New York, Boston, Chicago and now Zhengzhou. It makes for an odd list. But even before the Occupy Wall Street movement was spreading among major world cities last week, a group of pensioners and state workers in the capital of China’s central Henan province had came out in solidarity with the American protesters.
On the morning of October 6 a group of several hundred assembled in a small park in Zhengzhou to unfurl a banner reading “Resolutely support the American people’s great Wall Street revolution” and to chant slogans such as “United, proletarians around the world!” reported Chinese leftist websites and the Global Times newspaper.
Two days later there was a similar gathering in the neighbouring city of Luoyang.
Though the demonstrations were largely dismissed by the Western media as a bunch of confused pensioners with little understanding of what the “99 percenters” in America were protesting about, the gatherings will have been noted in Beijing.
Organised by members of China’s New Left movement – nationalists who are usually unswerving in their support for the government in international affairs but who want to see China roll back on some of its economic reforms – the demonstrations were as much a criticism of China’s current economic policy as America’s.
“Chinese government officials, wake up!” one blogger wrote on a leftist website Maoflag.cn last month. “Take a look at what’s happening on Wall Street! Stop practising Marxism on the stage but with capitalism backstage. Fixing wrongdoings and returning to socialism is the only correct way!”
Another essay by popular leftist writer Sima Pingbang called on the Chinese people to support the American protesters and gathered 43 signatures of support from academics, editors and even one senior Party member.
“Rule by the capitalist elite is just as described by the ‘Wall Street Revolution’ – it’s everywhere. There is nowhere left where we can live and die as people,” Sima wrote.
Last year social inequality in China as measured by the Gini coefficient passed that of the US and ordinary Chinese have become much more voluble in their expressions of disgust on each new case of the flamboyant lifestyles of the country’s rich (see WiC88).
This month some Chinese were also angered by government’s decision to bailout businessmen facing a liquidity crunch in the coastal city of Wenzhou, with many comparing it to the US government’s $700 billion rescue package for Wall Street in 2008.
“Too big to fail, this is exactly the replica of Wall Street,” netizen Kentedekafuka wrote on his weibo last week.
“The American government is in the service of capitalists – this is not hard to understand – but we are a people’s government, how come we are in service of capitalists too?”
As interest in the “Occupy” protests began to mount online last week, posts containing the terms “Wall Street protest” and “Occupy Beijing” began to be removed by censors. Leftist websites also became harder to access and footage of the Zhengzhou and Luoyang gatherings was removed from mainstream news sites.
Of course, the media was freer to cover events outside the country, largely following the government line that the protests are a dangerous distraction at a precarious time for the global economy.
Some newspapers still managed to echo the criticism that the protests exposed flaws in Western- style capitalism and democracy.
“America’s democractic system doesn’t care about people’s happiness, it only cares about ‘obtaining success from the competition’,” the Guangming Daily decreed this week.
“American democracy has in essence degraded into a barter system of money and power, it can’t help 99% of the people, and can only serve 1% social elites. It can’t solve significant social issues, and only willingly be manipulated by capital strength,” it added.
Despite this, other online contributors saw things differently.
“Whatever [the US protesters] problems, they can be happy that at least they can stand there and express their discontent and anger,” netizen Helensha wrote.
© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.
Sponsored by HSBC.
The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.