China’s Push for Stability Undermines Law, Sociologist Says

The Chinese government’s emphasis on maintaining stability has undermined rule of law in the country, leading local officials to “do evil,” Tsinghua University Professor Sun Liping said at a conference in Beijing today.

China has been moving away from the rule of law in the last couple of years as local officials push to enforce limits on childbirth and reach tax collection quotas, Sun, 57, one of the country’s best-known social scientists, told the Caijing Annual Conference in Beijing.

The attitude of local officials on the government’s one-child policy is “I just don’t want to see newborn babies, and I don’t care whatever you do to ensure the baby is not delivered,” Sun said.

Sun has publicized the rise of domestic incidents -- strikes, riots and demonstrations -- that are not made publicly available by the government. He delivered the comments two weeks after Xi Jinping took over as general secretary of the ruling Communist Party and vowed to crack down on corruption.

Under the previous party leader, Hu Jintao, and his security chief Zhou Yongkang, spending on internal police soared, passing the total spent on national defense in 2010. The government said in March that it planned to raise internal police spending by 11.5 percent this year to 701.8 billion yuan ($113 billion), more than the 670.3 billion yuan earmarked for national defense. The police enforce so-called stability maintenance.

The new ruling Politburo Standing Committee led by Xi was reduced to seven men from nine following this month’s 18th Party Congress, downgrading the post overseeing the security forces.

Mass Incidents

In 2011, Sun said that between 2006 and 2010 so-called mass incidents doubled to 180,000 a year. Xi, 59, studied for his doctorate in Marxist theory at Tsinghua while Sun served as an adviser for PhD students.

In another example of how local officials may ignore the law to meet their goals, Sun gave an example of a tax bureau chief who was told he’d be fired unless he raised revenues by 20 percent even though growth in the region was below that.

Hu was also criticized at the conference by Jiang Ping, a political science professor at China University of Political Science and Law. He said Hu had missed a “golden opportunity” to push ahead with political reform in his second term as the Communist Party’s general secretary, which began in 2007.

Hu has been “very disappointing” on the reform issue, Jiang said. He said China should create rules requiring officials to disclose their wealth.