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The march of China’s new middle class

Despite the ranks of riot police, they came in their thousands: marching through the streets of the elegant port city of Dalian to demand the closure of a coastal chemical plant that came within a whisker of a major toxic leak.

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This, however, was no movement of frustrated migrant workers or disgruntled peasants thrown off their land, but an orderly, 12,000-strong crocodile of China’s new well-to-do; smartly-dressed and smartphone-savvy, texting pictures of their defiance all around the world.

China’s authorities deal with a 100,000 ‘disturbances’ a year, but the protests in Dalian last weekend were different, forcing the local government to announce the closure of the £950m factory that generates £200m of tax revenues a year.
It was a rare humiliation; a rare demonstration of people power; but also a sign of things to come for China’s rulers as they confront a new breed of middle-class protestor that knows their ‘rights’ and dares to challenge the corruption inherent in China’s one-party state.

From corner-cutting in China’s high-speed rail network, shoddy schools that collapse during earthquakes, poisoned baby formula and countless pollution scandals there is a growing revolt against what the official People’s Daily recently dubbed “Bloody GDP” – economic growth that puts Communist Party prestige (and officials’ kick-backs) over the welfare of the people.

One of the Dalian marchers, a 26-year-old woman, agreed to meet The Daily Telegraph in a café in one of the city’s up-market shopping malls

Filed in: World News

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