The giant wakes

In recent months, Foreign Report has issued warnings about the state of the Chinese economy. By all accounts it is enjoying a boom but there are clear signs that the economy is running into trouble. Protests and disorders are spreading in urban factories and through the rural community.

In October, sociologist Lu Xueyi wrote in the China Daily of the social inequalities operating in the country and warned: “China is at the crossroads. It can either smoothly evolve into a medium-level developed country or it can slide into stagnation and chaos.”

There are limited references to such events in the Chinese press, although it seems the latest public order disturbances are just the tip of the iceberg of social unrest that may lie in the path of the nation’s long-running economic boom, which has served to highlight an increasing social inequality in China.

According to the Communist Party magazine Outlook, there were more than 58,000 demonstrations throughout China last year, or around 160 a day, and these protests are becoming ever more serious.

For example, on 29 October, 100,000 farmers turned out in Hanyuan County in Sichuan to protest about the building of the huge Pubugou hydroelectric dam on the Dadu river, and the consequent displacement of thousands of farmers without, as they saw it, adequate compensation. Some 10,000 police were unable to maintain order, leading to the deployment of another 10,000 troops the following day. In a more serious incident at the end of October, 10,000 armed police and the imposition of martial law were required to quell violent clashes in Zhongmou county in central Henan province. Before order was restored, official figures say that seven people were killed in the dispute, while the New York Times reports as many as 148 dead, including 18 policemen.