China's weakness

China's rulers face an ongoing crisis of legitimacy. There is abundant evidence that very substantial discontent exists among its population. We must never forget that China's leadership is frightened not just of losing power, but of the disintegration of China itself. There is ample historical precedent in a culture which reveres its history. Within the last century local warlords ruled various regions which had broken away from the central government.

While overall wealth has risen substantially over the last 3 decades of capitalism rising, there has been on balance a substantial majority of the people left behind, resentful, cynical, threatened, and envious of the few hundred million winners in the big rich coastal cities and favored classes. Random sparks thus ignite violent spontaneous protests. It is a pre—revolutionary environment.

Mao Tse—tung replaced the venerable imperial system with Communism, but after decades of indoctrination, Communist ideology has been discarded, with nothing else replacing it. There is only the logic of power sustaining the regime now. Corruption has re—appeared big time, and officials collude with newly—wealthy businessmen. Together, the concentrated wealth they enjoy finances a lifestyle unavailable to the masses. Upscale motorcars, lavish banquets, travel, fine clothing, and other lifestyle markers now distinguish them from the majority of their countrymen.

China's Communist indoctrination period provides plenty of memes with which to condemn an elite class. Teach a nation that a corrupt exploitative ruling class deserves to be overthrown at your own risk, comrades. China's rulers have reason to worry about their lack of popularity.

They are frightened to death of Falun Gong, a religious exercise sect which they ruthlessly repress. Any national organization outside the control of the regime is anathema to them, since it could provide the basis for a revolutionary movement.

But sporadic local rebellions continue to break out all over China. Sometimes it is about local corruption. Sometimes pollution or safety issues trigger riots. An event covered by Edward Cody today in the Washington Post was sparked by a minor traffic accident and escalated into an 8 hour riot in which 3 police cars were burned.

The incident was a confrontation between a young man (Liu) riding a bicycle in a small city and a wealthy entrepreneur (Wu) from a neighboring province, 250 miles southwest of Shanghai. The locals speak bitterly of the arrogant attitude they attribute to the wealthy entrepreneur, whose bodyguards beat up a local boy once he got physical in an argument with their boss. Events rapidly escalated, driven by class issues, resentment of corrupt officials, and resentment of an outsider from the neighboring province. Eventually, 10,000 people (8% of the city's population) took to the streets and some of them became violent. The local authorities were out of control for 8 hours or more.

Cody writes:

"Why are you letting them go?" people shouted, according to accounts from several witnesses. A motorcycle driver who was in the crowd was still outraged about the lack of handcuffs a week later. "That's illegal," he shouted in a long conversation during which he described the scene. "Why didn't the police handcuff them?" he asked. "They were so rich, so they weren't afraid of anything."

Wu, meanwhile, was seen looking at the crowd from a second—floor window above the police station, smiling dismissively. "When I saw him smirk at the crowd, I was really mad," said the driver, a sinewy man wearing only shorts and a tank—style undershirt.... 
Four were seriously injured and the rest swiftly drew back, authorities said. The injured, officials said, were hospitalized for more than a week. "They were afraid of dying," said one member of the crowd who, like others interviewed, refused to reveal his name for fear of being arrested.

By 5 p.m., the emboldened mob turned its attention to Wu's sedan, overturning it, pummeling it with rocks and then setting it afire with cigarette lighters, the witnesses said. Two police cars suffered the same fate an hour later, they added, and the police van was also trashed and set ablaze. The fires were so hot they scorched the entrance to the police station, Cao said.

The crowd cheered and shouted at the sight of government vehicles burning. Several of the people there that evening said that the riot had become a battle against a system that encouraged local police to protect rich outsiders instead of sticking up for a local boy. A number of those present, interviewed at length, referred to the crowd as "the common people," a term frequently used in China to distinguish ordinary civilians from the rich or the powerful.

"They are rich people, and they always bully us poor people," said one of the legions of men who ferry customers around Chizhou on the back of motorcycles and who played a prominent role in the violence.

Cell phones were the vehicle by which the crowd rapidly assembled. This is ominous for the regime, because it means very large outbreaks can occur quickly in big cities, and even across a region. They are undoubtedly planning to disable cell phone networks in the event of large scale outbreaks.

Out of desperation, China's rulers are pushing a self—defeating and dangerous policy of resentful nationalism, directed mostly at Japan and the United States, as a unifying force. But when the inevitable result is to diminish China's trade and investment flows, the flow of economic benefits currently providing at least some justification for the regime's continued control will diminish. And the regime risks being driven to extreme positions, eventually isolating itself. Gone would be the benefits to themselves of integration into the world economy.

China's leaders, in other words, are in a difficult position. Their recent small revaluation of the yuan, something the US has long wanted, may have been as much to increase the buying power of its population as to pacify the Yankee Barbarians. Our policies should continue to aim at pressuring the leadership to concede more power and more benefits to their own people, thereby gradually democratizing. Economic liberalization will inevitably diminish their power even while enriching them in the short and medium term.

We can afford to be firm on the long term objectives. It is the Chinese leadership which occupies the low ground.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.

