A Coup in China? A Jasmine Spring?

March 26, 2012

Do a Google search on “News of a coup in China” and you may end up with as many hits as I had, which was more than 110,000,000 when I was researching the topic of this post.  Amazing!

I suspect this viral Internet topic has to do with dreams of democracy sweeping the world leading to global peace and prosperity for eternity, but that ain’t going to happen anytime soon.

The last time there was this much Internet excitement over revolutions was in December 2010 when the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East and North Africa toppling governments, but at what price.

In November 2011, US News and World Report said that 3,500 had died in Syria (and the fighting isn’t over yet), 250 in Yemen, a 100 in Bahrain, 30,000 in Libya, 900 in Egypt, and 300 in Tunisia.  In addition many more were injured/wounded.

Al Jazeera reported almost 11 months after the Arab uprising that “freedom is not free, and there are now some clear financial costs emerging,” and the cost has reached a grand total of $55.84 billion. (Source: International Monetary Fund)

However, as the Arab Spring blossomed and spread, in America and the West there was a sense of euphoria that democracy was sweeping the globe and would arrive in China, which did not materialize as life went on as usual in the Middle Kingdom.

Then, as if prayers had been answered, on March 19, 2012, there were rumors of a coup in China and the Blogosphere and the media exploded with speculation.

If anything happened in China on March 19, it was probably a political protest by supporters of Bo Xilai, who was yanked from his position of power that week, and Bo Xilai is and was not a democracy advocate.

In fact, what he advocated was closer to a return to the era of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Bo Xilai was also a populist figure and the last time China had a populist figure that was equal parts showman and strongman, his name was Mao Zedong, and he ruled China for twenty-six years and is infamously known in the West for his political purges, the failure of The Great Leap Forward and his closing act, The Cultural Revolution.

Hannah Beech of Global Spin, a blog about the world, its people and its politics, says, “Last May, I said on my blog that Bo Xilai wanted to become Mao Zedong,” Yang told me after Bo’s dismissal. “But he failed because in today’s China there is no need for a Mao.”

In the video, China analyst Jennifer Richmond dispels rumors of a recent coup attempt in Beijing and explores the intensifying political and economic reform debate happening in China ahead of its 2012 leadership transition.

Then the BBC reported, “Damaging coup rumours ricochet across China. Have you heard? There’s been a coup in China! Tanks have been spotted on the streets of Beijing and other cities! Shots were fired near the Communist Party’s leadership compound!

“OK,” the BBC says, “before you get too agitated, there is no coup. To be more exact, as far as we know there has been no attempted coup.

“To be completely correct we should say we do not know what’s going on. The fact is there is no evidence of a coup. But it is a subject that has obsessed many in China (and outside of China) this week.

“Photographs of tanks and armoured cars on city streets were flying around Twitter and elsewhere,” the BBC report continued. “On closer inspection though, some of the pictures seemed to be old ones from rehearsals for military parades, others did not even seem to be of Beijing, as they claimed, but different Chinese cities.”

Then in another report covering this rumor, Shanghaiist.com said, “In other countries, you might see reporters offhandedly refer to their unnamed contacts inside the Prime Minister’s Office, or the White House, or whatever institution they’re covering. Even when I worked in famously enigmatic Russia, I had a few ‘Kremlin sources’ I could occasionally turn to.”

“Not in China,” Shanghaiist continued. “I know many of the foreign journalists based here, and more than a few of the Chinese ones. None have ever claimed to me, or their readers, that they have a contact inside, or even close to, the decision-making Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China.”

Meanwhile, what about an update on the Arab Spring, the so-called democracy movement in North Africa and the Middle East that this post started with?

According to the “2012 Index of Economic Freedom”, Heritage.org said, “Corruption and Terrorism: Will They Undermine the Arab Spring?

Heritage.org says, “Any kind of political instability has important policy implications for development in general, and for sustainable economic growth in particular. The recent turmoil in the Middle East is no exception…”

The Heritage.org study by Nahid Kalbasi Anaraki, Ph.D. asked three questions:

  • Is terrorism more likely to appear under more corrupt regimes?
  • Is there a long-run relationship between a country’s level of economic freedom and terrorism?
  • What is the impact of terrorism on foreign direct investment (FDI) and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita?

Anaraki says, “The results point to a high risk that the hopes of the revolutionary movements will founder on the rocks of terrorism and corruption.”

