Last week, several blogs, especially those to the right, seized on a fascinating story of a bloody riot in the Chinese village of Huankantou as evidence of China’s being on the brink of internal collapse. The language was dire, and it wasn’t only the warblogger types who were making the claims. Angry Chinese Blogger did an excellent job chronicling the incident. He (she?), too, warned that there might be dire implications for the CCP.

The recent rise in unrest has Beijing concerned for a number of reasons, not least of all because the potential for isolated incidents of unrest to spread in a so called ‘domino effect’ by which news of a lax response to protests in one region might embolden protestors in another, or news of a heavy handed response might enrage others into action.

The presence of nationalist roots in violent anti-Japanese demonstrations is particularly worrying to Beijing.

Using nationalists to rally people against Japan has been a useful tool for China, drawing people towards a single unified external cause and away from domestic issues but, should nationalist elements feel that Beijing isn’t doing enough to pressure Japan, they could easily turn on Beijing. Using their organizational structure and support to form a political or physical opposition to the government.

So where do we stand now, a week later? According to the most recent article, the euphoria that came with the uprising in Huankantou has been replaced by something more akin to dread.

In driving off more than 1,000 riot police at the start of the week, Huankantou village in Zhejiang province is at the crest of a wave of anarchy that has seen millions of impoverished farmers block roads and launch protests against official corruption, environmental destruction and the growing gap between urban wealth and rural poverty.

China’s media have been forbidden to report on the government’s loss of control, but word is spreading quickly to nearby towns and cities. Tens of thousands of sightseers and wellwishers are flocking every day to see the village that beat the police.

But the consequences for Huankantou are far from clear.

Having put more than 30 police in hospital, five critically, the 10,000 residents should be bracing for a backlash. Instead, the mood is euphoric. Children have not been to school since Sunday’s clash. There are roadblocks outside the chemical factory that was the origin of the dispute. Late at night the streets are full of gawping tourists, marshalled around the battleground by proud locals who bellow chaotic instructions through loudspeakers….

But in Huankantou, villagers do not seem to realise that although they have won the battle, they may be far from winning the war.

Amid a crowd of locals beside a wrecked bus, one middle-aged woman won a cheer of approval by calling for the government to make the first move towards reconciliation.

“It’s up to them to start talking,” she said. “I don’t know what we would do if the police came back again, but our demand is to make the factory move out of the village [a polluting factory that was ruining farmers’ crops]. We will not compromise on that.”

I’ve always been of the school that for all the improvements in China, there is a huge groundswell of resentment, mainly fueled by corruption and poverty, that might be ignited at any time — but only under the right circumstances. When I first heard about this story, I felt a profound sense that this was not such a catalytic event: It involved too few victims, it wasn’t of a regime-threatening scale, and there were still too many positive things going on throughout China to soften rage against the regime (namely, the economy). I believe if and when the Big Event occurs that throws the CCP into life-threatening chaos, it will, as with most revolutions, be an economic event, like a failing of the banks, hyperinflation or deflation.

So is this story now dead in the water, or is it a sign of more massive riots and violence to come? Some of the warbloggers said they had it “on good authority” that we haven’t seen anything yet and that the CCP is indeed on the verge of collapse. That was last week, and now the story seems to have little life to it. So what did Huankantou mean? Tempest in a teapot or tragic foreshadowing of new and more lethal violence to come?

Update: Looking back at the original post that piqued my interest in this story, I have to wonder about its chief contention:

Huge riots are occurring, not just in the remote, impoverished west, but now in the wealthier coastal cities. At issue is corruption and impunity. And with the rise of mass communications and Internet connectivity, Chinese expectations about governance are rising. A billion people are getting sick of all the corruption and oppression they see around them.

