China’s rapid ascent in the last decade as a new global economic superpower has taken many forms, and the once-despotic nature of the ruling class is now careful to tread lightly for fear of Prague spring-style rebellions erupting. This vast nation is a fascinating social and economic cauldron facing a new, young generation of well-informed and astute libertarians; Tianamen Square protests continue, but this time big business, regional and national governments are listening and adapting.
The last aforementioned word is really the key to the new emerging China – adaptation. Unlike Russia, which continues to move in a circular fashion, embracing only the economic spoils of democracy – still living in a repressive, draconian state – China, has inversely seen its citizens demand better pay, shorter work hours and a dismantling of the Maoist brainwashing that has dominated the landscape for so long; a recent story in the news highlights the fearless egalitarian approach to life that the Chinese public are now demanding.
With government elections around the corner, politicians are on their best behavior, but it’s still surprising and encouraging how a recently reported new petrochemical plant’s development was stopped in its tracks by the citizens of eastern city, Ningbo, after thousands protested the potential environmental impact of the move. The Guardian newspaper ran a story, quoting officials who offered seemingly contrite and pithy responses to the sometimes violent street protests: “A spokesman for Ningbo city government said in a statement carried by the official China News Service that no further work would be carried out on the project in Zhenhai district pending further scientific debate.” Many locals believe this is just a temporary ploy to placate the city, but it seems the protests aren’t likely to cease if work continues. This new climate is every bit as locked into social networking and social justice as it Western counterparts. The next step is surely bringing down the ‘great firewall’ of online censorship.