Maintaining social stability is a major challenge that the Communist Party of China faces right now. Many fierce disputes such as the Wukan and Meng'an incidents reflect this. At the root of the disputes are interest conflicts between different social groups.
Judging from the number and level of animosity, disputes stemming from land acquisition and resident relocation are the most serious. Urban land is a rare, monopolized resource and a major means for some interest groups to scoop enormous profits. Therefore, compensated relocation becomes the most sensitive and delicate part of the land acquisition process, and has given rise to conflicts of interest between various groups.
Labor disputes are another serious problem. In modern society, labor disputes are inevitable, especially in a developing country in transition such as China. A variety of factors can cause these disputes, including low wages, defaulted wage payments, long working hours, intensive workloads, poor working conditions, health hazards and lack of social security.
At the same time, judicial injustice is prone to give rise to public complaints. Public resentment of government officials, usually caused by abuses of power and corruption, are also a threat to social harmony.
In recent years, environmental issues have emerged as a new cause of social unrest. Although China has been afflicted by worsening air and water quality, some local governments still embrace projects that cause serious pollution for the sake of GDP growth, which officials can tout as a political accomplishment. Those projects are very likely to draw protests from the general public.
To solve these problems, China should take measures to balance economic interests between different groups. First of all, it should reform the wealth distribution mechanism. The country's current wealth gap is jaw-dropping, with incomes of the top 10 percent camp reaching 23 times that of the bottom 10 percent group. This poses a great danger to the social stability. The problem has been caused by a variety of complicated factors, such as the regional economic development gap and controls such as the hukou (permanent residency permit) system.
While these dilemmas will be difficult to resolve, China should lose no time to tackle these issues with courage and resolution. If the country makes plans or measures to reform the wealth distribution mechanism, it should reach out to ordinary people to hear their voices. Meanwhile, China should provide chances for people at all levels of the social ladder to improve their living standards. As for the elite class, the country should motivate them to run their own businesses to expand its economy further. For those more vulnerable, the country should increase the social safety net so that more people can live decent and dignified lives.
On the political side, China should promote democracy and allow every social group to express themselves and have their voices heard. Soliciting public opinions is important. Thus Chinese authorities should clear the channels to receive public complaints and resolve disputes and conflicts in a timely manner. The country should promote accountability, so that government officials respond to complaints quickly.
As for environmental issues, China should first raise the public awareness of environmental protection through education and publicity efforts. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities should include environmental protection and scientific development in their standards of assessing leaders' and cadres' political achievements. The general public, especially deputies to People's Congress on different levels, should supervise local governments' environmental protection efforts.
The author is a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC and author of "Why and How the CPC Works in China".
The article was published in Chinese and translated by Pang Li.