China faces a huge wave of protests which may push the regime into a serious political crisis.
In June 10,000 people rioted in Chizhou, Anhui province, after police sided with the rich perpetrator in a fight. Supermarkets were ransacked after the owner, the head of Chizhou’s business chamber, was seen delivering drinks to the police involved in the case.
In October 2004 30-40,000 people rioted, burned police vehicles and set the city hall alight in Wanzhou district in Chongqing after a roadside fight between a porter and a government official. The official had beaten up the porter and threatened to take his life.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security says that the number of “mass incidents” has soared, from 32,000 in 1999, 50,000 in 2002, 58,000 in 2003 to 74,000 last year. In 1993 the figure was just 8,700. Ministry figures also showed that the number of participants grew from 730,000 in 1994 to almost four million in 2004.
Common factors in these protests are the resentment at the growing visible inequality as China industrialises and the fact that the authorities, including the corrupt Communist rulers and the police, side with the rich class of capitalists against the poor. Dislocation caused by the forced march industrialisation also lies at the root of many of these protests.
For example in July in Xinchang, Zheijing province, 15,000 people fought with the authorities after their campaign to move a pharmaceutical plant that had polluted their water supply was rudely dismissed and their representatives beaten up. Tensions escalated after a fatal explosion in the plant. Protesters smashed the plant’s property in a subsequent battle.
In Sichuan province, 100,000 people were relocated to make way for the Pubugou hydroelectric power station on Dadu River, but received grossly inadequate compensation. In November last year after months of petitions yielded nothing, 60,000 farmers and students rose up to stop the project, clashing with 10,000 armed police.
Growing working class protests are also part of this picture. After the repression of workers’ strikes in 2002, there have been few visible large-scale strikes, but it can’t be long before another wave of workers’ struggles shakes the regime.