原文：China’s repressive new rulers
媒体上少许自由的批评，帮助当权者增添了耀眼的虚名。而纸面上的法律和貌似正当的程序则赢得了海外的称赞并刺激了国内经济。因此政治上的宽松将会持 续一段时间，这种宽松被称为“北京的春天”。而在这之后总是一个政治的寒冬。但是直到最近，在每一个新的周期里，春天似乎更加的温暖，而寒冬则不那么刺 骨。当中国已走向开放，西方人士有足够理由与之做生意。他们相信更多的经济开放必然会导致更多其它领域的开放。
数十名相关人士被拘留，现在更面临刑事指控。另一些人则面对不同类型的骚扰，包括殴打和软禁。但严冬越发的肃杀了。自今年2月以来，中国的一些顶级 辩护律师已经失踪。为村民权利和环境而奔走的活动人士面临镇压。博客作者们已被围捕。在北京，一个大型地下（即非国家）教会的成员们被禁止在其居所内集 会，当他们试图在外面进行礼拜时遭到逮捕。
怀疑的第二个原因是镇压的持续时间。从事后来看，镇压始于2008年西藏骚乱后所导致的严厉反应。从那时起，2008年晚些时候的北京奥运会和 2010年的上海世博会，这两件“盛事”有可能为即将崛起的中国充当了表演舞台。它们使当局有机会向世界展示更加自信的一面。不过，对于盛事期间有可能令 政府尴尬的人员，当局都会毫不客气的对付他。为了和谐，数万底层民工被迫离开北京。直言不讳的活动人士则被消失了。
甚至自然灾害也会引发镇压。艾先生与当局的第一次严重对抗就是在2008年四川地震后，他试图列出所有在地震中遇难的学生名单，这些学生的死因可能 是由于腐败的豆腐渣工程。考虑到包括收紧互联网审查和钳制公众辩论在内的所有现象，最近对持不同政见者的镇压行动肯定是自1989年天安门事件以来最为严 重的。
怀疑政治宽松的第三个理由在于镇压方式。即使是在天安门事件后，镇压行动也还有个正当程序做做样子。现在连这种借口也不需要了。人们被任意的拘留然 后消失。艾先生自从被绑架之后尚未听到他的消息。暴力是计划的一部分。在2009年艾先生被便衣暴徒殴打后进行了脑部手术。外国记者们受到骚扰，其规 模是从天安门事件以来所未见的。当局以定义模糊的“国家安全”当作挡箭牌来拘捕人们。对于当局认准的“麻烦制造者”，如艾先生，政府说，“法律不是挡箭 牌。”
西方观察家往往将镇压形容为对潜在威胁的过度反应，但也许中国的肉食者们了解得更清楚。的确，并没有沸腾的群众准备随时推翻这个政权。但是，在一个 幅员辽阔的国家，有许多人心怀不满，从愤怒的博主到失业的毕业生到被剥夺财产的村民。政府完全有能力对这些人分而治之。但如果这些怨气不断凝聚，那将代表 一支强大的力量。尤其是在经济增长放缓条件下，当局出手宜早不宜迟。
中国的许多新高层来自“太子党”，即毛泽东时代的革命贵族家庭。其中有些人掌控肥缺，这使他们有意加强党对经济和社会的控制。另一部分人则使用他们 的意识形态血统提倡一种新毛派的做法，其中包括无视法制。在系统内，对日益坐大的特权阶层有许多忿恨，镇压可以用来拔掉反对派别。中国大地将是一片污秽和 龌龊。
China's repressive new rulers
The vindictiveness of China’s rulers betrays their nervousness
Apr 14th 2011 | from the print edition
LIKE so much else under Heaven, repression in China has often seemed to go in cycles. Every now and then it has suited the country’s leaders to relax their steely grip on the country and allow a modicum of political liberty.
Freer criticism in the media has helped give the party a veneer of credibility. Lip-service to the law and due process has won plaudits overseas and boosted the economy at home. So a thaw would set in for a while, a “Beijing spring”. A freeze would always follow. But, until lately, in each new cycle the springs were seeming warmer and the freezes not quite so harsh. When the country was starting to liberalise, Westerners justified doing business with China on just such grounds. More economic openness would surely lead to more openness of other kinds.
