$77,500).

With an estimated four members in each Chinese family, 50 million middle-class families count for a group of 200 million people, which is about 18 percent of China’s population. Merrill-Lynch goes further than BNP Paribas Peregrine to estimate that within 10 years, the number of China’s middle-class people will reach 350 million (32 percent). However, this prediction garnered a lot of sarcastic comments among Chinese Internet forums, which claimed that the number was not at all realistic.

2. Social Class vs. Occupation

In the last two years, the Chinese authorities have intensely promoted the Research Reports on the Social Structure in Modern China. In these reports, using the criteria "grouping on the basis of occupation and then on their organizational, economic, and cultural resources,"[5] Lu Xueyi and his team from the National Academy of Social Science categorized Chinese society into 10 social classes:[6]

1. Ruling authorities and/or social leaders
2. Managerial personnel
3. Entrepreneurs
4. Technical professionals
5. Administrative staff
6. Private business owners
7. Store associates
8. Factory workers
9. Farm laborers
10. Part-time workers and unemployed{mospagebreak}

The biggest shortcoming of this report is that it is simplistically using occupation as the criteria to classify social strata. It fails to take into account the fact that there is a big economic pay differential in every profession. Indeed, there are huge differences in social status in any of these given classes, depending on the position one holds. For example, category 1 alone consists of national leaders like Hu Jintao, officials at the provincial, city, county or town levels, office managers and administrative staff members. They are simply incomparable in income level and in the associated social prestige.

Then there are articles that discuss the 10 characteristics of the middle class, but they are nothing but jokes. For instance, the life style of the middle class must consist of a rich night life including going to nightclubs, playing mahjong, having business conversations, listening to music and so on. One must also hold a foreign-country residency or have lived in a foreign country for at least three years, must naturally shun fashionable culture but be highly attracted to ancient culture and very knowledgeable in antiques. One must also be familiar with etiquette, exhibiting the American style while admiring the European style and freely mixing foreign language during conversations…and so on.

3. Pyramid Social Structure

We cannot ignore the reality of a country’s social and economic development while defining the criteria of the middle class, nor can we arbitrarily alter the standard of what constitutes a middle class in order to paint a better national image for the world. According to data from the World Bank (2000), the gross national product of China is less than three-fifths of the average gross national product of all nations and it is equal to only 14 percent of the gross national product of the developed countries. Under these circumstances, the structure of Chinese society cannot be like an onion in shape, in which the largest percentage of the population is at the middle level. According to the economic, social development, and real purchasing power, the per capita annual income for the middle class should be between US$10,000 and 50,000, which is equivalent to 80,000 to 400,000 yuan. Only when China obtains that level of per capita income, will China’s middle class hold the "corresponding consumption capability" and fulfill a certain level of "quality of life." Only when that happens can we truly claim that we are in conformance with the definition of middle class. Otherwise, the middle class is just another name for "escaping poverty" or "just making it."

At present, the educational level of the urban population is low and there are more blue-collar workers than white-collar workers. The Gini coefficient is 0.45 in China, which is way over the Western countries’ level of 0.3[7]. With the available data, my analysis is that the middle class in China including the upper middle class totals about 15-16 percent of the population. The research report, by Prof. Li Qiang at Tsinghua University, which is based on 2003 survey data, concluded that the socio-economic structure of cities in China is more of a pyramid-shape structure with 55.3 percent of the population at the bottom level, 26.5 percent at the middle level and 18.2 percent at the upper level. However, the structure of the farming countryside is an upside-down T shape in which 97.6 percent of the population is at the bottom level.{mospagebreak}

This report is by far the best research report on China’s social structure.

4. Is Middle Class the Driving Force of China’s Democratization?

In fact, size alone cannot be considered the critical reason that the middle class in China will promote democratization. Even if there were a large middle-class population, as long as they do not have the right to voice their opinions, to free assembly, or to form a social pressure group, they would be incapable of participating in society’s public affairs. If they don’t even have a reliable mechanism to guarantee their own rights, how can they facilitate China’s democratization?

