The First Monster

We are all jaded.  In the beginning we wrinkled our nose, and couldn’t believe what we saw, or heard, or read.   We nodded our heads in disapproval, and reminded ourselves how civilized we as a Western People truly are.   Than the more we walked the streets, and looked, and listened……and participated, we began to understand.   For instance, the “C” word.

One begins to come around to the idea that Corrruption is only a concept.   It is only a bad thing if you yourself have no opportunity to partake.   It’s only bad if you don’t get any.

Then you begin to wonder if corruption isn’t so bad for the economy after all.  It greases the wheel to the benefit of all.  With Corruption EVERYONE wins.   The seller is happy.  The buyer is satisfied.  The government is even content.  

 Now how is the government content?

The aim of the government is to ensure you have the proper environment for getting a job.  How you are compensated is up to you. 

Yet after one is compensated the goal of the government is than to ensure you spend as much of your money as possible.   Because at the end of the DAY an economy is only as successful as the amount of money it’s people is able to SPEND.   And Government’s are judged and compared by the success of their economy.    It’s all about the result and little about the means.


In this, the Gilded Age of Corruption within the Heavenly Kingdom, we now see it as the norm, rather than the exception.   Everyone partakes.  Teachers, policeman, low level officials.  The shock is gone.   And once the shock is gone, our disgust disappears as well.  And then we forget why we were even angry.

So it is easy to forget that once really not so long ago, there was a Time when rules meant something in China.   When arrogance, and a failing of the public trust had repercussions, and the insensitivity of the government towards the people’s expectations was not nearly as pervasive.  The story of Wang Shouxin is such a tale.   Many adjectives could be used to describe the Chinese in 1979.  Jaded was not one of them.   Nor was mistrust of the government.  China at the dawn of the Deng Xiaoping Era was perhaps like America circa pre Vietnam 1964.   Willing to put it’s trust in government to do the right thing. 

Wang Shouxin was executed in 1980 for stealing approx. 530,000 rmb.    In today’s dollars that’s $87k.   However, if a more realistic black mkt rate is factored in, the actual sum is surely much lower.   In 1990 my peak rate was 14:1.   Not even $40k usd.   Yet her story was the most outrageously documented incident of corruption up to then.   Further, she was initially only sentenced to prison, not to death.  Only the dogged work  and passion of a Chinese investigative journalist named Liu Binyan managed to get the case reopened.  Only then was she sentenced to death.  

What was Woman Wang’s crime?  She overpriced the selling of coal, and pocketed the difference between the State cost and her markup.  Simple.    She didn’t drive a car.  Didn’t own a house.   Didn’t have a passport.   And she didn’t have anyone killed.

Such was the sense of perceived injustice at that time, and the government’s harsh line on corruption, that the mere stealing of only $40, 000 could induce the government to sentence a person to death, to assuage the anger of the Chinese masses.

The bar has risen since than.

Perhaps no metric tells more how China has changed since 1979.

When “Boss Railroad”, Liu Zhijun and his brother bring home an estimated $50 million, and no one is executed, the story is complete.  Liu Binyan was outraged enough to write a book about Wang Shouxin, and her $40,000.  People or Monsters. And his book had the desired effect.  She was executed.   

When the “Boss Rail” story came out there was more curiosity than disbelief.   The sighs surely drowned out the rage.  People’s outrage has been overcome by an acceptance of inevitability, followed by curiosity at the size of the take.  Some are hyprocritical.   Those same people  that feign disapproval  themselves continue to participate in the orgy lest one leave his own morsel on the table for someone else.   No one is to be executed.     Even though he’s admitted to having people killed.  There will certainly be no freewheeling books written about the sordid story of Liu Zhijun.   


  1. Very good comment. One comment of my own in re the line that pre-Vietnam 1964 the American people were willing to put their trust in their government.

    Some of us are still convinced that the trust was justified. The decisions made then were made with what we knew at the time, and with a frame of reference set in the 1940s and 50s. The mistake was in believing that there could be such a thing as limited war.

    Beware of presumptions applies as much to your generation as it did to mine.


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