Yu Jianrong: Rigid Stability: an Explanatory Framework for China’s Social Situation (1)

picture-1Dr. Yu Jianrong was born in 1962. He received a Ph.D. in Legal Studies from Huazhong Normal University in 2001. He currently serves as Professor and Director of the Rural Development Institute’s Social Issues Research Center at the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences in Beijing, China, and is a Visiting Scholar with the Harvard Yenching Institute at Harvard University. His published works include:

Politics of Yue Village: Changes in the Political Structure in China’s Rural Villages in the Transition Period

Organized Peasant Resistance and it Political Risk: A Survey of H County, Hunan Province

Rural Organized Crime and the Retreat of Local Sovereignty

Contemporary Chinese Peasants’ Activism Through Law

Social Conflict in Transitional China: Observations on the Rights Advocacy Activities of Workers and Peasants in Contemporary China.

Thanks to David Kelly, researcher at the University of Technology Sydney, for translating the following text:

Yu Jianrong: Rigid Stability: an Explanatory Framework for China’s Social Situation

Time: May 9, 2009
Location: China University of Administration and Law (Jimen Campus)

主持人:《燕山大讲堂》今天是第31期,我们请来了著名的学者于建嵘先生。他所关注的话题从农民维权到工人维权,一直坚持着站在底层、为底层说话的学术立场,他对社会冲突和家庭教会的研究,都是具有开创新的研究
Moderator: For today’s 31st “Yanshan Lecture,” we invited well-known scholar Yu Jianrong. His areas of concern, from peasant rights to worker rights, have adhered always to an academic position of standing at and speaking for the baseline. His research on social conflict and household churches are new and revelatory.

今天的话题:刚性稳定——中国社会形势的一个解释框架,有请于老师。
Today’s topic: “Rigid stability – an explanatory framework for China’s social situation”; I invite the professor.

于建嵘:大家下午好。
Yu Jianrong: Good afternoon, everyone.

今天讲的题目是我在今年年初做的研究,曾在日本早稻田大学做过一次演讲,今天我主要是想提供一个理论的框架,增加一点理论的分析。

My topic today is work I began earlier this year; I gave a presentation on it at Waseda University, in Japan. [1]
Today I want to provide a theoretical framework, adding some theoretical analysis.

学界对中国目前的社会形势有两个完全不一样的观点,第一种观点是动荡说,中国社会处于动荡之中,很多人认为2008年以来,随着金融危机的发生,中国社会也出现了很多问题。
Among scholars there are two completely different points of view about China’s current social situation: the first is that Chinese society is in turmoil, and many would argue that since 2008, with the financial crisis, Chinese society is full of problems.

另外一种完全不一样的学说是稳定说,我们国家虽然存在很多问题,但并不会发生动荡,中国社会总体上来说是世界上最稳定、最活跃的政体,这一点恰恰说明了中国社会主义体制的优越性。最近我们常会看到一些主流的学者,说中国是后发达国家的榜样。到底中国社会现在是什么样的情况? 我今天就想对中国政治稳定和社会稳定做一个分析。
Meanwhile, a completely different theory is that while there are many problems with China’s stability, there will be no turbulence; Chinese society is on the whole the world’s most stable and most active system of government, which shows precisely the superiority of the Chinese socialist system. There are mainstream scholars of late who may often be heard saying that China is a model late developing country. What is the actual state of Chinese society now? I would like today to make an analysis of China’s political and social stability.

我的观点是:中国现在的确发生了一些社会冲突事件,但总体而言中国政治的统一性和社会管制的有效性没有改变,中国社会的这种稳定是一种刚性的稳定,具有十分巨大的社会风险。为防范中国发生较大的社会动荡,需要进行一系列的变革。
My view is: a number of social conflicts are going on in China today, but there has been no change in its overall political unity or effectiveness of social control; this stability of Chinese society is a rigid one, bearing very great social risks. To prevent greater social turmoil occurring in China, a series of changes needs to be made.

围绕这个观点我要讲三个问题,第一个问题是到底发生了什么;第二个问题怎么去认识中国目前的刚性稳定; 第三个问题怎么办?
I want to discuss three issues related to this: (1) what is actually taking place; (2) how to understand China’s current rigid stability; (3) what is to be done?

