With violent protests springing up like mushrooms, following recent appearances in North Korea and Vietnam, and following last weekend's failed attempt at a Jasmine Revolution, China's authoritarian regime is about to be put to the supreme test. Bloomberg reports that "Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to punish abuse of power by officials and narrow the growing wealth gap as police blanketed Beijing and Shanghai to head off planned protests inspired by revolts in the Middle East." In other words, beatings (and disappearances) will continue until morale finally improves. As for the beatings, Bloomberg's Stephen Engle managed to experience one up close and personal: "Security officers also detained several foreign journalists, including Stephen Engle, a reporter for Bloomberg Television. The Wall Street Journal saw Mr. Engle being grabbed by several security officers, pushed to the ground, dragged along by his leg, punched in the head and beaten with a broom handle by a man dressed as street sweeper." Yes, China may be the most repressive regime when push comes to shove, but should 1+ billion angry and hungry Chinese decide there is nothing all that unique about China compared to Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Ivory Coast, Vietnam, North Korea, Djibouti and countless more to come, not even the most convincing "blanketing" by police forces will do much of anything to prevent the only revolution that matters.
Bloomberg on China's latest desperate attempt to deflect public anger:
The root of corruption lies in a government that has too much unrestrained power, Wen said in a two-hour online interview with citizens yesterday. He promised to curtail food costs and tackle surging property prices. Wen also cut economic growth targets and said the government would focus on ensuring the benefits of expansion were more evenly distributed.
Wen’s comments came as hundreds of police deployed in Beijing and Shanghai at the site of demonstrations called to protest corruption and misrule. At least seven people were bundled into police vans near Shanghai’s People’s Square, while in Beijing several foreign journalists were forcibly removed from the Wangfujing shopping district.
China’s leaders have emphasized the country’s economic successes in their response to demonstrations both in China and in the Middle East. While the country’s economy has expanded more than 90-fold in the past three decades, Wen said rising inequality is threatening social stability.
“The party leadership needs to reassure the people that in the absence of political reform they can nonetheless meet the people’s rising expectations,” said Chinese University of Hong Kong’s adjunct professor of history Willy Wo-lap Lam. “The expectation for what the government should do for the people has increased” as a result of protests sweeping Arab nations.
And following all that is the only thing that matters:
An August report by Zurich-based Credit Suisse AG put income inequality levels in China at levels not seen outside of sub-Saharan Africa. High food prices, unemployment and anger over corruption helped spark the protests that toppled Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and have fueled rebellion against Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi.
As for what is really happening in China, we can't wait to see Bloomberg's Stephen Engle recount first thing tomorrow:
Police easily quashed last Sunday's call for protests at designated sites in 13 cities, including a McDonald's outlet in the popular Wangfujing shopping street in downtown Beijing. For this past Sunday, the online activists urged people to protest silently by simply "taking a stroll" at many of the same sites.
In Beijing, hundreds of security officers—including uniformed police, burly plainclothes agents with earpieces, public-security "volunteers" in red armbands, and at least one SWAT team armed with automatic rifles and body armor—were deployed to Wangfujing. They initially allowed people to move fairly freely, while checking identification papers, but later cleared out most people and blocked off a 200-meter section of the street as two street-cleaning machines swept up and down spraying water to either side.
Security officers also detained several foreign journalists, including Stephen Engle, a reporter for Bloomberg Television. The Wall Street Journal saw Mr. Engle being grabbed by several security officers, pushed to the ground, dragged along by his leg, punched in the head and beaten with a broom handle by a man dressed as street sweeper.
Bottom line: you can take the authoritarian despotism out of the procyclical capitalism, but... nah, who are we kidding.