“China’s cutting-edge authoritarianism”

David Rohde at Reuters Blog has written about the repression employed by the Chinese government, and some reactions from Chinese citizens:

Yet the system here has its cracks. Last Sunday afternoon, I visited Beijing’s Ikea store in search of China’s growing upper middle class. In China, Ikea is a store and social destination. Well-educated and upwardly-mobile Chinese in their 20s and 30s cruise through the store’s enormous showrooms, having pillow-fights on beds, lounging on couches and devouring meatballs in the dining room. They are the winners of China’s economic boom.

I interviewed a banker, an accountant, an interior designer and other white-collar professionals. Four of the six people I spoke with complained about spiraling housing prices, corruption and inequality. Several griped about the Communist Party’s online blocking of Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and other websites.

A 37-year-old software developer for Ali Baba, a hugely successful company that is China’s equivalent of Amazon, was the most negative of all. Despite being enormously successful in China, he was applying for a Canadian visa and convinced that pollution and poor schools were harming his 18-month-old son.

“They teach children to tell lies,” said the man, who asked to remain anonymous. “They teach bad values.”

China’s leadership, though, does worry about its future. While China seems like an unstoppable economic juggernaut from abroad, there is a clear sense here that its export-driven economic model cannot be sustained. With demand in the United States and Europe declining, government officials are trying to increase Chinese consumption of homemade goods. As wages in China’s coastal factories have risen, some manufacturing is shifting to Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh. And government officials are trying to slow growth, deflate the country’s housing bubble, and curb inflation.

As he should, Ai criticized the West for its role in empowering and enriching the Chinese Communist party. Eager for quick profits, Western governments and companies embraced China’s cheap labor and turned a blind eye to its repression.

“Every penny, every deal made, everyone should understand the condition you’re dealing with,” Ai said. “A nation where the people do not have the right to vote after 60 years.

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