People Power in China: A Victory for the Masses!

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Well, you saw it here first. Despite much gloom and predictions that the project would go ahead anyway, it appears as though the revolt of the middle classes in Xiamen (see post below) has triumphed. The following item appeared in a regional Chinese paper today:

South Daily, Dec.20, Fujian provincial government and Xiamen city government have decided last Sunday to move the PX project to Gulei island of Zhangzhou city, Fujian province. Xiamen city will compensate Xianglu Group for the money already spent on factory construction in Haicang district.

Over 85% of the citizen representatives at a meeting with Xiamen government last thursday voiced their objection to the PX project.

It may look small, but this is a huge climbdown for the city officials and involves a good deal of (gasp) monetary loss, as well as enormous loss of face, not in itself a minor issue, considering what’s at stake. But it appears that arm twisting from Beijing really did work–as it always will if Beijing twists hard enough, ie is willing to expend enough political capital. What’s fascinating here of course is how the Party will stop this from becoming a precedent, the argument of autocrats down the ages is, “give ‘em and inch and they’ll take a mile.” Respond to public pressure once on something like a huge chemical plant in your backyard and next they’ll want to actually see records of city council meetings, not to mention accounts, or even (double gasp) vote for their own representatives. One to watch. My two cents: The next case of uppity middle class types saying not-in-my-backyard, which will probably be less clear cut than this, will see a very strong crackdown on street demonstrations, just to make sure no one gets any funny ideas.

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