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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Chinese peasants, back on the stage of world history

Peasant riot

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.


At August 04, 2005 2:52 AM, Blogger Its All Just A Ride said...

The article I read a while back in the Washington Post on the Zhejiang revolt was especially chilling to read, if a bit melodramatic.

I wonder how much of this kind of stuff happens that we never hear about. A friend of mine who now works in Shanghai told me a year ago that there are peasent revolts almost everyday, but they are quickly crushed. I don't know how right he was then, but if recent developments are anything we might be seeing a rise in fed-up peasents. All the more incentive to get Hu Jintao working overtime on that corruption crackdown he's been talking about.

At August 04, 2005 8:03 AM, Blogger kotaji said...

Thanks for the link to the WaPo article. I've been trying to follow this for a while but not as assiduously as I'd like to.

It strikes me that the problem for China's leaders is that they can have as many corruption crackdowns as they like. Corruption is really a symptom of what's going on, not the cause. The causes are much deeper and more structural.

At August 04, 2005 8:57 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

I read a good article in, I think, the new left review a while back documenting this sort of thing. Apparently, revolts are on the rise and often happen during the time of year when the floating population goes back to their rural villages for public holidays and notice how things have changed.

I'll look for the url..

At August 04, 2005 9:04 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

here is the proper url for the video, so you can still access when it goes off the front page..

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