Friday, June 08, 2007

A Balancing Act of Olympic Proportions

In so many words, Hu Jintao reiterates--don't push your luck folks!

Stratfor: June 08, 2007 21 31 GMT


Two days after a rare protest by hundreds of middle-class, white-collar residents in Beijing, China's State Environmental Protection Administration criticized the local government's plans to build a controversial waste plant near a residential area of the capital, the South China Morning Post reported June 8. This is the latest incident in which the central government has had to step in to appease urban protesters objecting to construction or pollution-related projects endorsed by local government officials. Beijing is treading a fine line between sticking to its Olympic deadline and containing any potential subsequent urban unrest. ...

While China's middle class forms less than one-third of its population, its economic and intellectual influence is proportionately greater than China's 800-900 million rural residents. Urban protesters are also relatively more sophisticated in their methods of coordination; a 7,000-strong, mostly white-collar protest on June 1 in Xiamen caught local authorities off guard, due to the speed with which protesters organized themselves with text messages. ...

China's urban middle class also has an interest in maintaining continued economic growth, and thus political continuity -- in other words, single-party rule. By pushing through with its Olympics agenda, Beijing is risking one of its strongest and most stable bases of domestic support. Walking this fine line between Olympic deadlines and containing urban unrest will be part luck, part skill. Beijing can give a little leeway for protests pertaining to projects that are not vital to the upcoming Olympics. For projects that are related to the Olympics, however, the central government will have little choice but to intervene. (more)

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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