Two preconditions will have to be met for a newly emerging middle class to become the driving force of China’s democratization:

1) The middle class will have to be the mainstream force for social stability. First of all, the emergence of a middle class indicates the complete dismantlement of China’s traditional agricultural society, and is a structural element that pushes social structure to change from a pyramid shape to an onion shape. Secondly, the middle class is the buffer class between the high and low ends of society and is an important political factor for social stability. Thirdly, the middle-class population represents a mild, conservative mindset in society. When they take the lead, their mindset guarantees social stability. The second and the third elements can be interpreted in common language as: The society is not stable when there are too many poor people. When the middle class is weak and poorly organized, a country is divided into two classes: the poor and the rich. As the poor and the rich are natural enemies, they reject each other in politics. It is hard for them to compromise with each other, which in turn leads to social instability. Fourthly, the middle class’s income is stable and demonstrates the characteristics of strength. The effect then will be an obvious tendency to effectively promote a steady growth in demand, which is a fundamental economic factor for social stability in a country. I also share the same view.

2) Chinese scholars interpret the middle-class’s positive effect based on the historical experience of England’s "glorious revolution." They think that the reason that the glorious revolution of England’s constitutional monarchy was successful was completely attributed to the force of the newly developed capitalist class. Therefore, they assume that once China’s middle class becomes strong, they will fight for the interest of their class and force the leaders of the country to make political concession and practice democracy.

The aforementioned theories all have good rationale. However, two preconditions for the assumption are missing. First, does China’s newly developed middle class have the rights to take part in public affairs in society? In other words, are their rights to assemble and advocate for their interests protected by law? Second, what is the political attitude of China’s middle class?{mospagebreak}

5. Possibility of Forming Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) in China

After I lived in the United States for a few years, I realized that the stability of the U.S. society doesn’t just come from the existence of the large-scale middle class. It also comes from the fact that every social class has the rights and channels to express their own opinions. Even the poor people have opportunities to express themselves, and fight for their rights.

No one can deny this fact, no matter how he wants to defend the Chinese social system, that in China, the lowest rung on the socioeconomic ladder, which accounts for over 80 percent of the population, has no say, no rights, and no channels to express their opinions. The so-called appeals system has failed miserably. The existence of an Appealing Village in Beijing[8] is proof of this failure that cannot be neglected anymore.

The remaining question is whether the middle-class people in China are able to express themselves freely? Unfortunately, the answer is NO. When it comes to political participation in decision-making, they are just like the poor. There is no systematic channel for them to voice different opinions. Some of them may write a few essays in newspapers and magazines to mildly criticize some social problems, without touching political leaders.

According to incomplete statistics by the NGO Research Center, Tsinghua University, there are about three million NGOs in China today. However, except for a few specialized technical associations, the vast majority of NGOs in China have close ties to government agencies, or are directly supported financially by the government. These include the Women’s Federation, the Disable Person’s Federation, and all kinds of professional associations affiliated with government agencies. These so-called "mass or non-government associations under the leadership of the Party," simply don’t meet the definition of NGOs.

Individuals in the middle class, without a non-government association representing the interests of people in their own profession as a systematic form to protect their rights, will be extremely weak when they have to face the communist government.

6. What Exactly Is the New Middle Class’s Political Attitude in China?

The Chinese middle class is the beneficiary of economic reform and the current political order. The main body of the middle class is still the Chinese Communist Party staff and government agencies. They are not only the defenders of the current political system but also the beneficiaries of the system. People in the education profession, especially those in colleges and universities, are the biggest beneficiaries of education reform. People in the health and medical field are also beneficiaries of the commercialization of healthcare.{mospagebreak}

The Chinese academic field has been placing their greatest hope for social reformation on the class of private business owners. However, considering how business owners survive in China, one can easily see that they have developed a symbiotic relationship where their interests depend of the political elite. For many of them, instead of accumulating wealth through market competition, they become rich as a result of favors bestowed by regime officials. The officials who have the power to allot formally national or collectively owned resources have become the ones to "create the rich." The white-collar and high-tech elites who work in foreign enterprises regard "staying away from politics" as their core value. They are only interested in becoming rich and having fun, and do not want to endanger the very source of their income.

