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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, ...

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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.

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.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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