Yiyi Lu has a really interesting post on the Wall Street Journal Blog about the role of “contentious politics” in Chinese society. She looks at the dynamic local government authorities have used to deal with protests and dissent, ranging from suppression and jailing to bribery to assent to the demands. There is clearly a growing issue of so many protests taking place (87,000 in 2005, at which point the PRC stopped releasing these ever-increasing annual numbers to the public). The volume is so high that she reports the domestic public security budget is now $75.3 billion dollars annually, just below China’s annual defense budget.
As Yiyi points out, the current model is untenable. Government won’t work when it is arbitrary and there is no uniform rule of law in China. She concludes:
The establishment of the rule of law will require systemic changes to the Chinese polity, and it is uncertain when and how it will happen. Until it happens, the only thing the government can count on is that there will be ever more contentious politics for it to deal with, and they will be organised in ever more ingenious ways, in order to create as big ruckuses as possible.
Yes, there will be ruckus. And there isn’t any area that the Chinese government fears more than their citizenry. In the absence of uniform and just laws, there really is no other predictable reaction from the people of China. It’s a very simple situation of the government reaping what it has sown.