China’s New “Conflicts Of No Direct Interest”

The U.S.-based Chinese Web site published an intriguing article over the weekend about the emergence of what the author terms “conflicts of no direct interest” (Êó†Áõ¥Êé•Âà©ÁõäÂÜ≤Á™Å) – particularly in relatively developed areas. The piece was written by someone using the nom-de-plume Bai Xing, meaning “Common People”. The rise of these emotionally kindled conflicts will not only impair the government’s endeavors to establish a “harmonious society”, the author argues, but also threaten the foundations of its rule.

Below are excerpts from the piece, translated by CDT. To read the whole article in Chinese, click here.

Recently, certain Chinese domestic mainstream media conducted a few surveys on social conflicts in some relatively developed areas such as Guangzhou, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. In a few places, they discovered a special phenomena called “conflicts of no direct interest”. In these social conflicts, the bulk of the participants have nothing to do with the events. They merely express and vent a form of sentiment, and mistrust all policy measures. “Conflicts of no direct interest”, characterized by a mistrust of everything, show the popular foundations of government rule are being eroded. These irrational, non-institutional expressions of interest arouse deep contemplation. As time goes on, if these conflicts are not paid attention to and solved in a timely fashion, they will become pandemic and ultimately endanger the foundations of governance.

As a matter of fact, a “conflict of no direct interest” does not mean there is no conflict. “Conflicts of no direct interest” involve individuals, not groups against groups. For instance, Zhang San, a vegetable vendor, has a dispute on the street with Li Si, the city manager. Generally speaking, the onlookers, as individuals, have no direct interest in Zhang San and Li Si. But things may change when it comes to a social stratum. For example, among the onlookers, there might be many doing small businesses similar to Zhang San’s, and there might be people who have had similar disputes, or people who have been bullied or who feel exploited by the privileged. When those people gather together, there’s a social stratum, an interest group.

“Conflicts of no direct interest” are far from being a mere expression or venting of sentiments. They are conflicts between groups, formations and divisions of social strata. In a conflict between two groups, the onlookers automatically categorize themselves according to their identities, status, and interests.

In those places where “conflicts of no direct interest” occur, essentially, official-civilian relations, or relations between local governments and the masses, have undergone some form of qualitative change. The relationship is no longer that “relationship between water and fish”, which today we can see only in the “Red classsics”. Nor is it the relationship between “serving” and “being served”, as in modern political civilization. It is even not the mechanical, cold relationship between “managing” and “being managed”. The relations, by and large, are characterized by antagonism.

The emergence of massive numbers of “conflicts of no direct interest” is a dangerous signal. To some extent, it means that official-civilian relations are prone to building from quantitative changes to qualitative changes at any time.

-Click here for the full article in Chinese.

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