第一,我认为中国社会总体上是稳定的。其中因利益冲突引发的维权活动和因社会心理失衡发生的社会泄愤事件,对社会秩序产生了一定的影响,但这些事件并不能从根本上动摇中国政治的统一性和社会管治的有效性。
First, I would argue that Chinese society is on the whole stable. In it, rights defence activities triggered by conflicts of interest, and incidents of social venting arising from social psychological imbalances, have a certain impact on the social order, but these events do not fundamentally undermine China’s political unity or the effectiveness of its social governance.

一般讲到社会稳定的时候,都是针对群体性事件而言的。群体性事件一般认为它有非法性,可能会带来某些社会秩序的变化。 根据我们国家有关部门的规定,1000人以下为特大的群体性事件,去年一年来,群体性事件显著增加。我们先对此做一个简单的分析。
The term “social stability” is generally used with reference to mass incidents. These are generally thought of as illegal and liable to lead to changes in the social order. According to relevant state agency provisions, mass incidents involving less than 1,000 people are deemed large; during the course of last year, group incidents significantly increased in number. Let’s start with a simple analysis.

中国的社会群体性事件有工人、农民的维权,有社会泄愤事件、也有骚乱。
Group incidents in Chinese society include rights defence by workers and peasants, social anger-venting events, and riots.

各群体维权的主要诉求,分析一下,会发现,在农民群体中,主要是土地问题,土地问题是农村维权抗争的焦点,经过大量的研究发现中国农民的土地问题占到农村问题的60%以上;与农民维权的诉求不同,劳资冲突是工人维权的主要诉求; 对于城市市民来说,业主维权是市民维权的主要议题。
The main demand of these groups’ rights defence, on analysis, will be found that, in the peasant group, the issues are mainly about land, land issues are the focus of rural rights defence protests, a large number of studies have found that issue of Chinese peasant land accounts for more than 60% of rural issues; different to the demands of peasants right defence, wages are the main demands of workers rights defence conflicts; for urban residents, the main topic of rights defence is homeowner rights.

这些维权有几个特点,第一,是利益之争,不是权力之争。
There are several characteristics of these rights defence struggles. First, they are over interests, not power.

也是说,中国目前农民的问题主要是利益问题,而不是权力问题。我在很多地方都讲过广东省委书记张德江对于目前维权问题的判断。2007年5月8日张德江向国家领导汇报的时候说,广东发生了很多问题,但是这些问题都是人民内部矛盾。什么是人民内部矛盾呢?就是用人民币可以解决的矛盾。这句话不好听,但是他讲对了,现在工人、农民、市民的维权活动主要是利益之争,不是权力之争。他们不是要执政党的权力,而是要你给他利益。

In other words, the current peasant problem in China is mainly a matter of interests, rather than power. I have mentioned in many places Guangdong Party Secretary Zhang Dejiang’s judgment regarding the rights defence issue at present. Zhang said in a report to the national leadership on 8 May 2007 that a lot of problems had occurred in Guangdong, but they were all contradictions among the people. What are contradictions among the people? They are ones that can be resolved using money. This may not sound nice, but he was right, the rights defence struggles of workers, peasants, and townspeople are at present struggles about interests, not power struggles. They are not trying to gain the power of the ruling party, but want you to give him interests.

第二,是规则意识大于权利意识。这个观点不是我提出来的,是哈佛大学的裴宜理教授提出来的。她在2007年写了一篇影响很大的文章,说这么多年来我们一直判断说中国会崩溃,为什么中国没有崩溃呢?就是由于我们不了解中国,不知道中国的人民在干什么。中国发生的很多问题和西方是不一样的,因为西方人讲的是法律,而东方人主要讲的是规则,在中国老百姓心目中,是规则意识大于权利意识。
Second, awareness of rules [guize 规则 — trans.] outweighs awareness of rights. This point of view was not proposed by me but by Elizabeth Perry, a professor at Harvard. In 2007 she wrote a very influential article saying that we have for many years formed a view that China would collapse: why then hasn’t it done so? [2] It’s because we don’t understand China, don’t know what the people of China are up to. Many problems found in China are different from the West, because Western people are on about the law, while Asians are on about rules; in the eyes of ordinary Chinese people awareness of the rules outweighs awareness of rights.

