China: "uprisings everywhere"

Dictatorships wield arbitrary power, so that they look strong to those of us accustomed to the open political struggles characteristic of free societies. But the exercise of arbitrary power does not necessarily make for a robust regime. If he were alive, the former Shah of Iran could comment from experience on this point.

China, with 5000 years of history under arbitrary rulers, is the best example of all. Dynasties have risen and fallen. The Communists who rule in Beijing know very well that when the government loses the support of the people, when conditions worsen, and when discontent flares, regimes can be replaced. That is how they came to hold power.

The ongoing crisis of legitimacy for the Beijing autocrats is escalating in visibility. Once again land seizures and pollution seem to have sparked rioting, which has met with police violence. Last summer it was Dongzhan Village which received international attention. Now, it is Panlong Village, again in Guangdong Province near Hong Kong, where the regime is attepmting to control news coverage of its people in revolt against the arbitrary rule seizing their land and polluting their environment.

Remember these are the rare cases in which foreign attention is focused on domestic insurrections. China is a vast country, and even government officials admit that yearly outbreaks of violent protest number in the tens of thousands. Panlong is in an area exposed to outsiders, near big cities, and accessible. The poorest areas of China are all but invisible to outsiders.

Here is how the New York Times story today on Panlong concludes:

"We have many special zones in this area, and each of them attracts investment," said a man who lives in a village adjacent to Panlong who was interviewed by telephone and gave his name as Hou. "The economic deals set in the past were not favorable, and many zones here have had smaller protests before, but the people were not united."

"Now," he continued, "there are uprisings everywhere."

China's rulers know that they are executing a high wire act: justifying their rule and the extreme disruptions of rapid economic growth by keeping benefits flowing to enough of its populace to outweigh the discomfort.

Those who predict a straight—line path to world economic and political power for China fail to understand the considerable obstacles along the way. Nothing is assured.

As I wrote in August:

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.

Thomas Lifson  1 17 06

Dictatorships wield arbitrary power, so that they look strong to those of us accustomed to the open political struggles characteristic of free societies. But the exercise of arbitrary power does not necessarily make for a robust regime. If he were alive, the former Shah of Iran could comment from experience on this point.

China, with 5000 years of history under arbitrary rulers, is the best example of all. Dynasties have risen and fallen. The Communists who rule in Beijing know very well that when the government loses the support of the people, when conditions worsen, and when discontent flares, regimes can be replaced. That is how they came to hold power.

The ongoing crisis of legitimacy for the Beijing autocrats is escalating in visibility. Once again land seizures and pollution seem to have sparked rioting, which has met with police violence. Last summer it was Dongzhan Village which received international attention. Now, it is Panlong Village, again in Guangdong Province near Hong Kong, where the regime is attepmting to control news coverage of its people in revolt against the arbitrary rule seizing their land and polluting their environment.

Remember these are the rare cases in which foreign attention is focused on domestic insurrections. China is a vast country, and even government officials admit that yearly outbreaks of violent protest number in the tens of thousands. Panlong is in an area exposed to outsiders, near big cities, and accessible. The poorest areas of China are all but invisible to outsiders.

Here is how the New York Times story today on Panlong concludes:

"We have many special zones in this area, and each of them attracts investment," said a man who lives in a village adjacent to Panlong who was interviewed by telephone and gave his name as Hou. "The economic deals set in the past were not favorable, and many zones here have had smaller protests before, but the people were not united."

"Now," he continued, "there are uprisings everywhere."

China's rulers know that they are executing a high wire act: justifying their rule and the extreme disruptions of rapid economic growth by keeping benefits flowing to enough of its populace to outweigh the discomfort.

Those who predict a straight—line path to world economic and political power for China fail to understand the considerable obstacles along the way. Nothing is assured.

As I wrote in August:

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.

Thomas Lifson  1 17 06