Saturday, June 18, 2011

Civil Unrest in China

A hallmark of totalitarian governments is the need to promote an image of their populace as tranquil and content under their leadership.  Such is the case with the government of China.  However the image belies the reality.
The rapid growth of the Chinese economy over the past 30 years has been driven by rapid urbanization and a never-ending supply of cheap migrant labor moving from the countryside to the cities.  According to the latest government figures, an estimated 153 million people have left their homes in the rural areas of the country and moved to the cities to work on construction sites, in restaurants and in factories just over the past 12 years.  The result has been widespread civil unrest, which has been a feature of life for years.  The unrest continues today, as numerous large and violent protests have broken out between the police and these migrant workers.
One side-effect has been the creation of a huge underclass of people that lacks access to basic social services in the cities and do not hold much of a stake in the modern society they have helped build.  These people are mostly not entitled to healthcare, education, housing support or social security benefits provided to their urban cousins.
What was once the biggest driver of Chinese growth has now become a huge potential source of social instability, especially in places such as Zengcheng, where more than a third of the 1.3 million residents are migrant laborers.
A government report, republished on Tuesday [June 14] warned that if the swelling ranks of migrant workers were not integrated properly into the cities then they could pose a serious threat to social stability.
The report forecasts that 9 million migrants will join the urban workforce each year between now and 2015 and less than 9 per cent of all migrants are likely to choose to return to the countryside.

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