China: April 11, 2005

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Unrest over government corruption is growing, despite efforts by the central government to crack down on corrupt local officials. With over a billion people, and thousands of local governments, it's proven impossible to make a significant dent in the number of corrupt officials out there. The Chinese central government, throughout history, has always had a hard time controlling the behavior of local officials. The corruption has been around for thousands of years, and only diminished for a few decades after the communists took over in the late 1940s. Unlike in the past, mass media makes local corruption widely known, and it has become a national issue as so many people realize how widespread it is. The internet and cell phones have made it impossible for the government to control the flow of new about corruption. The communist leadership fears loss of control on a national level because of popular anger over corruption. This is why the government backs talk about an invasion of Taiwan, or fuels anger against Japan for World War II atrocities (and not apologizing for killing twenty million Chinese.) But while Taiwan independence and Japanese atrocities can grab headlines, most Chinese have to deal with corrupt local governments all the time. Most Chinese also realize that war with Taiwan would mean war with the United States. This would mean an interruption of trade with the U.S., and massive unemployment in China. Chinese are more concerned with economic matters, than whether or not Taiwan is ruled by China. Millions of Chinese work for Taiwanese owned companies, and they are not keen on losing their jobs because the government wants to attack Taiwan. All politics is local, and the major local issues are jobs and corruption. 

The most feared development is a central government, facing increasing popular unrest, sends the armed forces off to take Taiwan by force. Nothing like a military victory to gain some popular approval. But a military defeat could bring down the communist government, something many Chinese see happening eventually anyway.

 

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