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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wave of Unrest Rocks China

Threats to Social Order Increasingly Hit Cities, Bringing Iron-Fist Response

BEIJING—A wave of violent unrest in urban areas of China over the past three weeks is testing the Communist Party's efforts to maintain control over an increasingly complex and fractious society, forcing it to repeatedly deploy its massive security forces to contain public anger over economic and political grievances.

The simultaneous challenge to social order in several cities from the industrial north to the export-oriented south represents a new threat for China's leaders in the politically sensitive run-up to a once-a-decade leadership change next year, even though for now the violence doesn't appear to be coordinated.

In the latest disturbance, armed police were struggling to restore order in a manufacturing town in southern China Monday after deploying tear gas and armored vehicles against hundreds of migrant workers who overturned police cars, smashed windows and torched government buildings there the night before.

The protests, which began Friday night in Zengcheng, in the southern province of Guangdong, followed serious rioting in another city in central China last week, plus bomb attacks on government facilities in two other cities in the past three weeks, and ethnic unrest in the northern region of Inner Mongolia last month.

Antigovernment protests have become increasingly common in China in recent years, according to the government's own figures, but they have been mainly confined to rural areas, often where farmers have been thrown off their land by property developers and local officials.

The latest unrest, by contrast, involves violent protests from individuals and large crowds in China's cities, where public anger is growing over issues including corruption and police abuses.

There is no evidence to suggest the recent violence is part of a coordinated movement—the party's greatest fear—nor do the events threaten its grip on power given the strength of China's security apparatus, and its booming economy, analysts say. They are nonetheless troubling for China's government which, unnerved by unrest in the Arab world, has detained dozens of dissidents since appeals for a "Jasmine Revolution" in China began circulating online in February. The Mideast uprisings so far haven't inspired similar mass protests in China.

Continue reading - WSJ - Wave of Unrest Rocks China

China’s inflation pressures have yet to be contained by four interest-rate increases since September, underscoring the danger of any extended policy pause as bad weather threatens to further drive up food costs.

The central bank yesterday increased banks’ reserve requirements to drain cash from the economy after consumer prices rose 5.5 percent in May, the biggest gain since 2008. Inflation may reach 6 percent this month, according to banks from Societe Generale SA to UBS AG.

Wen aims to tame prices and sustain growth to maintain social stability, with the premier noting in March that inflation, corruption, and the gap between rich and poor could “affect the government’s hold on power.”

Signs of social unrest have include clashes involving street vendors in Zengcheng, Guangdong, this month and riots last month in Inner Mongolia. The government has also detained activists after calls for so-called “jasmine” rallies, inspired by revolts in the Middle East and North Africa.

Continue reading - Bloomberg - China Inflation Heading for 6% Shows Danger for Wen Extending Rate Pause

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