Appearance of Consensus Breaking Down?

Published on Author claud

In a New York Times article by Keith Bradsher, the author tells readers that he sees evidence of a quickly evolving way of thinking in the country’s population. He quotes Chinese historian Yuan Weishi, who believes that “the mind-set is changing, all the way from the central government to local officials”. The author believes that the appearance of Chinese “consensus” has been used to mask internal divisions within the ruling government and society at large is now breaking down. This consensus includes the idea that economic policy and the pursuit of wealth are to be put before social ideology and politics. The author sees this change in recent protests, and notes Dalian and Tianjin’s efforts to block construction of chemical factories, showing what he believes to be a fear of pollution that outweighs the benefit of job creation. In addition, he cites demonstrators carrying portraits of Mao past the Japanese embassy in Beijing during protests about the disputed islands between the two countries. This showed the people’s criticism of the country’s current leadership. The author also describes the protests over free speech this month outside the offices of a newspaper in China, the Southern Weekend (Weekly). Professor Odd Arne Westad at the London School of Economics believes that “the kind of willingness that has been there, in the name of economic growth, to brush everything under the carpet is now gone”. As demonstrators and those that seem to be discontent with current situations in China become more educated, and this movement of greater political openness takes force, will significant change come in China’s leadership? Or is there really no problem at all to deal with?

3 Responses to Appearance of Consensus Breaking Down?

  1. From what I have read the consensus is still effective in most matters concerning public and foreign policy. The newly chosen leadership appears to be willing to step outside of the shadow of the former administration. I also wonder what percentage of informed and dissenting citizens have voiced concerns over unhealthy practices in the name of economic growth. Nonetheless the effect of these efforts, if successful, could have huge future consequences for those companies who rely on Chinese labor.

  2. While the collective mindset of the nation may be shifting, it does not in any way reflect a breakdown of the traditional consensus, especially with regards to the government’s legitimacy. The CCP’s current mandate has been based off economic success, and its continued delivery of economic growth has been realized in their continued rule. In the specific examples raised, the ‘dissent’ of the Chinese populace reflects a common release of dissatisfaction: By focusing on an external ‘enemy’ in the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute, the government silently reaffirms the Chinese national identity.

  3. Read the chapter by Barry Naughton in B&R (among others); consensus is the official line, not the reality. We will see that across many dimesions Beijing’s pronouncements and local behavior diverge. Now the consensus of the Communist Party is that the Party should stay in power — but is that any less true of Republicans (or Democrats) in the US? What differs is the ability to enforce a narrower “consensus” on the body politic. Those in the US South know the phrase “wave the red flag”, which can be applied with obvious irony to the CCP in China (whose flag is of course red). Similarly, that “nationalist” issues get attention in periods of leadership transition is hardly unique to China [Japan has a new Prime Minister, too, and the US and South Korea and North Korea have gone through elections or their equivalent in the last year or so, too].