The root of the problem is this: the government will not renounce unworkable communism as its philosophy. It says communism is its system but capitalism is its policy. That contradiction leaves the worst bureaucratic and political features of communism in place (you can’t get rid of anyone via ballot box, for one thing), while the growing private sector watches the horror from an increasingly capitalist framework. This is big news. Thomas explains that China’s repression is not a sign of its government’s strength, but its weakness. Read it here.

I just want to ask my friends in China, and those conected with China: IS THIS TRUE? Are huge anti-government riots breaking out across China with the backing of 1 billion peasants? And if so, is the ideology of capitalism versus communism at the heart of the protests, as the blogger claims? I’m just trying to separate the wheat from the chaff because, to my bemusement and amazement, some normally smart bloggers have been saying essentially the same thing as Publius.

Look, I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge it if it’s true, and I can’t say I’d be all that upset to see the CCP reap some of the misery its sown (if that in turn leads to a better system). But where is the proof?? I’ve heard of riots on and off in China for years, and this one was certainly more violent than most, but does that mean we are on the brink of the CCP’s collapse? For now, I have no choice but to say no, not because I’m picking sides but because the key finger-pointers, with Glenn Reynolds’ blessing, aren’t backing up the claims with anything resembling substance. And their attempt to portray it as a riot against the CCP for not renouncing communism is absurd. No one cares about that, as lon as there’s food on the table. Most peasants aren’t willing to die for communism vs. capitalism, only if their lives, health, wealth and well being are threatened.

The Discussion: 35 Comments

I’ve been following (and blogging) the Huakantou story…and then read this in today’s New York Times about more Japanese protests in Shanghai this weekend, where riot police basically let the march continue unhindered:

“…The lenience on Saturday provoked wry comments from many ordinary Chinese. “They say it is fine to denounce Japan, but the government must know that people have even more serious grievances against the state of affairs in our country,” said a man named Zhang, who declined to provide his full name.

Another man, a 23-year-old barber in central Shanghai, where several shops catering to Japanese were destroyed, said he had nothing against Japan or Japanese people. “People are taking part in this march because they aren’t allowed to protest anything else,” he said. “In your country, people are allowed to demonstrate freely, so something like this probably wouldn’t attract many people. Here we are never given a chance to protest, so everyone wants to see it for himself, to be there.”

What’s going to happen in China will happen. What these right-wing bloggers need to understand is that George Bush will have had absolutely nothing to do with it!

April 17, 2005 @ 6:34 pm | Comment

Running Dog’s commentary on the anti-Japanese riots in Japan is brilliant:

April 17, 2005 @ 6:44 pm | Comment

When it comes to China, what do you expect a US paper to say?

Their biased view is not just towards CCP, but the Chinese as a whole.

And don’t jump to a conclusion that Mr Bush has nothing to do here. Tell me who is encouraging Japan to remilarise itself and provoke China, South Korean and Russia in islands disputes?

Check what BBC says and compare it with CNN and New York Times.

April 17, 2005 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

And check out the comments left on BBC too.

One from China said:

“When we Chinese stand out to tell the world what we think, you say we are manipulated by the government. When we want to keep silence, you say we do not have human rights.”

April 17, 2005 @ 7:41 pm | Comment

BTW, I personally deplore the violence during the demonstrations.

April 17, 2005 @ 7:45 pm | Comment

I’m realy sorry for posting to the wrong thread, misled by the other lisa.

April 17, 2005 @ 8:00 pm | Comment

Bing, I love it when people stand up fpr human rights. Do you really think most people looked at last week’s riots and said, “Oh, how wonderful, the Chinese are demonstrating their love of human rights”? Or do you think they thought, “Wow, these guys are crazed! And so easy to manipulate!”

April 17, 2005 @ 8:08 pm | Comment

China’s other riots (Updated April 18th)

Note: This is expanding on previous coverage. The original post and earlier updates are below the fold, in chronological order. The Japan/China riots are covered in another post. Update April 18th When I first posted on the Huanxi riots I used Didi Tat…

April 17, 2005 @ 8:14 pm | Comment

whoah, how was I misleading?

