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Will 2012 be China’s year of shifting fortunes?

First published: The Times, 28/12/2011

The European debt crisis will doubtless continue to shake the world economy in 2012. But this shouldn’t blind us to other contenders, a principal one being China, where a rising tide of social protest and a slowing economy provide the backdrop for the planned change in the country’s leadership.

Many of China’s 120,000 or so incidents of social unrest in the past year are of minor consequence, but dynamic economic change in China is now being accompanied by large protests over job losses and wages and conditions, and well-supported campaigns against political corruption, land expropriation and environmental degradation. The three-month-old dispute over corrupt land dealings in the fishing village of Wukan in the southern province of Guandong, in which villagers took control from local officials, ended with central government concessions to local residents just before Christmas. Wukan may be small, but it resonates for millions of citizens, anxious about their rights, corruption and, now, a more uncertain economic environment…..more