Another day, another strike. But this isn’t France or India. It’s China. On Nov. 27, yet another Chinese city was hit by a work stoppage by its taxi drivers, this time in Chaozhou, a city of some 2.5 million residents in the southern province of Guangdong. Repeating the pattern started when cabbies went on strike in the huge metropolis of Chongqing in central China on November 6, the mayor of Chaozhou sat down for talks with representatives of the drivers, who complained of competition from illegal cabs, gouging by the taxi companies from whom they rented their cars and collusion between the companies and corrupt local officials.
File photo shows Chinese police on Hainan island. A strike involving hundreds of taxi drivers in south China entered its third day on Wednesday, as they demanded the release of 21 colleagues who police detained for protesting, state media reported.(AFP/File/Chai Hin Goh)
By a rough estimate, this was the eighth time in four weeks that taxi drivers around the nation had slammed on their brakes, making the rolling strikes the longest sustained chain reaction of labor unrest in the history of the People’s Republic. The strikes are emerging as a test case of a new policy of information control and management instituted by President Hu Jintao that shuns the authorities’ traditional emphasis on suppressing bad news altogether and stresses instead using official media to attempt to control how events like strikes, protests and even natural disasters are reported in China. The complex methods Beijing uses to try and dictate what its populace reads, watches and hears about events in their own country are a key element of how the Communist Party maintains power. But as the world economic crisis deepens and unrest becomes more widespread, the central government has had to tweak how it wages its propaganda war. Just how successfully it manages to control the way events unfold will become increasingly critical in preventing isolated cases from turning into the kind of large-scale civil unrest that threatens the party.