A grave robber and two provincial Chinese officials were arrested last month for taking corpses from graves in order to meet the cremation quota for each region, set by the government in Beijing. Cremation runs in direct contradiction to the tradition of Chinese burial that allows for ancestor worship. Beijing has put the policy of cremation into place in order to keep cemetery expansion in check and reserve land for farming and expansion of cities and industry.
This case illustrates the tension that occurs between provincial governments trying to meet the edicts of Beijing and local desires and needs. China does not have the system of federalism that the U.S. or other nations do, but has a central government and varying degrees of power in provincial authorities. If provinces had more power to determine policy or even push back against central government policy, maybe more of these types of situations would be avoided. This example of grave robbing for quota meeting may seem isolated, but it provides a key insight into the cross sections of culture, political structure, and rapid population growth and urbanization.