In short, the mainstream of China’s current middle class prefers stability over democratic reforms.

Translated by CHINASCOPE 

He Qinglian, born in Hunan Province in 1956, is the author of The Pitfalls of Modernization, a hard-hitting expose of corruption and the seamier side of China’s economic reform. Not only was it a national best-seller but it became state-sanctioned reading for China’s leaders as they struggled with corruption, bad banks, and unemployment.

[1] Reserved.
[3] "A General Analysis on the Changes of China’s Current Social Structures"
[4] See "An Analysis and Estimate of China’s Social Structures"
[5] "Research Report on The Current Socio-Economic Structure of China," published in 2003
[6] See also, "Understandings about the Social Structure in Modern China," Chinascope, October 2005, page 46.
[7] From Wikipedia: The Gini coefficient is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality (where everyone has the same income) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, and everyone else has zero income). The Gini index is the Gini coefficient expressed in percentage form, and is equal to the Gini coefficient multiplied by 100.
[8] An entire village has developed consisting of people waiting for months and even years for their "appeal" to be heard.

The Proudest Day of My Life

Statement of Renouncing Chinese Communist Party Membership

After working around the clock for more than 10 days, I can now take a break. I have finished this course of investigation into the truth about the brutal persecution ordered by the Chinese authorities, which those who believe in freedom have suffered the past few years.

Because my wife and child remain at home alone, and because they are being watched 24 hours a day by the most notorious and most immoral police—police who know no bad things that they dare not do—every second of my spare time has been filled with agonizing worry. May God keep them safe!

Over a dozen days’ close touch with Falun Gong believers was a shocking experience to my soul. Together with Professor Jiao Guobiao[1], I stayed 24 hours a day with these Falun Gong adherents, a group that in suffering inhumane persecution has won eternal life.

Professor Jiao said, "I feel like I am dealing with ghosts because everyone of them has died several times." I said, "Well, we are associated with a group of saints. Their indomitable spirit, noble character, and ability to forgive the violent perpetrator are not only China’s hope, but also the reason why we should continue to persevere!"

During these past 15 days I have come to know of indescribable violence done to our kind people. Ms. Wang Yuhuan, a peaceful old woman, was tortured for six years in body and spirit hundreds of times by police and CCP officials with all the horrible methods. Each time, over 20 police kept torturing her for over 24 hours until they all got exhausted and desperately mad. The entire set of major torture instruments was used to torture the old lady Wang three times in only 17 days. She was once put on the Tiger Bench[2] for three days and two nights.

Eventually these more than a dozen days ended! And I had lost my hope for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) completely. This CCP has employed the most barbarous and most immoral and illegal means to torture our mothers, our wives, our children, and our brothers and sisters. It has made this kind of torture part of the Party member’s job and raised the political standing of torture. It continuously persecutes and torments the conscience, character, and kindness of us, the people!

From now on, Gao Zhisheng, a Party "member" who hasn’t paid the membership fee for a long time and has been absent from the "Party activities" for many years, declares that he quits the cruel, untrustworthy, inhumane, and evil Party.

This is the proudest day of my life.{mospagebreak}

December 13, 2005

Translated by CHINASCOPE from The Epoch Times 


[1] Jiao Guobiao, a journalism professor at Peking University, was recently fired for his outspoken views on censorship.
[2] Tiger Bench is a torture device. Victims are forced to sit on a small iron bench that is approximately 20 cm (6 inches) tall. Victims’ knees are tightly tied to the bench. Usually some hard objects are inserted underneath the victims’ lower legs or ankles to make the pain more intense. (See

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