“Occupy Wukan”–Making Sense of the Wukan Protests

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Even as the protests in Wukan, Guangdong Province surrounding government land seizures and the death of a village representative have died down, waves of speculation and analysis surrounding the events in Wukan Village are swelling in the international press. Here are some highlights:

Discussing the reporting culture that has emerged surrounding Wukan, The New York Times‘s Edward Wong addresses the nuances in local culture that have allowed Wukan denizens to so shrewdly approach the international media and ensuing “propaganda war.” Quotes Wong:

“Most of the people who find work elsewhere do so in more developed areas,” Yang Semao, 44, one of the two men leading the Wukan protests, said Wednesday after a speaking at a final rally in the village square. “They become more concerned about political and economic development.”

Michael Wines of The New York Times discusses the potentially vast political ramifications of “Occupy Wukan”–the events that led to the outbursts in Wukan and what this means for the future of protest and comeuppance in a flawed political system. Writes Wines:

The state press has been all but mute on why 13,000 Chinese citizens, furious over repeated rip-offs by their village elite, sent their leaders fleeing to safety and repulsed efforts by the police to retake Wukan. But the village takeover can be ignored only at Beijing’s peril: There are at least 625,000 potential Wukans across China, all small, locally run villages that frequently suffer the sorts of injustices that prompted the outburst this month in Wukan.

Writing for the New York Review of Books blog, Ian Johnson addresses the proliferation of Wukan news and internet coverage in mainland China and asks “Do China’s Village Protests Help the Regime?” Says Johnson:

…Blogs about Wukan aren’t a sign of technology undermining government control; instead they are tolerated, if not blessed, by the government.

The idea is to allow people whom the authorities consider unthreatening to write about the protests and come up with useful analyses that don’t pose a challenge to one-party rule.

For readers of Chinese, the following article in Life Week (Sanlian Shenghuo Zhoukan) magazine bolsters Johnson’s point that news of Wukan has not been entirely absent from Chinese mainstream news and offers insight into how the incidents are being addressed by mainland news sources.