Velvet Glove Trumps Iron Fist in South China Land Riot

At Reuters, John Pomfret examines an unusually light-handed turn to the official response to riots in Wukan, Guangdong against the backdrop of provincial Party Secretary Wang Yang’s “Happy Guangdong” development model.

It was an unusual scene for a Chinese riot — there was not a single policeman in sight ….

“Come up here,” said one child running through the deserted Wukan local Communist Party office and pointing at hundreds of condom packets strewn on the ground amid piles of debris, papers and broken appliances. “Look how corrupt they were.” […]

While the Wukan clashes saw an initial crackdown by authorities on villagers who had gathered to protest dodgy deals involving hundreds of hectares of farmland, the aftermath was highly out of character in a country where the normal response to unrest is to “strike hard” with an iron fist.

Instead, authorities seemed to melt from sight for several days, a stark contrast to other “mass incidents” in Guangdong and elsewhere in China in recent years where the police presence has been typically overwhelming ….

The response to the Wukan incident “perhaps indicates a new tactic for Guangdong. Party Secretary Wang Yang has pledged to increase the amount of harmony in Guangdong, even if it means lower growth,” said Victor Shih, a political scientist at Northwestern University in Illinois.

For more on the riots and reaction in Wukan, see Land Grab Protest in S. China Simmers for 4th Day and Chinese Villagers Get Inquiry after Protests over Developer ‘Land Grabs’, via CDT.


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