Today's News Out of China: The Dalian 'PX' Protests

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I'll just note this event, with pointers toward more extensive coverage:

The Democracy ReportIn my current article about this year's political crackdowns in China, I mention the argument that China's government, despite its phenomenal success in engineering high growth rates, is under much more pressure and challenge than outsiders generally realize. I cover a variety of reasons -- not including the recent high-speed rail crash and its aftermath, which happened after we went to press and has caused tremendous bitterness about official corruption. But the article does mention China's environmental catastrophes and the reactions they are provoking across the country.

Today tens of thousands of people are on the streets of Dalian, in northeast China, to protest pollution from a big factory making paraxylene (PX), a toxic chemical used in plastics and synthetic fibers. This is how things looked on Sunday morning in downtown Dalian.

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And here is some dramatic "CitizenTube" footage from today (thanks to Steve Grove):



For description and analysis, you  can start with Guardian coverage, or this from Global Voices Online, with leads and links to other sites. Additional photos here. UPDATE: Please see this followup from China Media Project in Hong Kong about how coverage inside China is being censored. Update^2: A useful item on China Beat gives important historical perspective on Dalian.

Those who remember the popular slogans of the Beijing Olympics era will understand why I am particularly touched by the slogans on this protest montage.

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These are offered not to magnify China's problems but as reminders of the extremely complicated mixture of successes and failures with which China's people and its government are contending. For instance, Dalian is probably most familiar to US newspaper readers as the site of regular World Economic Forum ("Davos") regional meetings. Therefore it is often the dateline for visitors' goggle-eyed reports on the pace and perfection of China's modernization. Today Dalian is an illustration of China's challenges as well as its achievements.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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