What sort of harmony should we support?
On July 3rd, citizens of Shifang, Sichuan, protested against a Molybdenum-copper project in their area, and its possible impact on their health and the environment (more about this event on Danwei here). This post offers a short selection of reactions from 1510 contributors.
What sort of harmony should we support?
By Li Yehang, July 03 2012
In this post, Li Yehang questions the received wisdom of older people advising that protests against the government will not bring any good, and one should always try to preserve harmony. Instead, he proposes that in certain cases, civil disobedience could be legitimate. He starts by criticizing the government’s tendency to read opposition to industrial projects as an act of political rebellion. He then exposes the emotional mechanics of protest – people are afraid of government sticks, but they’re more afraid of the harm that industrial pollution may cause to them. To finish, he articulates the following dilemma: when government decisions endanger harmony, should the people try to preserve long-term harmony by fighting those who take on the name of ‘government’, or obey those in power, for the sake of superficial harmony.
Original link: 哪一种和谐是我们应当拥护的？
A cold look at the Shifang Incident
By Wang Haifeng, July 04 2012
Looking back at the Shifang events with a deliberately cold look, this post explores possible negative consequences of the protests, and questions the role and vision of environmental groups who supported them. Overall, Wang Haifeng argues, one should balance positive economic outcomes and environmental costs. Shifang is in a relatively poor region of China, and development is likely to harm the environment. But without this or similar industrial development project, the region will stay poor, therefore the more competent people will leave for better opportunities elsewhere, with no opportunities for local government and businesses to develop.
Original link: 冷眼看什邡故事
The victims of “development”
By Zhang Tianpan, July 06 2012
This post takes an opposite stance to the previous one, questioning the general belief in ‘development’.
Over the last two centuries, ‘development’ has become a core value throughout the world, yet, until the early 21st century at least, supporters of development have overlooked its negative impact on the environment and society. When discussing the consequences of development, the author proposes that ‘risk’ should be considered alongside ‘wealth’. Development does increase the ‘wealth’ of all, poor and rich, but it disproportionately increases the level of risk that the poor are exposed to – while the rich can trade off some of their added wealth for safety. Development also affects various communities differently – urban demolitions and ‘renewal’ projects, for instance, are detrimental to poor people in local communities affected, while wealthy people living elsewhere tend to benefit from them. More generally, plans to improve the human condition often lead to failure, because they tend to overlook complexity and neglect local factors, thereby causing chaos.
In order to better resist the alienation and chaos of development, the author appeals for a strengthened civil society, and more particularly mechanisms to better articulate, represent and defend the various interests of diverse communities.
Original link: “被发展”之下的发展受害者
Tips from the Global Times based on the Shifang events
By Yu Yiwei, July 07 2012
In reaction to the Shifang events, where young people took to the street alongside adults, the Global Times published an article against involving teenagers in political demonstrations. In this post, Yu Yiwei criticizes its underlying logic with ironic reasoning. First, she argues that the State itself treats adults and teenagers equally by depriving them all of a political voice. Second, the negative effects of pollution increase with exposure, and younger teenagers have therefore more to fear than older adults. However, she finishes on a touch of hope. The police, she notes, did treat adults and teenagers differently, thereby showing a degree of humanity; and protesters expected that humanity, she says, otherwise they would not have taken teenagers on the street with them. This preserved humanity represents a shared value that could serve as a basis for ongoing discussion and negotiation.
Original link: 环球时报借什邡事件给世人的提示
All articles in this digest and a large range of other Chinese readings are accessible at Marcopoloproject.org. Some are available in English, French and Spanish translation. (You can join the project if you’d like to help with translations.)
Danwei is an affiliate of the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University. This posting is a result of one project that is part of that on-going collaboration.