China’s underground unrest brews, even as Beijing attempts to quell inflation
February 9, 2011

Given that inflation in China is set to rage through 2011 – and that the rich-poor gap will yawn even wider – the possibility of a people power-style uprising cannot be discounted in China. With the winds of change blowing East from Egypt, China raised its interest rates for the third time as Chinese New Year celebrations drew to a close.

Fearing social unrest, Beijing has over the past year been gradually implementing strategic policies across the nation in order to calm the fire-spouting inflation dragon. From property taxes to monetary policy tightening, Beijing is pulling all stops to quell an uprising from the depressed, downtrodden middle and lower classes. Living on frugal salaries, under scrupulous landlords, with biting inflation numbers and unfavorable weather conditions, a majority of the people are unhappy.  And while India has to delicately balance growth and inflation, China has a similarly difficult decision – social unrest or growth, neither of which can be compromised.

The quarter percent bump in interest rates announced on Tuesday by China’s central Bank comes on the back of a growing underground movement where the people are harnesing the creative skills embeded in their language to act against the government.

Days prior to the New Year, creative genius Wang Bo released an animated  video of  rabid bunny armies savaging toothless tigers, murderous bunny drivers running over pedestrian tigers and, finally, exploding bunny bombs thrown at a corrupt tiger ruling class.  Ushering out the year of the tiger and bringing in the year of the rabbit, the cartoon depicted China’s social problems through the rabbits representing the common man and the tigers representing the government.

The clip, widely interpreted as a satire of a Chinese tiger leadership that was ripe for popular uprising among the bunny class, immediately became a cyber sensation and was then quickly removed by official censors.

Those who watched the video were sure to have picked up on the not-so-subtle allusions to prominent news stories of the past year that underscore China’s ongoing problems with food safety, corruption and human-rights abuses. The exploding bunnies, it turns out, had been fed the same tainted-milk baby formula that, in 2008, left six children dead and nearly 300,000 severely ill. Authorities promised to compensate the sick, punish the guilty and destroy all the tainted formula discovered in the scandal, but the chief activist for its victims, Zhao Lianhai, was jailed last December (although he was later released on “medical parole”) and the industrial chemical melamine continues to be found in Chinese dairy products.

In the depiction of the mad bunny drivers, savvy viewers no doubt caught the reference to Qian Yunhui, a village head in eastern Zhejiang province with a long history of standing up against local corruption who on Christmas day was run over and killed by a truck. Eyewitnesses reported that four men held Qian down while the truck crushed him, but officials ruled that Qian died in a traffic accident.

Double meaning political satires such as these have been making the rounds on the internet, giving the Chinese people a voice they never had. Hidden through double meanings and phonetic mazes, the poems, words, videos and phrases have been spreading like wild fire with the help of the internet, creating a second language which the government is finding hard to censor.

While China’s oppressed are finally finding a way to vent and social opposition against the ruling elite is being expressed, it will be a while before China sees anything like an Egypt. As for now, they will have to be satiated with regulated government controls.

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