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Little Wukan, Big China: Lessons to Be Drawn from the Wukan Incident for China’s Political and Economic Development

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Abstract This paper argues that the Wukan Incident reflects the common difficulties faced at the state-society level by contemporary China as the country finds itself experiencing both an important strategic chapter in its development, and a period during which social problems are coming to the fore. As such, the task of developing an understanding of the Wukan Incident offers the chance to draw crucial lessons about China’s future political and economic development. Firstly, the modernization development model, according to which economic growth and development take precedence above all else, has already led to a building up of serious social problems. China’s future development efforts must draw on and put into practice the theories of the Scientific Outlook on Development. Secondly, the demands made by the villagers of Wukan could feasibly become political and economic problems common throughout the whole country. This includes issues such as how state-owned assets and land are dealt with; transparency of public finances; and safeguards for the democratic rights and interests of Chinese citizens. The government must face these difficulties and use reforms to tackle each of them. Should it fail to do so, these issues could spark a serious social crisis or even affect the stability of the political order. Thirdly, the current mechanisms by which the Party and the government respond to the public’s interest-related claims require urgent improvement. Finally, there is no magic pill to solve the political and economic problems faced in China today. Elections are certainly not a magic solution.


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