Chinese people stand up

Posted by Martyn

Don’t miss this great article in the Economist about the rapid growth in the number and scale of protests throughout China. The protests are not aimed directly at the CCP, people obviously have more sense than that. They are usually due to local grievances. However, these ‘local grievances’ keep China’s Ministry of Public Security more busy than anything else.

The party’s dilemma is that much of the unrest is a product of the rapid economic growth that it is so keen to maintain. The outlook of many urban Chinese has changed profoundly since the 1990s as a result of the privatisation of hitherto heavily state-subsidised housing. Anxious to protect their new assets, property owners have increasingly clashed with developers, and their government backers, who have been trying to cash in on the resulting boom by erecting shopping malls and luxury housing. The expansion of cities has fuelled clashes with peasants whose land is needed for construction.

Some argue that these mostly isolated protests, if handled sensitively, could help China maintain overall stability by providing people with a way of venting frustrations. But Mao Shoulong, at Renmin University of China in Beijing, says the unrest is a sign that China lacks channels for people to air discontent in a more orderly fashion. Widespread corruption and an increasingly conspicuous wealth gap fuel a contempt for officialdom that can easily erupt into the kind of class-based rioting that occurred in Anhui in June.

The article concludes by pointing out that both the unemployed and pensioners in China’s poorer areas make up the bulk of protesters. These two groups would be particularly hard hit during an economic downturn. As would an urban middle class faced with huge mortgages and declining property prices – a problem that China has not yet had to face.

The Discussion: 3 Comments

After reading the article, two things spring to mind.

1. The Chinese govt can keep the peasant protests in check because they are nearly always isolated and the local officials can call upon the local police to intervene.

2. China won’t have a major problem until such time when the middle class find cause to protest. The middle class are a lot different to semi-literate peasants. Anything that might piss them off would be more likely to spread.

That;s why the final point about the possibility of millions of people living in negative equity on their houses resonates. Can anyone here imagine the average Chinese person tolerating negative equity? I can’t. Also, judging by the rapid rise in prices in the property market, the negative equity could possibliy be huge.

October 2, 2005 @ 8:07 am | Comment

I don’t disagree with any of the analysis, but I do wonder how accurate is the constant refrain that these protests are not political, are not linked, and do not involve other elements in society. How can one explain the initial ‘success’ of the Taishi protest without the work/advice/leadership provided by outsiders such as lawyer Guo Feixiong or professor Ai Xiaoming? Or the rebellious village leaders in Edward Cody’s 12 Sept story in the WaPo about the polluted Chaoshui River? Or the protests in Meishan township, Xincheng county and Huaxi village in Zhejiang against polluting factories, all involving disgruntled CPC cadres in instigating the unrest.

October 2, 2005 @ 8:02 pm | Comment

A Voice should be heard and taken note of

The harder they try to use police and army forces to handle this problem,the more eagerly they can’t wait to narrow their social basis by damaging common people’s interest and distancing themself from the public, the earlier they are going to face th…

October 3, 2005 @ 8:18 pm | Comment

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