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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rightful Resistance Turned Wrongful?

Dear All, over night, the biggest news in China was a series of explosions in the town of Fuzhou in Jiangxi Province. I attach some news summaries of the events below. What's really striking is that the perpetrator seems to be a farmer who had petitioned through both the courts and the petition system for over ten years. In fact, he had his own weibo account, which recounts his ordeals. In the end, he apparently took matters into his own hand. On the Chinese weibo-sphere, users almost universally lauded his actions as justified! (His weibo account is: http://weibo.com/1773401361) I venture to guess that the leaders in Beijing may be more disturbed by his martyr status than by the bombing itself. For us political scientists, the may be a watershed event in the rightful resistance model developed by Kevin O'Brien and Li Lianjiang.



China Explosions Kill at Least Two

Wall Street Journal

By JAMES T. AREDDY

SHANGHAI—Three explosions rocked government offices in a small city in the relatively poor Chinese province of Jiangxi, killing at least two people and injuring others, state media said.

A blast in a parking lot near the prosecutor's office in Fuzhou city's Linchuan district Thursday morning was followed minutes later by a second inside the nearby headquarters building of the district government, where two people were killed and six injured, China's state-run Xinhua news agency said. Another blast rocked an office in the district related to food and drug administration, a witness and Xinhua said.


Smoke rising from explosions that shook government offices in Fuzhou city Thursday
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The explosions took place between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Citing a witness, Xinhua reported that windows were blown out of the eight-floor building housing the prosecutor's office. Xinhua said it didn't yet have casualty figures for the explosion there or at the third building struck.

The buildings are located within a short drive of each other.

A woman answering telephones in the Fuzhou city government offices said no one was available to comment, and calls to the local police department went unanswered.

"The cause of the blasts is still being probed, but the source with the provincial government said a farmer was suspected to have triggered the explosions to (avenge) his resentment," Xinhua said.

A photo showed grey smoke rising at least 100 meters over the site of one of the blasts.

Xinhua and other reports said it was likely at least one of the blasts was in a car. A Volkswagen Santana was destroyed and several other cars were damaged, Xinhua said.

Such incidents aren't unusual in China's city centers. In recent years, for instance, people have died in suspicious bus fires in Kunming, Chengdu, Wuxi and Shanghai that were blamed in some cases on gasoline brought on board.

Earlier this month, an explosion possibly ignited by a crude gasoline bomb injured 49 people at a rural bank office in northwestern China's Gansu province, government media reported. According to Xinhua, the county government later reported police had apprehended a suspect, a former bank employee recently fired for embezzlement.


Series of Blasts Leaves at Least 2 Dead in Southern Chinese City
By EDWARD WONG
Published: May 26, 2011
New York Times


BEIJING — At least two people were killed and six injured by three explosions within an hour on Thursday at different government office buildings in a city in southern China, according to state media and a provincial government Web site.

The blasts occurred in the city of Fuzhou in Jiangxi Province between 9 and 9:45 a.m., according to the government posting, which appeared on the province’s propaganda bureau Web site. The first one was at the Fuzhou Procurator’s Office, the second at the Linzhuan District government building and the third in a car park at the Linzhuan Food and Drug Administration office.

A photograph posted on a Chinese social networking Web site and on the Web site of Phoenix Television, based in Hong Kong, showed a large cloud of smoke rising above a cluster of buildings as scores of people watched from a wide avenue. Other photos and a short video on the Phoenix Television Web site showed government buildings with windows blown out, shattered glass on sidewalks and damaged cars.

The Web site of Xinhua, the state news agency, posted an item saying the explosives were planted by a farmer who was angry with the handling of a court case, which could explain why the first explosion took place at the procurator’s office. That office supervises legal matters in Fuzhou and is responsible for the prosecution and investigation of legal cases. The Xinhua posting had been deleted by 1 p.m.

