China Leader Warns About Unrest Due to Economy

A top government official has expressed fears that Beijing is not prepared for the increasing social unrest that is one consequence of the economic slowdown. These fears come during a decline in manufacturing, as labor strikes and other mass incidents surge. The Associated Press reports:

The government needs better methods for dealing with “the negative effects” of the economy, Politburo member Zhou Yongkang said in remarks to provincial officials Friday that were published Saturday by the official Xinhua News Agency. Zhou called for innovative approaches to social management — a euphemism for a clutch of policies as diverse as stepped-up policing and unemployment insurance meant to dampen unrest.

“Especially when facing the negative effects of the market economy, we still have not formed a complete mechanism for social management,” Zhou said. How to do so, he said, “is the great and urgent task before us.”

In another instance of frayed tensions, Xinhua reported that hundreds of people overturned four police and government cars Friday in the central city of Xi’an after a truck hit and killed a girl and police did not arrive at the scene for two hours.

CNN reported last week on the rise in labor unrest in Chinese factories:

Thousands of workers at the Yucheng Footwear Factory in Dongguan, a manufacturing hub in southern Guangdong province, clashed with police last week to demand better pay. Factory managers laid off 18 employees and cut overtime after a drop in overseas orders –prompting employees to demonstrate at the local government building.

[…] The protest is one of many to hit manufacturers operating in southern Guangdong province — the “workshop of the world” — as increasingly frustrated workers vent their discontent at low pay and poor working conditions.

“This is probably the most intense spike in worker activism since the wave of strikes that hit Chinese manufacturers in summer 2010,” said Geoffrey Crothall of China Labor Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based group that monitors labor issues in China.

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