举个例子。中国老百姓找政府说什么事呢?他会说,你说了给我10块钱,怎么只给我5块钱,你这个政府不讲规则,讲话不算数。西方人不会这么讲,西方人会说你怎么能只给我10块钱,根据人权你应该给我100块钱。这是两个完全不一样的思路,一个是根据已有的法律原则,一个是根据意识形态和天赋的人权。裴宜理教授的观点改变了整个西方对中国社会的判断,她说执政党身在福中要知福,假如有一天,中国的老百姓不和你讲规则了,开始讲天赋人权了,那你的麻烦就大了。中国的老百姓现在一切都按照政府的规则做,你却不守规则。现在恰恰由于政府不守规则,讲话不算数,才带来了这么多问题。这就是中国社会保持着稳定,没有发展根本性改变的原因。2008年的7月裴宜理教授约我到哈佛大学,我们有一个对话叫《中国的政治传统与发展》,解释了中国为什么没有发生像西方学者判断的那种动乱。
Let me give you an example. What does the Chinese man in the street want to go tell the government about? He would say, “You said you’d give me 10 yuan, how can you only give me 5? Your government has no principles [guize], what you say can’t be counted on.” A Westerner would not talk like this, but would say, “How can you give me only 10 money, according to human rights, you should give me 100 yuan.” These are two completely different ways of thinking, one is based on existing principles of law, on ideology and innate human rights. Professor Perry’s view changes the whole Western judgment of Chinese society, she says that the ruling party wants people to be happy with what they have; if you don’t talk to Chinese people about rules [guize], but start talking about natural rights, then your troubles will be greater. Chinese people now do everything according to the government’s rules, which it does not observe. There are so many problems now precisely because the Government does not observe the rules, what it says can’t be counted on. This is the reason Chinese society maintains stability, without developing fundamental change. In July 2008 Professor Perry invited me to Harvard, where we had a discussion on “China’s political tradition and development,” explaining why the kind of unrest hadn’t happened in China as Western scholars assumed.

三是反应性大于进取性。在我看来中国的老百姓不会主动的去找政府的麻烦, 恰恰是政府找了老百姓的麻烦,老百姓感觉你不作为或者乱作为带来了问题,所以他是被迫采取的行动,农民问题、工人问题和市民问题都与之相关。
Third, being reactive outweighs being proactive. It seems to me that the people of China will not go looking for trouble from the Government, it is indeed the government that goes looking for trouble from the people, who feel “your inaction or chaotic actions cause problems,” he [the man in the street] is thus forced to take action, and the problems of peasants workers and townspeople are all related to this.

四是目标的合法性和行为的非法性共存。
Fourth, simultaneous legitimacy of objectives and illegitimacy of actions.

对维权问题我简单的总结了这四个特点。我们认为目前中国发生这么多问题,有一个最重要的特点就是维权。
I simply sum up these four characteristics of rights defence. A most important feature of so many present issues in China is, we would argue, rights defence.

第二种群体性事件,就是像2008年6月28日贵州发生的瓮安事件,我把它叫做社会泄愤事件。
The second type of group events is like the Weng’an incident that happened on 28 June 2008, which I term “social anger venting.”

这个名词是2007年10月30日到美国一所大学做演讲的时候编出来的,当时我实在找不出一个名词来概括“瓮安事件”。
I coined he term at a lecture I gave in an American university on October 30, 2007, when I really could find no term to sum up the “Weng’an incident.”

