First of all, though China has slowed down its growth, it remains the world¡¯s fastest growing economy and people¡¯s livelihood is improving at a great speed. A revolutionized unrest is impossible to happen for the time being, as long as the Chinese economy is able to maintain the lead.
Secondly, despite rising ethnic problems in parts of China (especially in Tibetan and Uighur autonomous regions), the population of minorities is starkly disproportionate compared to major ethnic group Han Chinese. This makes China distinct from the former Soviet Union and contributes to the major reason why minor regional and ethnical unrest won¡¯t lead to massive revolution.
Thirdly, the American political system has simply become a less idealized model for most Chinese intellectuals based on the fact that the American economy is on the decline and its foreign policy has aroused worldwide distaste. In other words, contemporary Chinese ¡°liberal¡± intellectuals do not stick to the same moral standard as cherished by those in the 80s.
Fourthly, the speedy improvement of the standard of living became a prerequisite for Chinese intellectuals to be less hasty in calling for revolutions. Moreover, an increased ability to speak their opinions has decentralized the intellectual group, reducing the possibility of the emergence of a popular anti-institution ideology.
Fifth, scholars both in China and abroad have all too often naively regarded China¡¯s daily mass incidents as an inducer for revolutionary movements. However, such mass incidents have, from my own point of view, played an enormously positive role in maintaining China¡¯s political stability. As weak local governments make the outburst of unrests easier, social conflicts would barely accumulate to the degree of leading to revolutions. Besides, the central government resorts to different tactics in dealing with social incidents.
On the one hand, it stands by and authorizes local governments to handle their own issues as long as they have things under control, and on the other hand it punishes local officials once the issue goes viral and abroad. Such reactions make it possible for the ¡°unresters¡± only to fight against local governments without challenging the authority, and makes local governments more flexible and resourceful in easing conflicts, which all prevent mass incidents from going to political extremes.
Sixth, compared to countries performing a life-tenure leadership system, China has developed its own once-in-a-decade political tradition of leadership changing. Although the new leaders are not selected through general election and the lack of transparency has served as an incubator for political rumors, the simple changing of guard provides a sense of imagination and hope by sending away boring old faces, which again curbs social conflicts from growing into a revolution.
However, the above anti-revolution factors are by no means able to change such a fact: political/economic performance is the only factor which can justify the Chinese government given the illegitimacy of its ideology and institution. China will always be endangered by a possible revolution so long as the fundamental nature of the country remains unchanged, though it is not at the juncture of tipping into revolution. In this sense, ¡°the Chinese people themselves indeed haven¡¯t paid enough sacrifice.¡±
By Professor Zhao Dingxing
Professor Zhao is a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago. To see the original Chinese article, please go here: http://www.politicalchina.org/NewsInfo.asp?NewsID=227359
Translation done by Xiaoyuan Li