“China’s protests ‘could crystallize into broader movement’”

Democracy Digest has an article on the subject:

“China’s leaders seem nervous,” writes a leading analyst. “Despite presiding over a rapidly growing economy and an ever-increasing presence in international affairs, they remain wary of the potential of a popular upsurge that would threaten their hold on power.”

The Communist regime faces a spectrum of unrest, from growing labor militancy, ethnic conflicts, environmental protests by an increasingly assertive middle class – and “subversive” talent shows.

“China’s version of Pop Idol, is to be dropped from television schedules in spite of attracting 400m viewers at its peak,” the Financial Times reports, “following government pressure on a programme that some officials saw as subversive because the audience voting too closely represented Western-style democracy.”

More than 500 demonstrators in eastern Zhejiang overturned vehicles and damaged police cars in protests against factory pollution on Sept. 15 and Sept. 16, according to local TV footage.

Four ethnic Uighurs were sentenced to death last week and another two men given 19-year prison terms after being convicted for organizing protests in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

China’s issue-specific, localized protests are “a far cry from those that created the Arab Spring,” writes George Washington University’s Bruce J. Dickson. “They have not engendered sustained social movements, multi-regional mobilization, calls for fundamental political change, or—with rare exceptions—demands for the replacement of incumbent officials.”

But, he concedes, “they could crystallize into a broader movement that deals not just with policy failures but with the propriety of the policies themselves and the legitimacy of the leaders who decide them.”

Dickson concludes, “the lessons of the Arab Spring are that small, isolated events can explode into nationwide protests if not handled quickly and firmly, and that splits within a leadership—especially between the civilian leaders and the military—can doom the regime; these lessons are certainly not lost on CCP leaders.”

Can the government keep up with the increasing rate of flare-ups? I wouldn’t bet on them being able to do that indefinitely.

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