Only days ago, a seminar hosting a gathering of Chinese scholars and intellectuals, including top government advisors, warned the government that its 'obsession with stability' would lead to its collapse. The regime's stubborn refusal to adopt reform, it was argued, was unconstitutional and had led to a deterioration of universal values such as freedom of expression, which was in far better shape in China thirty years ago. Speaking at the seminar, Professor Zhang Weiying formerly of Peking University's management school said that "There is only one provision in the constitution that has been truly implemented: that is the party's absolute leadership".
What the government is trying to achieve is a tightly controlled, though modern State, which is a contradiction in itself as with modernisation comes inevitable and necessary political reform. Aided by increasing modernisation and the spread of information through the Internet, many Chinese are finding new ways to express their discontent and anger. Earlier this year attempts to stage a 'Jasmine Revolution' in major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing using the Internet were met with brutal police intervention and harsh new legislation restricting freedom of speech, movement and association. Famous dissident artist Ai Weiwei was detained illegally in June causing an uproar among his followers, who also used microblogging to show their support for him.
Only this week, major government newspaper Guangming Daily was forced to retract a piece accusing the US of conspiracy and calling ambassador Gary Locke a 'neo-colonialist' following public criticism. In bitter response to the paper's paranoid accusations, the article's writer has received a number of threatening messages, with one containing the memorable line: "If you continue to speak for CCP openly and shamelessly in your blog, you will not have just one enemy like me... this hypocritical government still uses lies and violence to govern the kind-hearted Chinese people". Ordinary Chinese are finding more and more that with increased access to the Internet comes a chance at greater freedom of expression, a phenomenon that is causing many a headache for the regime's Propaganda Bureau and raising the question of how the government expects to maintain such a tight grip over its enormous and increasingly discontent population.
Rebellion against government control however has been the most extreme in areas of the country where more blatant persecution is apparent. In unstable minority regions, this year has been one of incredible tragedy characterised by crackdowns on peaceful protests and failed uprisings across the country. Two Tibetan monks have been killed after setting themselves alight and shouting anti-Beijing slogans, in a desperate attempt to draw attention to the oppression of the Tibetan people at the hands of Chinese authorities, and their monasteries have subsequently been targeted for 'patriotic re-education' and suffered many human rights abuses. In the Xinjiang (Eastern Turkistan) Uighur minority region, unrest in two cities earlier this year resulted in at least 38 deaths and dozens of injuries, and a crackdown on what authorities cunningly labelled 'religious extremism'.
In reaction to the authorities' increasing need for control over the freedoms of the populace, recent months have seen an unprecedented push for truthful reporting as many media outlets have been pushing the boundaries of government censorship and openly criticising the Chinese Communist Party. Corruption and recent controversy around the fatal July Wenzhou high-speed rail crash have fed public outrage, and it is thought that bold coverage by the Beijing Times and Beijing News was the reason for their takeover by the government Propaganda Bureau this month, a move that has sparked fears of increasingly restrictive censorship.
The 'Arab Spring' that brought in the New Year may have had far-reaching repercussions for the Chinese authoritarian regime, which appears to be holding on to control by only a few thin threads. The government is nervous, and its desperate attempts to reign in dissent through force and violence are only adding fuel to the fire. If a true revolution is to take place in China, it will be the largest to ever take place in history, and it will change the lives of over 1.3 billion people. The real question to be drawn from all of this is, when will this long-overdue, long-awaited Revolution shake the Chinese people into unified action and topple their out-dated, tyrannical government?