By Fareed Zakaria
This past week, an unusual state of affairs caught my eye. I expect protests in China to be stamped out pretty quickly. Instead, not only did the government recently allow a large group of protesters to run amok, it also apologized and caved in to their demands.
What in the world?
Let's begin in the town of Qidong, about an hour north of Shanghai. Thousands assembled to protest against the construction of an industrial waste pipeline. And then something rarely seen in China took place. Despite the presence of scores of policemen, the protesters went wild. Hundreds entered and took over an entire government building. Computers were smashed. Outside, cars were overturned. At least two police officers were beaten up.
I would have expected Beijing to retaliate with great force. Instead, it caved. The waste disposal project was abandoned. And the state-run People's Daily applauded the decision, writing that “a responsible government should...create an inclusive environment for public opinion."
Here's what's even more surprising: The same thing happened a few weeks earlier.
Tens of thousands of citizens of Shifang in Sichuan Province staged a protest against a smelting plant. It was met with anti-riot police and tear gas. But later, the government relented, doing a u-turn and shutting down the $1.6 billion project.
The two protests, despite being nearly 2,000 miles apart, are actually connected. Residents of Qidong said they were inspired by the news of the successful demonstration in Shifang. But there's another connection.
The protesters in both cities mobilized on Weibo – China's version of Twitter – where as many as 300 million users share news, photos, and discuss politics.
According to the consulting firm McKinsey, China has “by far the world's most active” social media population. Ninety-one percent of its surveyed internet users visited a social media website in the last six months, compared with 70 percent in South Korea, 67 percent in the U.S. and 30 percent in Japan.
The internet, despite Beijing's best efforts at censorship, has empowered and connected China’s people in a way that couldn’t’ have been envisioned even a few years ago.
So, are the events of Qidong and Shifang part of a larger trend? Will it spread?
For now, it seems not. From years of watching China, one thing is apparent. Beijing picks its battles – if people complain about pollution or the environment, it increasingly has begun to make some concessions. But protests over economic policy produce less change. And demands for political liberalization are met with a very different kind of response.
Also, many of these decisions are actually taking place at the local and provincial levels, where governors have significant powers and independence. So sometimes these provinces will tolerate demonstrations as a pressure valve to let off steam. In other cases, most cases, they crack down.
The key is whether protests in one place build momentum to a regional or national level – and that's what Beijing works hard to prevent.
But about 4 in 10 Chinese now have access to the internet.
As China advances, that ratio will grow and grow. In the past, Beijing could contain the flow of information from one part of the country to another. But that might prove increasingly difficult as the Chinese people get more and more connected. The internet will not make China free – that will take actual Chinese reformers and revolutionaries and organized movements – but technology does in some ways help the cause of individual liberty here.
While China's modernizing, the religious nutcases will take the US back a century, or just create more problems, your pick. And the current American congress is at war with the citizens with it's ineffectiveness!
Right, here in Texas our State Board of Education has fought against the teaching of biological evolution for decades. Only with much opposition from experts have they reluctantly included that. Also, they wanted to lessen Thomas Jefferson being mentioned in history classes. No wonder that China and other countries are moving ahead.
That's not all. They removed the requirement for all high school students to have one credit of technology in order to graduate yet left fine arts alone and now want to add a religions class. Go figure!
And in the USA
We are at war (the republicans anyways) with:
minimum Wage removal
Consumer Protection Agency
just to name a few.
Republicans are trying to re-write History in Texas... and it's working.
They will single handedly destroy what our fore-fathers spent Centuries building...while a sleeping side-tracked public looks-on.
Yeah, we stopped charging tariffs against countries that treat their workers like slaves. No wonder the slave-providers are getting rich, while free people are struggling.
Only if the weak like you let them.
Yes....the religious right wants to turn us back into the dark ages...and Mitt and company want a land of lords and serfs again. Elect him...see if we aren't back to the 1950's within a year, and the dark ages in four.
