Sun Liping (孙立平): The Biggest Threat to China is not Social Turmoil but Social Decay (Part II)

sunlipingchinaqinghuaSun Liping (孙立平) is a professor in the Sociology Department of Tsinghua University. He was also the PhD superviser of Xi Jinping, the current vice-president of the People’s Republic of China and probable successor to President Hu Jintao. Professor Sun’s main research area is modernization and transitional sociology. He wrote the following post on his sociology blog on Feb. 28. It is being widely read in the Chinese blogosphere, and has appeared in major news websites such as Netease and Southern Net.

The entire post has been translated by CDT’s Linjun Fan. Please click here to read Part I. Here is the second section:

7. People’s sense of social belonging and cohesion are declining rapidly. The State lost several billions in the CCTV fire accident. However, many people gloated over it on the Internet. There was no sadness or sorrow. This gloating sentiment reflects an unspoken pleasure. Some said that it reflects people’s indifference. Some said that our nation has fallen beyond rescue. Some asked those who gloated over the accident whether it ever came to their mind that they have a share in the billions of assets destroyed in the fire, since CCTV is owned by the state. I remembered that many people wept on street after a large fire accident took place in Shenyang in the 80s. So the reason is not that the Chinese people are ill-natured. What is the real problem? It is that people have lost their sense of belonging in the society. They cried in the Shenyang Fire because they felt that what was destroyed was “ours.” However, in the CCTV fire incident, some people said, let the billions of assets be burned, since it will be eaten away by officials anyway. Some even said that they felt bad that lots of water was used to put out the fire, since we are suffering from drought. These opinions reflect a sense of alienation among many in the public. They feel that the assets belong to “them,” instead of “us”. The psychological alienation reflects a structural alienation [in our society.]

7、社会认同和社会向心力在急剧流失。正月元宵节央视一场大火,损失达几十个亿。然而,网络上一片幸灾乐祸之声。没有悲伤,没有痛心。幸灾乐祸中透露的是某种难以言表的快意。有人说,这表明了人们的冷漠;有人说,我们这个民族没救了;还有人问,那些幸灾乐祸的人就没想想烧掉的几十亿当中也有你的一份啊(央视毕竟是国有资产啊)?这让我想起大约是80年代沈阳(?)的一场大火,当时许多人站在大街上痛哭失声。用国民性来解释说不过去吧?!问题在哪里?在对我们这个社会还认同不认同上。在沈阳大火中的痛哭失声,是他们感觉被烧掉的是“我们的”;而在这场央视大火中,有人这样说,几十个亿烧掉就烧掉吧,不被烧掉也会被吃掉。这里的吃喝当然是指公款吃喝。还有人说,心疼的是救火要用掉多少水啊,现在天旱啊。在这些议论的背后,实际上是一种心理上的疏离感,即那些“东西”是“他们的”,而不是“我们的”。心理的疏离是结构性疏离的反射。

8. The society has lost the ability to think ahead to the long-term. The interest group that formed from the combination of power and money just focused on the present. They don’t have either a sense of responsibility that ancient emperors felt towards future generations, or an aristocratic spirit of detachment and transcendence. In our society, there is a tendency to exaggerate short-term problems and ignore long-term ones. We are extremely nervous about the problems in front of our eyes, but have no sight on the issues that will impact our offspring and our long-term development. Getting drunk when there is some liquor available, this is our institutional behavior. We exhaust our reproductive capacity in resources and the environment. We procrastinate systematic reform again and again. Handan [a small city in Hebei provonce] has changed seven mayors in ten years. A mayor’s average term nationwide is 1.7 years. The new administration needs to have a transitional period from the previous one and then needs to look for successors… Officials only care about power and the immediate distribution of interests. They don’t have much time for real business.

8、社会失去进行长远思维的能力。在权贵资本主义上形成的既得利益集团又过于注重眼前,既无古代帝王对子孙后代的责任,有无贵族的超脱和超越精神。在我们的社会中,有一种倾向,即短期问题夸大症与长期行为麻木症并存。对于所有眼前遇到的问题,无一不草木皆兵;而对于关乎子孙后代、社会长远发展的问题,则一概视而不见。今朝有酒今朝醉,成为一种体制性行为。在资源和环境问题上的竭泽而渔,在体制的弊病上能拖就拖。邯郸十年换了七任市长,全国市长任期平均1.7年。新班子上马前半段是被“扶上马,送一程”,后半段则是寻找培养接班人。眼前的权力与利益分配就是一切,真正做事情的时间没有多少。

9. Why are our anti-corruption measures ineffective? Those with vested interests are weighing their options: Which one is more threatening, corruption, or allowing the social institutional measures deal with the corruption? Anti-corruption measures have been very superficial in the past decades. They were mostly ceremonial, killing chicken to scare the monkeys, and failed to address the real problem. Although many people know the right tools to counter corruption, they refrain from adopting them. For those measures to be implemented in a socially institutionalized way would be particularly threatening to the leaders.

