Seven Monitor correspondents reflect on the world's hot spots. In this installment, the Monitor's Peter Ford points out that many signs of unrest in China go unreported every year.
It would be a brave man who would predict real political change anytime soon in China.
In the sensitive run-up to next fall's Communist Party Congress, and its once-in-a-decade leadership handover, the authorities will be especially vigilant in their battle to keep China "harmonious." That means stifling dissonant voices through censorship, arrests, and other familiar tools.
And yet there are unmistakable signs of ferment in Chinese society as it digests the phenomenal economic achievements of the past 30 years. Whether that ferment results in flammable gases is one of the key questions surrounding China's future.
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Many signs go unreported, such as the estimated 90,000 riots, protests, mass petitions, and other eruptions of unrest that happen every year, mostly in poor, rural areas. They are almost always localized affairs, targeted at unpopular municipal officials.
An unusually dramatic incident in December did attract national attention, however: The people of Wukan, in the southern province of Guangdong, angered by the threat that their farmland would be confiscated for construction, rose up and threw their local Communist Party rulers out of town.
Less violent symptoms of social change in China are more pervasive, though at first sight they have little to do with politics.