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Signs Of Disharmony

One of the purposes of the Hu-Wen “harmonious society’ policy is to narrow the income gap between city and country. The gap is seen as a source of social instability and thus a potential challenge to the Party’s authority to rule.

Picking over the latest annual Social Blue Paper from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the country’s top think-tank, there are a couple of signs that the policy is off track. First, good news that GDP per capita is expected to rise, to $4,000 by the end of 2010 from $3,500 this, is tempered by a forecast that the gap between incomes in towns and rural areas would widen. Second, the CASS says that social unseat is on the rise as the country confronts more social problems than ever before. It says that resentment has been accumulating against unfairness and power abuses by government officials at various levels.

This year alone there have been at least half a dozen large-scale popular protests involving tens of thousands of people across the country such as the taxi strikes and clashes between migrant workers and their employers and that is not counting the ethnic unrest in Xinjiang. The CASS also notes that reported crime is up 15%, despite an official campaign against it.

It is unclear how much of this is a consequence of the unemployment, particularly of migrant workers, brought on by the global financial crisis, and thus temporary if the straws in the wind we see of manufactures hiring again become more substantial. However, it is not what the Hu-Wen leadership wants to be hearing as it heads into the final 18 months of the succession season.

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