Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle

where the lines are drawn and news is made

China Is Seen Nearing U.S.’s Military Power in Region

[Petar Kujundzic/Reuters--A Chinese commander adjusts the cap of a soldier in Beijing, ahead of a visit by President François Hollande of France in April.]

TOKYO — China’s growing industrial might is likely to allow it to mount an increasingly formidable challenge to the military supremacy of the United States in the waters around China that include Japan and Taiwan, though it will probably seek to avoid an outright armed conflict, according to a detailed new report by a group of American researchers.

The report by the nine researchers, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the most likely outcome for the next two decades showed China narrowing the gap with the United States in military abilities, in areas including building aircraft carriers and stealth fighter jets. At the same time, the report, to be released Friday, said China’s economic interdependence with the United States and the rest of Asia would probably prevent it from becoming a full-blown, cold-war-style foe, or from using military force to try to drive the United States from the region.

One of the authors, Michael D. Swaine, an expert on Chinese defense policy, called the report one of the first attempts to predict the longer-term consequences of China’s rise for a region whose growing economic prosperity has been largely a result of the peace and stability brought by American military hegemony. He said one conclusion was that the appearance of a new rival meant that, for better or for worse, the current American-dominated status quo might not last much longer.

“We wanted to ask, how should the United States deal with this possibility?” said Mr. Swaine, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment, based in Washington. “Can the United States continue with business as usual in the western Pacific, or must it start thinking of alternative ways to reassure the region about security?” Continue reading

China: 30 Years of Capitalism-Restored Brings Toxic Harvest of Displacement for Millions

Cancer victim faces China land battle

The demolished site where Yao Baohua's house still stands, in the city of Changzhou, on March 13, 2013 (AFP, Peter Parks)

The demolished site where Yao Baohua’s house still stands, in the city of Changzhou, on March 13, 2013 (AFP, Peter Parks)

The Yao home is the last one standing in the rubble of a vast development site in Changzhou, a Chinese “nail house”, the moniker earned for both their physical appearance and their owners’ stubborn resistance.

The former mathematics teacher is one of the few to make a stand against the devastating side effects of China’s breakneck urbanisation, which can see entire villages uprooted to make way for industry and housing developments — often with the help of corrupt officials and police.

“Everyone else has gone, fight by fight, tear by tear,” said the 75-year-old, breathing heavily in a bed at Changzhou People’s Number Two hospital, recovering from an operation on a stomach tumour.

“But I will never give up. It is an illegal development,” he added, raising his fists defiantly as aggressive security staff forced out his visitors.

Yao’s plight is typical of disputes over land expropriation that China’s then premier Wen Jiabao said last year “are still very serious and the people are still very concerned about them”.

China has passed a series of regulations in recent years to protect land rights, including outlawing the use of violence during evictions and stipulating market rate compensation must be paid to relocated residents.

But local officials often ignore the rules, say researchers and campaigners. Continue reading

Worker strikes in China ‘too common to suppress’

21 February 2013

By Daniel Hurst, National Times

Chinese workers are now launching too many strikes and protests for authorities to suppress, according to a union dissident visiting Australia.

Chinese dissident Han Dongfang, who was expelled from the country 20 years ago, told the Australian Workers’ Union conference on the Gold Coast the new generation of Chinese workers were better educated and aspirational than their parents and no longer willing to accept exploitation.

He spoke of the 2010 strike at the Honda plant in Nanhai that secured 24 per cent pay rise and a promise of democratic union elections. Meanwhile, employees at a state-owned oil firm in the Maoist heartland of Yan’an staged protests and demanded talks with management after a push to cut job security and benefits.

Han Dongfang, who founded China’s first independent trade union during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, said many people may ask themselves why the Chinese government had allowed the workers’ movement to develop to the point where even state-owned enterprises had to listen to their employees.

But he said there were now simply too many strikes and worker protests to suppress. Continue reading

China in Revolt

[This essay from Jacobin magazine traces the trajectory of recent working class struggle in China.  It draws on many unknown examples, and for that reason Frontlines posts this material for our readers.  The analysis and conclusions drawn by the author are his own. -- Frontlines ed.]

Few in the West are aware of the drama unfolding in today’s “epicenter of global labor unrest.” A scholar of China exposes its tumultuous labor politics and their lessons for the Left.

