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China: Will it Cross the Rubicon of its History?

The seriousness with which China has been viewing the dangers of a new revolution in China inspired by the people’s uprising in Egypt would be evident from the number of high-level meetings—some of them attended by President Hu Jintao himself— that have been held in Beijing under the auspices of the Chinese Communist Party and the Government to discuss how to preserve social harmony and stability. Repeated calls are being made  for better social management.

2. Unfortunately, in their view as expressed at these meetings, better social management does not mean a greater political liberalisation, but more effective  controls over freedom of expression. However, the need to  give the people an opportunity to let out steam is grudgingly recognised, but the leadership is confused as to how to do this. Appeals are being made through media outlets such as the party-controlled “Global Times” for greater political maturity. By greater political maturity, one means a greater willingness on the part of the people to recognise that there cannot be social harmony and stability without internal discipline and that the party  and the Government have a legitimate obligation to maintain discipline.

3.  The role of the Internet in encouraging a new youth-led revolution different from the proletariat-led revolution of the USSR and the peasant-led revolution of China has made the Chinese leaders realise with concern the stealth power of the Internet. China has greater Internet penetration than any other country in the Asian-African region. It has a larger community of Netizens than even India. Chinese leaders and security agencies are well-versed in controlling old means of public expression such as the print media, the radio and the TV. They thought they could control with equal effectiveness the new stealth power of the Internet. They have started apprehending that they may not be able to do so and that a danger to their social stability could arise from the inexorablty growing community of Netizens.

4. Stopping the growth of this community is no longer feasible. Before someone else seeks to mobilise this community for promoting a new revolution, the Government should mobilise it to ensure the maintenance of stability and harmony. How to do this? That is the question being discussed at these meetings. It is being pointed out that there cannot be better social management without better Internet management. The security agencies are being advised to pay greater attention to this.

5. Mao Zedong believed that power grows out of the barrel of the gun. Deng Xiao-ping believed that power grows out of the money purse. The present  Chinese leadership has realised that youth power grows out of the Internet. How to make the Internet an engine for gradual, controlled political change while maintaining stability instead of becoming an engine for a new Revolution?

6. How will the Chinese community of Netizens respond to the suble attempts being made by the Party and the Government to maintain and further strengthen Internet management ostensiblty for preserving the vast economic gains made by the country since 1978?  The answer to this question will determine how far and for how long internal peace, stability and harmony as defined by the party can be maintained.

7. A new youth, Netizen led revolution may be in the offing in China. Will it suddenly burst out as did the revolution in Egypt or will it be creeping and inexorable? Let us wait and watch.

8. I am annexing an editorial  of significance carried by the Party-controlled “Global Times” and an article of interest carried by the Government-controlled “China Daily” in this regard. ( 24-2-11)

( The writer Mr B Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )


EDITORIAL CARRIED BY THE “GLOBAL TIMES” ON FEBRUARY 21,2011 China’s rise requires maturity from citizens

The central government has attached great importance to modern public governance. But the improvement of its public governance also relies on the proactive participation of people from all walks of life. The maintenance of social stability calls for cooperation by the public, especially from elites. With a population of 1.3 billion, China is a big power that is experiencing the convergence of various social problems. No matter how rapidly its economy and society develop, it is inevitable that many grass-roots appeals will not be addressed in the short term. China’s rise is going to be accompanied by complaints among the general public, and even some elites. Due to the spread of mobile phones, the Internet and microblogs, it is fairly easy for someone to publish criticism and cause a flow of complaints. Similarly, it costs nothing to draw attention by doing something sensational. In comparison, it is one of the hardest projects in the world to mould a society into a stable platform that facilitates life for those pursuing happiness. Many believe that China will emerge from its period of social transformation in a steady and peaceful manner. But in theory, it is not totally unfeasible that the nation could fall into social turmoil should its public governance fail. It is the responsibility of every patriot to cooperate with the government’s social management efforts and help craft sustainable social stability. Int e l l e c tua l s should set an example in this regard. Some argue that their mission is to criticize. Such a perspective is one-sided, and even becomes an excuse for irresponsible elements. In recent years, a few Chinese have always challenged public governance and national stability. This goes counter to the major goals of China in the 21st century. Three decades of reform and opening-up has enabled China to become the world’s second largest economy. The nation has set itself the goal of growing into a modern country governed by political democracy. It just needs several more decades to realize this ambition. China’s intellectuals, especially those with the power of discourse and various social resources, should contribute to social stability, rather than undermine them by encouraging trouble. China’s national rejuvenation has been a dream for generations of people with lofty ideals. The 21st century may witness the realization of the dream. All of Chinese society must maintain social cohesion by allowing the country to develop. China is bound to progress as an imperfect nation. It has many problems. Nevertheless, none of them should become an excuse to challenge social governance.


