People of Wukan Challenge China Model

January 17, 2012 9:37 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 2:41 pm
Wukan villagers listen to a speech by village leader
Villagers listen to a speech by village leader Lin Zuluan (L) at a rally after he reached an agreement with Zhu Mingguo, vice secretary of the CCP Committee of Guangdong Province, on Dec. 21, 2011. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

The China Model came up against the villagers of Wukan in southern China, and for the moment, the villagers have won.

The China Model is a term proudly coined by scholars of Marxism in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The events that led to three months of protests in Wukan are a typical example of the China Model at work.

In China, local governments have actually become landlords and have authority to sell the land (or sell the right of using the land, to be precise) to developers.

The local government compensates the farmers with a minimum amount of money and then is paid 50 times more by the developer.

Theoretically, all the villagers should get a share from the sale. Because of the lack of checks and balances and transparency, villagers normally get very little, and the government officials involved are the major beneficiaries of the deal

It is estimated that 60 to 70 percent of local government income comes from selling land to developers. This kind of practice not only helps enrich officials but also generates high numbers in the measurement of gross domestic product, which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been using to evaluate the performance of the local officials.

In essence, the China model is the combination of political dictatorship and corruption-driven GDP at all levels of the Chinese communist regime.

There are numerous incidents where people who lost their lands protested, made appeals to the central authorities, refused to move, and even committed self-immolation in order to try to stop the confiscation of their land and the destruction of their homes.

They have met with violent suppression by the local governments and indifference by the higher-level officials. Anger and resentment over the unfairness and injustice have built up everywhere across China.


Wukan is a fishing village of about 20,000 people in Lu Feng County, Guangdong Province.

Beginning in June 2009, Wukan residents made 11 visits to the local and provincial governments complaining that the village chief and the local Communist Party secretary had made an illegal sale of about 67 acres of land to a Hong Kong developer. Their appeals went nowhere.

On Sept. 21, 2011, residents of Wukan started a three-month-long fight with the local police and government for their rights. In the process, the local police came to the village, beat up protesters, arrested village representatives, and allegedly tortured one of them to death.

Furious villagers went on strike and marched to the city government to protest. They chased out the village chief and Communist Party secretary and the Party-appointed committee members and set up their own autonomous committee elected by different families, with voting based on a family’s number of members.

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