Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Worried Chinese leaders address rural violence and unrest with new five-year plan

By Aussiegirl

Here's a fascinating article from the Asia Times on the increasing problem of the disparity between the wealth of rural and urban populations, and the resultant discontent that has expressed itself in thousands of protests, some of them violent. For those who believe that China has now put communism on the back burner, just read about their new "five-year plan" for the rural countryside. When has any five-year plan ever produced anything other than the passage of five years with things usually getting worse rather than better?

What is also interesting is the fact that the primary motivator in all this unrest is not only the disparity in income between the rural and urban populations, but the question of government seizure of peasant land without due compensation.

Sound familiar? It reminds me of the recent Kelo SCOTUS decision that allows municipalities to seize private property to promote purely commercial enterprises that are more lucrative to the government. A man's home is his castle is obviously a primary motivator whether you're a Chinese peasant, or an American homeowner. Once the government can take your property at a whim, we have lost the basic building block of a free society. China still faces many internal problems, and is obviously going about remedying them using the same old tactics of intimidation, imprisonment and coersion.

Asia Times Online :: China News, China Business News, Taiwan and Hong Kong News and Business.

When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao presented his third Government Work Report this week to the National People's Congress (NPC), there was plenty to boast about.

With China's economy racing along at 9.9% growth last year and surpassing Britain as the fourth-largest economy in the world, the premier clearly enjoyed basking in the nearly constant applause

of the faithful 3,000 delegates assembled at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for his speech.

But the emphasis in this year's report on building a "new socialist countryside" betrays a worrying trend for the central government: outside of the urban centers - which, following the old Soviet model, have been the focus of economic development since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 - there is growing civil unrest over the gross inequities of China's phenomenal economic growth.

Arguably, this increasing discontent among the 800 million people who live in China's rural areas transformed this past year into a grassroots movement that is primarily aimed at combating local corruption, but has also shaken Chinese leaders at the highest level.

Wen's attempts to appease the angry countryside, contained in a new five-year development blueprint, include abolishing the agricultural tax on farmers that dates back more than 2,000 years.

[...]While it is true that China's rural population needs more money, what they also need is a legal framework that protects their interests. Since there is no law in China that prevents farmland from being taken for industrial purposes and also no legal guarantee of fair compensation for farmers, it is far too easy for local officials to grab land and at the same time strike lucrative deals for themselves with developers.

The fact that farmland remains collectively owned in China also works against farmers. Critics say the real test of the government's commitment to helping the rural poor lies in Beijing's willingness to go a step further and allow privatization of farmland. At present, farmers can only lease land for 25-30 years.

Last year, the Chinese government recorded 87,000 protests, demonstrations and other "mass incidents", a 6% increase from 2004. In this year's "new socialist countryside", despite the fresh infusion of money, one can expect more.


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