China: August 2, 2005

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China's most dangerous internal enemy is the growing middle class. For China, this means families with annual incomes of  $18,000-$36,000. This is enough money to buy many consumer goods, like cell phones, cars, homes and personal computers. There are currently over 300 million Chinese in the middle class, and by the end of the decade, it's expected to be over 400 million. These are the people who use the Internet (currently over 100 million) and cell phones (currently over 150 million). The middle class has always been the chief threat to totalitarian governments (be they medieval monarchies or contemporary dictatorships). The government is trying to co-opt the middle class by allowing business people (who are most of the Chinese middle class)  to join the Communist Party. But the party is corrupt, and resistant to reform. So Plan B is to appeal to nationalism, and the need for the world to respect the newly powerful China (after over a century of being weak and much put upon). So far, many of the newly middle class Chinese are falling for the nationalism angle, but not all. Cell phones and the Internet provide a means for the rapid spread of news and opinion that disagrees with the government. This is the enemy within, and the government has, so far, been unable to construct an effective defense.

 

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