China Beat Archive


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2011 Dec 20 in The China Beat


Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Wasserstrom.


Earlier this year, a Beijing-based Israeli journalist named Rachel Beitare contacted me out of the blue to set up an interview about the impact the Arab Spring events might have in China. I ended up impressed by the caliber of the questions put to me, so I started keeping an eye out for her byline, in case she published things in English (much of her work comes out in Hebrew, which I don’t read). I wasn’t disappointed, as before long Foreign Policy ran a smart commentary, ”Guilty By Association,” in which Ms. Beitare looked at the way the Party had been not just cracking down on critics of the government but hassling their relatives as well. When I opened a Twitter account, she was someone I made sure to follow (she tweets as @bendilaowai), and she’s one of several China-based journalists I think uses the medium especially well.

I was thus excited to learn from her Twitter posts that she’d made it to Wukan to report on the dramatic events unfolding in that South China community, where villagers have been mourning a fallen protester while engaged in a stand-off with representatives of the government. A recent NPR report described the Wukan struggle as a conflict that “began as a property dispute [and] has escalated into an open revolt [that has become] one of the most serious episodes of unrest that the Chinese Communist Party has faced in recent years.” The Wukan events are important because they underscore just how much anger there is in China over efforts by unscrupulous developers and corrupt officials to take advantage of rural landholders, and have a special interest to me, since just before the story broke Megan Shank and I had made the final corrections on a story, “Anxious Times in a Rising China,” which will appear in the Winter issue of Dissent magazine and focuses on recent protests and expressions of discontent in the PRC.