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Leading Chinese dissident says downturn fuelling discontent

Leading Chinese dissident says downturn fuelling discontent

China's government risks collapsing under the economic downturn, stuck between helping the rich and risking a rebellion or backing the poor and risking a coup, a leading dissident said yesterday.
Wei Jingsheng warned in an article in Britain's Times newspaper that the economic crisis was fuelling growing discontent across China, among both the poor - 300 million live on less than a dollar a day - and the super-rich.
"The Chinese government is trapped by a terrible dilemma. It can act to help ordinary Chinese (in the manner of Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s) or the bureaucratic-capitalist class. But it cannot do both," he wrote.
Wei said unemployment is likely far higher than the government's figure of four percent in urban areas, possibly as high as 20 percent. When combined with stagnant wages, it is fuelling resentment against the super-rich.
"The government regards the tens of millions of peasant workers who will return to the cities after the Chinese holiday season to closed factories and no jobs as an urgent threat," he wrote.
"Chinese peasants have a long tradition of rebellion."
He argued: "If the Chinese government does not take a New Deal approach, it risks the Chinese people revolting and overthrowing those in power. Across the country there is mounting evidence of popular discontent turning to violence."
Military suppression will not work, he says, as "soldiers are the relatives of the peasant workers who have lost their jobs; the families of the military officers will also suffer through the economic crisis."
"But if the Chinese government does act to protect the ordinary Chinese, the ruling class of big businessmen and bureaucrats will overthrow it, and replace it with a government that will protect its interests," Wei wrote.
He argued that in the end, people from all backgrounds in China believe "that time is up for the regime - they believe that in 2009 or 2010 the Chinese will reach the limit of their toleration for the Communist Party."
Wei served 18 years in prison in China because of his writings against the communist authorities and has lived in the United States since 1997.
The World Bank has said economic growth in China could slow in 2009 to 7.5 percent, a level not seen since 1990.
Beijing unveiled a four-trillion-yuan (US$590-billion) spending package late last year to revive the economy.


Updated : 2021-04-24 02:45 GMT+08:00