Super Girls, broadcast on Hunan TV's satellite channel, last year generated millions of text messages from television viewers strangely eager to participate in a public event that would result in one person being chosen over another. Wait, isn't that sort of like an election?
I attended a dinner recently at which a Hong Kong businessman expressed the view that the success of Super Girls was the result of the fact that mainland people cannot vote for their political leaders, and Super Girls in some way was a subconscious replacement for a political vote. A senior Chinese official also at the dinner shook his head and fiddled with his chopsticks. "I wouldn't agree," he said. "That is certainly not the only factor." Precisely. Case proven.
The other interesting angle to Super Girls is that CCTV is said to have demanded that it be stopped, that there be no 2006 edition of the show because it was proving too competitive to CCTV's programs. But the decision was later overturned because the authorities decided that stopping the show could have negative social and political implications for the party. It is fascinating to watch market forces gradually channeling China towards a different configuration. It all started in 1989. Once that occurred, the follow-on events were just a matter of time, including the next season of Super Girls on Hunan satellite TV.
A district of Shanghai has issued a series of instructions to officials working in local government offices, and as is so often the case, the realities of life are revealed through what is not allowed.
The Nanhui district list consists of phrases that officials are not permitted to use when dealing with members of the public. Having dealt with such local bureaucrats quite a number of times over the years, and having sat in police stations on occasion watching the flow of people and how they are handled by the responsible official on the other side of the counter, I can attest to the truth of this view.
"Procuratorate names 12 taboo phrases," said the headline in an official newspaper reporting on the development. The procuratorate said that it is determined to effect a reform of the way in which visitors are handled in government offices, "in order to individually empathize with our visitors, and in order to come across as having a more people-oriented approach." The result, it said, would be "a widespread improvement ? in sincerity and trust."
Those 12 "taboo phrases" in full:
1. No comment.
2. Be quiet, stop chattering.
3. I am not in charge of this, find someone else who can help.
4. You're asking me, who shall I ask?
5. It's on the wall, why don't you read it yourself?
6. Go somewhere else to complain, we do not deal with issues such as yours.
7. I explained things clearly last time, why are you here again?
8. You don't have any evidence, how can we help you?
9. There are so many cases here, you think yours is the most urgent?
10. I stand by my attitude, complain if you want.
11. Go somewhere else if you think they can help you.
12. Time's up, I have finished work for the day.