August 22, 2005

RED LIGHT DISTRICT:

Wealth gap threatens stability in China (Richard Spencer, 23/08/2005, Daily Telegraph)

China risks social meltdown within five years because of the stresses provoked by its economic boom, government officials were warned yesterday.

The country was now in a "yellow-light" zone, the second most serious indicator of "social instability", according to an official report focusing on the growing gap between rich and poor.

"We are going to hit the red-light scenario after 2010 if there are no effective solutions in the next few years," said the report, commissioned by the labour and social security ministry.

As if to bear out its warnings, police admitted that rioting had broken out in a town in the eastern province of Zhejiang, the latest in a wave of violent protests in the region. Buildings and police cars were set alight in clashes led by parents who accused a battery factory of giving their children lead poisoning.

Such unrest is now common in many Chinese towns, often triggered by protests against the mixture of corruption and environmental degradation that the dash for development has brought.


But there are a billion of them....

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 22, 2005 9:30 PM
Comments

China's pattern of economic development is now pretty clear. There have been high rates of growth, but at the cost of perpetuating political oppression and of generating a growing gap between rich and poor.

Taiwan's path to prosperity has been accompanied by a peaceful transition to liberal democracy and by a high level of economic equity.

Now can anyone tell me why China has any right to "take back" Taiwan rather than the other way around?

Posted by: X at August 22, 2005 10:21 PM

Imagine that propaganda coup out of Taiwan - we work, they don't. Come join us.

Posted by: Sandy P at August 22, 2005 10:43 PM

X:

I'm beginning to think you're right (I only visit there every few years). The current trends are almost backwards . . . more like the Dynasties than a liberal economic template which ushers in a growing middle class and opportunity (non-criminal, that is) for all.

They'll also be hitting a 'red light zone' in more ways than one once their demographics result in 40 million young men without brides.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at August 22, 2005 11:24 PM

Unrest isn't surprising for a nation that is rapidly industrializing. We had unrest throughout the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The problem is how to deal with it. The communists will try to keep a lid on it, which will just make it worse. They have to loosen their grip and let a combination of markets and local democratic political forces deal with the problems as they occur.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 23, 2005 9:24 AM

Robert, yes, with industrialization often dies come widespread unrest.

The problem for the Chinese Communists is that they can't just loosen their grip. Tyrants who in wielding absolute power have shed oceans of blood can't just surrender their authority. If they do, they die.

For all its flaws, the American political system of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was far more open than China's today, and it proved itself able to transform tens of millions of immigrants into citizens.

Ironically, although the Chinese Communists came to power as revolutionaries and exercised revolutionary power, they have done nothing to change the traditional logic of politics on the Chinese mainland where the people are less citizens than subjects, where Communist political infighting resembles the decadent court politics of the old dynasties, and where when a dynasty loses power, it loses it forever.

It is one of the great ironies of history that the true political revolution took place in "reactionary" Taiwan, not in "revolutionary" China, because Taiwan is now where governments and poltical parties rise and fall through the ballot box, not through the barrel of a gun.

Posted by: X at August 23, 2005 4:56 PM
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