Since the early 1990s China is experiencing a growing wave of public protests - particularly in rural areas. With China's rapid economic development the gap between rural and urban income is widening and layoffs from state-owned enterprises are causing hardships for urban laborers. Three groups of protesters can be distinguished: (1) Farmers, who lack non-agricultural income opportunities and are suffering under the increasing burden of agricultural taxes and (illegal) local fees, widespread corruption in land-use right allocation, and inappropriate compensation for land losses. (2) There is a growing number of urban citizens with legitimate complaints about unemployment, increasing education and living costs and numerous other hardships. (3) The third group of protesters are well organized, foreign-backed, or ethno-religious activists (such as the Falun Gong).
The central government's response to these protests is three-fold: On one hand the authorities try to fight corruption and poverty and facilitate adaptation to the necessary economic transition - as long as the complaints are considered "legitimte" and without challenge to the overall political system. On the other hand, they are consequently persecuting protests that are perceived as dangerous to the national and regional security and the legitimacy of the political system (such as the Falun Gong). A third strategy of China's government to deal with public protest is to encourage and use it for their own political purpose. This is obviously the case with the anti-Japanese students protests.
Tanner, Murray Scot (2006): Challenges to China's Internal Security Strategy. Testimony presented to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on February 3, 2006. Santa Monica, CA (RAND Corporation, Publication CT-254)
Aubert, Claude / Li, Xiande (2002): Peasant burden: Taxes and levies imposed on Chinese farmers. In: Agricultural Policies in China after WTO Accession, OECD, Paris, 160-179 (Collection: China in the Global Economy)
The Economist (2003): Containing unrest. The government moves swiftly to stop protest spreading. In: The Economist, January 16, 2003
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