Regarding my comment about Bush, I agree that he is pursuing a military alliance with Japan and that this is a bad thing. I was referring to the right wing blogosphere’s tendency to attribute any potentially democratic trends to Bush and his invasion of Iraq. In case there is any further ambiguity, I, a. disagree and b. think the Iraq invasion was a bad idea.

Hope that clarifies things.

April 17, 2005 @ 8:19 pm | Comment

I’d love to take you up on your offer and compare what the BBC has to say with that of CNN and the NYTimes, but I can’t. This country sees fit to prevent the world’s most respected news organisation from being accessed.

April 17, 2005 @ 8:59 pm | Comment

To answer your question. Demonstrations have been going on in Mainland China for the past decade. There were 58,000 reported demonstrations last year, and the only unusual thing about the demonstrations in Shanghai and in Huankantou is that they are being widely reported by the Western press.

Contrary to most of the bloggers, I don’t think that this is the “beginning of the end” for the Communist Party because demonstrations have become so frequent that the Party has gotten used to them. The basic understanding is that the demonstrators can demonstrate provided that they don’t cross red lines such as calling for the overthrow of the Communist Party or any fundamental political change. It’s pretty much understood that any demonstration that is directed at the political system (as opposed to local officials within the system) will not be allowed, and demonstrators are very careful to portray their demonstration as “legal” and “patriotic.” Also, the police generally don’t move in hard against demonstrations for the simple fact that doing so will be very, very stupid and turn a minor incident into another Tiananmen which the government does not want. The standard operating procedure is to wait until the demonstration is over, arrest a few key leaders and put them in jail for a few months, and basically give the demonstrators everything that they want. The “give the demonstrators what they want” part makes sure that people are no longer in an angry mood. The “throw a few people in jail” part is to keep people from pushing the limits the next time.

Personally, it’s things like this that make me rather optimistic about the future of China. People are pushing the limits, the government is responding. It’s a slow, messy process but over time, something like civil society is developing.

April 17, 2005 @ 9:46 pm | Comment

Joseph, I truly appreciate that comment and wish the bloggers who started this myth of the CCp’s demise could demonstrate even a fraction of your intelligence.

April 17, 2005 @ 9:52 pm | Comment

You know, back before the US invasion of Iraq, millions of people throughout Europe protested in the streets. At that time, many on the wacko right said similar things about the protesters: “They are being manipulated by the liberal media!” “They are tools of the French government, which just wants to protect its economic interests in Iraq!” blah blah blah. I’ve also heard a lot about the “blind rage” of “liberals” in the US lately.

There was a huge anti-Japanese protest in Hong Kong today organized by the anti-CCP democratic elements there. Shouldn’t we all be screaming about how they are being manipulated by their parties? Shouldn’t we be asking them to look at their own distorted Hong Kong textbooks before saying anything to the Japanese? (and yes, their texts are distorted — generally ignoring what Japan did to HK during WWII). See the NY Times today if you doubt it.

This whole story is being cast in a familiar light:
– the CCP masterminds everything that takes place in China.
– Chinese are all brainwashed: if they speak out, they are ignorant tools of the party. If they don’t speak out, they are oppressed.

People are really losing sight of the basic facts of this case here and have shifted everything to the CCP. A certain ultra-nationalist faction in Japan wants to whitewash Japanese history. The Japanese government is supporting this in some small measure. Chinese are mad at that. The CCP is trying to find a way to use the issue to its benefit. End of story.

We can go off on a tangent now with all of the kettle-pot arguments and the general “yeah I know, but the CCP is evil! Evil, I tells ya!” argument. But that just masks the real issue and clouds your judgment.

BTW, I think it is ridiculous that the police are allowing the protests to turn violent.

April 17, 2005 @ 10:01 pm | Comment

I’ve been thinking about how to summarize my thoughts on this whole issue, but I think Joseph above did it better than I could myself.

