The Machinery of Stability Preservation

The Dui Hua Foundation translates a detailed overview of China’s stability preservation apparatus from an original article in Caijing magazine.

[The] detailed portrait of this structure as it exists at both the central and local levels leads into a trenchant analysis of China’s paradoxical pursuit of stability and a look at how that structure actually undermines that effort. Their conclusion—that the only escape from this paradox is to accelerate the pace of political and judicial reform—is a clear articulation of an aspiration that is gathering momentum in China but that will still have to overcome much resistance if it is to be realized.

Local governments’ fear of petitioning has led to a huge stability-preservation “market” that includes capital liaison offices, security contracts, and “payoffs” and results in all types of rent-seekers, brokers, and thugs out foraging for themselves. Appetites whetted by the favors that can be had in this rent-seeking arena, the capital liaison offices, security companies, and petitioning officials all [seek ways to] protect and expand the “stability-preservation pie.” As this “market” continues to grow, even things that have nothing to do with “stability preservation” can be categorized as “stability preservation” in order to “collect more rents ….”

Ying Xing believes that, on the one hand, petitioning highlights the need for stability, unity, and order and demands that conflicts remain at the grassroots level. On the other hand, as a way for the central government to check [the activity] of local grassroots government, petitioning also encourages the “rightful resistance” of petitioners under certain circumstances. These two conflicting goals put petitioning in a paradoxical situation in which it is difficult to justify itself: on the one hand the central government retains the petitioning system because it wants a path whereby the masses can oversee local [government]; on the other hand, it calls on local governments to strictly control petitioning and “nip sources of instability in the bud” at the local level so as not to negatively impact the work of the central government. With “obstruction” foremost and no effort made to open up new paths to resolve conflicts, whenever there are destabilizing incidents like collective petitioning, local governments are forced to resort to extraordinary measures.