New report details "mass unrest" in China
Last week, the Congressionally-created, bipartisan U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) released its 2011 Annual Report to Congress.
Here are a few items on labor abuse and political unrest in China:
Beijing depends on double-digit economic growth and strict authoritarian rule to maintain control over a geographically vast nation. Opposition parties are banned and senior government and corporate leaders are chosen by the Communist Party. Still, the Chinese Communist Party faces increasing protest from citizens outraged over government corruption, the failure of government regulators to protect the public from unsafe food, and by growing environmental degradation. Lower income workers are particularly harmed by increasing inflation. Farmers are harmed by illegal land seizures and are disadvantaged by the Hukou system of residential registration. Outbreaks of “mass unrest” have increased from 8,700 incidents in 1998 to over 120,000 in 2008, according to outside estimates.
China’s middle class was once thought to be a potential force for political reform. But surveys show that the middle class is more likely a force for stability, as long as the government meets their expectations for a higher standard of living. An urban-based real estate bubble would jeopardize this support for the government, however.
The public perceives the problem of official corruption to be acute. The central government in Beijing has worked to shift blame onto the provincial and local officials, sometimes allowing the news media to highlight specific government abuses, particularly in the cases of tainted food and accidents involving mass casualties. The Internet and social media are increasingly a factor in directing attention to instances of government misdeeds and abuse of power.
Income inequality and the perception of societal unfairness is gaining recognition among the public. Food inflation, which exacerbates the income and wealth gaps between urban and rural areas, is growing more acute. Food inflation precipitated the unrest that eventually led to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
The Communist Party and security agencies have sometimes responded to protests and dissidents with lengthy detentions and news and Internet censorship. Authorities in China were caught off guard by the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa known as the Arab Spring and reacted with a mass show of force to head off any pro-democracy demonstrations.
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