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Scenes of contrition and political accountability in China….

Our collective attention turns increasingly toward China these days, and one can stumble across some pretty interesting media coverage. Some of the coverage is, of course, linked to the unexpected earthquake (see especially NPR’s coverage) — but most of the in-depth documentaries now (re)surfacing have been scheduled to coincide with the Olympics.

Case in point: “Morning Sun,” a PBS/Global Voices documentary originally aired several years ago that is now popping up on some channels (in the Boston area we are blessed with several WGBH channels, including WGBH World which is a constant source of current and quality replays of PBS news shows and documentaries). It is a history of the Cultural Revolution, and provides some fascinating insight into the politics that drives China today.

For example, it helps make sense of the front page story in yesterday’s New York Times that featured a picture of a local Communist Party official literally begging on hands and knees in response to shouting protesters/mourners. The caption states that the official is begging them to stop their protests, but the pose is strikingly similar to some pictures of the public humiliation of Party officials during the height of the Cultural Revolution.

There are all sorts of interesting questions about China’s political regime and political culture raised by both the documentary and the stories of current protests. Since I am obsessed with things “accountable”, I view this process of public contrition as a formidable accountability mechanism in a political culture in which (supposedly) other forms are suppressed. There are similar forms of accountability (e.g., truth and reconciliation forums, for example) that beg for comparison and analysis….

And then there is the story of the shoddy construction of those schools that so quickly collapsed during the earthquake — which is worth its own separate post….

May 29th, 2008 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments