On paper, China is well on its way to becoming a regional or even global power—economically, politically, and militarily. Normally, such developments would bring prosperity and stability to a society. China, however, seems to abide by a different rule. Instead of prosperity, we see increased corruption of government officials, an ever-widening gap between rich and poor, and a growing number of cases of social injustice. As a result, incidents of social unrest have been erupting one after another. This is evidenced by a report from China’s Ministry of Public Security: There were 8,700 incidents of social unrest in 1993 and 32,000 in 1999; in 2004, the number of such incidents increased to 78,000, involving 3.8 million participants.
The causes for such incidents are quite diverse: forced loss of property, unpaid wages, land pollution, deprivation of the right to employment, and so on and so forth; but the manifestation of them are alarmingly similar. In most of the incidents, government officials or entities were the targets, and the socially disadvantaged were seeking justice. In the past, Chinese people had a tendency to accept their fate passively and wait patiently for the government to straighten things out. After decades of seeing the laws and political system work against them, however, distrust and resentment toward the government is bubbling to the surface. Facing great injustices, the common Chinese people are getting organized and boldly confronting the government, a phenomenon widely referred to in China as "weiquan," or "protecting rights."
So far, the government’s answer to the civil movement has been predictable—suppression at any cost—and there is no sign of compromise in sight. A quick look at China’s public security system is quite telling. Until the late 1980s, China’s riot police was an obscure entity that no one ever heard from. Today, it has become one of the best-equipped governmental arms that number a whopping two million, most of them former military personnel.
The weiquan movement in China is starting to catch the attention of some international observers. However, most believe that the situation is still manageable for the Chinese government. In this issue, we provide a synopsis of the weiquan movement in China and its current status.
China is legendary in its richness and longevity of culture. To enrich our readers with the tradition of this civilization, we are introducing a "Culture" section, with stories that cover various topics ranging from history, medicine, and art, to travel and people. Found in this issue is a topic that is quintessentially Chinese: Tea. It is our hope that this new addition will be both informative and enjoyable.