The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) relies on economic growth and strict authoritarian rule to maintain control over a fractious and geographically vast nation. Socioeconomic issues have been a large driver of protests in China. The party is particularly concerned about inflation, including a 10 percent increase in food prices over the past year, as well as such catalysts of protests as corruption, pollution, and income inequality.
In order to maintain control more effectively, the party has created an extensive police and surveillance network to monitor its citizens and react to any potential threat to stability. In 2010, China invested $83.5 billion in domestic security, which surpassed China’s published military budget of $81.2 billion for the same year. In early 2011, the central government responded forcefully to the possibility that the unrest in the Middle East might lead to unrest in China. This was particularly evident in the large northwestern province of Xinjiang. There, in its capital city of Urumqi, bloody street battles raged between the ethnic Muslim Uighurs and the Chinese Han residents. Local police and militia were reinforced by a large contingent of the crack team Snow Leopards special forces. Ethnic strife will be looked at more in another chapter.
Internal security, or what the ruling class might refer to as societal harmony, is ironically threatened by China’s own success. More money, more mobility, an particularly more exposure to the larger world via the web has created greater expectations for individual self-determination. For the political class in Beijing, it is classic case of “How you gonna’ keep them down on the farm, after they’ve seen gay Paris?” It’s a tune that is increasingly drowning out that old favorite, “The EAST is RED.”