Kelo'ing at the Shanwei, or ...
[I'd like to thank several sites for linking and there are a few. I'm still checking but I just finished watching "It's a Wonderful Life and still have my Wizbang votes to do for today. BRB ... Back. Thanks are in an update.]
Gateway Pundit has a report on a protest that turned deadly in a small village thought to be near Shanwei. The protest relates to alleged low compensation to be paid to local private landowners so that government can build a power plant. In main news reports the village is called Dongzhou, but the most prominent Dongzhou is inland in Shangxi Province, not down on the Guangdong coast. It's likley that it is the name of a District in Shanwei. Blogs for Industry has an extensive round-up of the news on it as it develops and excerpts a very good caution from EastSouthWestNorth on reporting this.
It is times like this that I rue giving maps away which is what I did with the map of Shenzhen I bought when last visiting there. No map I've seen on the Internet does justice to China and, in particular, Shenzhen.
Shanwei is shown at the eastern end of this map. (You will have to zoom in one and kick it east one to have Shenzhen and Shanwei show along with the smaller towns.)
We traveled quite a bit while there and I had marked those areas out. If I remember correctly, we were taken by a friend about a third of the way to Shanwei to enjoy the a beach area, drink at a very upscale bar and then head up the road to a locally famous bed and breakfast style restaurant to have their chicken specialty. (The dogs got our scraps.) It was about an hour drive from Shenzhen on the expressway. Shenzhen, an area much bigger than the dot shown on the Encarta map. There seven or so districts of Shenzhen (think boroughs of NYC) with Longgang being the eastern most district and stretches maybe a third of the way to Shanwei -- Longgang District is almost the size of the rest of Shenzhen and stretches along the coast, guessing, about 25 miles. According to this webpage, Shenzhen now encompasses a land area of 750 square miles all the result of incorporation.
To better appreciate what is happening there, Shenzhen was a fishing village of maybe 50,000 around 1980. It now has an official population of about 4.7 million but is much closer to 8 to 10 million. Those additional millions represent the unregistered. To live in Shenzhen, you need a permit. If you want to go to work there, you have to have an employer first and the employer has to get the permit first for you to travel there. Obviously, that system doesn't work perfectly.
Anyway, our trip took us through Longgang District. The development taking place is unbelievable. Building mounted cranes are a dime a dozen and dot the skyline. There is money to made and economic growth to spur. The picture of the coast along the way has an almost constant subtext of ship containers, sometimes stacked two paragraphs in height. The beach in one long section of the coast is being developed but not in our (American) sense of the term. Here, the beach in one long continuous area, is being converted into extensive land piers and platforms of what seems like growing man-made deep water port. Longgang's future is big industry. That requires land. And it also requires power generation. I try describe Shenzhen because I much more familiar with it than Shanwei. My small package tells me that Shanwei is similar -- it is between Shantou, one of the first three special economic zones created by the Central Government and Shenzhen one made a SEZ shortly after that. And shortly after that my small package had went there with a friend to make her fortune. Those were dreamy days, then, and a bright future ahead.
Many people think China is not a democracy and they are right. I hear as often now as I did when I was a kid (a long time ago) that China is a communist country. It truly is not and should be seen much more as a very strict authoritarian government. This latter view certainly comports better with the events reported today and a month or so ago. The people to a great degree have property ownership and in most cases they have personal investments in it, money, sweat, tears and their dream of future success. This is true for those in the small villages and the bustling metropoli. They own homes and condos (the term apartments, in the American sense, is often inaccurate), they buy buildings, they rent privately owned commercial space but personally invest, considerably so, in the interior. If some don't have that yet, it is still their dream. For instance, in central Shenzhen, outfitting good quality restaurant space can easily cost 1,000,000 RMB (US$120,000). Similar ownership and investment activities along a wide range of life is occurring everyday, everywhere and at anywhere from central NYC and small town Texas speeds.
So, it is bad enough when, due to the extremely competitive conditions, people lose it all to an amorphous competition. But it is different when it gets valued by a faceless government at much less than it is truly worth. Both can spell broken dreams and bankruptcy; more often than we here would think, they sometimes become life ending events. The protests should be understood, at least in part, in this light. If you need to think anything, think primitive/dawning rebellion to a Kelo style governmental attitude.
There are two other instructive aspects of this event and it goes beyond what just happened today/yesterday. One is that this police action is likely much closer to the Harbin pollution scandal wherein it is mostly a locally instigated brute force putdown scandal and not central government one. The plans and orders for the degree of force or even any orders to fire, if there were any, may not even rise as high as provincial. Local level corruption is one of the biggest issues in China, so much so that it can easily be a death penalty offense. I remember reading of one official being convicted for embezzling something like US$50,000 and he got the death penalty. If you think that's nasty, think horse stealing in the wild west. Deterrence of corruption is that critical in China.
The second is that this would not have happened 25 years ago. There would have been no protests and people would have just done what they were told and kept quiet. Whether you can actually hang the tag on China or not, this is democracy. I'm sure the protestors don't consider it that way, this is more essential than democracy. This is a king of your own castle issue not a freedom of political speech issue. Take your pick -- a more confrontational, "searching for the rules' type of democracy; a growing under the surface democracy; an emerging democracy -- ugly as it is, it is democracy as a process and as an event.
Update: I'd like to thank Blogs For Industry's Jim Hu for the link ... and the comment. Hey, I value every comment I can get, even 'your site is broken' ones. Thanks to Gateway Pundit, too. It's an honor to get a "must read" from anyone. Lastly, I'm very thankful PJM thinks my post was worth noting.
Welcome, all. Wander around until you can't stand the color change anymore. I'm hoping Santa will bring the web design software that's on my list for Christmas. I plan to make big site changes and unveil them in time to win Best Blog Design for 2010. Maybe MattO will visit then.