Why China’s Crackdown Is Selective

Minxin Pei reports for The Diplomat and tries to discover the complex formula Chinese authorities use to determine exactly how, when and where to extinguish protests.

The Chinese government may be cracking down hard on dissent. But some protesters are treated more gently than others.

For a one-party state that tolerates practically no open defiance of its authority, Beijing’s gentle handling of hundreds of striking truckers in Shanghai who had paralyzed operations at one of China’s largest container ports seems an anomaly.  Instead of sending in riot police to break up the blockade last week, the authorities in Shanghai agreed to reduce fees levied on the truckers, who were angry over the charges and rising fuel prices.

The outcome of this incident couldn’t be more different from another recent event: the arrest of Ai Weiwei, one of China’s most prominent political activists. Ai has repeatedly defied the ruling Communist Party and, despite his international stature, Beijing decided to put him behind bars, ignoring widespread international condemnation.

The contrast between these two incidents raises an intriguing question: why does Beijing tolerate certain forms of protest, but represses others?

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