Ling Shiao: Why Beijing caved to local bosses in Chen case

Ling Shiao is an associate professor in SMU’s William P. Clements Department of History and an associate in SMU’s John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies. Professor Ling specializes in the history of social and intellectual movements in modern China. Her column was recently published in the May 10, 2012, edition of The Dallas Morning News:


Linyi, the locus of the Chen Guangcheng controversy that put the United States and China on a collision course last week, invokes the image of poverty, isolation and obscurity. These are the qualities that shape the style of politics in a provincial backwater where local party bosses behave like dictators of their own realms, sometimes ignoring the directives from the central authority in Beijing.

Though blind since childhood, the rural rights activist Chen could find ways of advancing the cause of his fellow villagers by exploring discrepancies between Chinese law and local practices. With courage, perseverance and daring maneuvers, he has survived years of ruthless persecution by the Linyi authorities, and he ultimately triumphed. On the other hand, despite outcries on Chinese social media and years of critical attention from the Western press, Beijing has been blind on an issue that promised to eventually…

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