China said. "American should SHUT UP" about South Asia Sea on china daily news
Yeah, "SHUT UP or ... you will be sent to labor camp." That's freedom of choice in China.
They have a point about America staying out of it. East and South Asia politics is extremely complicated. Much of it goes back for centuries if not millenia. The primary issue the U.S. should be focused on is free and unobstructed passage of commercial through this swatch of ocean and that is all. The Asian nations involved are capable of solving the issues on their own despite the heated rhetoric and posturing. One thing is for certain, they are not going to risk all out war over these issues. The economic ties between these nations are too deep and intertwined. The potential fallout from open warfare would make even the mosth hawkish policymakers think twice.
This is the way it started in Poland where some shipyard worker unions went on strike against the communist monolith. That movement was called Solidarity and they eventually were responsible for tearing down the Iron Curtain. Big events have small beginnings and the extremist Communist gang in Beijing knows it. They have to tread lightly because they screwed up China's agriculture turning farmland into desert. They screwed up the Three Gorges Dam that triggered an earthquake. They screwed up dealing with North Korea. They screwed up relations with all their neighbors by claiming huge areas of the Pacific Ocean up to the shores of their neighbors' territories. The Chinese people know that the Communist leaders in Beijing are out of control and they intend to bring them under control.
That's is all we are wish for, if China collapse, then we can rule the world again!
China is heading toward democracy while we head away from democracy (more government security laws, stricter voter ID laws, unlimited money to influence elections).
That is inevitable when the crumbs left by the rich is not enough to make most people happy.
Did you see such problems in several small countries in North Europe?
Whenever someone is surprised... its a sign of ignorance (no offense Fareed, this rule applies across the board, and yes I'm surprised a lot too)
Stupid is permanent, but ignorance can be fix....
But someone who is humble enough to admit being surprised is more trustworthy. Far more ignorant are those who think they know everything and pretend nothing is surprising.
Yeah, but the Chinese public sentiment also seems to resent the constant bias bash by the Western media (CNN included), as well as corruption and environmental problems...
That's not the Chinese public that is resentful, that's the CCP. Don't believe the messages from the 50 Cent Party. Chinese police do want their complaints reported in the domestic & int'l media. But since the domestic media is censored by the CCP, Chinese people often have to voice their complainst to the foreign media.
The ordinary Chinese citizens I know are quite proud of being Chinese and are quite disgusted by the corruption there while taking pride in the great industrial developments. They think the US is a great place, but they also think China will be better than the US in the future. I know some US Chinese who plan to return to China when they retire.
It's easy to dismiss everything coming out of China as the work of '50 centers' but is that the reality? No, not even close. Whether you choose to believe it or not, a lot of regular Chinese citizens are actually quite aware and informed about the world around them. As a result, there are a lot of regular Chinese citizens that are annoyed with the anti-China slant in western media outlets. The 2008 Olympics torch relay coverage or China-bashing election year rhetorics for example. If you have been to China and spoke to the locals, you would know this. I have done just that by interacting with small business owners, professors/teachers, restaurateurs, taxi drivers (the most candid and talkative by far), etc.
Now just for clarification, what I said above does not mean that you average Chinese hate America or the west in general. Most of them do not harbor negative views toward the west. Rather, they just distrust western media oulets such as CNN or BBC, just like how they distrust their own state-run media mouthpieces. To them, these western news organizations are little more than tools for western politicians looking to score points and/or to restrain China's growth progress. For all the hubbub about America patriotism and chants of "U-S-A", the Chinese have plenty of pride in our own nation as well.
this is a paradim change and i am happy that china is wise to change on time.
The reason why China made so much of progress thus far is because PLA provided a single window for clearance of all foreign investments. Had China setup EPA, FTC, FDA, FCC, etc. and allowed Green Peace to setup offices in Beijing, the GDP of China would have been on par with that of Bangladesh by now. The lack of a crack down may be a political ploy to help identify potential troublemakers. As one of your own programs showed recently, there is a political transition underway at the highest levels.The reason why so much of foreign direct investment is flocking to China is because of lack of regulation & government interference... Not due to social networking and democracy.