The latest freeze casts this widespread hope into doubt, for three reasons. The first is the scale of the crackdown. Ai Weiwei, China’s best-known artist and dissident, who was detained at Beijing airport on April 3rd, is only the most notable figure to be caught by it. Calls on the internet for a “jasmine revolution” have prompted armed police and plain-clothes goons to descend in huge numbers on public places to stop people from “strolling”, as a veiled form of protest.
Dozens have been detained and now face criminal charges in relation to these inchoate calls. Others have faced different kinds of harassment, including beatings and house arrest. But the freeze runs deeper. Since February some of the country’s top defence lawyers have vanished. Activists for villagers’ rights and the environment have faced repression. Bloggers have been rounded up. Members of a big underground (ie, non-state) church in Beijing, stopped from meeting in their usual building, were arrested as they tried to worship outside.
A second reason for doubt is the duration of the crackdown. With hindsight, it began after Tibetan riots in 2008 drew a harsh response. Since then, two events, the Beijing Olympics later that year and the Shanghai World Expo of 2010, might have served as coming-out parties for a rising China. They offered the regime the chance to show the world a more confident face. Yet both were accompanied by harsh treatment of anyone deemed likely to embarrass the government. Tens of thousands of unwashed migrant workers were forced out of Beijing for lowering the tone. Outspoken activists were kept out of sight.
Even natural disasters have triggered repression. Mr Ai’s first serious run-in with the authorities came when he attempted to account for all the schoolchildren killed during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, many as a result of corrupt building practices. Taking in all its manifestations, which include tightened internet censorship and a stifling of public debate, the latest crackdown on political dissent certainly constitutes the worst since Tiananmen Square in 1989 and its aftermath.
A third reason to doubt the notion of gradual warming lies in the method of repression. Even the post-Tiananmen crackdown had a semblance of due process. Now such pretence is out of the window. People are picked up under arbitrary detention rules and then made to disappear. Mr Ai has not been heard of since being bundled away. Violence is part of the mix. Mr Ai needed brain surgery in 2009 after being beaten up by goons. Foreign journalists are being harassed on a scale unseen since Tiananmen Square. Vaguely defined “state security” is used as a reason to round people up. For perceived “troublemakers” such as Mr Ai, the government says, “no law can protect them.”
Western observers tend to describe the crackdown as a massive overreaction to perceived threats, but it may well be that China’s rulers know better. True, no seething mass stands ready to overthrow the regime. But in a vast country, many aggrieved people, from dispossessed villagers through unemployed graduates to angry bloggers, resent the state. The government is quite capable of handling each of these groups separately. But were those with grievances ever to coalesce, especially if the growth slows—as it will sooner rather than later (see article)—they would represent a potent force.
The view from Beijing, thus, is different to the view from abroad. Whereas the outside world regards China’s rulers as all-powerful, the rulers themselves detect threats at every turn. The roots of this repression lie not in the leaders’ overweening confidence but in their nervousness. Their response to threats is to threaten others.
Imminent political change may also play a part. Next year a crucial party congress will anoint a new generation of leaders, led by Xi Jinping, now the country’s vice-president, to take over the running of the country. Repression is the job of China’s powerful “security state”—the regular and secret police. Sensing rudderlessness at the top, it may be particularly inclined to flex its muscles now.
Many of China’s new leaders come from the “princeling” class, an aristocracy of families with revolutionary credentials from the days of Mao Zedong (see article). Some have lucrative positions which give them a financial interest in tighter party control over both the economy and society. Others use their ideological pedigrees to advocate a neo-Maoist approach, which includes scant regard for the law. There is plenty of resentment within the system at the growing power of this aristocracy, and repression can be used to defang opposition. A nastier China is the result.
In the short term at least, these troubling developments undermine the comforting idea that economic openness necessarily leads to the political sort. All the more reason, then, for the West to hold China to account. America and the European Union are right strongly to condemn Mr Ai’s detention, though it would have been better had they taken a stand sooner. Speaking out might just help constrain the regime’s behaviour. It will certainly give succour to those in China working bravely to create a better future.