9、反腐败为什么不能有效进行?体现了从既得利益出发的一种权衡,即是腐败更可怕还是将反腐败的措施诉诸社会更可怕。这样的逻辑对于某一个具体的腐败分子而言,当然是成立的,但如果将其转化为一种体制性逻辑,问题就严重了。很不幸的是,上述逻辑远非是非体制性的。多年来的反腐败,基本停留在表演性和杀鸡儆猴的层面,而对于实质性的反腐败措施,尽管从上到下心知肚明,但一直没有根本性的推进,特别是将反腐败的措施诉诸社会,更是噤若寒蝉。

10. It is a tiring effort to maintain vested interests. However, our society has put so much energy and resources into this effort. To safeguard vested interests, (the government) has to suppress freedom of expression. Just think about it, how much energy and resources have we used to suppress freedom of expression? To safeguard vested interests, the government has to take all means to try to avoid democracy. Please consider this, how much effort have we devoted in order to avoid democracy? How many excuses and theories have we devised for this purpose? To safeguard vested interests, we have to suppress the righteous expression of opinions from the public, which has caused numerous mass incidents. How much energy have we devoted to deal with the problems of mass incidents? To safeguard vested interests, we are afraid to take the anti-corruption measures which have been proven effective in other countries. Instead, we have to use these cumbersome and useless means characterized in the mass mobilization era. How many resources and energy have been wasted? Take in mind that it is difficult to achieve the double goals of maximizing vested interests and keeping the society operating steadily. Thus, we have a system that’s tiring. Many government administrators are exhausted. They carry a heavy psychological burden. More importantly, we will pay a high price in the long-term for the purpose of safeguarding vested interests. For instance, why are we criticizing universal values so fiercely? Which elements in universal values make us so indignant? Well, it’s nothing but democracy and freedom, because the two things threaten vested interests. Since it doesn’t sound good to criticize democracy and freedom directly, the government targeted the term “universal values.” In an era of a spiritual and moral vacuum, when even universal values have become the object of political attack, one can only imagine the impact [to the public morality]. But in order to maintain their vested interests, the government has to do so.

10、维护既得利益是一件很累的事情,而我们社会把精力和资源过多地用到了这个地方。为了维护既得利益,不得不压制言论自由。可以想想,为了压制那些言论,我们用了多少的精力和资源?为了维护既得利益,就不得不千方百计想绕过民主这个坎儿。可以想想,为了不民主我们费了多大的劲儿,编造了多少理由和理论。为了维护既得利益,我们就不得不压制民众正当的利益表达,于是酿出了多少群体性事件,为了解决群体性事件就花费了多大的精力?为了维护既得利益,很多在其他国家行之有效的反腐败措施我们都不敢采用,为此我们不得不使用那些笨拙而无效的运动型办法,为此又浪费了多少的资源和精力?须知,要同时实现既得利益最大化和维护社会的正常运行这两个目标,是一件相当困难和费力的事情。因此,我们这个体制是很累的,管理者也是很累的,从体制到管理者的心理负担都很重。更重要的是,为了维护既得利益,我们这个社会要付出更深远的代价。比如,为什么要如此大张旗鼓批普适价值?是普适价值中的什么让我们大动肝火?说穿了无非是民主自由,因为民主自由威胁既得利益。但直接批民主自由又不好听,只能拿普适价值说事了。但在信仰尽失、道德沦落的今天,连普适的价值也成了批判的对象,结果是可想而知的。但为了既得利益,又不得不如此

11. The fundamental cause of social decay is the marriage between political power and capitalism. Many people regarded power and the market as two separate things in the past. Now we can see that the two have joined hands in China. It’s like two persons, who were thought impossible to get married, have come together now. And they get along very well. We thought that power would be constrained in a market economy. However, we have now seen that power has acquired a higher value and a bigger space for exertion because of marketization. The market is a market in which power plays a big role. Power is the power being exercised in the market. This is the problem we are faced with. The vested interest groups, formed by the combination of power and the market, make the public feel estranged, as I pointed out in an earlier analysis in 2002. This has broken down the society and formed a divide of “us” vs. “them”, producing psychological alienation.

