Chinese peasants, back on the stage of world history
Newsnight last night carried a very good report on rural unrest in China and the way that peasant farmers are fighting back to save their land from the gangster-capitalist property-developers, throwing up high-rises around Chinese cities at a phenomenal rate. This was one of those rare news reports that is truly informative and at the same time moving and even a little inspiring. You can watch the film here (at least for the time-being anyway) and there is a somewhat condensed article on BBC News too.
The massive scale and violence of the struggles that Chinese peasants are waging is quite amazing. They are up against not only bands of hired thugs, often working for state-owned companies, but also the police and corrupt local officials. In some places the uprisings have been on the scale of historical rebellions of Chinese peasants: 100,000 in Sichuan last November, 20,000 in Zhejiang in April.
What is perhaps even more amazing is that Chinese farmers are making documentaries of their struggles and filming their battles with the armies of thugs that come to take their land and demolish their villages. The Newsnight report includes footage from one such battle in Shengyou near Beijing this June. As the narrator comments, it is like watching a medieval Chinese battle scene: a muddy chaos of peasants with bamboo poles and farm tools. Well at least until the gunshots and explosions begin.