Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How to get ahead in Chinese politics

Apparently a civil servant in China has published a self-help book for would-be apparatchiks, explaining the secret unexplained rules you need to get along.

Except now they're not unexplained, or secret.

It's strange stuff, if you believe the South China Morning Post; signing you name vertically means you believe what you're signing, and horizontally means you don't; depending on the punctuation you add, you're either instructing your minions to follow out the instructions or to file your memo in the recycling bin.

If the Dread Punctuation Secrets weren't enough, this not-at-all-anonymous chap has also named his boss and all the other people he's worked with, which makes me wonder if

(a) he's terribly brave,
(b) terribly bonkers, or
(c) the whole thing is a complicated put up job.

After all, if this is how you think you're meant to do corruption, you come over more slapdash and incompetent than anything else. What if the local party boss comes in to the office with a hangover and signs something downwards rather than horizontally without meaning to? Or if decisions about where to apply tarrifs are determined by counting up how many semi-colons are in the monthly announcement of manganese production statistics?

That just suggests the People's Republic must be very honest, because they aren't very good at not following rules and being sneaky. And look, even when they try and have covert plans, they've only gone and published them!

... But am I fooled? Or does my tinfoil hat allow me to block out the mind control beams emanating from Guangzhou, and see that this is just a diversion from a much more complicated pork-barrel and protectionism scheme, involving the use of specific colours of crayons at children's parties, scrawling your name diagonally, and using "mandarin" when you should say "satsuma"?

The truth is out there, people.

Probably knocking on the window, because it can't find its keys again.


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