China’s ruling Communist party will increase expenditure on domestic security to guarantee social stability in urban centers and restive minority regions, the opening session of the annual National People’s Congress heard today.
New official projections confirm that the regime’s annual expenditure on domestic security now exceeds its national defense budget, analysts report.
“Meticulous efforts must be paid to the tasks of reform, development and stability to (bolster) development and maintain perennial stability in Tibet,” President Hu Jintao told delegates.
A 13.8 percent hike in projected spending on police, state security, armed militia, courts and jails will bring projected spending on to 624.4 billion yuan ($95.0 billion). The budget for China’s People’s Liberation Army is set to rise 12.7 percent to 601.1 billion yuan ($91.5 billion).
The huge boost in security spending is a response to the dramatic surge in mass incidents – protests ranging from labor strikes to riots and demonstrations:
There were at least 180,000 mass incidents in 2010, twice as many as in 2006, Sun Liping, a professor of sociology at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said in a Feb. 25 article in the Economic Observer. Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee who oversees the country’s security forces, said that the government must “defuse social conflicts and disputes just as they germinate.”
The uprising in Egypt is especially awkward because it undermines the regime’s arguments that China’s “special characteristics” make it immune to indigenous democratization, allowing it to dismiss calls for democracy and human rights as subversive tactics by alien forces.
But a similar democratic upsurge is highly unlikely in China for one fundamental reason, writes Joshua Kurlantzick, a fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations: the regime has pre-empted the emergence of a mass democratic movement by purchasing the allegiance of the middle class.
“After the 1989 Tiananmen protests, the Chinese Communist Party, recognizing the power of educated urban protesters, delivered a raft of new incentives to co-opt the urban middle class,’ he writes.
But the party’s success in delivering economic growth and security also contains – dare we say – the seeds of its own contradiction, generating acute social inequality and underlying political volatility, albeit motivated by a post-Tiananmen agenda.
“The protests in 1989 were, in a sense, about how to modernize the country,” says Prof Jeff Wasserstrom of the University of California. “Today they are more about the social costs of modernizing so quickly.”