Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Yu Jianrong, "Emerging trends in violent riots," Chinese Security, Vol. 4, No. 3 Summer 2008.

[Here is a seldom-mentioned aspect of security: what "the people" are actually thinking. It's not hard to imagine why the Chinese response to demonstrations gone out of control in Tibet was heavy-handed--though it presently appears to have been moderate indeed compared to Saakashvili's assault on Tskhinvali. -jlt]

Reliable information about social conditions should be seen as strategic resource...
In the early morning of June 22, a young girl’s body was discovered in a river in Guizhou province’s Weng’an County. Her death was initially ruled a suicide by the local authorities, but the family of the deceased 17 year old protested that she was murdered by relatives of government officials. The crime, they said, was being covered up by the local authorities. At the outset, the conflict was limited to the family and the police, but once the perception of an abuse of power by the Chinese elite spread, tens of thousands became enraged. Four days after the girl’s body was found, over 30,000 rioters in Weng’an torched both the local public security bureau and the county government office building, along with nearby government vehicles.1 The events that transpired after the initial discovery of the dead girl touched upon some of the most sensitive issues currently rankling Chinese citizens.

Catalyzing the actions of the rioters was a more profound sense of social discontent, reflecting a present crisis of governance in China. After three decades of rapid economic development, China’s political system is increasingly incapable of harmonizing relations between the disparate interest groups that exist in the market economy. The government’s failure to establish a just and equitable adjudication system to arbitrate between them has engendered widespread social despair. These deficiencies have led to accumulated grievances, “priming” the public, so that otherwise isolated incidents are precipitating devastating violent anger-venting riots.

Read the rest here => (pdf, 7pp)
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