Specifically, Premier Wen Jiabao announced in Brussels last week, the Communist leaders in Beijing fear their own people. He didn’t put it quite that way, of course. But Mr. Wen did say that “if we increase the yuan by 20-40 percent as some people are calling for, many of our factories will shut down, and society will be in turmoil.” And that, he added, would be “a disaster for China and the world.”
This confession — that China’s economic development is hostage to its political underdevelopment — was remarkable on several levels. It was a shift from the argument that Mr. Wen made against U.S. policy in March, when he criticized the alleged U.S. “practice of depreciating one’s own currency and attempting to force other countries to appreciate their own currencies, just for the purpose of increasing their own exports.” That line was apparently too blatantly hypocritical to repeat. But in conjuring the specter of jobless mobs, Mr. Wen exchanged hypocrisy for near-incredible self-centeredness. Has he not noticed that governments all over the world are grappling with the political fallout of high unemployment — which many of their citizens blame on China?