Workers on strike blocking the entrance gate of Hi-P International factory yell slogans during a protest in Shanghai Dec 2. Labor actions in the country are increasing. REUTERS photo

At the same time, Chinese workers are depicted as the pitiable victims of globalization, the guilty conscience of First World consumers. Passive and exploited toilers, they suffer stoically for our iPhones and bathtowels. And only we can save them, by absorbing their torrent of exports, or campaigning benevolently for their humane treatment at the hands of “our” multinationals.

For parts of the rich-world left, the moral of these opposing narratives is that here, in our own societies, labor resistance is consigned to history’s dustbin. Such resistance is, first of all, perverse and decadent. What entitles pampered Northern workers, with their “First World problems,” to make material demands on a system that already offers them such abundance furnished by the wretched of the earth? And in any case, resistance against so formidable a competitive threat must surely be futile.

By depicting Chinese workers as Others – as abject subalterns or competitive antagonists – this tableau wildly miscasts the reality of labor in today’s China. Far from triumphant victors, Chinese workers are facing the same brutal competitive pressures as workers in the West, often at the hands of the same capitalists. More importantly, it is hardly their stoicism that distinguishes them from us.

Today, the Chinese working class is fighting. More than thirty years into the Communist Party’s project of market reform, China is undeniably the epicenter of global labor unrest. While there are no official statistics, it is certain that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of strikes take place each year. All of them are wildcat strikes – there is no such thing as a legal strike in China. So on a typical day anywhere from half a dozen to several dozen strikes are likely taking place. Continue reading

The Conditions of Migrant Workers in Shenzhen: A Discussion with a Rural Migrant Workers’ Rights Activist

by Shui Mui, China Left Review (Issue # 4) — (researcher, mainly focusing on migrant workers and labor-capital relations)

In March, 2009, I interviewed a Shenzhen based migrant workers’ rights activist. The interview helps us better comprehend the current conditions of migrant workers in China.

1. Workplace Injuries

A Hong Kong NGO put out a report (Arms and Legs), which discussed workplace injuries in China. At present in Shenzhen, many factories adopted new machinery equipped with infrared technologies, which could help prevent workers’ injuries. But that didn’t mean that older machinery left the Chinese scene altogether, it just moved inland. Still, Shenzhen’s rate of workplace injuries did not decrease, they only became more intense. Many 18-25 year old workers who just started working were injured in the first few days of work. This was because at many factories there was no training for newly hired workers.

Small factories owned by local investors are well below standard. When workplace injury related incidents occur, bosses frequently jump ship. Many workers’ injuries are not covered by regulations on the books that ensure workplace injury insurance. Electronics and shoe factories use a great amount of chemicals during production, without needed measures to prevent workplace poisoning. Smaller scale factories are especially weak in this area. Most of the workers in electronics factories are women, accounting for 70-80 percent of the workforce. Their work has a great impact on their reproductive systems, and the frequency of their falling ill is quite high. This is not only a problem for individual women workers, it also affects the next generation of offspring. One of the staff at University of Science and Engineering opened a battery factory where the majority of women workers fell ill to cadmium poisoning. One of these workers gave birth to an infant with a large black stripe on its body, which no one could explain. There have emerged many new chemicals used in factories are not covered by Chinese law. It’s estimate that in the next few years, rates of factory dust related lung disease will surge. This amounts to the end of the incubation period for diseases acquired since the process of economic liberalization began. Grinder’s disease, especially prevalent among miners, has already ended countless workers’ lives. Others with the disease are simply waiting to die.

Since the labor shortage that started in 2004, it should be noted that women workers are also finding it easier to secure jobs. Because women are regarded as more physically nimble, more obedient thanks to traditional culture in the countryside, much like previous generations of women workers in Korea, factory owners are predisposed to hiring them. Furthermore, if women workers look to fight for their rights, they typically have a much harder time than male counterparts. Continue reading

Chinese protesters force municipal government to back off from chemical plant plan

Living on Earth, 8 November, 2012

image

[Chinese protesters, like the one pictured here, have had success recently in beating back industrial projects. (Photo by Josh Chin.)]

China’s efforts to grow its economy and its manufacturing base are meeting resistance as the country’s middle class burgeons. In Ningbo, a plan to build a petrochemical plant was beaten back by protesters in the street who say these plants are affecting their health.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Ningbo, China, recently in opposition to a petrochemical plant they feel is a danger to public health.

After three days of demonstrations, and clashes between protesters and the police, the government has called the project off — at least for now.

Ben Carlson, a journalist with the Global Post who lives in Hong Kong, said the protests started out as a series of smaller protests.

