Economic conditions and social media are making protests more common in China – a delicate time for the country’s rulers – The Economist, January 28, 2012
PROTESTERS ARE CONNECTING
This flow of information is seditious in the eyes of the conservative power elite and they are far more in number (almost absolute) to literally throw any reform process thought to the bin. They advocate tougher and harsher action to rein-in this ‘anarchy’. Don’t we regularly come across reports of China cracking down on freedom of expression?
But for a burgeoning middle class; but for a rapidly urbanizing population; but for a ‘millions of younger lot’ with ‘US-like-life’ dream to sleep with; but for multimillions of impoverished migrants who help build the skyscrapers dotting the China’s skyline and who know they would never be allowed to be part of that city life; and but for the multimillions of the next generation of this legacy – this information flow is the only empowerment option available and they are likely to go to the extra mile to cling to it.
What is anarchy for the power elite is turning out to be the empowerment hope for over a billion of population (it is unorthodox estimate that includes the population segment with forced compliance, placing the anti-view in majority here but not expressing and so looks in minority, due to a basket of factors – much like a classic case of spiral of silence).
It is bound to grow as the economic gap between the rich and the poor is widening. Subsequently the discontent is rising. Also, China of the day has fatally vital stakes in the global economy. Europe is China’s biggest market. And Eurozone is facing an unprecedented economic crisis. Remember violent ‘Occupy’ protest. Another big market is the US, certainly not in the green of the economic parameters performance.
Last two years have seen spate of strikes in the foreground of the Middle Kingdom and the reasons vary from demands of better working conditions to salary hikes and reinstatements.
It’s not just about sexy and sleek Foxconn, one of Apple’s major suppliers, that has been much in bad news due to strikes and mass suicide threats of workers demanding better working conditions. (Now that is nowhere near to the beauty of an iPad.) Such strikes have been the common thread all across the Pearl River Delta, China’s manufacturing powerhouse. Poor treatment is already making noise and forcing sensitive politicking of the public domain on this issue in the developed countries. Warnings are being issued. Apple CEO Tim Cook has issued a tough warning to Foxconn. His email reads, “We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain. We insist that our suppliers provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect and use environmentally responsible manufacturing processes wherever Apple products are made. Our suppliers must live up to these requirements if they want to keep doing business with Apple.”
Expect similar gesture from other big companies if the human abuse in the big factory called China continues. Expect more of such warnings if the volume of the news about strikes keeps on improving its lot.
Social media is helping the news flow circumventing the regulatory tentacles. In case of Wukan, key words on name and place of the village were tried to be blocked. But Wukan happened. And so the voluminous (yes voluminous given the past history of the information flow in China) flow of information is happening.
A report in The Economist presents an interesting observation. It says, “Weibo have transformed public discourse in China. News that three or four years ago would have been relatively easy for local officials to suppress, downplay or ignore is now instantly transmitted across the nation. Local protests or scandals to which few would once have paid attention are now avidly discussed by Weibo users. The government tries hard, but largely ineffectively, to control this debate by blocking key words and cancelling the accounts of muckraking users. Circumventions are easily found. Since December the government has been rolling out a new rule that people must use their real names to open accounts. So far, users seem undeterred.”
Increasing number of strikes – increasing realization of the widening income gap – increasing flow of information – midst the year of the decadal transition in China’s political leadership!
The backdrop of the foreground called the ‘economic miracle of China’ looks debilitating.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - http://severallyalone.blogspot.com/