Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Commitment to Transparency

This morning I was listening to NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," and they mentioned that a cable released by Wikileaks had indicated that China shut down Google because some Chinese official googled himself and found unflattering remarks about his august self. So much for many right-wing frothers' accusation that Wikileaks doesn't and wouldn't publish material that would embarrass Russia or China.

I hadn't heard about this leak, so I did a search and found this blog at whose writer begs to differ. He thinks that the anecdote is "more colorful than it is instructive." He points to the big picture.

Taken together, the cables convey a sophisticated and sobering U.S. understanding of the Chinese leadership: It has no “reform wing,” it operates on a consensus basis, with President Hu Jintao as a “corporate CEO” brokering among various “vested interests,” and with leaders all determined to see their legacies survive succession.

In other words, at the very top the Communist Party of China is exactly what it seems to be to most, a system bent on preserving itself, that captures the men who rise in it, conforming their ambitions to the system’s priorities.

The system’s priority is certainly not to open itself up to critical examination, so that the Chinese people could find out, for example, which leaders have been touched by hints of scandal, which well-connected families are enriching themselves in various industries, or, as one source told a diplomat in one cable, which officials might have profited from ”shady deals behind land transactions.”
I'm sure this (and more) is accurate enough. It just doesn't distinguish China importantly from any other country. The US' reaction to Wikileaks doesn't exactly betoken an eagerness to "open itself up to critical examination," for example. (Speaking of deafness to irony, try Arnaud de Borchgrave: "But hardly a word has been written or spoken about the motives of the WikiLeaks' chief leaker.") And any American "officials [who] might have profited from 'shady deals behind land transactions," I'm sure, would be quite happy to have their malfeasance exposed to the people, because we live in a country under the rule of law, not men. But openness is for them, not for us, right?