I've heard it's very hard to set up operstions in china due to the regulations.
Republican opposition to everything that is recommended makes our system of government dysfunctional. The top down administration in China doesn't have to argument with the leaders directions at every turn.
and in continuation.... Authoritarian systems work best. After all when CNN & MSNBC say the gridlock from check and balance is the Republicans fault we can be certain it is. I have great respect for Venezuela's Chavez.
Respect for Chavez. LOL
I'm sure you both have mass respect for authoritarian leaders like Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Tojo, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Kaddafi, Assad, Kim Jong Il, etc. We free Americans encourage you both to emigrate to one of the repressive regimes you admire so much.
Liberals are just like Nazis and muslims.Any thing that is wrong is always someone elses fault. With Nazis and Muslims it's always the Jews. With liberals it's always Christians and Republicans.I am an Independant and the only differance that I can see in republicans and democrats are the way they are trying to destroy this country.
In his last speech on 14 March 2012 China's premier Wen Jiabao expressed a strong urgency for reforms. Yet he proposed "gradual and orderly" and warned against abrupt and radical changes. Let's hope that with every once-in-a-decade transition of power, each generation shift will contribute to reforming and opening up China.
While China is experiencing some success at the moment, it has some hugh problems to overcome. The greatest of this is staggering poverty of more than 90% of it's total population and a disproportionate Male(about 60%) to Female Ratio (about 40%). The poverty problem is kept from international view by travel restrictions. The Male to Female Ratio is an explosive aggrating issue for every other problem of the Chinese State.
What travel restrictions? I've been to China 3 times now. On one trip the tour guide drove me through total slum on the outskirts of Xian. ...
3 purported trips and you are an expert.
Wow, David you are still living 50 years agao!
David, you must have been zucking your uncle's kwok and got drunk from swallowing kum for the last thirty years.
You really love fantasizing about what you'd really like to do in mom's basement. Bet the neighbors keep a tight rein on the kiddies in your neighborhood.
I think the two problems you mentioned are really exist, but that's not so bad as you said, if you have time, please pay a visit to china. I am a Chinese, I really hope the guys like you have a better understanding of china. Thank you!
90% poverty level? Where in the world did you get that piece of statistic because it's certainly not from any World Bank, CIA Factbook or Human Development Index report in recent memory. The most current data shows that roughly 15-25% of Chinese live with less than $1.25-2.00 per day, the actual international poverty lines. It's still a high poverty ratio for sure but poverty reduction in China has actually improved by leaps and bounds during the last 30 years. Maybe you are using the U.S. poverty line as a measurement but that's invalid because the general cost of living in China is nowhere near our level, despite the recent surge in inflation. There are of course some exceptions such as the pricier enclaves in the first and second tier cities. Interestingly enough, the middle and upper middle class in many of these cities are actually better off than U.S. equivalents but I digress. That 90% number you brought up is actually closer to India where roughly 70% of its population live under the international poverty line.
As for the gender disparity, the actual statistic currently is 115 to 100 currently which translates to 53.5% male to 46.5% female. That is a pretty big imbalance to be sure but it is also no where near the 60/40 numbers you threw out. Also to put things more into perspective, gender/birth disparity is also a trend across the entire East Asia and not just China. For example, South Korea has a ratio of 108 to 100 and Taiwan has a ratio of 110 to 100. Anyways, this disparity level is bound to create some social and labor force issues which is why China is already thinking about changing the one child policy to two/three or just scrapping it entirely. The one thing you have to be mindful for when discussing China is that directions and trends can change rather quickly and as a whole, the country is persistantly evolving at an accelerated pace.
CHINA NUMBER 1, PEOPLE HAVE FREEDOM TO BE SUCCESS. USA GIVES FREEDOM TO BE FAT PIG. CHINA WILL ALWAYS CELEBRATE WIN WHILE USA CELEBRATE PIGDOGS
Wow, AOL, please disconnect his internetz.
