China's top official paper warned on Thursday that the government is facing a crisis of faith among its people and urged local officials to win trust in the face of rising discontent.
Anger over forced demolitions and corruption has led to a daily rash of mass incidents, an official euphemism for protests, worrying officials determined to defend one-party rule and ensure a smooth transition of power to a younger generation of leaders.
The call came in an editorial of the People's Daily, the official paper of China's ruling Communist Party. While such an editorial does not amount to a statement of government policy, it reflects official concern.
We must pay attention to the 'crisis of faith' in the relationship between grassroots cadres and the people, the editorial said. If the mistrust deepens, it will bring a negative impact to the development, harmony and stability of society.
A ruling party's governing position and governing power, fundamentally speaking, come from the people.
China's leaders have pinned the legitimacy of one-party rule on delivering quick economic growth and higher standards of living to spread more widely among the population.
But the Communist Party has not succeeded in tackling problems that have long plagued the nation, including rampant corruption and a yawning income gap that could doom its efforts to create a more harmonious society.
Official statistics on China's rural conflicts are hard to come by, but a former deputy editor-in-chief of the People's Daily said it was consistently above 90,000 a year from 2007 to 2009.
President Hu Jintao, who is expected to retire from the Communist Party in the autumn of 2012 and the presidency the following March, has made creating a harmonious society a hallmark of his administration, often stressing stability at all costs.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Huang Yan; Editing by Nick Macfie)