Right, I have some surveying for you. Quite a bit to get through, so I’ll split them between posts.
First up, Danwei has a summary of Legal Daily ‘s survey of China’s year in mass incidents. The raw figures look horribly lowballed if they’re going on what I believe is the standard definition, namely a non-criminal civil unrest involving more than 500 people. This would be a shame as it would tend to bork the percentages in some interesting data, unless we go on the presumption that the LD is using whatever original figures it got for these rather than the ones it could publish.
Working on that assumption, we find that most are over in a day, though as few have lsted up to three months, which is practically low intensity warfare. Most happen suddenly, and the means of communication used by participants is overwhelmingly ‘personal’ defined as face to face contact or telephone calls, though Weibo seems to be playing an increasing role, though it’s still not as popular as ‘lumps of rock’. As of last year, a narrow majority involve urban rather than rural residents which tends to indicate that, though still basically about parochial issues, protest is crowding upwards towards power centres.
As for those issues, a lot has been made recently of environmental protest. But that still ranks as a cause of just under 9% of incidents, equal to ethnic conflict and way behind forced demolitions, fights with the cops and miscellaneous unnamed ‘social causes’. Only 13% involved protests against officials, which struck me as low.
Just under 9% end with at least one fatality. Only 11% are actually resolved peacefully by the actions of the authorities. In 57% of cases the authorities use ‘positive measures’, ie try to address the grievances that cuase the riots. In 62% of cases ‘negative methods – physical suppression and news blackouts – are employed.
Taken as a whole, it looks like a continuation of the ‘conversation of violence’ between the authorities and elements of the Chinese public that we’ve seen develop in previous years. There’s no sign that mass incidents are either going away, reaching a critical density or evolving into sustained protest against the system overall. There does now seem to be an established trend for mass incidents to migrate out of the countryside and into the urban environment.
Incidentally, when I started blogging about these things, definitions were still fairly fluid and so I chose Mass Group Incident, which seemed to be popular at the time. The definition has now moved to ‘mass incident’ and seems to have settled there, so I’ll use that from now on.