For more on this, Professor Timur Kuran of the Cline Center for Democracy said, “A striking feature of these uprisings is the lack of an existing opposition or charismatic revolutionary leaders. These have been truly popular revolutions. While the popular character adds legitimacy to the ideals and aspirations of these uprisings, it may also prove a weakness on the path to actual democracy. Due to decades of severe oppression, the opposition forces in almost every transforming country in the region lack recognized leadership, partisan organization, and coherent political ideology. In fact, the only organized political force in this region comes from conservative Islamist groups. Meanwhile, the emergent transitional governments are being formed under the tutelage of defecting, formerly authoritarian elites and their militaries.”

In conclusion, an Arab Spring leading to democracy, a Jasmine Revolution in China, or any revolution by any other name does not guarantee an American and/or Western style democracy will emerge in time.  The only guarantee is that people in Western democracies will get excited and then soon forget they were excited as the next sensation appears, since attention spans and memories in the West are often short and opinionated.

In fact, to many in the West, the Arab Spring and rumors of a coup in China were entertainment, and the same people will soon switch to American Idol or another show such as America’s Next Top Model or maybe Survivor.

Note: Other posts and comments that focus on the 2012 transition of political power in China may be found at Breaking News – a Warning for the CCP from Premier Wen Jaibao and China’s Translation Sensation.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

Facts about Education — China and the world versus America – Part 1/3

July 28, 2011

Tired of reading endless criticisms of just about everything global, I dropped my weekly subscription to The Economist magazine (TE) with its emphasis on Sinophobia.

To me, it seemed that most of TE’s staff does not have the intellectual ability or knowledge to write with much depth. I only remember one piece that was well researched and written that impressed me.

Instead, I have shifted to Foreign Policy (FP) magazine, which comes once every two months, and from what I’ve read so far in a few issues, the writing and ability of its staff is on a much higher level than TE.

Maybe that’s because FP has more lead-time to research, think, write, revise and edit before the next issue comes out.

This isn’t the first post I wrote due to something I read in FP. The first came after reading Chicago on the Yangtze, and the post that followed was Bo Xilai’s 32 Million.

This post is from reading FP’s Think Again: Education. The journalist was Ben Wildavsky, a senior scholar in Research and Policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the author of several scholarly books.

Knowing who wrote what is a big leap from TE, which is probably wise since what TE publishes is often insulting, biased and flawed.  However, it is better to know who wrote what since writing in anonymity may lead to lazy, biased and sloppy writing.

What Wildavsky does in FP magazine is debunk the lies and myths about the American educational system, and he does an excellent job.

MYTH:American Kids are Falling Behind

ANSWER: To this myth, Wildavsky says, “Not Really”, and explains, “the U.S. education system … doesn’t look to be failing so spectacularly.

“The performance of American students in science and math has actually improved modestly since the last round of this (PISA) international test in 2006 … and reading scores … are more or less unchanged since … 2003.”

Continued on July 28, 2011 in Facts about Education – Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

Keeping Mao Alive in the West – Part 4/4

July 2, 2011

As for Bo Xilai, the so-called darling of the Maoists according to The Economist, the weekly rag failed to mention that last year when this Chinese “Maoist” splinter of the Communist Party thought they had a leader in Bo Xilai, he had thirty Maoist hard core leaders arrested and locked up. Source: Serve the People

Bo Xilai may be a leader among Chinese conservatives but those conservatives are not Maoist revolutionaries dreaming of a return to the upside down world of The Cultural Revolution, which would turn China into a train wreck, and most Chinese have worked too hard building a modern, capitalist China to throw all that away.

Maoists have followers as well as critics in modern China. While these supporters of Mao claim that it was during his era that China witnessed mass development in terms of economy, industry, healthcare, education, and Infrastructure, his critics (that have ruled China since 1976 leading to a middle class of about 400 million) hold a different view.

According to them, the history of Maoist China was marked with uncountable deaths, and an extreme economic crisis that damaged China’s cultural heritage.

What is the difference between the Maoists in China that are a minority in the Communist Party and the American Nazi Party in the US? Do we read pieces in the Western media criticizing the US for having an American Nazi party after what the Nazis did during World War II?

In fact, in 2006, NPR.org reported, “New schoolbooks were about to be introduced in Shanghai that were moving a bit further away from the traditional communist ideology. And in them Mao was actually only mentioned once, and very fleetingly, as part of a lesson on the custom of lowering flags to half mast at state funerals.”

In that interview at NPR, Louisa Lim said, “The official verdict on Mao that the Party came to in 1981 was that he was 70% good and 30% bad. And their mythology about Mao was really that he was a great national hero who unified the country. He sort of threw off the yoke of Japanese imperialism and freed people from poverty, and that any later mistakes were made when he was older and should be weighed up against his great contributions to China.”