“By the time the weekend rolled around there were several thousand people in the streets,” he said. “There were reports of the protesters overturning cars, and the police arrested several of the demonstrators — that actually became one of the causes that people were demonstrating against later on.” Continue reading

China: Among protesters, “middle class” slated for ‘loyal opposition’ role

Successful pollution protest shows China takes careful line with rising middle class

GILLIAN WONG,  Associated Press
October 29, 2012

NINGBO, China — A victory by protesters against the expansion of a chemical plant proves the new rule in China: The authoritarian government is scared of middle-class rebellion and will give in if the demonstrators’ aims are limited and not openly political.

It’s far from a revolution. China’s nascent middle class, the product of the past decade’s economic boom, is looking for better government, not a different one. They’re especially concerned about issues like health, education and property values and often resist the growth-at-all-costs model Beijing has pushed.

PHOTO: Chinese police officers monitor residents gathered outside the city government office in Ningbo city in eastern China's Zhejiang province Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. After three days of protests by thousands of citizens over pollution fears, a local Chinese government relented and agreed that the petrochemical factory would not be expanded, only to see the protests persist. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

[Chinese police officers monitor residents gathered outside the city government office in Ningbo city in eastern China's Zhejiang province Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. After three days of protests by thousands of citizens over pollution fears, a local Chinese government relented and agreed that the petrochemical factory would not be expanded, only to see the protests persist. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)]

The past week’s chemical-plant protests reached an unruly crescendo over the weekend, when thousands of people marched through prosperous Ningbo city, clashing with police at times. The city government gave in Sunday and agreed to halt the plant’s expansion.

Even so, the protesters did not back down, staying outside city government offices hours after the concession. About 200 protesters, many of them retirees, returned Monday to make sure the government keeps its word on the oil and ethylene refinery run by a subsidiary of Sinopec, the state-owned petrochemical giant.

“In yesterday’s protest, the ordinary people let their voices be heard,” a 40-year-old businessman who would give only his surname, Bao, said on the protest line Monday. Government officials, he said, “should say they are completely canceling the project. They should state clearly that they will stop doing these projects in Ningbo and the rest of China.” Continue reading

“Shocking” disclosure of extreme wealth at pinnacle of capitalist China’s power elite

[While the socialist fig-leaf of China no longer has the power to confuse all who have watched, from near and from afar, the discarding of socialist  -- peasant and workers' -- power for over three decades, the Western bourgeoisie have continued to slam the emergent exploitative and oppressive Chinese capitalist system as characteristic of "socialism" -- in hopes that once overthrown, socialism will not rise again.  But all this exposure in the New York Times does, is describe a common feature of capitalist systems worldwide.  Such "investigative journalism" is a good example of "the pot calling the kettle black." "If you live in a glass house, you should not throw stones at other glass houses."  The bourgeois Chinese state, in response, has blocked access in China to the New York Times online, in hope, no doubt, that the tattered and shredded socialist fig-leaf  may yet be a useful cover.  But, to use another analogy, "the Emperor has no clothes" that serve to disguise the reality. -- Frontlines ed.]

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October 25, 2012

Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader

By

BEIJING — The mother of China’s prime minister was a schoolteacher in northern China. His father was ordered to tend pigs in one of Mao’s political campaigns. And during childhood, “my family was extremely poor,” the prime minister, Wen Jiabao, said in a speech last year.

But now 90, the prime minister’s mother, Yang Zhiyun, not only left poverty behind, she became outright rich, at least on paper, according to corporate and regulatory records. Just one investment in her name, in a large Chinese financial services company, had a value of $120 million five years ago, the records show.

The details of how Ms. Yang, a widow, accumulated such wealth are not known, or even if she was aware of the holdings in her name. But it happened after her son was elevated to China’s ruling elite, first in 1998 as vice prime minister and then five years later as prime minister.

Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister’s relatives — some of whom, including his wife, have a knack for aggressive deal making — have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.

Deng Xiaoping, who led the new and resurgent capitalists to seize power from the working people of China after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. He popularized the slogan promoting individual greed against social and collective advance: “To get rich is glorious!”

In many cases, the names of the relatives have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work colleagues and business partners. Untangling their financial holdings provides an unusually detailed look at how politically connected people have profited from being at the intersection of government and business as state influence and private wealth converge in China’s fast-growing economy.

Unlike most new businesses in China, the family’s ventures sometimes received financial backing from state-owned companies, including China Mobile, one of the country’s biggest phone operators, the documents show. At other times, the ventures won support from some of Asia’s richest tycoons. The Times found that Mr. Wen’s relatives accumulated shares in banks, jewelers, tourist resorts, telecommunications companies and infrastructure projects, sometimes by using offshore entities.