China's rulers face an ongoing crisis of legitimacy. There is abundant evidence that very substantial discontent exists among its population. We must never forget that China's leadership is frightened not just of losing power, but of the disintegration of China itself. There is ample historical precedent in a culture which reveres its history. Within the last century local warlords ruled various regions which had broken away from the central government.

While overall wealth has risen substantially over the last 3 decades of capitalism rising, there has been on balance a substantial majority of the people left behind, resentful, cynical, threatened, and envious of the few hundred million winners in the big rich coastal cities and favored classes. Random sparks thus ignite violent spontaneous protests. It is a pre—revolutionary environment.

Mao Tse—tung replaced the venerable imperial system with Communism, but after decades of indoctrination, Communist ideology has been discarded, with nothing else replacing it. There is only the logic of power sustaining the regime now. Corruption has re—appeared big time, and officials collude with newly—wealthy businessmen. Together, the concentrated wealth they enjoy finances a lifestyle unavailable to the masses. Upscale motorcars, lavish banquets, travel, fine clothing, and other lifestyle markers now distinguish them from the majority of their countrymen.

China's Communist indoctrination period provides plenty of memes with which to condemn an elite class. Teach a nation that a corrupt exploitative ruling class deserves to be overthrown at your own risk, comrades. China's rulers have reason to worry about their lack of popularity.

They are frightened to death of Falun Gong, a religious exercise sect which they ruthlessly repress. Any national organization outside the control of the regime is anathema to them, since it could provide the basis for a revolutionary movement.

But sporadic local rebellions continue to break out all over China. Sometimes it is about local corruption. Sometimes pollution or safety issues trigger riots. An event covered by Edward Cody today in the Washington Post was sparked by a minor traffic accident and escalated into an 8 hour riot in which 3 police cars were burned.

The incident was a confrontation between a young man (Liu) riding a bicycle in a small city and a wealthy entrepreneur (Wu) from a neighboring province, 250 miles southwest of Shanghai. The locals speak bitterly of the arrogant attitude they attribute to the wealthy entrepreneur, whose bodyguards beat up a local boy once he got physical in an argument with their boss. Events rapidly escalated, driven by class issues, resentment of corrupt officials, and resentment of an outsider from the neighboring province. Eventually, 10,000 people (8% of the city's population) took to the streets and some of them became violent. The local authorities were out of control for 8 hours or more.

Cody writes:

"Why are you letting them go?" people shouted, according to accounts from several witnesses. A motorcycle driver who was in the crowd was still outraged about the lack of handcuffs a week later. "That's illegal," he shouted in a long conversation during which he described the scene. "Why didn't the police handcuff them?" he asked. "They were so rich, so they weren't afraid of anything."

Wu, meanwhile, was seen looking at the crowd from a second—floor window above the police station, smiling dismissively. "When I saw him smirk at the crowd, I was really mad," said the driver, a sinewy man wearing only shorts and a tank—style undershirt.... 
Four were seriously injured and the rest swiftly drew back, authorities said. The injured, officials said, were hospitalized for more than a week. "They were afraid of dying," said one member of the crowd who, like others interviewed, refused to reveal his name for fear of being arrested.

By 5 p.m., the emboldened mob turned its attention to Wu's sedan, overturning it, pummeling it with rocks and then setting it afire with cigarette lighters, the witnesses said. Two police cars suffered the same fate an hour later, they added, and the police van was also trashed and set ablaze. The fires were so hot they scorched the entrance to the police station, Cao said.

The crowd cheered and shouted at the sight of government vehicles burning. Several of the people there that evening said that the riot had become a battle against a system that encouraged local police to protect rich outsiders instead of sticking up for a local boy. A number of those present, interviewed at length, referred to the crowd as "the common people," a term frequently used in China to distinguish ordinary civilians from the rich or the powerful.

"They are rich people, and they always bully us poor people," said one of the legions of men who ferry customers around Chizhou on the back of motorcycles and who played a prominent role in the violence.

Cell phones were the vehicle by which the crowd rapidly assembled. This is ominous for the regime, because it means very large outbreaks can occur quickly in big cities, and even across a region. They are undoubtedly planning to disable cell phone networks in the event of large scale outbreaks.

Out of desperation, China's rulers are pushing a self—defeating and dangerous policy of resentful nationalism, directed mostly at Japan and the United States, as a unifying force. But when the inevitable result is to diminish China's trade and investment flows, the flow of economic benefits currently providing at least some justification for the regime's continued control will diminish. And the regime risks being driven to extreme positions, eventually isolating itself. Gone would be the benefits to themselves of integration into the world economy.

China's leaders, in other words, are in a difficult position. Their recent small revaluation of the yuan, something the US has long wanted, may have been as much to increase the buying power of its population as to pacify the Yankee Barbarians. Our policies should continue to aim at pressuring the leadership to concede more power and more benefits to their own people, thereby gradually democratizing. Economic liberalization will inevitably diminish their power even while enriching them in the short and medium term.

We can afford to be firm on the long term objectives. It is the Chinese leadership which occupies the low ground.

Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.