April 17, 2005 @ 10:18 pm | Comment

Taking the gist of the apparent right-wing type comments on China as mentioned here, I would say they are wishful thinking about the eminent demise of the CCP. What I see in the urban areas of China and the urbanites is that China is getting better making their lives better. I think corruption and thievery for most Chinese is not their concern unless it affects them directly. So what if the CCp members are stealing from the banks, the big companies, it is not my money that is being lost. The CCP and the government is making things better and fast for these people.

For the farmers or the underclass, what can they do, but protest through the system or causing isolated protest activity as there is no overall leader that can bring all the dissatisfaction into a mass of power to force adjustments. Most unlikely that a national or regional leader for the rural population would be allowed to develop in the present political circumstances. This might change and quickly, if the students decide enough is enough about corruption and the plight of the farmers (remember many of the university students come from these rural small town families and very well could be learning about justice and fairness and the difference between the words of the Chinese constitution and the actions of the officials) and decide to agitate for faster movement on dealing with official corruption and the rural plight.

April 17, 2005 @ 11:16 pm | Comment

Good comment by Joseph. I too doubt very much that we’re looking at a “beginning of the end” situation, unless you’re talking about a 20 year process. Maybe 10 years under the right conditions … but history really looks like repeating itself. Personally, I see China in something like the 1880/90s in terms of the downfall of the Qing government. The only thing missing are some humiliating military defeats. In the 19th Century, the crucial one was the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5, and one of the costs was the loss of Taiwan. I could see that happening again … a military clash with the Japanese, eventuating in another “loss” of Taiwan. Situation in China? Sure, anger directed at the Japanese, but even more anger directed against their own government, who were regarded as traitors. “Nationalism”, as Sun Yatsen (Sun Zhongshen) defined it, meant expelling expelling the foreigners, and removing the Qing government.

Things I’ve heard from China … I get the impression that there’s soooo much anger boiling away among the people, especially in the north. At the moment it doesn’t have a political direction, and outbreaks can be defused in the manner Joseph describes … but that sooner or later someone or something is going to come along that provides a channel for the anger. Mao Zedong spoke of the power of the masses as a latent force until given ideological direction, and especially the uses that the landless/migrant community could be put to, if guided properly. The lessons are there, in plain text Chinese, for all the population of the PRC to read.

The communist government is safe for now, regardless of their ideology, because of one reason. At the moment people cannot imagine a better alternative. If you start to hear accusations against the government including words like “traitors”, that will be the genuine turning point. The pendulum will have swung, and will only gather speed. At that time, I recommend divesting yourselves of all investments in China, and any other emerging market. I predicted the Asian stock market crash of 1997, and moved all my funds out of the region … but had not realised that emerging markets in other regions would also be devastated as a result. Win some, lose some. Anyway, I’d welcome advice from anyone who has thoughts on which areas to put your money in the event of serious troubles in China.

April 17, 2005 @ 11:30 pm | Comment

Bing, I love it when people stand up fpr human rights. Do you really think most people looked at last week’s riots and said, “Oh, how wonderful, the Chinese are demonstrating their love of human rights”? Or do you think they thought, “Wow, these guys are crazed! And so easy to manipulate!”

My response:

Yes, people are saying both. Just the other day, in fct, i heard soeone say she was “proud” of the fact that her people could protest.

April 17, 2005 @ 11:40 pm | Comment

To be peace maker, I think the above post by doug has missed the point. The earlier quote was asking about foreign (non-Chinese) perspectives, and the response by Doug was about Chinese response. I suspect taht if you were both talking about the same thing, you’d be in agreement with eachother.

April 17, 2005 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

Just to tell you how odd things are in China. You can actually get some useful news from the Dongyang County website….

(I did a google for Dongyang)

The first few news items are about provincial officials calling up and asking “what the hell is going on?” There’s also a high level delegation from the Environmental Ministry who is visiting the town. The mayor of the city is also visiting the hospital in order to meet with people who were hurt in the protests.

