What is the Real Cause of Most Riots?

When the Western media reports that a riot happened in China don’t mistake this unrest as a demand for a Western style democracy as the media did when the Tiananmen Square protests took place in 1989. Just because a few young people were captured on camera in China saying they want a democracy doesn’t mean the majority of Chinese do.

For example, CNN reported a June 10, 2011 riot in Xintang located in southern China.  Witnesses and media reports said local officials beat up a pregnant migrant worker and her husband, pushing the woman to the ground. Mass protests ensued, quickly spiraling to violent clashes with government forces that spread to other parts of Xintang, a city of 400,000 residents, almost half of them migrant workers.

The result was the arrest of 19 men, which included nine teenagers.

If you read the CNN report, you’ll discover that a slowdown in economic growth (caused by the 2008 global financial crises, which started in the U.S. due to greed and lax laws) in China caused social tensions between rural versus urban, ethnic minority against majority, and haves versus have-nots, which caused several riots in different areas of China.

The same thing happened in 1947 when General (and dictator) Chiang Kai-shek ordered his army to quell a riot in Taiwan. The result was the 2/28 Massacre in Taiwan where 30,000 civilians were killed by the military.

The reasons for riots around the world seldom have to do with a demand for a Western style democracy. Even in the Middle East where there have been riots and calls for democracy, according to the Western media, most of the people involved don’t know what a democracy is or how to set one up. They just want some form of social justice.

In 1992, in Los Angeles, there was the Rodney King riot caused by ethnic strife, which ended with about $1 billion in property damages in addition to 53 people killed and thousands injured. The U.S. Marines and Army had to be called in to regain control and there were shootings between the military and civilians.

In Oakland, California there were several riots caused by the 2009 killing of an unarmed black man that took place at a BART station.  Hundreds took to the streets to protest while looters broke into stores and set cars on fire.

In 2001, England had riots in three cities due to tensions in the South Asian Islamic community. It was estimated that the riot in Bradford, England involved about a thousand youths and eventually it took a thousand police to end it.

A 2011, a riot in Vancouver erupted after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup.  After the game, many teenagers went on a rampage attempting to shatter windows and loot stores.  When one man tried to stop them, he was jumped by no fewer than 15 people, who beat and kicked him until he was left a bloodied heap on the ground.

Wikipedia lists many of the reasons for riots, which may stem from the unlawful use of force by a group of police against civilians, prison riots, race riots, religious riots, student riots, urban riots, sports riots, and food/bread riots that have taken place all over the world no matter what form of government a country has.

However, when the Western media reports about riots in China, it’s almost always mentioned that China’s central government is challenged to prevent widespread grievances from taking place as if riots in China are different than riots in other countries.

According to the history of riots, this challenge of an unruly civilian population is a problem all governments eventually face and the job of governments the world over is to end the killing and damage as soon as possible by whatever means to restore order.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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4 Responses to What is the Real Cause of Most Riots?

  1. sanukjim says:

    What the western media and others do not know is the fact that individuals and families in China are mostly confined to their area of birth.Unlike people of most of the rest of the world they can not just up and move (even if they could afford to) for better living or jobs with out permission.I 2007 Honeywell had hired an engineer to work in Beijing .After getting permission for him to be there it took 2 years to get is wife there. Being stationary the people are mostly concerned with their problems in their own area and not want to travel to join in groups to protest anything.living in the country side off and on for 2 1/2 years I found most people Leary of you at first then warming up as you presented your self as open and interested in them.
    I lived there.

    • I’ve read about this but I also know people in China who have managed to figure out ways to get around residential status as long as they don’t have to buy property or go to the local hospital for medical or dental. I understand that residency cards restrict what area you can use for medical help, but if you have a friend or relative, you can live with them in an area that isn’t your approved residency area/status. I’ve learned that the Chinese are skilled at skirting the rules if they want to, but like most people in the U.S. once you settle in and are used to an area, most don’t move. Most stay because that’s where their family and friends also live. The major factor for moving was to find better jobs in factories. That caused hundreds of millions to migrate from rural villages to the large manufacturing areas where they rent living space, but the home they live in is still theirs back in the village. This explains why hundreds of millions of Chinese travel home on China’s major national holiday all in a matter of a few days.

      That’s another factor that keeps people stuck in one place. The fact that rural homes can’t be bought or sold, becasue they are cooperatively owned by the village and the govenrment. In the cities, people are allowed to buy/lease a property for several decades. They buy the lease for that commercial or residential space similar to how we buy homes in the United States. And, just like the United States, we never really own our home even if we pa it off because the government can take it away from the owners if we don’t pay our property tax. In China, the governmetn can take the leased property away for other reasons but it still the same in the end. The house you paid for is not yours anymore.

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