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China’s Gathering Storm

7 minute read
TIME

Our report on farmers’ protests throughout the Chinese countryside elicited heartfelt sympathy from readers who are appalled by that government’s corruption, land grabs and failure to provide basic services. But there was also alarm over what a destabilized China might mean for its neighbors

“Inside the pitchfork rebellion” [March 13] suggested there may be a revolution in the making in China. What will happen if 900 million oppressed farmers rise up to get justice and revenge? It would be naive to applaud such a development. History shows us that revolutions never lead to what is hoped for. Instead, chaos spreads, inevitably leading to new catastrophes in an increasing number of countries. Given the Chinese powder keg, the Bush Administration’s preoccupation with Iran seems rather out of proportion. Washington should concentrate on how to defuse the Chinese risks.
Sture Gadd
Helsinki

As the gap between well-to-do city dwellers and impoverished peasants gets wider, the fury of the poor is fast becoming explosive. With access to the mass media and the Internet, village folk are becoming more conscious of pervasive hardship and injustice and are beginning to voice their resentment. The protests have put the authorities in a bind. True to the dogma of communism, the regime is making incessant efforts to clamp down on websites and blogs, hoping that dissent will not burst into a wildfire. When the demonstrations get ugly, the government may opt for bloody suppression and further fuel the people’s outrage, leading to tragic anarchy. For the sake of the future of more than 1 billion people, let’s hope Beijing finds an amicable solution to the farmers’ grievances.
Venn Tzu
Singapore

time‘s reporting proves that the Chinese farmers are afraid. Their protests are peaceful, but they are still beaten and killed by the police. If the government responded this way in the U.S., riots would break out. The Chinese seem almost to have accepted that they can’t do anything. Their government controls them completely, and that is manifestly unfair.
Amrita Jagpal
West Chester, Ohio, U.S.

Rough Treatment
“One life inside Gitmo” [March 13] reported that Mohammed al-Qahtani, the Saudi accused of being the so-called 20th hijacker on 9/11, was coerced into confessing his ties to al-Qaeda. When we obtain information from prisoners by denying them basic human rights and decency, then we are no better than the very organizations we are fighting. Against whom will the abusive interrogation techniques be used next — hardened criminals, drug dealers and political activists?
Gilbert Laraque
Miami

Why do the Western media lap up the sob stories dished out by apologists for the jihadists vowing destruction of everything un-Islamic on the face of the earth? Attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, arguing the case of detainee al-Qahtani, is obviously an interested party. Otherwise she would not have gone fishing for the kind of information she dishes out to gullible liberal media. She has been conditioned to use anything she can find against the government and paint al-Qahtani as an innocent victim, no matter what the truth is. Why doesn’t Time get stories from those who are on the receiving end of Islamic terrorism? The results would certainly be more blood curdling.
Mukundan Menon
Thiruvananthapuram, India

time is overly concerned about issues like the interrogation methods employed in the prison at Guantánamo and warrantless eavesdropping on phone calls. It is a typical liberal attitude to criticize and second-guess the government’s tactics in the war against terrorism. Thank God, the media do not dictate U.S. policy and the general public is smarter than you are.
Sam Thomas
New Hyde Park, New York, U.S.

Security in the Global Market
Columnist Joe Klein’s “It’s economic security, stupid” [March 13] hit the nail on the head. The U.S. response to the now defunct Dubai Ports deal was a global public relations nightmare. Although I agree with Klein that a “drastically revised social safety net for American workers” would ease the collective American insecurities and provide a more rational and less emotional view of the growing global economy, I don’t see that becoming a reality anytime soon. Universal health insurance and government-subsidized pensions smack of socialism and would inevitably draw protest, even from those who would benefit most from the programs.
Richard S. Ritsma
Haledon, New Jersey, U.S.

A Hawk’s Regret
Andrew Sullivan’s essay “What I got wrong about the war” [March 13], in which he confessed his errors in supporting the war in Iraq, was a step in the right direction. The next logical step would be to ask for the resignation of all those responsible for such a devastating failure.
Aaron Greene
Santa Monica, California, U.S.

Sullivan captured the thoughts of many Republicans and Democrats. His honesty deserves respect, but we sure wish that our President had spoken those words to us citizens, as well as to the world.
Ray Ross
Montrose, Colorado, U.S.

Sullivan’s “Three huge errors” — overconfidence, narcissism and underestimating the importance of culture — actually boil down to one: American arrogance. The rest of the world disagreed with plans to invade Iraq, but the Bush Administration thought the world was cowardly. The world, well aware of conditions in Northern Ireland, the Palestinian territories and Kashmir, anticipated chaos in Iraq, but the U.S. government thought it knew best. As that country falls apart, Sullivan needs to ask if Iraq will ever emulate South Africa, Romania or even the Philippines, each a place where democracy germinated because its seed was planted by the populace.
Narmada Guruswamy
Aberdeen, Scotland

Now that the war in Iraq has gone awry, Sullivan is wrong again about the war. The U.S. did not go to war against Saddam Hussein because Iraqis were starving and there was corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program. The U.S. went to war in Iraq ostensibly to contain Islamic terrorism. But the allegation that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was just an excuse to invade, and Iraq was not a base for Islamic terrorists. By ousting Saddam, the U.S. gave jihadists another base. The attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan was the right way to go. The U.S. should have put pressure on all countries in which Islamic terrorism has training camps and madrasahs, where the young are brainwashed into a culture of blind hate. Iraq was, tragically, the wrong place to go to war.
Rita Putatunda
Pune, India

Back to Basics
Re “The new India, and the old one” [March 13]: I concur with essayist Alex Perry, that India’s progress is staggering in its magnitude and its one-dimensional quality. In evolving into a nuclear power worthy of American attention, India has become somehow detached from the person in the street. In the day-to-day India — with an entrenched, corrupt bureaucracy, only an intermittent supply of clean water and millions of people lacking basic health care and sanitation — the new international developments seem impossibly far removed. India requires first the basics of life and then transparency and accountability in local and national government. As Perry writes, it will take generations before India’s becoming a nuclear power has any relevance for what the ordinary Indian calls the real world.
Iona Sharma
Formby, England

Suffering for Society
“Place your bets” [Feb. 27] predicted that the movie Brokeback Mountain would win the Academy Award for Best Picture, but the Oscar went to Crash. Brokeback may have lost because of its homosexual theme, but it has a story that everyone can relate to. We fear failure, and society dictates our behavior. In Brokeback Mountain, we see two worlds: the open, exuberant, vivid natural setting, suggesting what life could be like; and the cramped, suffocating, dark domestic world inhabited by Ennis and Jack, what their lives are really like. And we wonder, What if? Have we really done what we wanted to do? Are we really where we want to be? Brokeback Mountain raises all those questions. It’s a real eye-opener. Thank you, Ang Lee.
Roselaine Pennino
Paris

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