Monday, June 25, 2007


More on the government-business nexus in China: David Barboza has a great piece on being held hostage by a toy factory boss, while police waited helplessly outside and local officials shuttled back and forth trying to arrive at a negotiated settlement for his release (see "My Time as a Hostage, and I’m a Business Reporter"). Then, there's the whole story of Yang Shukuan, the Tangshan City chairman of the board of the "Huayun Group," CPPCC member and crime boss, who was found to have "four armored vehicles, thirty eight guns, more than ten thousand bullets, and twelve tear gas grenades" and to have driven around the city's streets, sometimes shooting at policmen----all with utter impunity, at least until recently (see China Digital Times ).

It's a different world for human rights activists to confront than the old Soviet boogeyman or even the right-wing, free market dictatorships of Latin America.

And, in fairness, it's not such a different world from that prevailing in, well, much of the developing world, whether the country concerned is labeled "democratic" or "authoritarian."

In fact, stories like Yang Shukuan's--or the stories of countless small-town big shots in India, Pakistan or elsewhere--makes a mess of both of the above categories, with its fractured authority and a democracy that, persistently, erupts in bursts in the midst of all the chaos, a democracy that may be all the stronger for the inflexibility of the state.