Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Economic insecurity and politics

Want to know how important economic growth is in China? This report from the Washington Post illustrates the potential for problems.

From a comparative perspective, this case is one to compare with economic growth in Iran, Nigeria, and Russia. The demographic and economic statistics necessary for such comparisons are available in the CIA World Factbook.

Students Grow Desperate Over China's Tight Job Market -- Tensions Erupt at Employment Fair; Bleak Prospects Seen for Many 2007 Grads

"A tide of more than 30,000 students with polished résumés and high hopes surged into a job fair here so eager to meet with employers that they shattered four glass doors and splayed the side walls of an escalator in what became a near riot...

"After years in which graduates were ensured of a good job in the fast-growing economy, the number of degree-holders has outstripped the number of jobs, and the guarantees have evaporated...

"An open-ended rise in living standards, particularly for the educated middle class, has been part of an unspoken pact under which the party retains a monopoly on political power despite the country's turn away from socialism.

"So far, the party has delivered on its part of the bargain: The economy has grown by more than 9 percent a year recently, and the main beneficiaries have been educated urbanites. Content to claim their share in the prosperity, most students have shown little interest in politics since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

"But a large pool of unemployed or underemployed university graduates, some analysts have suggested, could become a new breeding ground for opposition. An educated opposition, they said, would have far more organizational and ideological ability -- and present a greater threat to the government -- than the left-behind farmers who have been the main source of unrest in recent years.

"The Labor and Social Security Ministry estimated recently that as many as 4.9 million youths will graduate from universities by the end of 2007, up by nearly 20 percent over 2006. Another 49.5 million will graduate from high school, also a 20 percent increase...

"But indications have emerged that, booming as it is, the economy may not be able to absorb that many degree-holders into the jobs for which they are being trained..."

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