The holdings include a villa development project in Beijing; a tire factory in northern China; a company that helped build some of Beijing’s Olympic stadiums, including the well-known “Bird’s Nest”; and Ping An Insurance, one of the world’s biggest financial services companies.

As prime minister in an economy that remains heavily state-driven, Mr. Wen, who is best known for his simple ways and common touch, more importantly has broad authority over the major industries where his relatives have made their fortunes. Chinese companies cannot list their shares on a stock exchange without approval from agencies overseen by Mr. Wen, for example. He also has the power to influence investments in strategic sectors like energy and telecommunications. Continue reading

China: Over 30 years since capitalism seized power, the slow discard of socialist fig-leaf

[While the  use of "reform" language undoubtedly refers to the planned bourgeois "democratic" invigoration of capitalist forces -- and to no hope for "democratic" relief for the peasants and workers suffering greater impoverishment (as fruit of their removal from socialist power) -- the discarding of Maoist imagery by the billionaire capitalist rulers of "reform" China is unmistakeably clear. -- Frontlines ed.]

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Reuters:  “China hints at reform by dropping Mao wording”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

* Removal of wording about Mao Zedong signals push for reform – analyst

* Internal debate about direction of incoming leadership

* Others say it may be too soon to write off Mao’s deep legacy

By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING, Oct 23 (Reuters) – The subtle dropping of references to late Chinese leader Mao Zedong from two policy statements over the last few weeks serves as one of the most intriguing hints yet that the ruling Communist Party is planning to move in the direction of reform.

Mao has always been held up as an ideological great in party communiques, his name mentioned almost by default in homage to his role in founding modern China and leading the Communist Party, whose rule from the 1949 revolution remains unbroken.

Which is why the dropping of the words “Mao Zedong thought” from two recent statements by the party’s elite Politburo ahead of a landmark congress, at which a new generation of leaders will take the top party posts, has attracted so much attention.

Also absent were normally standard references to Marxism-Leninism. Continue reading

Chinese residents take to streets after police beat truck driver to death

 

Reuters, Beijing, Wednesday,  October 17, 2012

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in the city of Luzhou in southwestern China on Wednesday, after reports a truck driver was beaten to death by policemen, residents said.

Pictures and video on China’s popular microblogging site Sina Weibo showed an apparently dead man sprawled out on the ground next to a truck as police held back onlookers.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the photos and calls seeking comment from the Luzhou government in Sichuan province went unanswered.

China’s Communist Party has been trying to keep a lid on protests ahead of a meeting in Beijing next month which will usher in a new generation of leaders.

Residents contacted by telephone said they had heard reports that traffic policemen had beaten a truck driver to death after an unspecified dispute.

Protesters burned police car in Luzhou

“People are very angry about this and are out on the streets to show their anger,” said one resident of the Hongxingcun neighborhood where the unrest was focused. He did not witness the incident and declined to give his name.

A manager at a local restaurant who gave her family name as Wang added that several thousand people had taken to the streets.

Images posted later in the evening showed overturned police cars, some of which had been set alight.

Some Weibo posts said the police had used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.

“The protests are still going on,” a third resident, who gave his family name as Li, said by telephone.

China’s ruling Communist Party worries that the tens of thousands of sporadic protests over land grabs, corruption, abuse of power and economic grievances that break out every year could coalesce into a national movement and threaten its control.

China saw almost 90,000 such “mass incidents” of riots, protests, mass petitions and other acts of unrest in 2009, according to a 2011 study by two scholars from Nankai University in north China. Some estimates go even higher.

That is an increase from 2007, when China had over 80,000 mass incidents, according to an earlier report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Most protests are either dispersed by security forces, or by officials promising demonstrators their demands will be heeded. None have so far even come close to becoming national movements which could challenge the central government

China’s migrants and the desperate struggle for survival

["Civil society" activists examine the barriers to their "underground" influence and the effect of their activism among migrant workers in the post-socialist, capitalist China.  --  Frontlines ed.]

China: The view from the ground

The self-organising efforts of migrant workers and rights activists across China offer a vital insight into the nature and future of modern Chinese society, says Hsiao-Hung Pai.

