Zhou Yongkang, a member of the politburo and chief of security, has asked provincial officials for greater leeway in “social management.” He is concerned about increased unrest over labor issues.
Mr. Zhou, in a statement published Saturday, told the officials, “It is an urgent task for us to think how to establish a social management system with Chinese characteristics to suit our socialist market economy. Especially when facing negative effects of the market economy.” Translation: let’s figure out how to control the population without causing a revolution as they did in Syria. You really have to be careful about not setting off a revolution when your population is 1.4 billion and your army is only 2.3 million. He suggested increased police presences, better internet control and better unemployment insurance. Unemployment insurance? In a communist country?
The Chinese economy is slowing a bit, but that isn’t quite as great a problem as the fact that people can be unemployed. A couple of decades ago, the Chinese prided themselves on not having any unemployment, even though that was achieved by having roads literally built by hand – people with huge mallet-y tamping rods packing down the road beds. They have built entire cities in months, and the rural areas are falling farther and farther behind in basic services and infrastructure. The booming economy has created the one thing that a communist nation should not have – class divisions.
The Chinese economy grew by only 9.1% in the third quarter, the slowest rate of growth in two years. Manufacturing shrank and the government cut the amount of money backs must keep in reserve to encourage more lending. Employees of the Singapore-based electronics firm Hi-P International in their Shanghai facility went on strike last week over layoffs. Thousands of wrokers in Shenzhen and Dongguan, top export centers, went on strike last month over cuts in overtime. Strikes are unheard of in communist countries.
Observers of Tiananmen Square in 1989 believed that the protests changed nothing, but they acted as a warning for the leaders of China. Sooner or later, the people would unravel the empire that is modern China. The Soviet Union was falling apart, and it fell apart chaotically because there was nothing to replace communism. The Chinese leadership chose to create capitalism first, and allow the political reforms to evolve over time, sort of a controlled revolution. But if the economy doesn’t preform properly, the whole “controlled” thing will fall apart. Zhou Yongkang understands this, and if they can’t control the economy, he wants to control the inevitable response.