Just remember that many of the posters here will be Chinese intelligence officers.
What about you, a paid kwok zucking kwok zucker for uncle sam????????????
What are PIGDOGS? Why do you have your caps key locked? I hope you do well in anger management class. Are you content to let many of your fellow Chinese live in abject poverty? How are you addressing the challenge facing China that it might pollute itself to death?
I doubt very much that you are CHINESE!
Get your ASS of the spratly island, you communist imperialist, leave tibet and mongolia alone.
You forgot East Turkmenistan
Shouldn't you be getting that big black kwok that is stuck in your azz out first, dickk head?
Whoever posted that isn't even Chinese in all likelihood but way to fall for the bait and expose your own ignorance.
There will be even more protests when Mitt Robmoney takes away all his job from China and bring them back home...I mean outsource them to another country.
As China pays their workers more and the workers demand safer working conditions they will lose their edge in manufacturing. These changes all cost money and will add to the cost of doing budiness in China. Our manufacturibng will come back or will go to places like India or some other low wage country.
It won't come back until the wages in Africa, Indonesia and even the old USSR countries are higher than the wages in the US. So basically it won't come back.
Sorry but your wrong our manufacturing capabilities will soon make outsourcing completely unnecessary. Right now as I try type this a "Gutenberg revolution" of sorts is occurring in this country and other developed nations. In my garage at my house i can print 3d objects at .0001 inch accuracy, on top of that quality is better, cost is cheaper, and shipping is non-existent
It's not quite as simple as that. What you are talking about is the low end manufacturing such as apparels, plasticware, toys, etc. Yes, what you said is true but that's also what China wants. Their is goals is to get rid of a major chunk of those types of low margin, low skill manufacturing because they have reached the ceiling in terms of relying on that to drive their GDP growth. The Chinese labor pool is also increasingly picky over wages and benefits in recent years. As such, China's eventual goal is to transition to a consumption and innovation based economy with some hi-tech manufacturing mixed in, much like the developed world. The process has already started as many biotech/pharma (Phizer, GSK, Maersk, etc), consumer electronics (Samsung, LG, Sony, Apple, etc) and automobile (Ford, GM, Toyota, Hona, etc) are constructing new factories in China at a frantic pace while the textile factories in southern China are shuttering doors by the dozens every year. Personally, I don't think China will lose their share of hi-tech manufacturing any time soon because of their massive, ever more educated labor pool and still cheaper wages/benefits (if only by 20-30% as opposed to 60-70% of before). If anything, I think their share in that will only increase over the next few decades.
Labor intensive, low end manufacturing isn't coming back to the U.S. short of some drastic changes and reduction to our wage scale. Basic labor wage in China has been rising for years now, at a rate of 10-15% rise in 2009 and up to 20-25% hike in 2011. Yet the factories/businesses that are actually coming back to the U.S. is only a mere trickle when compared to the industry wide seismic shift to other countries such as Bangledash, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Vietnam.
One thing is certain when it comes to capitalism, the chase for low overhead and high profit margin is a never ending one.
I think it's simple. China's higher-ups realize that if more and more people rebel, they're not goning to stop it. So every once in a while they throw them a bone.
Is it the same like the way you zuck some black kwoks once in a while just to sooth your deep throat?
LOSER LOSER LOSER. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA – Hoser. You wish you were doing what you accuse others of doing. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Don't get too excited now! Yo might have to change those undies.
You are correct.
Yet another cheer-leading article designed to psychology justify the offshoring of US jobs to China. Just because the Chinese government did not kill all of these people in front of the author's face, does not mean they are free people. Their wages are oppressed, see? There must be a tariff for any type of sustainable trade between the US and China.
It is great that China is finally listening to their people. But on the other hand if the protesters are getting violent this is bad because the Chinese government getting violent is no different than the protesters getting violent.