April 18, 2005 @ 12:10 am | Comment

On second reading, its not clear to me if the mayor is visiting the police or the demonstrators. Part is that I can’t tell whether clearing illegal construction refers to the chemical plants or the booths.

In any case, there seems to be a huge amount of high level attention on this incident.

April 18, 2005 @ 12:41 am | Comment

Joseph, I liked one of your comments so much I swiped it and posted it (with your name of course). Hope this is cool blogger etiquette. Richard, I tried to figure out just how the hell trackback functions and failed miserably. But the intent was there!

April 18, 2005 @ 12:48 am | Comment

There are dozens of protests every day in Pearl River Delta factories and almost none of them are reported in the press anywhere. Sometimes they are large and violent. Sometimes they are so small that they could hardly be called protests. Sometimes they are manipulated by outsiders for financial shakedowns. Sometimes they are successful in achieving the goals of the people involved. But almost all of them have one thing in common: they are spontaneous single-issue protests that die down as soon as either the issue is resolved or the protestors realise it won’t be resolved in their favour.

There is almost never any solidarity between workers across factories (although it has happened). Protests are almost always about a single localised issue; i.e., almost never about the role of the government. For instance, workers might protest about late payment of wages, low payment of wages, excessive overtime (or too little overtime), poor food in the canteen, etc. These are not protests about the government or the Chinese state apparatus. These are protests to sort out a single problem.

Protests are not exploding across China. Most bloggers/journalists I’ve read commenting about protests have no benchmark by which to make that statement. There is no accurate benchmark. I’ve never had a satisfactory answer to the following question: Are we witnessing more protests or are they just being reported more frequently? My guess is that they are becoming more frequent, but as someone who actually follows this from on the ground and not through the Western press I still find it difficult to accurately judge whether they’re increasing.

The protests occurring now are not anti-government. They are expressions of dissatisfaction about all sorts of localised and specific situations. They might be expressions of dissatisfaction about local government decisions, but to call them anti-government is to inflate what’s happening. Whenever I talk to people who’ve been involved in factory protests they never ever talk about frustration with the government. In fact, they may be appealing to the government (or a higher level of government) to deal with the problem.

Go back to the Daqing oilfield protests in March 2002 to see an example of this. Does anyone writing today about protests actually remember this? In March 2002, up to 100,000 laid-off oilfield workers launched the biggest protests seen for years in China. The government sealed off the whole area was sealed and arrested leaders. People started talking up the CCP’s demise. And of course you all recall how the CCP fell in 2002.

The problem was that the people protesting weren’t angry with the CCP. It was unfortunate that very few pundits and journalist bothered to ask them what they were really angry about. It was about SOE bosses stealing assets and failing to pay workers their legal redundancy entitlements. But if you listened to the Western media, you’d have thought these guys were calling for the overthrow of the state. They weren’t. Protesting workers actually put their faith in the national government to sort out the local government officials and their cronies who they perceived as the problem.

There’s so much guess work here that it beggars belief. Apart from a handful of people, nobody is actually interested in what Chinese protestors are angry about. Too many people are projecting their own beliefs onto the protests and seeing what they want to see. Some pundits might be very surprised if they talked to protesters: they might discover, for instance, complete loyalty to the CCP.

April 18, 2005 @ 12:49 am | Comment

It seems from the Dongyang City government website that the demonstrators got construction on the chemical plant stopped while people from the provincial government environment bureau investigate.

April 18, 2005 @ 12:52 am | Comment

Thank you, Joseph. This demonstrates my point above perfectly. Locals want a higher level of government to intervene and solve the problem. This is not an anti-government backlash.

April 18, 2005 @ 12:58 am | Comment

I remember there was an international poll conducted a couple of years ago regarding people’s feelings toward their own government and the nation whose citizens had the highest degree of confidence in their government was China.

