Much of our recent attention has focused on anti-Japan riots in China, yet a competing story in recent years is the extraordinary scale of social unrest linked not to patriotism and foreign policy but to economic tensions and perceived economic loss. Some analysts even allow that the anti-Japanese riots themselves were permitted to continue so that China's citizenry could "blow off some steam" over the government's poor economic performance. In this essay, Albert Keidel develops an analytical framework for considering the economic roots of protests in China. He argues that the disturbances derive most of their basic energy directly from dissatisfaction over the impact of economic reforms and market-based modernization. In addition, widespread enterprise and government corruption and malfeasance supplement and greatly amplify this basic dissatisfaction.
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