Why Shaming Has Lost Power in China

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Why has it taken so long for China to ban public shaming of criminal suspects?

Hall of Shame

Interesting set of articles and contributions today in the International Herald Tribune on public shaming of criminals in China. Having spent the last 30 years engaged deeply with Chinese on all levels of society I wanted to comment briefly before I start my day early (so I don’t feel shame at letting my company and employees down by not working 16 hour days).

It is clear from the articles and for anyone who has spent time in China on the streets, in the factories, and engaged with the government that shame, family, and “face” influence many daily decisions and activities. It is also very clear China is changing rapidly. With 80,000+ legal street protests each year the Chinese are taking their issues to the street and to the internet.

What’s interesting is the apparent contradiction of Chinese sensitivity to foreigners criticizing it and the same Chinese ability to publicly shame alleged Chinese criminals. Gordon Chang and Jerome Cohen make excellent points on this matter.

Mr. Cohen asks: “What about their patrons and pimps and the corrupt police who will let them work again as soon as the “strike hard” campaign is over?” Yea what about those guys? They’re going to get away with it because money buys some form of varying protection in all societies. We might just as well ask how did Bernie Madoff get away with it? Money, political contacts, and a facade of decency. Don’t get me wrong I completely agree with Mr. Cohen’s question and implication that China as well as other countries need to treat the “have’s” the same as the “have nots”.  But also remember China is a country where they quickly try and execute high level economic criminals (Bernie Madoff would have been gone in 90 days) and the same for high level corruption. Just remember the tainted milk scandal and the lead paint in the toys scandal. You wouldn’t want to be one of those guys in China. Better to steal $100 million in America.

It’s easy to sit in the comfort of our suburban American homes (at least before the foreclosure) and critique China or any other country. But remember most citizens and folks want the same thing worldwide: home, family, food, medical care, schooling, and a good job (I might add a glass of good wine and a little love to that). The 2000 members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (like our Congress) are certainly starting to debate these and other important issues more openly and working diligently to move their country foward. Watch for more direction from Beijing on these type matters as China continues to steamroll it’s way to world power next to the USA.

China will continue to improve but in fits and starts making some steps backwards then forwards. I believe the ultimate change will come when farmers ally with students over a regional issue and use mobile and internet technology to rise in protest. Meanwhile keep glued to the news and watch China and the world continue to change in drastic and sometimes better ways.

Brent Reynolds

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