How China's Leaders Steer a Massive Nation

Ma knew that he had succeeded in teaching the people a lesson. "The sad thing is when citizens don't say what they want to say. Taxpayers support this group of people, which is why they should perform their duties well."

The People Will Hold Government Accountable

The Chinese government has to get used to the idea that its people will be holding it accountable. The country is still filled with confidence. Chinese society has been shaped by the experience that everything was improving for everyone. This combination of economic growth and patriotism lends legitimacy to the regime, turning the people into a society of consumers and patriots.

But farmers, unemployed university graduates and the people in western China also want their share of success. President Hu Jintao himself has identified corruption, the opposite of good governance, as one of the greatest threats to party dominance. In the 2011 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, China was ranked 75th out of 183 countries. Beijing punishes people, even with the death penalty, but by pointing to the individual it seeks to divert attention away from the failings of the system.

Some are simply refusing to accept the deal that the Chinese government offers its citizens: We'll stay out of your private life if you stay out of politics on a large scale. Chinese civil rights activists are going to prison for values that most in the West take for granted. But some in the West also forget that voting rights, an independent judiciary and a democratic constitutional state are never only a means to an end, and never exist only to furnish results. Instead, they are values in their own right. Most Chinese are still satisfied with results, but they have to be good. A minority in China, however, wants more. Those are the people who are locked up for their opinions.

No government that does this can call itself a good government -- even if it delivers good results.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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