Protests and demonstrations are taking place all over the US recently. To the mainland Chinese, the US is in a total mess. Some mainland Chinese academics asked me how American society is ruled. Of course, the US government and the Americans claim that they follow the rule of law. Most people from around the world, as well as the Chinese, will not deny this. In fact, they are striving to learn from the US — at the very least, they too want a society that upholds the rule of law.
One in every 300 Americans is a lawyer, while one in every 700 Americans is a doctor. The Americans also spend over one trillion dollars on legal fees each year.
The US’s so-called “rule of law” is the process of the US Congress enacting laws according to the needs of US elites and the police executing them. While the Americans have always said that China is a police state, the US is, in fact, the real police state. The Americans are just unaware of the truth.
America’s legal provisions are numerous and often superfluous. The average Joe would never know just how many laws there are in the US. Even the lawyers do not know. Thus, American lawyers specialise in the various tendrils of the law such as corporate law, criminal law, family law, federal law, state law, immigration law, tax law and residential association law. This is why there are so many lawyers in the US — double the number of doctors. One in every 300 Americans is a lawyer, while one in every 700 Americans is a doctor. The Americans also spend over one trillion dollars on legal fees each year.
When I taught at the Western Illinois University, an average of 120 students were arrested every weekend by these campus police for drug and alcohol abuse.
Vicious cycle of law enforcement
The more laws there are, the more law enforcers there needs to be. The US has many law enforcement officers belonging to many different units. The federal government has the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or agents mainly in charge of handling drug trafficking offences. Every state has its own state police, just like every county and district has its own county police and district police respectively. Every school has their own campus police as well — not security guards, but armed police who can arrest people and issue fines. When I taught at the Western Illinois University, an average of 120 students were arrested every weekend by these campus police for drug and alcohol abuse. I lived roughly five miles away from school then and would see an average of seven police cars to and from work every day.
One in every 30 Americans is locked in a detention centre.
With so many laws, police, and lawyers, there would inevitably be many criminals as well. While the US has less than 5% of the world’s population, it is home to 25% of the world’s prisoners. Additionally, ten million suspects are locked up in detention centres as they are unable to afford bail. According to American law, suspects are allowed to be released before their hearing upon payment of bail. Only the poor who are unable to pay, and the suspects who may escape are locked up in detention centres. One in every 30 Americans is locked in a detention centre. As there are simply too many criminals, US prisons are always laden with problems and trouble. Due to overcrowding, the US Supreme Court even ordered the early release of California prison inmates. There are also many private prisons in the US that incarcerate prisoners on behalf of the government.
In New York City, as much as US$170,000 is needed to imprison a single criminal.
For that matter, US prisons are a very profitable business. The average cost of imprisoning one criminal for a year is over US$50,000. In New York City, as much as US$170,000 is needed to imprison a single criminal. This is simply a bottomless pit — apart from large numbers of police officers that have to be hired, a huge number of high-technology equipment have to be bought as well. The highly-efficient police officers then arrest many offenders and more money would, in turn, be needed to incarcerate these criminals, forming a vicious cycle.
...none of my American students believed me when I told them that not only are there few police in China, they are unarmed and do not carry batons.
A kinder community policing system at the grassroots level?
At the same time, there is virtually no concept of community in American society. In China, on the other hand, grassroot organisations like the village committees and sub-district offices exist to solve the problems of the residents. Residents are also able to seek help from their work units. Due to the existence of these grassroot organisations, there are few police in Chinese society. The Americans do not know of this — none of my American students believed me when I told them that not only are there few police in China, they are unarmed and do not carry batons.
To my American students, it was also unheard of for Chinese courts and police stations to be without metal detectors. In 2007, a Beijing youth named Yang Jia killed six policemen and injured another four with a knife in Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau but was not shot dead immediately. When I recounted this case to my American students, they thought that I was lying and firmly refused to believe what they had just heard. This illustrates how thoroughly American youths and students have been brainwashed by American society — in their perspective, China is a police state while the US is a liberal state.
They think that the Chinese cannot be freer than the Americans. In actual fact, most Chinese farmers have never crossed paths with the police or the law before. In the Mao Zedong era, there were only approximately 30 policemen in a county with a population of millions, and most of them were civilians. The country was not managed by the police, but by community organisations instead. When someone committed a crime, community leaders first considered his motive, whether he was a first-time offender, and whether he could turn over a new leaf. In most cases, the offenders were not handed over to the police.
A good and healthy society should be one of few legal provisions, few police, few prisons, few lawyers, and few criminals.
According to field research I conducted in the villages of Shandong, Henan, and Anhui, over a period of more than a decade between the 1960s and mid-1970s, not a single criminal case was found in a village of 2000, and a commune of 40,000 to 50,000. It was not that there was no crime — people in the community just refused to treat people who committed crimes as criminals. They mostly educated the offenders, let them learn their lesson, and let them go as long as they resolved not to commit a crime again. They believed that incarcerating people did no one any good — it was instead harmful to the prisoner, the prisoner’s family, the community, and the country. Prisoners should not exist in a good and healthy community.
China began to learn from the US in the post-Mao Zedong era as some felt that China had adhered to the rule of man in the Mao Zedong era which was not as effective as the rule of law. I hope that after this period of “Black Lives Matter” protests in the US, advocates of the rule of law would come to their senses. A good and healthy society should be one of few legal provisions, few police, few prisons, few lawyers, and few criminals.
It now appears that American society has failed at the hands of the rule of law. How can a country managed by the police instead of community organisations succeed? In the wake of recent protests, I am not sure if the US will reflect on the situation and realise this problem.