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People's Daily Online>>China Society

A national conundrum (2)

By Feng Shu (Global Times)

08:43, February 10, 2012

Soaring spending

A report by Caijing magazine in May last year showed the government now spends more on public security than it does on national defense. In 2011, the magazine said, China's public security budget soared past 624 billion yuan ($99 billion) while the national defense budget hovered around 600 billion yuan. The statistics have not been confirmed by the central government.

For local, frontline governments, maintaining social stability is a key priority that consumes the work of officials and local resources. "If someone from our county shows up in Beijing to complain we would immediately be ordered to take this person back. During National Day holidays or during the NPC sessions we allocate a lot of people to keep a close eye on these potential troublemakers, and it's indeed time and energy consuming for us," said the head of a small county in Fujian Province, who declined to be named.

"Every day, we remain on high alert, worrying that even a small row among our villagers might lead to a mass incident if it cannot be dealt with in a timely manner," said the official, who complains that a single serious mass incident in her county could ruin her career.

"In the current mode of maintaining social stability, people's expression of their problems might trigger social unrest that needs to be suppressed. If people's demands can't be dealt with the problem becomes more serious, and efforts to maintain social stability have to be further strengthened," concludes a report published by Sun's team at Tinghua University.

Experts believe most disputes that lead to social unrest center on economic losses to individuals or groups, rather than political disputes targeting the rule of the government in ethnic minority areas like Tibet and Xinjiang. They say most protests center on land grabs by corrupt local officials and developers, or involve strikes by employees seeking a pay rise. Experts say dealing with issues in face-to-face negotiations is the key to effectively resolving them.

"The problems can not be resolved if the only goal is to maintain social stability, we have to figure out ways of solving the larger issues," said Yu Jianrong, an expert on civil unrest at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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