|Image from ABC news|
"The government says the waste will not pollute the sea, but if that's true, then why don't they dump it into Yangtze River?" said Lu Shuai, a 25-year-old protester who works in logistics. "It is because if they dump it into the river, it will have an impact on people in Shanghai and people in Shanghai will oppose it."What many individuals do not understand is the regionalism is a powerful force in China, much more so than the United States. Outside of the antebellum south the Americans do not tend to identify with very strongly with whatever region they are living from or are from. This is not the case in China. I have personally witnessed the very strong regional ties that Chinese have. Remember, the province of Guangdong, or perhaps better known in the west as Canton, is different culturally and linguistically than Beijing. The differences between the two regions, of the many that exist, is far deeper and wider than what exists between the regions of the United States.
Regionalism is a well known issue within China, so much so that there is an apocryphal story to illustrate it. Regionalism was one of the major factors for the fall of the Qing Dynasty and was exploited by Mao when he toppled the nationalist regime about half a century later. It is an issue that the PRC is very aware of, hence the constant government edicts and statements about creating a 'harmonious society'
There is also issue with growing unrest with corruption and greed amongst the bureaucrats and officials of the regime. This is also an item that the central government worries about, because even if the corruption is only local in nature, their inability to prevent it makes the central government look week and ineffectual at best, and complicit at the worst. This is no simple environmental protest, which fails to elicit such a violent response, and much more a political one. There are hundreds of protests in China every day that go unreported, whereas in America protests are so few that any over the size of 50 seem to attract real media attention.
As China's economic situation gets more strained expect to see more of these. (You can simply google China and unrest to see plenty of examples within the past year) And unlike with Europe, which many analysts and news outlets seem to have successfully marginalized, the implosion of China cannot be ignored. Once that news gets out to the west, expect to see even more volatile markets, and perhaps another financial crisis since the markets have abandoned rational analysis for sensationalistic hype years ago.