If Bo Xilai sounds as if he wants to bring the Maoism of The Cultural Revolution back, he is probably doing what all “good” politicians do (even in the US), and that is telling people what they want to hear to gain support. After all, in 2012, China’s leaders are changing and Bo wants to get as close to the top as possible. That is not a secret.

Start with Keeping Mao Alive in the West – Part 1 or return to Part 3


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

Organized Crime

November 14, 2010

The China Law Blog had an interesting discussion about China’s Mafia…. Whaddya know?

The questions were: “So what is going on out there? How big is China’s mafia? Does it steer clear of foreign companies, particularly those from the West? Is it big in Chongqing, yet far less so elsewhere? What do you know? Let’s get a discussion going….”

To offer more information, the five video clips embedded in this post are about organized crime in today’s China.

When I arrived at the China Law Blog, there were twenty-one comments.  A few said the Communist Party was the most powerful mob in China.

I don’t agree.

However, to be fair, that would fit most governments, which is the reason why America’s wise Founding Fathers created a Republic with checks and balances in an attempt to avoid the US being taken over by organized criminals voted into office by the democratic majority.

Occasionally in the US, city or regional political machines have become organized and involved in criminal activities. Chicago and New York are the first two cities that come to mind that have had a history of political corruption linked to organized crime.

Then comes along a Bo Xilai in China or government agents such as Eliot Ness or Frank J. Wilson in the US with the support and backing of forces more powerful than the criminals.

I’m sure that the growth of organized crime in China is no different from what we’ve seen in the US, Mexico, Europe, etc., and a few of the better comments at the China Law Blog support that opinion.

I found Blue Lantern’s comment informative. “In China the organized gangs are called Triads, and they are very strong in the North-East and South of China. They are also far stronger than the Mafia, and control much of the global drug trade.”

Several comments said most “loan sharking” in China was done by rather small and disorganized groups.

I found Sun Kim’s comment interesting. “The difference between organized crime “syndicates” in China and elsewhere is that the CCP has the power, will, and the might to crush any syndicate that it deems “inappropriate” virtually overnight. These “mafia” u describe are ragtag groups that undoubtedly operate with the unspoken approval of the provincial government and/or the CCP as they ultimately help support the economy, albeit in shady terms.”

In fact, the US Federal government has the power that Sun talks about, which is why the US mafia was crushed. All it takes is a concerted, focused effort. Macmillan published a book on this topic— Bringing Down the Mob, The War Against the America Mafia.

I found Laobaixing’s comment to be the most informative. He cited a source at Rutgers that studies this topic. “He describes a lot of mom and pop organizations working with each other, rather than some well integrated crime family.”

The opinions that most organized crime starts at the city and provincial level is the best answer. That’s how organized crime started in the US. However, I do not doubt that the Chinese Triads have returned to mainland China since Deng Xiaoping opened China to world trade.

Wherever there is a capitalist economy and a democracy, there will be fertile ground for organized crime to take root.

If you are interested in this discussion, I recommend you click over to the China Law Blog and read the rest of the comments. I also plan to launch a series of posts on organized crime in China soon.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

Maoism Alive

October 27, 2010

Caution—do not confuse Maoists with the Communist Party that currently rules China.

The Maoists in China want a return to the Cultural Revolution and pure socialism with no capitalism. Chinese Maoists consider the current leaders as traitors.

After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, the Communist Party under Deng Xiaoping repudiated revolutionary Maoism and embarked on the path toward a socialist-capitalist economic model that has led to the prosperity in China today.

However, Maoism did not vanish. The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) was founded in 1984 and included the Communist Party of Peru (also known as the “Shining Path”).

Recently, the Chinese “Maoist” Communist Party thought they had a leader in Bo Xilai because of the crackdown on crime in Chongqing until Bo had thirty members of the Maoist Party arrested and locked up.  Source: Serve the People

China’s last Maoist village

Then there is the Maoist Communist Party of Nepal that formed a coalition government in Nepal in 2009, which collapsed a few months later as different rebel factions fought with each other. The Maoist’s goal was to turn Nepal into a Marxist Republic. Source: Nepal Assessment 2010

In India, there is an ongoing Naxalite-Maoist rebellion against the democratic government.

The Maoist influence in India comes from the lack of progress to end starvation among rural Indians, who have had no improvement in their lifestyles for decades. See: Naxalite-Maoist insurgency

In the US, the Black Panthers (1967) were a militant Maoist organization. In Paris in 1968, the National Liberation Front, another Maoist group, caused street combat.

Maoism, known as Mao Zedong thought, is a variant of Marxism derived from the teachings of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong. 

Maoism was widely applied as the political and military guiding ideology in the Communist Party between 1949 and 1976, which led to the horrors of the Cultural Revolution.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.