China Riots and the World Financial Crisis

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The last few days have been particularly busy ones for China’s security personnel. No less than three cities including huge metropolises Chongqing and Shenzhen suffered strikes by taxi drivers.  And many other places suffered demonstrations and protests. One particularly huge incident was in Gansu province, where thousands, perhaps as many as ten thousand, demonstrated against a government relocation plan. Gansu is a poor province already having to deal with the nearly two million residents made homeless by the May 12 earthquake. If this incident had happened six months ago, it would have been widely reported, but would have been seen simply as the local flare up. Larger in scale than most perhaps, but with no apparent connection to the outside world, just like the protests in July by some 30,000 in the Guizhou province city of Weng’an. But we are now in the midst of a global financial crisis and the idea that China could come apart at the seams because its economy is slowing and people are losing their jobs is firmly implanted in many people’s minds. It certainly has been true in some of the protests over job losses in Guangdong. But it is worth carefully examining new reports of other “mass incidents” as Beijing calls them to see if there’s a connection. Much of the time there won’t be, but the temptation to scale upwards will be hard to resist. Take a look at the latest wire service story on the Gansu riots, for example, (here) and judge for yourself.

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