There certainly is a lot of anger about corruption and abuse of power among the common people in China but this does not mean people are angry at “the government” in Beijing. To make an analogy with US politics, if someone is a victim of police brutality or have been treated unfairly by some government agency like the IRS, that person might be angry at the police or the IRS. You can call that anger against “the government” but no one would call that anger against democracy and capitalism. In fact, such a person is very likely to write to his congressman or “the government” to get his grievances addressed.

Just like Americans don’t see the US government as a monolithic entity — there’s a difference between the local police, the IRS, and the US Congress — Chinese people also don’t look at their government as a monolithic entity; people could be protesting against corrupt officials and yet be fully supportive of the government and would in fact look to the government to take actions against the corrupt officials that they’re protesting against.

April 18, 2005 @ 2:38 am | Comment

Another thing that haven’t been pointed out is that many of the protests occurring in China are happening because people are angry at the effects of market reforms, namely the dismantling of communism and it’s accompanied institutions such as State-owned enterprises with their iron rice bowls, guaranteed pensions, housing, medical, and education benefits, etc. It’s silly to say that these people are going to bring down the communist system because these are the people that wants to bring back the communist system that the CCP has discarded.

April 18, 2005 @ 2:49 am | Comment

I guess the ‘biased’ Western media didn’t have to love the Crystal Night just because it shows the real side of Germans at that time.

These days I feel China is like Thomas Friedman’s Middle East, where every right thing has to be done for a wrong reason. It’s certainly a right thing to reveal the ugly face of Chinese nationalism, so whatever the reason that started it probably is not that important.

April 18, 2005 @ 4:29 am | Comment

About the non-monolithic nature of the Chinese government. This gets illustrated perfectly with the Dongyang protests. We have here at least five different levels of government (village, township, city, regional, provincial), the public security bureau, several economic ministries, and the environmental bureau. There are also people’s congresses and the party at each level. Each of these different organizations have different people, and many of them may have interests that collide with each other.

Now if the people in Dongyang started to say “down with the CCP” they would be faced with the entire structure of the government against them. But they didn’t. Their protest was based on the premise that what the local government was doing was illegal, and as such they can and are getting help from some bureaus. And the Dongyang situation is far from unique except for the fact that it was covered in the New York Times. These sorts of protests are happening constantly, and they actually strength the central government in some ways as they force enforcements of the laws that Beijing pass over the hands of local officials.

Also, I have the strong feeling that if someone were to interview the local officials and hear their side of the story, I suspect they would come across looking much less bad. Local finances are a mess in China.

One other thing, driving off Chinese police is much less difficult than it might first appear. One thing to keep in mind is that most Chinese police do not carry side arms, and are undertrained and undermotivated.

Something that is interesting is to look at the pictures of the Shanghai demonstrations and compare what the equipment the riot police had with what would be available to police say the police departments of New York City or Los Angeles. Also you might want to compare the age of the people standing in front of the consulate with your typical police officer in the United States.

A lot of what people are interpreting as tacit Communist approval is more likely explainable by the fact that Chinese police are not set up to do riot control very well, and the police that were there were basically too busy trying to keep the demonstrators from storming the consulate to be able to do anything else.

April 18, 2005 @ 6:42 am | Comment


I find your initial comment to be incredibly ignorant.

The US media may be against the CCP, but the people of China too?

Give me a break. That’s what the Chinese government would like for you to think though, isn’t it?

April 18, 2005 @ 10:46 pm | Comment


I find your last comment to be very interesting and it’s also something that I had never really given much thought to, but it makes a lot of sense.

April 18, 2005 @ 10:52 pm | Comment

Joseph, with regards to your last comment, I would compare it to a classic situation that has occurred in many different historical situations … the idea of evil local officials, and the good king who doesn’t know what’s going on. The people’s frustrations are targetted at the lower officials, while they retain their loyalty to the state. The classic case in China is the way everyone blamed Mao’s wife etc during the Cultural Revolution … and the good Chairman wasn’t to blame. This kind of reasoning is all very good for the government in power, but if it comes about that a large number of people start to conclude that they’re all as bad as each other … that’s another “turn of the pendulum” moment.

