China Leadership Monitor

Think National, Blame Local: Central-Provincial Dynamics in the Hu Era

Monday, January 30, 2006

The alarming statistics on public protests recently released by the Chinese authorities have led some analysts to conclude that the Chinese regime is sitting atop a volcano of mass social unrest. But these statistics also reaffirm the foresight of Hu Jintao, especially his recent policy initiatives that emphasize social justice over GDP growth. In this context, the escalation of mass protests could help to consolidate, rather than weaken, Hu's power in the Chinese leadership. Although Hu's populist policy initiatives seem timely and necessary, they may also lead to public demands for government accountability that undermine the stability of the country. In this circumstance, Hu's strategy is to localize the social unrests and blame local leaders, an approach particularly evident in the case of Guangdong, recently the site of major public protests. A detailed analysis of the current Chinese provincial leadership reveals both the validity and limitations of this strategy.