In China, when something out of the ordinary happens, it is fake, staged. So I have seen the events you describe set up by Beijing to provided a limited area involvement. Everyone goes crazy, smashing and getting all the anger out and then settles down. Those were probably staged events so the Chinese leadership can look good to the world. In China, everything is theater.I lived there 2004 to 2012.
Good observation. Not to mention those who acted out would eventually visited by police officers and if they still stubborn, they were given one way ticket to labor camp. Just one number off a billion, people hardly notice.
peace, were you one of those American kwok zucking kwok zuckers who were given a mouthful of kum by their uncle?
What were you doing there Dan? Were you an American kwok zucking kwok zucker representing the U.S. to zuck some Chinese kwoks? If you were, how many Chinese kwoks had you zucked? I am just curious.
By your comments I think you are living out your fantasies thru others. I'll bet you get real excited as you type out your responses. Probably still in mom's basement. Jealous much? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA – you LOSER!
Save the conspiracy theories and return to the reality. There are 500 protests across China on a daily basis. Most of them are small scale but occasionally major ones do pop up. The CCP rarely cracks down on such protests if it is about corruption, wages, working conditions, pollution or other socio-economic issues. Why would they? It is in their interest if the people see improvements in their daily lives because a happy citizen is a less rebellious one. What the CCP doesn't condone is political dissention or protests which may threaten their grasp on power. These types of protests are the ones that they crack down harshly on because the CCP believes that they are ruling China with a mandate from heaven.
It is not a play, it is your IQ can not follow up. If you feel being let down in China, then come back to US and accept a lower dirty job in here. YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO CHINA TO MAKE A LIVING!
When someones yawns in China, anti-American online thugs rant about the moral equivalence of the Chinese police state today and anything the US has done in 236 years. Agitprop has no credibility.
The most surprising thing is how little the author seems to really know and understand about China and its government or maybe more surprising that he likes to present China as the modern day boogeyman. On one hand surprise at a public protest not being quashed then turns around and says Beijing picks its battles. The Chinese leaders are smart enough to know that they can't control 1.3 billion people in everything (unlike the US government which hasn't figured that out). And the Chinese people know how to pick their battles as well. But sadly much of the reporting of "protests" in China is just the media here trying to drum up a story. During the so called "jasmine revolution" cnn and others reported on the bigger than usual crowds in wangfujing ave in Beijing. What they failed to mention is that it was a major shopping holiday and wangfujing is an outdoor shopping mall. That would be about the same as saying Americans are protesting at shopping malls and stores on the day after thanksgiving and the large crowds are proof. Zakaria is one of the worst at twisting the "facts" to meet whatever story he wants to tell.
Don't believe the messages from the 50 Cent Party. They're paid by the CCP to post pro-CCP messages like Brian's. There are over 100,000 protests against the CCP & its policies in China every year according to PRC Govt. The vast majority are peaceful but occasionally violence breaks out when the Chinese police use force to break up the protest. Even writting about political change is illegal. Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo got 11 years prison for Charter 08 which called for democracy & human rights in China.
Are you saying that your uncle didn't pay you to zuck his kwok, you did it voluntarily???
Will Washington still complain about China's oppression of its own people when this type of protest in the US results in brutal suppression while China responds cautiously? It's only a matter of time before we have similar things happen in the US and there won't be any caving in from the government establishment. There will be national guardsmen and riot police.
The CCP's reactions to protests by Chinese in China is very different from their reaction to protests by Tibetans in Tibet. The CCP does use violence most of the time to quash protests in China but when Chinese protest the violence is usually not lethal or deadly, except of course for Tiananmen Massacre. The Chinese police use tear gas & riot batons against Chinese protestors. When Tibetans protest, the Chinese police are often quick to resort to lethal violence & use guns. Also the CCP attempts to ameliorate & negotiate with Chinese protestors sometimes. But the CCP has zero tolerance for Tibetan protestors, whatever their message, and often jails them for a very long time & sometimes even executes them. It's an example of the ractist mentality of the CCP.