11、造成社会衰败的根本原因是权贵资本主义的形成。过去很多人把权力和市场看成是截然对立的东西,现在看到这两个东西在中国结合起来了。好比原来人们眼中两个最不能结婚的人结婚了,不但结婚了,而且日子过得很好。过去认为权力在市场情况下会受到限制,现在恰恰是市场的出现使得权力有了更大的行使机会和场所。市场是权力在当中起作用的市场,权力是在市场当中行使的权力。而且,现在的权力因为市场化而有了更大的行使机会和场所,卖出了好价格。这是我们现在面对的问题。在2002年的时候,我曾经提出“断裂社会”的概念(见 http://www.blogchina.com/20090210664016.html)。权贵资本主义下的既得利益集团会形成一种“我们”与“他们”的区分或区隔。正如上面的分析所表明的,这种区隔已经在造成一种心理上的疏离感。

12. How should the intellectuals look at the union of power and money? We have to regulate power as well as the market. But more importantly, we have to cut off the links between the two. Mr. Mao Yushi proposed recently that we should not allow the rich to command power, and should not allow those in power to obtain money. He was making points similar to mine. We must see the union of wealth and power is the key problem. Here is a metaphor for such situation: [state] power and wealth [market], two seemingly impossible to marry people formed a family, and have a really good life. The leftist and the rightist scholars argue against each other when they discuss the issue of the marriage between power and market. Some said that the husband is the good one, but the wife is bad. Others said that the wife is good, it’s the husband who has problems. They argue against each other endlessly, failing to see that the couple live happily together.

12. 面对权钱结合时的中国思想界。对于权钱的结合,既要规范权力,也要规范市场。但更重要的是要切断两者结合的链条。最近茅于轼先生提出,不让有钱的人有势,不让有权的人捞钱。说的也是这个道理。要看到,关键的问题是权钱的结合。但目前中国思想界的情况好有一比:权力和金钱两个看起来不能结婚的两个人组成了一个小家庭,而且日子过的还相当不错。这时,左派和右派的分歧形成了,一派说,你家的丈夫是个好丈夫,妻子是个坏妻子;另一派说,他家的妻子才是好妻子,丈夫是个坏丈夫。并为此吵得不可开交。殊不知,人家小两口日子过得甜甜蜜蜜。

13. Because we have taken a variety of measures to “maintain stability”, we could not advance the necessary reforms to build a healthy society; as a result social decay has intensified. Social unrest could be dealt with by “stability-maintaining” methods. But social decay is hard to treat. When Joseph Estrada, the former President of the Philippines, lost his power, an editorial in an American paper commented that it might take a century for people in this country to recover from the damage caused by corruption. When corruption becomes a way of life, when it becomes something beyond reproach, and when it becomes something everyone denounces and at the same time desires, the whole society has entered a state of maldevelopment. History will prove that “stability” would not override everything else; instead, it might destroy everything else. Because such a rigid focus on stability will stifle the efforts in their cradle which could make our country healthier.

13、由于思路错误,“维护稳定”的种种措施导致使社会健康化的变革无法进行,结果是进一步加剧社会的溃败。社会动荡是可以用“维护稳定”去对付的,而社会溃败却更难办。记得在菲律宾前总统埃斯特拉达因腐败而倒台的时候,美国的一家媒体评论道,这个国家的腐败所造成的内伤,可能需要这个社会的人用100年的时间为之付出代价。当腐败成为一种生活方式,当腐败成为一种无可厚非的价值,当腐败成为一种人人欲诛之又人人欲得之的东西的时候,整个社会生活开始进入变态的状态。历史将会证明,“稳定”不仅不会压倒一切,很可能会毁灭一切。因为这种僵硬的稳定压倒一切的思路,会将那些使我们这个国家健康起来的努力被消灭在萌芽状态。

14. The combination of power and money and the resulting corruption has fundamentally distorted China’s social development. It was the 30th anniversary of China’s reform last year. It could have been a good point for people to look back on the reform and reflect on it in a profound way. However, the opportunity was wasted by superficial eulogies and cliches. This shows that we have lost the courage and capability to face reality, including the reform. In fact, the reform has in a sense become a predatory war on wealth, as I pointed out in a series of articles in 2005. The consensus on reform has largely collapsed, and the motivation behind it has basically disappeared. Why is that? It’s because the reform has been constrained within the framework of vested interests, and even really open-minded reformers are not able to break the constraints. In this case, a mechanism has been formed to twist reform policies. Even well-intentioned policies fail to make a difference.

