Massive riot in northwestern China
Does Economic Meltdown Threaten Chinese Regime?
Can the Chinese market save us? Can the Chinese government dominate us? We trim and blend two 2008 articles, on from the Los Angeles Times of Nov 18 on rioting and the other from Newsmax, apologists for the elite, of Nov 23, a summary of recent events.
By John M. Glionna and by sources for Newsmax
Massive riot in northwestern China
A crowd of 2,000, many of whom had come to petition government officials over the loss of their homes and land, rioted in northwest China's Gansu province, torching cars and attacking a local Communist Party office, injuring 60 officials.
At one point, rioters met a surging wall of armed police officers with a hail of rocks, bricks, bottles, and flowerpots. The crowd later confronted police with iron bars, axes, and hoes as they tried to hijack a fire truck and smashed windows and office equipment in two government buildings.
The violence, one of the most marked instances of social unrest to grip China in recent months, was sparked by government plans to relocate the city of Longnan's administrative center after May's devastating earthquake, according to the Xinhua news agency.
State-run press has reported on numerous pickets and demonstrations that have broken out across China in recent weeks, including a two-day strike by disgruntled taxi drivers in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing.
Earlier this month, a crowd of 400 in the southern boomtown of Zhenzhen threw stones and set fire to a police car after officers tried to stop a motorcyclist at a checkpoint. The cyclist fled and was killed when he hit a lamppost.
In June, 30,000 people demonstrated in the southwestern province of Guizhou, setting fire to cars and the local Communist Party building following rumors that officials had tried to cover up the death of a teenage girl.
Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong manager of research at the Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights group, said "I don't think we're even close to seeing the real impact of the global financial crisis on Chinese society.”
Chinese economists say that rising wages throughout China have led many laborers to expect better working conditions and residents to demand more accountable government.
Hu Xingdou of Beijing Institute of Technology said, "There is no channel to allow people to express their will. They lack the right to speak, the right to organize and unionize to represent their interest, therefore they can only use an irrational way by demonstrating or rioting to solve problems."
Government officials have recently began to forego a decades-old policy of swift repression to meet public demonstrations. Following a two-day strike, Chongqing taxi drivers were able to air their grievances in a three-hour meeting with government officials that was available online across China.
And officials in Zhenzhen moved quickly to counteract claims of police violence following the motorcyclist's death -- promising compensation of nearly $30,000 to the victim's family.
Rosenzweig said, "Fewer labor leaders have been detained and prosecuted for criminal offenses. There's much more emphasis on trying to mediate disputes."
Economic Meltdown Could Threaten Chinese Regime
After years of stupendous economic growth, China is suffering a downturn that has sparked widespread labor protests and could ultimately threaten the Chinese regime.
Some 10,000 factories have closed in the Pearl River Delta, a manufacturing center in southern China, and angry workers -- many owed back pay -- have taken to the streets in protest. In one incident, around 300 suppliers and creditors attacked a factory whose owners had vanished.
Writing in The New Republic, Joshua Kurlantzick observes, “For years, the Beijing regime has stayed in power using a basic bargain with its citizens -- tolerate our authoritarian rule and we’ll make you rich. And for years, this seemed to work … But as the financial crisis shows, and if Beijing breaks its end of the deal, its people may well break theirs.”
The Chinese government announced a $586 billion economic stimulus package of spending, subsidies, looser credit policies, and tax cuts to try to overcome:
* Foreign orders for Chinese products are plummeting, and exports account for 40 percent of the country’s gross domestic product -- compared to 10 percent for the U.S. for most years.
* In addition to the 10,000 factories already shuttered in the Pearl River Delta, another 20,000 are likely to close by next summer, and worker demonstrations are spreading.
* In one main exporting city, Wenzhou, about 20 percent of the workforce has been idled.
* In the third quarter of 2008, China reported its fifth consecutive quarterly drop in growth, and a sharper slowdown is forecast for next year.
* The Shanghai stock market has dropped from 6,000 points to just over 1,800 in the past year, dwarfing the downturn in U.S. stocks.
* Chinese banks are said to be holding some $1 trillion in bad loans.
* The value of homes -- the only major asset held by many Chinese -- has dropped more than 50 percent in some cities within the past year.
With such problems, can China dominate the century?
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