Horray, another "China-at-the-verge-of-collapse" article by Fareed Zakaria! Why not tell us more about the recent "collapse" of the Indian power grid, which left 600 million Indians in the dark.
Western media/critics should be careful when critizing China, there's nothing that unites the Chinese people faster than a hostile foreign power. If they want to make changes, they will need to do it on their own terms. It's very evident throughout the Olympics that while the Chinese people have no problem criticizing their own system, a similar message from a foreigner is rarely tolerated. All the China bashing throughout the Olympics had done nothing but unite them. Alot of us think we understand their culture, but we don't, it's not something you can understand by watching media coverage. The Chinese government oppresses its people. what exactly does that mean? I have absolutely no say in how my tax dollars are being spent, I can't wish a stranger 'Merry Christmas' because they may get offended, some of my comments get censored, am I being oppressed? certainly feels so sometimes.
China picks it's battles. They can build a plant elsewhere. but try to pull another Tienanmen square and the outcome will be the same.
China is going down! The house of cards will soon fall! Remember the names of all these China lovers...
Shouldn't you be worrying about the fact that you might have to zuck Chinese kwoks for a living the same way your uncle is doing now?
Here you go again Maersk. Wow I'll bet you're really getting off on this you hoser.You're just whipped into a frenzy aren't you? I'll bet you keep looking around to make sure mom doesn't peek over your shoulder while you're typing and be disappointed at what a loser you are.
It's a clever strategy for the Chinese government to "pick their battles" with protesters, but ultimately it's still trying to plug the leaks in a sieve. They're trying to "create and inclusive environment for public opinion" while still maintaining control by restricting that public opinion to certain issues. However, there just isn't such a thing as "a little freedom"; if you give the populace a voice on certain issues, ultimately they will demand it on more issues, and finally all issues. Eventually, the populace will demand their voice even on those issues the government most desperately wants to keep under their sole control, such as the economy and the political system. Once that happens, we're either going to see a repeat of the Soviet Union in 1991 (the political system simply collapsing), or a repeat of Arab Spring (the government being forced to yield power, with varying degrees of violence required).
China will always be the same, even though they are producing products copied from US they will be ran as they are being ran right now. That is a country where people live in fear.
In US, no1 in fear, including the rich, the parasite, the criminals ...
and they take the money that is supposed to help the people in need; they take the money from your retirement money; they take the money that should be invested in the infrastructure with which the value of your house wouldve picked up lot more ....
That is the ECONOMIC price you pay for your POLITICAL freedom. Do you know that?
Westerners still don't get it.
It is not about how much Chinese like the system and CCP, it is the alternative not acceptable.
The world can only hope that widespread communications via the web will allow this generation to succeed where the Tienanmen Square generation failed – in overthrowing a regime that is the greatest threat to world peace and prosperity. That would mean an end to the genocide in Tibet; an end to the construction of a a succession of the world's most environmentally destructive projects; an end to child labor and slave labor; an end to free speech kangaroo courts and summary executions; an end to the massive trade in body parts of endangered species; an end to the build-up of the largest military in the world; an end to the covert support of rogue regimes and terrorist organizations; and an end to the dumping of dangerous and lethal cheap goods onto the word's markets. Until that happens, we should all Boycott China! Enough Already.
I am a useless piece of camel dung. I post anti American, anti GB, anti semite, anti India, anti modern anything because I am a good moooooslem. I steal people's monikers because I am so ashamed of myself and post the most stupid comment. When people get angry with me, I claim insanity. I am the same guy.
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The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, leading journalists at CNN, and other international thinkers. Join GPS editor Jason Miks and get informed about global issues, exposed to unique stories, and engaged with diverse and original perspectives.
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Check out all of Fareed's Washington Post columns here:
Obama as a foreign policy president?
Why Snowden should stand trial in U.S.
Hillary Clinton's truly hard choice
China's trapped transition
Obama should rethink Syria strategy
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