我认为,现在有一种特殊的群体性事件叫泄愤事件。这种社会泄愤事件有几个特点,第一它发生得特别偶然,没有一般的上访或者行政诉讼的过程;第二最关键的问题是它没有明确的组织者,绝大多数参加的人没有实际的利益关系, 主要是路见不平和借题发挥,表达对社会的不满,以发泄为主;第三在这个过程中新媒体起了很大作用,比如网络、短信;第四个特点是有对政府机关和其他设施进行打、砸、抢、烧等违法事件。研究社会泄愤事件的时候,你会发现所有的问题都有一个明显的诉讼对象。而第三种时间,骚乱就不是这样的,它可能没有明确的针对对象。
I think that there is a special kind of group incident that may be called anger venting incidents. They have a number of characteristics: (1) their occurrence is quite fortuitous, with no general process as in petitions or administrative litigation; (2) the most critical problem is that there are no obvious organisers, the vast majority of those taking part have no actual stake, mainly seeing injustice in the street, then seizing upon this opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with society mainly in order to give vent to it; (3) new media play a significant role in the process, such as networking and messaging; the fourth characteristic is incidents of beating, smashing, looting, burning and otherwise violating Government agencies and other facilities. If you study social anger-venting events, you will find all the issues have clear targets in terms of claims; while with the third type there is no such disturbance, nor need it have a clear target.

2008年的9月吉首因非法集资引发的冲突,暴力涉及商店和其它社会设施,2008年10月国庆节的时候吉首市的商店都是关门的。这样看来维权、泄愤和骚乱是完全不一样的。
In the conflict in Jishou in September 2008 over illegal fund-raising, the violence involved shops and other social facilities; on National Day in October 2008 all the stores in Jishou City were closed. Rights defence, anger venting and turmoil are thus not the same.

第四种则是具有意识形态的社会冲突。这种冲突主要表现在宗教和民族问题上。 这类冲突有一个非常重要的特点,就是它有一定的组织性。
The fourth type is ideological social conflict. This is mainly manifested in religious and ethnic issues. This type of conflict has a very important feature, namely that it has a certain degree of organisation.

我们简单的对目前发生的社会问题做了四个方面的分类。通过简单的介绍你会发现目前中国群体事件中80%以上是维权,它有一个非常明确的利益诉求,针对的是公权机关和侵权者,不一定有暴力;泄愤事件没有明确的利益诉求,针对的也是公权机关和侵权者,有暴力;骚乱事件诉求复杂,针对的是公权机关和侵权者,有暴力;宗教冲突有明确的政治诉求,针对的是公权机关,不一定有暴力。
We simply present the four-fold categorization of social issues. Going through this brief introduction, you will find that 80% of group events in China currently are over rights defence, having a very clear interest demand; the public authorities and infringers are targeted, and not necessarily with violence; in the case of anger venting incidents there are clear interest demands, aimed again at public authorities and infringers, with violence; in the case of riots the demands are complex, the public authorities and infringers are targeted, with violence; in the case of religious conflicts there are clear political demands, the public authorities and infringers are targeted, and they are definitely violent.

对于目前中国的很多问题,实际上我们感到很迷茫。在电视里看见其它国家游行示威和发生的很多问题,这是街头政治,但中国没有。中国有维权、有骚乱,但是没有街头政治,为什么这么说?我认为相对而言,他抗议政府不作为、乱作为,是为了解决一些实际的利益问题,但没有明确的政治诉求,不是为了推翻政府并且取而代之。
We are, in fact, very confused about many of the problems in China today. In the television to see demonstrations and a lot of problems taking place in other countries, this is street politics, which China does not have. China has rights defence, and there are riots, but no street politics, why do we say this? I think relatively speaking, someone protesting against government, inaction or random action, is in order to resolve some practical interest problems, but there are no clear political demands, and it is not in order to overthrow the government and replace it.

当前中国有很多维权组织,但真正有组织化的政治力量还没有。每个事件都是孤立的,很难形成全国性的社会运动。一般对一个社会运动的判断,不但要有组织、目标、话语,而且要有比较详实的可连续性的活动,中国目前没有。这些问题对中国现在政治有影响但它不能改变我们的政治结构,也不会从根本上影响政府统治的完全性和有效性。中国政治的统一性现在没有动摇,所以,我认为中国是相对稳定的国家。
At present there are many human rights organisations in China, but as yet without genuine organised political force. Each incident is isolated; it is difficult to form a national social movement. The generally judgment about a social movement, not only must it have organisation, objectives and discourse, but also fairly detailed sustainable activiy, again not found in China. These issues are influential in China’s current politics, but it cannot change our political structure, nor would it fundamentally affect the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of government rule. China’s political unity has not shaken today, so I think it is a relatively stable country.

(To be continued.)

May 26, 2009 9:53 PM
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