Social unrest is always one of the big wild cards in China, and at the moment they’re having it in spades, as major riots in the northwestern Xinjiang region have claimed at least 140 lives.
WSJ has some background:
Xinjiang, a vast area in China’s northwest, is home to a large population of Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim ethnic group. Uighurs have long chafed at restrictions on their civil liberties and religious practices imposed by a Chinese government fearful of political dissent in strategically important Xinjiang, which covers one-sixth of China’s territory and is also an important oil-producing region.
Many Uighurs resent what they see as economic and social discrimination by China’s majority Han Chinese, who have migrated to Xinjiang in growing numbers. And some—seeking independence from China—have waged sporadic and at-times violent campaigns against the government.
Uighur activists said hundreds of Uighurs, many of them students, had gathered Sunday to protest racial discrimination and call for government action against the perpetrators of an attack last month on Uighur migrant workers at a toy factory in southern China.
In that incident, a group of Han Chinese broke into a factory dormitory housing Uighur workers. State media said that two people were killed. Uighur groups say the death toll may have been higher.
Meanwhile, for some cheery, not unrelated thoughts, here’s The Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, wondering when rising unemployment — what he calls the unemployment timebomb — will lead to social unrest in the US and possibly Japan:
One of my odd experiences covering the US in the early 1990s was visiting militia groups that sprang up in Texas, Idaho, and Ohio in the aftermath of recession. These were mostly blue-collar workers, – early victims of global “labour arbitrage” – angry enough with Washington to spend weekends in fatigues with M16 rifles. Most backed protest candidate Ross Perot, who won 19pc of the presidential vote in 1992 with talk of shutting trade with Mexico.
The inchoate protest dissipated once recovery fed through to jobs, although one fringe group blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995. Unfortunately, there will be no such jobs this time. Capacity use has fallen to record-low levels (68pc in the US, 71 in the eurozone). A deep purge of labour is yet to come.
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