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Analysis and Prediction on China’s Social Situations in 2010

The “Chinese Academy of Social Sciences” web site reported on December 21, 2009, that the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Sociology and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Documentation Publishing House co-sponsored “The release of 2010 Social Blue Book & report on China’s Social Situation" held in the Small Lecture Hall of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Xie Shouguang (the president of Social Sciences Academic Press) chaired the meeting. Li Peilin (the Social Blue Book editor in chief, and director of Sociology Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Lu Xueyi (the chief editor of the Social Blue Book, and research fellow of the Sociology Institute of CASS), Chen Guangjin (deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Sociology), Lu Qingzhe (director of Statistical Monitoring of the National Bureau of Statistics Research Institute) attended the meeting and gave speeches. The conference analyzed in-depth the major events and hot issues of 2009 that may impact China’s social development. It further predicted the trend of social development in China and major problems to deal with in 2010. The conference officially released the report “The 2010 China Social Situation Analysis and Predictions.” [1]

The Social Blue Book points out that, based on the economic recovery, job market recovery, consumption growth, the stability of commodity prices and other key indicators of economic and social development, China will be the first out of the shadow of the international financial crisis and entering a new growth period. From the perspective of the industrialization, urbanization, and consumer spending trend, China is entering a new growth phase of the post international financial crisis. The so-called new growth phase, on one hand means that China is entering a new growth cycle with an above 8% economic growth rate; on the other hand it means that the new driving force of the upcoming growth cycle will encounter significant changes compared to the past. It will be more dependent on industrial structural upgrades, economic and social restructuring, and the domestic consumption growth. 

The 2010 social blue book, The 2010 China Social Situation Analysis and Forecast, pointed out that in 2010, China will enter the new growth phase of the post-international financial crisis; industrialization and urbanization will enter a new accelerating interim growth stage; changes in social structure will break the existing urban-rural structure in the new growth stage; the general public will enter the mass consumption of the new growth stage; higher education will be available for the mass public; there will also be nationwide coverage of social security, and primarily economic reform that later transitions to a comprehensive reform. The level of purchasing power of the urban and rural population improved significantly improved 2009. In 2009, the overall level of satisfaction of urban and rural residents was "relatively satisfied" with the overall satisfaction of rural residents being higher than urban residents in regard to their living. In 2009, the employment situation was basically stable, while the pay rate of new college graduates was significantly lower. In 2009, the overall public safety and order were stable with criminal cases still staying at a high level. In 2009, the tension in labor relations in some of the enterprises and social security became the main focus of migrant workers’ rights issues. The Internet became a source of independent news media, and mobile phones became the most powerful carrier of public opinion. [1]

The People’s Net [the website for People’s Daily] reported the following on the same day, “On December 21, the Academy of Social Sciences published the 2010 Social Blue Book. It points out that the rate of mass incidents remains high this year. This is because some areas that are in the process of accelerating local development and restructuring have accumulated many historic conflicts and problems. These problems have not been solved in time, which has caused deep resentment among the people.” [2]

The report quoted Li Peilin, director of the Institute of Sociology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in his speech, “Now, the more prominent issue is the occurrence of mass incidents. This year’s rate of mass incidents remains high.”[2]

“In particular, what’s worth noting are the repetitions of the same type of incidents, such as the Hubei ShiShou incident, which was almost a repeat of the WongAn incident that occurred in 2008. In other words, the WongAn incident was about a secondary school female student drowning to death. The Hubei incident was about a young chef (Tu Yuangao), who jumped off a building and died. Just like what happened in WongAn, while people were talking about the death, the government announced that it was an unnatural death. However, the general public, through the Internet, began to question whether the incident was murder, suicide, or homicide. Later, the government concluded, after an autopsy, that he had committed suicide. His family did not believe it, and didn’t allow the corpse to be taken away for up to 30 hours. The autopsy conducted by the local agency wasn’t convincing. It went to the provincial level, and eventually led to a mass incident involving thousands of people, resulting in the burning of cars and buildings, and a serious clash between the police and the people. Of course, this time, the extent of violence wasn’t as serious as it was in WongAn, but its process and the logic behind it was the same as in the WongAn incident.” [2]

“We categorize such conflicts as non-class and non-direct interest group conflicts because the participating people are from all aspects of society, and the participating parties have no direct conflict of interest related to the event itself. This shows that some areas, because of financial weakness, especially in the past 30 years of reform and opening up, and in the process of accelerating development and restructuring, have accumulated a lot of historical conflicts and problems, such as enterprise reform, housing demolition, land acquisition, and fund collection, etc.  In handling of these things, much is owed to the masses. These problems are not solved promptly, and they result in deep resentment. Therefore, when the unexpected incidents occur, they tend to develop into the so-called non-class, non-direct interest group conflicts.” [2]

As to the reasons why there is such a high frequency of this type of incident, People’s Net made this analysis: “According to incomplete statistics, in 1993, our country had 8,700 mass incidents, by 2005, it increased to 87,000 cases, and in 2006, more than 90,000. The number of mass incidents in 2008 and their intensity surpassed any from the past.” [3]

"All incidents usually involved casualties. This consequently intensified the confrontation between government officials and the public. This is clearly not something that people want to see. Meanwhile, there is no doubt, China is in its golden age of development, but it is also in a period of high conflicts. It is easy to breed mass events, so in dealing with mass incidents, there should not be any fear, much less politicization. Of course, they cannot be neglected either.

