There were an estimated 180,000 mass protests in China during the past year.
The protests weren’t directed at the central government — like Tiananmen Square — but rather were focused on single issues like food prices, land seizures and corrupt officials.
Surprisingly many of them have been successful. A few examples from the LA Times:
- A factory in Haining was shut down after four days of rioting over pollution
- Officials in Anshun were fired after protests over abuse of power
- Land deals going back to 1976 in Wukan were reviewed after residents went on a rampage
- A Shanghai woman was compensated after getting screwed in a land deal when she stripped naked in front of the court house
The main reason these protests have been successful may be that Beijing is terrified of a larger revolt. It also helps that the protesters have concrete demands and the central government has complete authority to grant them.
What about protests in the rest of the world?
Occupy Wall Street lacks any clear agenda, and even if they had demands there is no sign the government would grant them.
The Greeks have been flipping police cars and striking for over a year now, yet that hasn’t prevented severe austerity cuts. The same goes for Italy, Spain, England and the rest of Europe.
The Arab Spring saw several parallels to China, where authoritarian governments used carrots and sticks to keep down a larger revolt, such as Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Morocco. Of course it also saw a few examples where revolt boiled over and the government was overturned.
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