The lack of rule of law in the country is an abiding source of frustration for ordinary Chinese, many of whom believe that true justice is elusive. Legal experts say China’s attempts at legal reform have stalled in recent years, and in many cases have gone backwards. The central government’s disregard for legal proceedings has been evident during a broad crackdown this year on progressive speech and thought, as security officers have detained and interrogated hundreds of intellectuals, artists, dissidents and rights advocates without citing any legal basis.

If the attacks in Fuzhou were carried out by a disgruntled farmer, as the Xinhua Web site had reported, then that raises again the question of whether China needs to establish greater rule of law in order to ensure stability.

A report under the local news section of the Xinhua Web site said the mayor of Fuzhou, Zhang Yong, gave a talk earlier this week on “maintaining social stability” to officials who were attending a class on social management. Fuzhou is a city of four million in a farming region.

Deadly explosions have taken place in recent years in several Chinese cities, even outside the restive western region of Xinjiang. In May 2008, an explosion during rush hour on a public bus in Shanghai killed at least three people and injured at least 12, according to official reports. In July 21, 2008, bomb attacks took place at around the same time on two buses in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, killing at least two people. The explosions in both cities, along with violence in Xinjiang, raised security concerns ahead of the Summer Olympics, which began in August 2008 in Beijing.

Five days after the Kunming attack, a shadowy group called the Turkestan Islamic Party, which claims to be a jihadist group working for the liberation of Xinjiang, where many ethnic Uighurs are frustrated by the policies of the ruling ethnic Han, put out a video taking credit for the explosions in Kunming and Shanghai. Chinese officials said their investigations showed the group was not responsible, but it was unclear who had carried out the attacks.

Comments:
Hi Victor

Yes. When I read this report I immediately thought of Fuzhou in Fujian. In 05 I think it was, some disgruntled farmer exploded a large fertiliser bomb in a bus two blocks from the city centre. Numerous deaths and body parts all over the banyan trees. Total news clampdown and the street was sanitised within hours. However, you could still bee the scorch marks on the road.
 
Hi Victor, I understand your concerns. However, I doubt whether O'Brien and Li have ever suggested that 'rightful resistances' have to be RIGHT. In my personal opinion, the 'rightful resistance’ is all about framing. It is a framing strategy through which citizens may gain more ‘legitimacy’ or sympathy for their noninstitutionalised protests. Therefore, from this perspective,‘rightful resistance’ will never turn wrongful since the concept itself has nothing to do with right or wrong; and whether a rightful resistance should be appreciated and/or sympathised really depends on its targets and the way it is carried out. But you are quite right to point out that nowadays many people in China simply sympathise everything that goes against the government, and this is what the Chinese Government should really concern.
 
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How do we characterize China?

When people ask me about contemporary China, I find myself describing something that is a mix of socialism, state capitalism, and crony capitalism. Of course, China has the socialist legacy of state ownership of strategic firms and the entire financial sector (except for underground banks and trust products....etc.). Because these SOEs face competition within China and in the global market, some of us call this phenomenon state capitalism. Of course, China endowed itself with capitalist competition by deliberately opening its market in many sectors to global competition, which set it apart from autarkies like North Korea. Increasingly, however, we see interest groups with strong state connections trying to influence state policies in order to obtain private gains. Crony-influenced state policies tax the households, as in the case of forced evictions, create oligopolies, as in the case of oil companies in China, and stall further reform in various sectors.

In the case of England, it might have been some form of state capitalism, as was the US. However, in both cases, institutions eventually developed to allow different interest groups to influence policies in a more transparent way. Powerful interest groups still drive policies in both of these countries, but the media and the public provide some (I emphasize "some" here) checks against crony capitalist tendencies. Eventually, some institutions (not necessarily a constitution) develop to protect the property rights of ordinary citizens.

In China, leaders with regime-wide influence used to check against cronyist tendencies. Today, I see less clear stance against powerful interest groups, and more inaction dressed up as reform. I would agree with the assessment that institutional development is lagging, although I hesitate to call this "fascist," as some have done

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