What is the reason for the outbreak of mass incidents? Some scholars believe that it is due to deep resentment from (the public toward the government). That does make sense. So, why is there resentment? What is the discontent? To put it plainly, people’s interests and rights have been violated, such as in enterprise restructuring, housing demolition, land acquisition, fund collection, etc. Some government agencies have owed much to the public. Indebtedness can raise the public’s grievances. What is worth mentioning in particular is that grievances if not abreacted for too long a time, will explode in the end.

Unfortunately, when grievances arise, certain government departments do not take them seriously and act in a timely manner, not to mention handling them proactively. … Worse still, some people have been wronged and unfairly treated, and their appeals only met with obstruction. Some officials even demonize petitioners, and petitioners are labeled as “trouble-making people.” As reported, the petitioners are therefore often carefully “watched.” When they show up at government office premises, various approaches are used to suppress them. Violence, pressure, and threats are most commonly used, because of the government’s fear of losing face and its image being damaged. In such situations, all it takes is a triggering event to cause a mass incident.

Days ago (on December 1, 2009), the Qiushi magazine published a long article by the Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu, titled “Strengthening the Development of the Five Abilities and Fully Improving the Proficiency for Maintaining Stability.” The article said, “At present, China’s economic and social development have shown a series of characteristics in the new phase.  In the area of social stability, it has shown a basic trend of prominent contradictions among the people, a high incidence of criminal offenses, and complicated struggles against the enemy. The Internet has become an important means for the anti-China forces to infiltrate, sabotage, and amplify the energy for destruction. This brings new challenges to the public security organs to maintain national security and social stability. The relevance, complexity, and sensitivity of various social contradictions have significantly increased, which brings new tests to the public security organs in their handling of complicated situations. The public security organ’s new tasks of social control include all kinds of crimes and a significant increase in social security issues. People’s awareness of their legal rights has significantly increased. The extent of media and public monitoring has increased to an unprecedented level. All these factors put forward new requirements for the public security organs’ law enforcement activities. Given the new situations and new tasks, public security still has many outstanding issues and weaknesses that need urgent solutions. From the present to a certain period into the future, we must unswervingly carry out development of the Three Basic Skills. Meanwhile, we must further public security’s information technology development, law enforcement standardization development, and the development of harmonious community relations (the Three Constructions). This will enable us to focus on efforts to strengthen the Five Abilities, to raise to full-scale the ability and level for maintaining national security and social stability, and to constantly enhance the people’s sense of security and satisfaction.

Working with the masses is a fundamental job of the public security authorities; the ability to work with the masses is the most basic and central capability of the public security authorities. Under new historic conditions, we must unswervingly emphasize the work with the masses as a basic task, and improve the capability to work with the masses as a basic skill, so as to solidify the grass roots support base for public security work.

Grass roots police, especially the community police in local stations, should take “three understandings and four abilities” as basic skills: understanding public psychology, understanding the language used by the public, and understanding communication skills; the ability to solve conflicts, the ability to mediate disputes, the ability to actively provide service, and the ability to mobilize. … We need to further improve the approaches of evaluating the performance of grass roots police. … We must maximally alleviate the burdens of grass roots personnel, and make sure that that grass-roots public security authorities will focus their energy and manpower primarily on work with the masses and infrastructure work.

Under the current complex law enforcement environment, public security’s law enforcement activities must focus on the overall requirement of “maximally increasing the harmonious factors, maximally reducing the disharmonious factors,” and putting the domestic and international situations, the Internet, and real world factors into perspective.

Put together all systemic resources, and the efforts to break the "compartmentalization" barriers, and strive to build a resource sharing public security information platform of vertical and horizontal integration as soon as possible. Strengthen basic source information gathering and recording. Make it not only a grass roots important responsibility and daily job of the police, but also a link toward basic tasks such as population management and preventive control. Thus the information can be grasped anytime and anywhere, and gathered and recorded anytime and anywhere. Tightly grasp the detailed information and be able to control and manage it. Informationalize the fundamental jobs, regularize the information work, and provide strong support for a unified information platform and information sharing. Speed up the in-depth application of the information, further strengthen the comprehensive analysis of intelligence, constantly improve the abilities of predicting, warning, and prevention, and firmly hold the upper-hand in the public security work.

