China: Hundreds of Protests a Day Against the Super-exploitation by Capital

Economic Boom Widens the Class Differences in this Huge Asian Country - From Battaglia Comunista 4 (April 2007)

One dead and 60 injured: that was the outcome of clashes between March 10th and 12th in central China. The protest, involving 20000 demonstrators faced by thousands of police and soldiers, was caused by revelations of corruption and above all by the doubling of the price of bus tickets arbitrarily applied on the Chinese New Year. (1)

On Tuesday March 13th the entire area was surrounded by roadblocks. The little information that has filtered through tells us that the military now

... are taking control of the area, inch by inch, interrogating citizens and asking that anyone who started the protest give themselves up to the authorities.

Meanwhile the local authorities revoked the contract of the bus company Anda, which had provoked the violence when it raised the price of the bus tickets to $1.90. The cost has now been fixed at $0.65. Local officials have played down what has happened, speaking officially of “a simple protest like so many others”, but it is significant that a deputy of the People’s National Assembly meeting in Beijing a few days later had asked his Hunan colleagues “how is it possible for something on this scale to have taken place?”

Violent protests have also been confirmed in Guixi, in Jiangsi province, against the Government’s decision to found two cities at the same time as reducing wages and compensation payments to those who lose their land. Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the vicinity of the station and blocked the main railway lines to Shanghai and the Eastern provinces for six hours. Photographs show thousands of demonstrators throwing rocks at the police and a car burning. At least 40 people were hurt in the clashes.

It is widely believed that there are no social conflicts in China, probably due to the equally mistaken belief that no trades unions means no struggles. On the contrary, conflicts are constantly multiplying throughout the Celestial Empire. We have documented on several occasions in the last few years, the hard and courageous struggle of the Chinese working class since the 2002 revolt which involved tens of thousands of workers in the oil producing basin of Daqing. According to a nervous report by the Minister for Public Security, Zhou Youkang in 2005:

# The number of incidents has obviously grown and become more widespread. From 10000 mass incidents in 1994 to more than 74000 in 2004, a seven-fold increase. The numbers taking part has gone up from 730 000 in 1994 to 3 760 000 in 2004, or a fivefold increase.
# The range of struggles has widened. These incidents have been confirmed in cities, villages, enterprises, public services, schools in different areas and different sectors. They have been seen in every province, autonomous region, and municipality.
# Those taking part in “mass incidents” are from widely differing backgrounds. They include unemployed workers, agricultural labourers, inhabitants of cities, and people from various social strata.
# They use extreme methods, including the besieging and attacking of Party and Government offices, and road and rail blocks amongst other activities.
# There is a tendency towards greater organisation. At times organisations arise spontaneously with clear leaders.

These “facts” clearly need to be taken with a pinch of salt. They are easily twisted and based on a vague definition of “mass incidents” which can mean a wide variety of social protest from peaceful marches to violent protests. (2) Nonetheless this declaration is significant, and gives an idea of the sense of anxiety in the Government which, according to the latest proposal, intends to use the Army rather than the police to maintain public order!

The growing protests follow, step by step, the so-called “miracle” of Chinese economic growth, the most important feature of which is the inhuman level of exploitation and a widening class divide which the so-called “Communist Party” has recently made even more apparent with the new law on private property. Il Manifesto (March 9th) also confirmed this.

The verbal acrobatics to maintain the oxymoron of “the socialist market economy” becomes ever more gross as in “the law is needed due to the necessity to reinforce the basis of the socialist economic system” in a state “at the first stage on the road to socialism” where “public property remains dominant but other forms of property are developing and they work side by side”.

It has taken a long time to produce the present law. It started with the change to the Constitution in 2004 according to which “the private property of citizens is inviolable under the law”. It is not the first step, and it certainly won’t be the last, in the drive towards an ever greater concentration and centralisation of capital for both the state apparatus and its functionaries, and also private entrepreneurs.

The next step, which they have already leaked, will be the privatisation of agricultural holdings. If they prefer not to take away the main support of about 800 million people at the moment this won’t be possible when industrialisation, dislocation, urbanisation, and the transport system, driven by the spasmodic and desperate search for profits, demand further space. For the moment the latest reform has extended the length of tenure for landholdings to 50 years.3

“This action has been taken,” Vice-President Wang openly stated, “because a social security network has not yet been established in the countryside”. The Chinese ruling class are well aware of the importance of the agricultural sector for containing social tensions: a large number of the protests are about land appropriations, carried out by corrupt local officials, leaving the peasants with derisory sums in compensation.4 With this in mind, Premier Wen Jibao has announced the provision of resources for “the new socialist campaign” for health, education, social security and the ... army.

The Chinese proletariat is faced with a difficult future. But the courageous struggles which they have engaged in recently, though disjointed and confused, still have the capacity and the potential to represent an alternative to the ever more strident contradictions of a system offering only super-exploitation.


(1) The first demonstrators started to assemble around a government building in Zhushan, a village in the province of Hunan on Friday March 9th. The protests increased over the weekend. “The manager of the bus firm replied by sending four bus loads of goons with the aim of intimidating the crowd; the local police seemed to be on their side”, an activist present stated. On Monday, the provincial authorities put 20 lorry loads of soldiers in the villages in order to add to the manpower of the 1700 police. According to witnesses they immediately began to charge the crowd using electric shock batons and clubs. “They hit everyone, the old, women, young children and passers-by”. The crowd responded by throwing bricks and stones, nine army vehicles were set on fire. The battle lasted 5 hours and government officials remained surrounded until 8:00 at night before the crowd dispersed. The Hong Kong daily, The South China Morning Post told of one victim: a student who was wounded in the clashes on Sunday, and died on the Monday.

(2) The Deputy Minister for Social Security, Lin Jinguo put forward this case at the beginning of January, maintaining that, in the year before, “mass incidents”, had gone down by 16.5% compared to the 87,000 in 2005. In reality this fall was unquestionably due to a crude fixing of the figures by changing the description of some of the protests so that they could be excluded from the statistics.

(3) Therre is no private property in land in China, not a result of the so-called “communist revolution” of October 1949 but as a continuity from the Asiatic despotic mode of production under the “Celestial Empire”. Since 1949, peasants held land on 30 year leases from the state but as these are being wound up many tenant farmers are losing their farms. In rural areas this, and the corrupt officialdom which accompanies it, have been a major cause of the revolts.

(4) According to one peasant witness from Zheijang “In our village each person has about 1 mu (1/15th of a hectare) which, if worked, yields 30,000 yuan a year (about £2000) but the compensation on offer is only about 400,000 yuan”. The Minister for Labour and Social Security Tian Chengping has declared that 24 million people will be shifted from the country to the town during 2007. However, the rosiest Government prediction for new jobs is 12 million leaving the other 12 million peasants to swell the ranks of the unemployed.

Revolutionary Perspectives

Journal of the Communist Workers’ Organisation -- Why not subscribe to get the articles whilst they are still current and help the struggle for a society free from exploitation, war and misery? Joint subscriptions to Revolutionary Perspectives (3 issues) and Aurora (our agitational bulletin - 4 issues) are £15 in the UK, €24 in Europe and $30 in the rest of the World.