As people in northeastern China become more and more unhappy with central government failure to take account of the economic development of the region, authorities worry that massive protests will soon erupt, according to an insider.
The insider, who asked for anonymity to speak freely, previously worked for a top official in the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party (UFWD). The agency is responsible for persuading Chinese people both domestically and internationally to agree on the policies of the Party and maintain the dominance of the Party.
While the insider hit his former superior during the Lunar New Year, the latter expressed the main concerns of the central government.
“The Chinese Cyberspace Administration (CAC) and the United Front Work Department (UFWD) are both monitoring Northeastern resentments towards the central government. They work hard to censor public opinion,” the insider said, and prevent tensions from escalating. The CAC is China’s leading internet censor.
There are three provinces in North-Eastern China: Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang. The region contributed around 14 percent to the country’s gross domestic product about 40 years ago (GDP). But in 2020, that figure dropped to 5%.
Approximately 107.9 million people live in this area, or about 8% of the total population of the country.
But the population is decreasing, with the local rate of birth decreasing (0.61 percent in 2019) and hundreds of thousands moving to other regions for better economic opportunities.
“The Chinese government is concerned that Tibet and Xinjiang will be followed by northeast China and will seek independence,” said the insider. “This is one of the major concerns the regime has now.” Tibet and Xinjiang have been self-regulating areas under the Chinese empire for centuries. The Chinese regime subjected the people of the region to brutal repression after the Party invaded these areas which then triggered dissent against its rule.
The insider also said that Northeast China was ignored because of the Party’s political struggles.
Northeast China has a wealth of coal, oil, iron and other natural resources. It has fertile soil, too. In the early 20th century, the region of Manchukuo built up heavy industry, advanced telecommunications networks and more than 4,300 miles of railways, under warlords and as a puppet state of the Japanese Empire.
When the CCP took over China in 1949, energy, mining, automotive and aircraft manufacturing and agrarian enterprises slowly developed.
Domestic industries were lagging behind when China started economic reforms and foreign imports rose sharply in the 1980s. Then in the late 1990s the Chinese government issued new policies which resulted in several million workers losing their jobs in northeastern China.
In 2002-2012, when Hu Jintao was Chinese leader, the region received more central government support and welcomed a new period of development.