The key to building an information network is real time application. We must fully rely on the information network, vigorously implement new anti-crime mechanisms such as web-based synchronized investigation and evidence collection, investigating cases and on-line pursuit of criminals, make efforts to reduce the cost of operations, enhance effectiveness, and improve attacking skills. We should actively adapt to a dynamic environment of social management, give full play to the advantages of the information network, improve the integrated operation mechanism of strike-prevention-management-control, strive to spot key areas in prevention and control, discover vulnerabilities in strikes and management, and continuously improve the comprehensive management and control capacity of the dynamic society. We must comprehensively strengthen the buildup of “Six networks” including the street-level prevention and control network, the community prevention and control network, the work place prevention and control network, the video surveillance network, the regional police cooperation network, and the "virtual society" prevention and control network. We must also actively build social security networks combining points, lines and planes, combine prevention through humans, equipment, and technology, combine striking, prevention, management, and control, and combine online and real world controls, so as to achieve an all-position, all-time, seamless, and three-dimensional coverage of the dynamic society.

Actively prevent and properly handle major social unrest. … Social unrest is usually related to conflicts of interest. Therefore the key to preventing social unrest is to resolve conflicts and disputes. Many years of practice have shown that the cost is minimal if the conflicts are handled the first time (they come up) and at the initial stage. We must always adhere to focusing on prevention and mediation as the first choice. … Focus the work more on the grass roots and the daily matters, gain accurate knowledge of social conditions and public opinion, timely grasp the social dynamics, and further resolve conflicts and disputes. On issues that matter to the people’s personal interests and signs of instability that might trigger major social unrest, promptly report them to the Party committee and the government. Relying on the Party committee and the government, try all means to solve the problems, alleviate the conflicts, resolve the disputes, maximally kill the conflicts and disputes at the lowest level, solve the problems locally, and eliminate hidden dangers in the bud, so as to prevent the occurrence of massive unrest at the root.

When handling mass unrest, we must be early in discovering the problem, swift in resolving it, and proper in handling it. We should prevent the incident from spreading and expanding, so as to reduce its impact and harm to society to the minimum. On the occurrence of a major social unrest, we should insist on early detection, early reporting, and early control to ensure that the situation does not expand, does not escalate, and does not intensify. Timely report them to the Party committees and governments for proper handling. When dealing with the incident, do more propaganda, explanation, and persuasion, in an effort to alleviate their emotions and guide the masses to express their interest through rational and legal channels to resolve conflicts of interest and to safeguard their own interests.

Comrades at all levels of the public security authorities ought to continuously learn from the experiences of handling major social unrest, strengthen the study of the features of major mass unrest, and improve the capability of on-site command and handling the incident by law. We need to build an emergent command mechanism with unified command, swift response, orderly coordination, and efficient operation. Clearly specify the responsibilities of all departments and all police forces and improve the effectiveness of command to form an integrated force that will handle the major emergent incidents. We should vigorously strengthen the special forces and equipment for handling emergent situations, constantly improve the plans, intensify the exercises, and improve emergent response capabilities.

With the rise of the Internet and other new media, the environment of social discussion has undergone a major and profound change. It’s becoming an important task to strengthen the capabilities of the public security authorities to actively research and make judgments, to respond to Internet public opinion, and to improve the capabilities of communication with the public. We must actively use the platform of the Internet. … A higher priority should be put on correctly guiding Internet public opinion, and striving to find new ways to strengthen and improve public security’s guidance of public opinion in the information age.

Tackling a major incident has two components: on-site handling and guiding public opinion. We must pay high attention to the work on public opinion and promptly release authoritative information at the same time as on-site handling of the incident.

We must establish and improve the speedy response and coordination mechanism for major incidents. Once a major emergent incident occurs, immediately launch the emergency response mechanism with each relevant authority taking its own responsibility. We must establish and improve the consultation and decision-making mechanism and adhere to early detection, early reporting, and early guidance, so as to timely clarify the truth and eliminate in the bud the unstable signs that could trigger a major crisis. … We must further improve the public security authority’s spokesperson system to make sure that once a major incident takes place, we can objectively release the authoritative information the first time, publicize the truth, guide public opinion, and gain the initiative.

We should fully utilize news media as the bridge between the public security authorities and the public, strengthen communications with the media, and proactively share the work of public security and the media. … Maximally gain understanding and support from the media for the public security work. … We should improve the contents and format of the propaganda work of public security, … and constantly strengthen the influence and appeal of the work of public security, so as to build a good public opinion atmosphere for public security work.

[1] Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, December 21, 2009
[2] People’s Daily, December 21, 2009
[3] People’s Daily, December 22, 2009
[4] People’s Daily, December 1, 2009