The experience of migrant workers in China, who number well over 200 million in this society of 1.2 billion, is a vital route to understanding the nature of present-day Chinese society. Migrants are the most marginalised and unorganised group of workers in China. Many feel that they are like scattered sand (san sha), a phrase that evokes their lack of collective strength and power to change things. In face of unpaid wages and all levels of abuses by companies, they often find themselves fighting their battles alone – and even when they take their bosses to court, this rarely ends in victory.

An example of such protest is an incident in Yunnan province, in China’s southwest, where the tourism company Xinhua Shizhaizi owed 8 million yuan to 500 migrant workers for a construction project. They were helpless but were determined to fight to the end, even though no institutions and no media would come to their aid. Eventually, thirteen children of these migrants joined their parents and held up signs in front of the public – “I want to eat, to go to school, to drink milk, to eat cookies” – as part of their demand that the developer pay the wages owed to their parents.

It was a sign of how desperate and isolated the workers were that their children had to protest on their behalf on the streets. But, as so often, the developers could count on their political connections to avoid responsibility, migrant andworkers were left with nowhere to turn to. Continue reading

AFP: Crackdown on China workers’ rights groups

Agence France-Presse, 10 September 2012

Around 10 groups that offer help to the millions of migrant workers living  and working in Shenzhen have suffered random inspections and evictions, some of  which turned violent, said the letter seen by AFP on Monday.

“Police have failed to prevent labour organisations from being evicted from  their offices for unknown reasons, sometimes even violently,” said the letter  signed by 20 scholars and sent to the city and provincial governments Sunday.

The Dagongzhe Migrant Worker Centre was one of the first to be caught in  the crackdown, with workers evicted from their offices in July after the water  and electricity supply to their office was shut off by local authorities.

Another, the Hand in Hand Workers’ Home, was evicted from its offices on  Sunday, while local government staff confiscated property belonging to a group  called The Little Grass Workers’ Home last month, staff there told AFP. Continue reading

China’s New Eco-Warriors

Monday 13 August 2012
Thanks to micro-blogs and the Internet spreading the word, people in China have become more and more aware of environmental issues, taking a stand against big corporations.
China's New Eco-Warriors
– (Occupy Vienna)
By Harold Thibault
LE MONDE/Worldcrunch

QIDONG - At 18-years-old, Li Wei does not look like a dissident. She is mostly focused on her studies in accountancy, her friends – with whom she is always in contact – and chatting with her sister. However, none of that stopped the young girl – who has given us a false name because of the difficult situation in her hometown of Qidong – from participating in a protest that escalated in the ransacking of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) offices.

Protesters had been gathering since sunrise on Saturday July 28 in this small town one hour’s drive north of Shanghai. As the day passed, the local government’s offices were stormed. Administration documents flew from the windows while the angered crowd grabbed at the shirt of the PCP secretary, overcome by the extent of the movement. “We have to mobilize to protect the environment, this is our hometown,” says Li Wei, sitting in the restaurant run by her parents.

Protests against polluting industries have multiplied recently due to citizens becoming increasingly aware of the ecological impacts created by economic development. Even state-run television channels are now talking about the environment as a priority in China, with young people spreading the word via micro-blogs. “People now realize that the fight against pollution is serious, as there are scarce few places in the world where industrialization is having such a heavy and direct impact on the masses,” says environmentalist Ma Jun. Continue reading

China: Shaoguan City dispatched riot police to suppress the workers on strike

[Workers strikes in China continue to grow in numbers and intensity.The following news report is an first draft of a translation. Later translations will be posted on Frontlines as they become available.-- Frontlines ed.]

Shaoguan City dispatched riot police to suppress the workers on strike

Shaoguan City dispatched riot police to suppress the workers on strike

Shaoguan City, Guangdong Province, Zhenjiang District plow town, 2012-6-24
Rio Tinto Explosive Materials Factory, the entire factory staff from early May went on strike to protest against the company executives corruption, bribery, embezzlement of public funds. Employees at the plant entrance hang a large banner: “Give me my hard-earned money”, “anti-corruption grasping corruption” and so on.The company refused to respond positively to the demands of employees, instead only delayed, resulting in deterioration of relations and intensifying the strike.On June 22, workers clogged the road, causing traffic gridlock; blocked the factory gates, but let the leadership enter; and car blocked the door of the depots. The authorities dispatched hundreds of police in a confrontation with the workers.

Nighttime, the riot squad got orders to disperse the workers, the two sides clashed, police fired tear gas to suppress the workers, and a number of people were arrested.

Police broke into the factory, trapped the leadership away, taking away the blockage of cars, transported them away, and evacuated the explosives factory. Continue reading