With its economy seemingly heading the same direction as America’s, China is taking steps to ensure that its jobless university graduates can, you know, get jobs. Reportedly, they will be offering training and giving loans to companies that hire them, as well as offering smaller loans to graduates who want to start their own businesses. It seems like a good plan; there are certainly plenty of American graduates and soon-to-be graduates who wish the US government would institute a similar plan.
But Reuters Wire Service is never content to simply report on the what; being investigative reporters, they want to dig into the meaty, meaty why. And, of course, since they’re writing about China, this is the answer they came up with:
China has more than economic reasons to fear surging graduate unemployment. It is also a potential political time bomb.
This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy protests led by radicalized students. Unsettling discontent could spread again as millions of graduates, whose families have paid steeply for their education, look for work.
Yes, of course, the reason the government is trying to help students is not because they want to help or because their efforts could help speed up the flagging economy, it’s out of fear of “another Tiananmen Square”. Never mind that the first Tiananmen Square protests had absolutely nothing to do with unemployment and that they were started by students, not unemployed graduates. Never mind that the protests emerged spontaneously as an outpouring of support for the recently-passed Hu Yaobang, rather than as an organized protest of anything. Never mind that the Tiananmen Square protests were born directly out of dissatisfaction with the government rather than dissatisfaction with economic conditions arguably fairly unrelated to government policies. (OK, to be fair, part of the dissatisfaction that led to Tiananmen was related to high inflation, but there were a wealth of other social issues that contributed as well; had it just been the inflation, I suspect Tiananmen 1989 would never have happened).
The truth is, the slowing economy does pose a threat of destabilization for China, as it does for all countries, but at the moment, I don’t see anyone other than idiotic Washington Post columnists blaming the crisis on China’s government, so a general anti-government “mass incident” on the scale of Tiananmen seems extremely unlikely.
I do understand the temptation of invoke those protests when writing about China, especially from the West, where they’re one of the few Chinese historical events people have actually heard of. Still, I really wish that if people were going to invoke them, they’d take the time to learn the history first.
UPDATE: It’s worth noting that the US Economic Stimulus Plan apparently includes a ton of education funding, like “grants to needy college students”. Shockingly, the New York Times doesn’t cite the reason for this education spending as fear that unemployed students might rise against the central government.