China ratchets up moves to aid harmony, stability February 24, 2011

China will take stronger action to resolve social conflicts and ensure there is a harmonious and stable society, says a senior official in charge of public security affairs.

Chen Jiping, deputy director of the Central Committee for Comprehensive Management of Public Security, made the comment after repeated calls from the nation’s leaders for enhanced social management and innovations to resolve such problems.

In the Monday issue of the Beijing-based magazine Outlook Weekly, Chen noted social conflicts were “prominent” and said so-called mass incidents were “frequent occurrences”.

He attributed such problems to imbalanced and uncoordinated development that has led to differences between urban and rural areas and to a wide income gap.

“Because social management and services are lagging behind social development, we may frequently face social conflicts,” he said.

Chen also listed specific security problems that “we cannot afford to ignore”.

“Various conflicts frequently occur in certain regions,” he said. “They mainly involve land seizures, corporate reforms, labor disputes, medical disputes and occasionally lead to mass incidents and extremism.”

In July 2009, a senior executive was beaten to death when 3,000 steel workers who had been threatened with job cuts protested following the takeover of their company in Tonghua, Jilin province.

And in September 2010, three members of a family surnamed Zhong doused themselves in gasoline and set themselves ablaze to protest the forced demolition of their home in Yihuang county, Jiangxi province. One died and two were seriously injured. The local Party secretary, the governor, a vice-governor in charge of the demolition and other responsible officials were later investigated and removed from office.

Chen said the resolution of social conflicts and the safeguarding of social security “would not only be a key task for political and legal leaders this year but remain a very difficult and onerous task during the period of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015).”

His comments were published days after President Hu Jintao said the country was “still at a stage where many social conflicts are likely to arise”. He said: “There are still many problems with China’s social management” despite its remarkable development.

At a high-profile seminar on Saturday, Hu urged provincial and ministerial-level officials to recognize the significance of improving and innovating social management as a prerequisite to pushing forward with the country’s development and building a harmonious society.

Zhan Zhongle, a professor in administrative law at Peking University, told China Daily it was a “positive sign for the authorities to face social conflicts directly, rather than simply shunning them”.

“Ignoring people’s concerns will leave them no other option but to complain through letters and visits or resort to extreme actions,” Zhan said. “Integrating the resources of the government and judicial bodies to mediate conflicts is more efficient in stabilizing the society.”

According to Chen, social management has been set as a key index in the assessment of the performance of government and Party leaders.

Chen told the magazine that a risk assessment of threats to social stability should take place before any decisions are made on major projects and policies.

“We shall not allow inappropriate decision-making to cause social conflicts,” he said.

Professional mediation organizations will be established or enhanced to play a bigger role in resolving conflicts in sectors such as demolitions, labor disputes, medical disputes and for food and drug safety.

And more efforts will be made to investigate cases exposed by whistleblowers, with special attention given to prominent problems affecting social stability, he said.

Chen also vowed to further crack down on gangs, violent crimes and property-related crimes.

By Wang Huazhong, China Daily

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