14、权钱结合以及由此形成的腐败,从根本上扭曲了中国社会发展的进程。去年是中国改革30 周年。本来,在这样一个重要时刻,人们期待着对改革的认真总结和深刻反思,期待将30年这样一个时刻作为发展新的起点。但遗憾的是,廉价的颂扬、言不及义的套话,使得这个大好的时机被放过。这说明,我们已经失去了面对现实,包括面对改革的勇气和能力。实际上,正如我在2005年的一系列文章中所强调的,改革从某种意义上说已经开始成为财富掠夺的战争,改革的共识已经基本破灭,改革的动力已经基本丧失。原因何在?就在于改革已经受制于既有的既得利益框架,即使是真正开明的改革者也无法摆脱这种制约。在这种情况下,扭曲改革的机制已经形成。即使是出发点良好的改革,最后的结果往往也是南辕北辙。

15. In fact, China’s reform is not as good as some people think it is, nor is it as bad as others believe. I have always disagreed with the idea that we should completely credit the reform for our economic development and improvement in people’s living standards. The economy would have developed without the reform, as long as we didn’t have natural or man-made disasters. Some people compare today’s living standards with those 30 years ago to illustrate the success of reform. Actually an important factor is the decrease in birthrate and average family sizes, besides technological advancement. Imagine how our lives would have been if each family in Chinese cities had three children. I am not trying to dismiss reform. Instead, I want to remind us to have a rational perspective of it. The real value of reform is to turn China from a deformed and distorted society into a normal one, and to make it join the mainstream civilization of human societies. Market economy is just a limited part of it. This process is far from being finished. Instead, it seems that we have walked backward in recent years.

15、其实,中国的改革既没有有些人说的那么好,也没有有些人说的那么坏。我一直不同意将经济发展速度和人们物质生活的改善完全归功于改革,只要没有特殊的天灾人祸,经济本来就会发展。有人经常用今天的物质生活和30年前对比,以说明改革的成功,其实这当中除了在技术进步推动下社会正常发展的因素之外,生育率的下降和家庭平均人口的减少是一个重要的因素,试想如果今天城市中的许多家庭是3个孩子的话,其生活是一种什么样的生活?因此,可以说改革开放是沾了计划生育的光,改革是沾了开放的光(加快了技术进步)。我这样说不是否定改革,而是说对改革也要有一种理性的态度。改革的真正意义是使中国从一个扭曲和变态的社会转变为一个正常的社会,是汇入人类发展的主流文明。市场经济只是其中一个有限的部分。而这个过程其实远没有完成,近些年且有倒退之势。

16. There were some innate deficiencies in China’s reform policies. We could look anew at some problems if we reflect on the reasons for starting reform. Actually China’s reform was not prompted by the fact that “the nation’s economy had come to the edge of collapse.” Instead, it was a result of several forces joining hands. Among them were the general public’s desire to improve their living standards, intellectuals’ desire to change the status quo, and more importantly, the request of those who lost power during the Cultural Revolution to regain power. There were two groups of people in the last category. One group wanted to go back to the years before the Cultural Revolution; and the other group wanted to advance to a new civilization. The reform of the early 80s was conducted by this group of people. They were confident (to lead the country to a better future), because what they left behind was the absurd era of the Cultural Revolution. This confidence brought about the enlightenment atmosphere in the 80s. However, this appearance of open-mindedness concealed the fundamental deficiency of the reform — it lacks a goal of advancing toward a new civilization and embracing new values.

16、中国的改革先天不足。回思改革的起点可以让我们重新认识一些问题。中国的改革其实并不是始于“国民经济到了崩溃的边缘”。改革的启动是几股力量合在一起的结果。这当中有民众改善经济状况的现实要求,有知识分子改变现状的理想,但其实更有力量的,是文革中失势者重归权力中心的要求。后者又有两部分人,一是想回到文革前的17年,一种是想借此走向一种新的文明。80年代初期改革即在这部分人的掌控之下了。不过,能够和当时形成对比的,是文革的荒唐岁月,所以掌握权力者充满自信。这种自信造成了80年代的开明。然而开明的表象掩盖了改革的根本缺陷,即没有一种真正的走向新文明的价值目标。

17. Maintaining stability has become a tool to safeguard the structure of vested interests.

17、稳定已经开始演变为维护既有利益格局的一种手段。

[The translation is now complete.]

March 12, 2009 9:54 PM
Posted By: