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IR Working Paper 1994/10
Greg Austin, ‘China’s Public Order Crisis and Its Strategic Implications’, IR Working Paper 1994/10, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, December 1994.
Public disorder in the PRC over the last year reached a level where the leadership felt political stability to be under threat on a broader range of fronts than at any other time since the reform policies were launched in 1978. The leaders have become sufficiently seized by the gravity of the situation to implement a series of measures which represent an important turn in domestic policy toward new authoritarianism. The question of public order now stands as one of the central battle grounds of PRC politics upon which leadership factions vie with various proposals to stem the disorder. These proposals include more traditional approaches, such as authoritarianism and chauvinism, as well as more liberal approaches, based on improvements in public welfare, legal reform and democratisation. The redefining of politics in response to heightened concern over stability holds important consequences for the PRC’s international policies and military posture. The pressure of the conservative response to the public order crisis will cause the PRC to look for international scapegoats, and to increase its propaganda attacks on Hong Kong, Taiwan and the US. The PRC’s ability to wield influence on the international stage will be weakened. More attention will be given to internal security in PLA priorities, and the power of the PLA as prop to the regime, or even as potential threat, will increase.