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David Wertime

Prominent Economist Returns to Weibo, Says China Needs New Social Order

Han Zhiguo

He’s back! The outspoken and social media-savvy economist Han Zhiguo (@韩志国) left Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, on February 21, 2012. At that time, he penned a parting shot (translated here) that made clear his departure was anything but voluntary. 

But on June 17, Han returned to his 3.8-million-plus followers with these words: “How has Sina Weibo lasted up until now? What the heck is Sina doing this year?” {{Ch1}}[[Ch1]]新浪微博走到今天,原因到底在哪里?在这一年间,新浪到底在干什么?[[Ch1]] 

Since then, Han has resumed tweeting in a manner as prolific, and dark, as before. But his latest tweet caught our attention. With recent hand-wringing about an economic slowdown, it’s perhaps fitting that Han has chosen this Friday to issue this sharp critique of China’s system:

“China needs an entirely new social order. Patronage of bigwigs; layer after layer of dependence; the dilution of human rights; ignoring rule of law; these are the most obvious characteristics of a society ruled by individuals [as opposed to a society ruled by law]. This is the root of the inability to progress and to build a democratic system ruled by law. As long as power is at the center, it inevitably forms a distribution of administrative power and personal dependencies where might and power replaces human rights and runs amok.” {{Ch2}}[[Ch2]]【 中国需要一种全新的社会秩序 】 攀龙附凤、层层依附、淡化人权、漠视法治是人治社会的显著特点,这是民主与法治难以推进和建立的制度根源。以权力为本位,就必然形成层层行政支配和人身依附,威权就会取代人权而横行无忌。[[Ch2]]

Han shared this image days ago, which appears to summarize his view of much of China

Then comes the money line:

“Reform has gone on for 30 years now, but the system is far from balanced. China needs a completely new social order.” {{Ch3}}[[Ch3]]改革已走过30多年,但制度制衡却遥不可及。中国,需要一种全新的社会秩序。[[Ch3]]

It’s reminiscent of Han’s February 21 farewell note, where he noted China’s lack of progress on free speech after 30 years of reforms. Will it catch the attention of censors? Or does its provenance on a Friday night (when Weibo users, including censors, tend to relax) make it less likely to get noticed?

Tea Leaf Nation will keep its dear readers up to speed on Han’s online fate. For now, let us just say to Mr. Han: You’ve been missed.

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David Wertime

David is the co-founder and co-editor of Tea Leaf Nation. He first encountered China as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2001 and has lived and worked in Fuling, Chongqing, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He is a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society and an associate fellow at the Truman National Security Project.
  • Archie

    I’m curious about the part where he says , ”
    these are the most obvious characteristics of a society run by men.” Does he mean the gender “male” or does he mean “men” in terms of the outdated usage, of people. If it is the former, is he suggesting reforms need to be driven by a more female-centric approach? 

    • tealeafnation

      Hi Archie, good question, it’s an ambiguous translation, isn’t it? It refers to “people” not “men” specifically (although a look at China’s leaders shows it’s still a country run mostly by men). The contrast Han is making in his tweet is between “rule by individual people” (人治) and “rule by law” (法治). We’ll try to clean it up to make it clearer. Thanks for reading!

  • Archie

    I’m curious about the part where he says , ”
    these are the most obvious characteristics of a society run by men.” Does he mean the gender “male” or does he mean “men” in terms of the outdated usage, of people. If it is the former, is he suggesting reforms need to be driven by a more female-centric approach? 

    • tealeafnation

      Hi Archie, good question, it’s an ambiguous translation, isn’t it? It refers to “people” not “men” specifically (although a look at China’s leaders shows it’s still a country run mostly by men). The contrast Han is making in his tweet is between “rule by individual people” (人治) and “rule by law” (法治). We’ll try to clean it up to make it clearer. Thanks for reading!