Unrest in China


Every now and then, reports surface in the Western press of a riot somewhere in China. The latest example is a Reuters dispatch from Beijing on thousands rioting in Huankantou village in wealthy coastal province of Zhejiang. The current instance is a relative wealthy province where

Police had tried to disperse about 200 elderly women who had kept a 24—hour vigil at sheds and at a roadblock outside an industrial park housing about 13 chemical factories for two weeks, villagers and local officials said by telephone.

Two of the women were killed, two villagers said. "They were run over by police cars," one said.

Following the police action thousands rioted in protest.

Other sorts of riots occur in impoverished provinces away from the coastal cities, where incomes are a tiny fraction of those in Shanghai or Beijing. Market reforms may have actually worsened the situation in some of these areas.

The fact that China's government is repressive often leads foreign observers to assume that it is strong. In fact, China's rulers know very well that their hold on power is tenuous, and that the threat of popular discontent boiling over into rebellion and even disintegration is very real. China's history has many cycles of poltiical fragmentation, alternating with cycles of centralization, and this is familiar to all.

Market reforms which have loosened up central control have also produced greater stresses on social order, as winners and losers have emerged. Losers are nearly always restive, while winners sometimes get ideas about their own power and influence.

Keep a careful eye on the possibilities for rebellion in China. The rulers in Beijing certainly do.

Thomas Lifson   4 11 05