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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chinese social stability

How are you going to keep them down on the farm - the saying goes - once they've seen the city lights? By having a strict residency permit system to control internal migration and a recession making those that did make the move unemployed, is the answer in China's case. They are containing expectations momentarily. Reuters reporting:

Officials estimate that more than 10 million migrant laborers have already returned to the countryside as thousands of companies have been dragged under by weak global demand for everything from clothes to cars.

The government, always concerned about social instability, is now on high alert, fearful of the consequences of a huge mass of jobless, disappointed, rootless young men.

Beijing has urged firms to avoid cutting jobs despite falling profits, and many bosses have obliged by retaining workers but giving them unpaid leave.

"Sales were really bad and the boss just kept giving us holidays. We had 15 days off last month," said Tan Jun, who also clambered off train K192 in Chengdu. "Next year I won't go back."
"Lots of factories have closed. Mine shut about three months ago. There was nothing to do, so I came home," said Wu Hao, 21, sporting a stylish striped sweater and a sleek metal suitcase.

These people, referred to as the "floating population" in China, have nowhere else to go but back home. Back home to what?

Unveiling its rural policy priorities for next year, the government said on Sunday that it will encourage unemployed people who return home to start their own businesses. Officials in Chongqing and Henan, two big sources of migrants, have already pledged to lend seed money.

The CPC have their hands full keeping a lid on aspirations and the demands from a nation of only-children. The party has moved fast enough in recent years to keep ahead of the trends and has managed demand for freedoms incrementally. Although regional administrations have been tainted with numerous instances of corruption the central government has been relatively clean and much of its popularity (I would guess) comes from that record. That may be tested if they side with a rotten local leader or against the people on a popular issue arising from increased competition for limited resources (welfare and works programmes, land reform etc.) But this has not occurred significantly on any nation scale - or if it has it has been successfully neutralised in the media.

And on their media: that "Blocked in China" logo you see on blogs has been untrue for some time now. We have noticed Chinese readers of this blog have been visiting shortly before the Olympics and continue to do so. It's the Chinese language websites they target.

The direction they are pointing is towards continued, slow and deliberate liberalisation - probably for their own survival rather than an ideological commitment to a Western-style democracy. The world looks to China for economic salvation, but the news of widespread factory closures is terribly discouraging.


At 3/1/09 12:47 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 3/1/09 4:33 pm, Blogger Tim Selwyn said...



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