U.S. ambassador: Political situation in China “very, very delicate”

U.S. ambassador: Political situation in China “very, very delicate”

The Chinese people are increasingly frustrated with the Chinese Communist Party and the political situation in China is "very, very delicate," U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke said on Wednesday.

"I do believe that there is a power of the people, and there is a growing frustration among the people over the operations of government, corruption, lack of transparency, and issues that affect the Chinese people on a daily basis that they feel are being neglected," Locke told NPR‘s Steve Inskeep during a Wednesday interview, part of a media blitz Locke is conducting during his visit to Washington.

"Do you think that the situation is fundamentally stable in China right now?" Inskeep asked Locke.

"I think, very delicate — very, very delicate," Locke responded. "But there were calls earlier this year for a Jasmine Revolution and nothing came of it. I think it would take something very significant, internal to China, to cause any type of major upheaval."

Locke said that since he took over the ambassadorship from former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, he has become aware of public demonstrations large and small throughout China that ordinary people were using to pressure the government to address their grievances. He singled out a recent protest in the southern Chinese city of Wukan over the confiscation of land without reasonable compensation.

"[The people] basically prevented anybody from the outside from coming in and brought the city to a halt and forced the Chinese government communist leaders to send people to address their grievances," Locke said.

The discord inside China is partly a result of the income and wealth disparity between China’s growing middle class and the masses of poor, rural residents, Locke said. He also said the Chinese government’s human rights record was worsening.

"[I]t’s very clear that in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and since then, there’s been a greater intolerance of dissent and the human rights record of China has been going in the wrong direction," said Locke.

Asked for comment at today’s State Department press briefing, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland backed up Locke’s comments on human rights and the rule of law in China.

"[Locke] obviously speaks for the administration in expressing continued concern that we seem to have an increasing trend of crackdowns, forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, arrests and convictions of human rights activists, lawyers, religious leaders, ethnic minorities in China," she said.

But Nuland declined to repeat Locke’s assertion that the Chinese government was potentially unstable.

"I think our message to the Chinese government on these issues is the same message that we give around the world when we have human rights concerns, that governments are stronger when they protect the human rights of their people and when they allow for peaceful dissent," she said.