Good Reads: China faces unrest as economy slows(Read article summary)
The rest of the world was hoping China's booming economy would pull everyone else out of economic slowdown, but now even China appears to be slowing down.
Itâ€™s probably not because China has an elite corps of female commandos. Itâ€™s probably not because China has now become the worldâ€™s largest emitter of carbon-based pollution. And itâ€™s probably not because China is well on its way to becoming a global superpower. If anything, US foreign policy analysts probably wish China all the best at superpowerdom and hope they achieve that status sooner.
Why? Because ifÂ Chinaâ€™s robust economy continues to grow in this economic downturn as it has been, it is one of the best hopes other nations have of providing the basis for a global turnaround. If China continues to buy raw materials from Africa, oil from the Middle East, and debt from the US and Europe, then perhaps the global economy can crawl out of the current morass it is wallowing in.
Unfortunately, there are signs that the Chinese economy is beginning to slow down. Worse than that, there are signs that the ever-patient Chinese citizen is getting tired of producing the worldâ€™s low-priced gadgets and playthings for low wages and have taken to protesting. With so much of the world's economy now depending on Chinaâ€™s growth, a tumultuous Chinese slowdown could extend problems in countries that have already endured three or four years of sluggish growth.
In todayâ€™s Financial Times, Patti Waldmeir and Jamil Anderlini write that China appears to be preparing for social unrest. Quoting a senior Chinese politburo member on the need to find better ways of â€śsocial management,â€ť Ms. Waldmeir and Mr. Anderlini note that China has witnessed a growing trend of unrest in the past few months, with workers both in Shanghai and Xian clashing with police last week over unrelated disputes.
Clashes with government
Chinese have clashed with their government before, most notably in 1989, during the Tiananmen Square protests. While generally thought of as a pro-democracy movement, the Tiananmen protests occurred at a time of double-digit inflation and slow growth, Waldmeir and Anderlini write.
With China already slowing down, itâ€™s not hard to understand why they may be resisting pressure for them to take on the added costs of cleaning up the emissions from their factories, their autos and trucks, their electric-generation plants and so on. And yet, as talks continue in Durban, South Africa, at a climate change conference, in hopes of creating a new roadmap for reducing carbon emissions after the Kyoto agreement expires, China has started to show some flexibility in negotiations. Europe has put forward a â€śDurban roadmap,â€ť which would urge all countries to reduce emissions, although at different speeds depending on the countryâ€™s level of development.
â€śWe do not rule out the possibility of [a] legally bindingâ€ť agreement, Chinaâ€™s lead climate negotiator, Su Wei, said in a news conference Saturday. â€śIt is possible for us, but it depends on the negotiations.â€ť
But some African and Latin American countries see the new European plan as a sleight of hand, an effort for richer countries to wiggle out of their Kyoto responsibilities, and to create a new plan that does less to handle the problem of global carbon emissions. This is not idle finger-pointing. Emerging countries such as India, South Africa, and Brazil worry that richer countries are shirking the economic burden of cleaning up their industries onto poorer countries, write John Vidal and Fiona Harvey in today's Guardian. And with less and less stuff in Walmart labeled â€śMade in USA,â€ť it will be the newer factories in China, India, Brazil, and so on who will have to pay enormous sums to clean up their act, according to the new rules. Is that fair? they ask.
And then there are the Tibetan protests
As for social unrest, Beijing faces having to deal with not only hundreds of thousands of angry workers andÂ Western-recognized protesters, such as artist Ai Weiwei, but also the tiny fraction of its population who are Tibetan Buddhists. Many Tibetans still reject Chinaâ€™s control of what they view as an independent Tibet, and there appears to be a new phenomenon of Tibetan Buddhist nuns and monks setting themselves aflame in protest over the Chinese â€śoccupation.â€ť It's like Occupy Wall Street, but with a few subtle differences.Â
Todayâ€™s Peopleâ€™s Daily includes a helpful article explaining that self-immolation runs counter to Buddhist philosophy. A religion that is opposed to killing, the Communist Party-owned newspaper argues, would never allow a believer to kill himself. (Note: the Chinese government is officially atheist, so presumably it is speaking primarily from a disinterested academic point of view.)
SomeÂ peopleÂ withÂ ulteriorÂ motivesÂ haveÂ claimedÂ thatÂ self immolationÂ isÂ notÂ against BuddhistÂ doctrines,Â becauseÂ itÂ isÂ freeÂ ofÂ selfishÂ motives.Â
TheyÂ areÂ willingÂ toÂ distort BuddhistÂ doctrinesÂ forÂ theirÂ ownÂ purposeÂ andÂ theyÂ extolÂ theÂ sinÂ ofÂ self-immolationÂ as "theÂ greatestÂ goodness"Â andÂ "nobleÂ behavior".Â TheyÂ evenÂ claimÂ self-immolationÂ isÂ a religiousÂ activityÂ offeringÂ tributeÂ toÂ theÂ Buddha.Â
Point taken. It probably doesn't help that self-immolation of an unemployed Tunisian fruit-seller was the event that kicked off the Tunisian rebellion that overthrew the government of former President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.Â