April 19, 2005 @ 12:23 am | Comment

Just like Americans don’t see the US government as a monolithic entity — there’s a difference between the local police, the IRS, and the US Congress — Chinese people also don’t look at their government as a monolithic entity;

I’m not sure if this is another attempt to equate the political systems in 2 nations, but anyways it’s seriously flawed.

Americans don’t see their government as a monolithic one because it is not. Power is dispersed among the three branches and federal and state and local level, and American voters know it by involving themselves into the process.

In the China case, well, when you own the entire country with undisputable authority, without any election or political alternative, you own all the problems. There are different special interests and local factions within CCP, but when you insist on one-party dictatorship, Chinese people have a good reason to view CCP in a monolithic fashion. Those petitioners or shang4fang3zhe3, who travel to the capital with the hope to have their grievance heard, only to find themselves beaten up and rounded up, speak a great deal of the very nature of this universally oppressive governance.

April 19, 2005 @ 3:50 am | Comment

About the petitioners. I’ve never seen any sort of study that explores how successful they really are. One problem is suppose a petitoners gets everything that they want and are happy. They go home, and you don’t see them again. I do have a strong suspicion that petitioners do tend to be far more successful than gets portrayed in the Western media. One related statistic is that about 20% of the cases filed under the Administrative Litigation Law get decided successfully for the plantiff, and often the suit gets dropped out of court because the plantiff is obviously going to win.

I’ve generally stopped making too detailed predictions about the future because of lack of information. For example, I don’t have a good sense of how angry peasants really are, also its really hard to turn rural feeling into mobilization. Finally, once you have things figured out, they change. In 1989, for example, the rural areas were the one’s that were most supportive of the Communist Party while the urban areas were most opposed. 2004, things are different. Also, historical analogies can be very misleading if you aren’t aware of the differences.

April 19, 2005 @ 6:09 am | Comment

One other thing. There is a reason why demonstrations tend to be “single issue” and that involves where the “red lines” are. The government is very tolerant of single issue demonstrations which don’t challenge the basic system, but if you try to organize then you’ll find yourself in big trouble very quickly. It’s fine to demonstrate for better wages and working conditions at one factory, but if you start demonstrating for better wages in general, you will run into problems. Similarly, demonstrations calling for enforcement of laws are o.k. Demonstrations calling for changing the laws themselves aren’t.

My personal feeling is that they system worked pretty well to keep the party in power. These single issue demonstrations tend to get out a lot of the anger and also put pressure on the government to change things, but they don’t seriously threaten the party. Also, its much more efficient. The party can’t put everyone in jail, but by drawing the lines where it does, it only has to worry about key organization people. The other thing that the party tends to do with people who are organizers is that they also try to co-opt them into the system. (There was an article in the New York Times about a protest movement in Anhui. The former leader of the movement is now a local Party secretary.)

The system will be stable for the next year. As far as the long term stability, who knows?

One more thing…. As far as the question of where to put your money if the Chinese economy collapses. Guns and gold. At this point the Chinese economy is so linked with the world economy, that if it goes down, it will take the American economy down with it.

China is financing a huge fraction of the American budget deficit and is plowing a large fraction of its foreign reserves into American mortgage backed securities (ever wonder why interest rates are so low?). Pretty much every major American company does business in China, and most supply chains go through China.

So if China goes under, there’s really nowhere safe to hide.

April 19, 2005 @ 7:17 am | Comment

Bah, China’s economy can collapse and the US economy will barely notice. In fact, producers will benefit.

Freedom and democracy are the right of every human being. Sooner or later the Chinese people will demand what is theirs.

May 17, 2005 @ 11:19 am | Comment

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