Mass Incidents in China and the United States and Predicting Results

China has the government statistic of mass incidents.

China's Public Security Ministry reported 87,000 mass incidents in 2005, up 6.6 per cent over the number in 2004, and 50 per cent over the 2003 figure. The ministry has not released the latest figures.

Mass incidents - the Chinese government's term for riots, demonstrations and protests - should not be mistaken for attempts to "rebel against or overthrow the government", said Dr Wang Erping of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Psychology.

The United States, Europe and other places also have mass protests. Here is a google map of Tea party tax protests. (H/T Instapundit and

View Larger Map

UPDATE: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita's Predictions on Iran from Feb 2009.

Just counting the number of incidents some of which are the gathering of a handful of people while another could be 20,000 people burning things is not especially meaningful.

When do protests lead to change within the current system and when does the system get changed ? Are simple metrics able to give effective indications ?

More analysis of the volume of people, their resources and goals and profiles and detailed analysis of movement leaders and actors in the establishment seems required to have a useful prediction of whether movements will be effective and to what degree.

The methodology of mathematician Bruce Bueno de Mesquita seems to be the current state of the art

In fact, the professor says that a computer model he built and has perfected over the last 25 years can predict the outcome of virtually any international conflict, provided the basic input is accurate. What’s more, his predictions are alarmingly specific. His fans include at least one current presidential hopeful, a gaggle of Fortune 500 companies, the CIA, and the Department of Defense. Naturally, there is also no shortage of people less fond of his work. “Some people think Bruce is the most brilliant foreign policy analyst there is,” says one colleague. “Others think he’s a quack.”

Bueno de Mesquita has made a slew of uncannily accurate predictions—more than 2,000, on subjects ranging from the terrorist threat to America to the peace process in Northern Ireland—that would seem to prove him right.

He is the chairman of New York University’s Department of Politics, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, and the author of many weighty academic tomes.

To verify the accuracy of his model, the CIA set up a kind of forecasting face-off that pit predictions from his model against those of Langley’s more traditional in-house intelligence analysts and area specialists. “We tested Bueno de Mesquita’s model on scores of issues that were conducted in real time—that is, the forecasts were made before the events actually happened,” says Stanley Feder, a former high-level CIA analyst. “We found the model to be accurate 90 percent of the time,” he wrote. Another study evaluating Bueno de Mesquita’s real-time forecasts of 21 policy decisions in the European community concluded that “the probability that the predicted outcome was what indeed occurred was an astounding 97 percent.” What’s more, Bueno de Mesquita’s forecasts were much more detailed than those of the more traditional analysts. “The real issue is the specificity of the accuracy,” says Feder. “We found that DI (Directorate of National Intelligence) analyses, even when they were right, were vague compared to the model’s forecasts. To use an archery metaphor, if you hit the target, that’s great. But if you hit the bull’s eye—that’s amazing.”

How does Bueno de Mesquita do this? With mathematics. “You start with a set of assumptions, as you do with anything, but you do it in a formal, mathematical way,” he says. “You break them down as equations and work from there to see what follows logically from those assumptions.” The assumptions he’s talking about concern each actor’s motives. You configure those motives into equations that are, essentially, statements of logic based on a predictive theory of how people with those motives will behave. From there, you start building your mathematical model. You determine whether the predictive theory holds true by plugging in data, which are numbers derived from scales of preferences that you ascribe to each actor based on the various choices they face.

A sample of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s wilder—and most accurate—predictions:

Forecasted the second Intifada and the death of the Mideast peace process, two years before it happened.

Defied Russia specialists by predicting who would succeed Brezhnev. “The model identified Andropov, who nobody at the time even considered a possibility,” he says.

Predicted that Daniel Ortega and the Sandanistas would be voted out of office in Nicaragua, two years before it happened.

Four months before Tiananmen Square, said China’s hardliners would crack down harshly on dissidents.

Predicted France’s hair’s-breadth passage of the European Union’s Maastricht Treaty.

Predicted the exact implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement between Britain and the IRA.

Predicted China’s reclaiming of Hong Kong and the exact manner the handover would take place, 12 years before it happened.

  • Brett_Bellmore 3 months ago
    "Four months before Tiananmen Square, said China’s hardliners would crack down harshly on dissidents."

    Come on, THAT prediction was about as remarkable as predicting that the sun would rise in the morning. When doesn't China crack down harshly on dissidents?
  • nextbigfuture 3 months ago
    The protestors had a chance at getting some of what they wanted. They got too greedy or were too ideological. The protestors had a sitdown with some top officials. The reason they had the chance is that some of them were related to some of the top officials. Ordinary protestors might have gotten a quick quash but the children of the elite were given a chance to cut a deal. Plus many at the time did believe there were other outcomes possible and the protests lasted a long time. So at least half of the experts and observers though it would play out another way so it was a correct call with less than 50% certainty. A knee-jerk quash would have happened early.
  • Vordigan 3 months ago
    He's not thinking of setting up a Foundation, is he? And then maybe a hidden Second Foundation?
  • What little there is to this post is a sad joke. When BHO starts putting dissidents in work camps, then you can make analogies to China. As of now, that's in very poor taste.

    As for the protests, let me help you out with some math. At a recent "party" in a solid blue district in MA, just 100 people turned out. The GOP opponent in that solid blue district got 91,000 votes. That makes the 100 who turned out just 0.1% of the GOP challenger's vote total. The 100 represents just 0.05% of the winning Dem's total. For comparison purposes, if the votes the Dem got was equal in weight to a small female elephant, the number of people who showed up to protest would equal the weight of a slightly large rat.

    Because some of the leaders of the "movement" are extremists (Randroids) who are even considered fringe in the Libertarian party, the "movement" will never take off. Don't confuse the number of supposed protest locations with the number of people who actually turn out.

    If your leaders were smart, they'd realize they don't have the numbers and they'd do something intelligent like ask politicians real questions on video. Instead, they somehow think millions of people are going to suddenly turn into Objectivists if only they stand around waving dumb signs. Not going to happen.
  • nextbigfuture 3 months ago
    Amnesty International claims about 250,000 Chinese are in re-education camps in 2008. They are not likely to go with a low estimate.

    The US has 7.3 million in the prison system. Record 7.3 million people were in jail, prison or on probation or parole in 2007

    2.3 million are incarcerated

    The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world at 737 persons imprisoned per 100,000 (as of 2005). A report released Feb. 28, 2008 indicates that in the United States more than 1 in 100 adults is now confined in an American jail or prison. The United States has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's incarcerated population.

    In 2006 the incarceration rate in England and Wales is 139 persons imprisoned per 100,000 residents, while in Norway it is 59 inmates per 100,000, whilst the Australian imprisonment rate is 163 prisoners per 100,000 residents, and the rate of imprisonment in New Zealand last year was 179 per 100,000.

    In 2001 the incarceration rate in People's Republic of China was 111 per 100,000 in 2001 (sentenced prisoners only), although this figure is highly disputed. Chinese human rights activist Harry Wu, who spent 19 years in forced-labor camps for criticizing the government, estimates that 16 to 20 million of his countrymen are incarcerated, including common criminals, political prisoners, and people in involuntary job placements. Ten million prisoners would mean a rate of 793 prisoners per 100,000 citizens in the People's Republic of China
  • nextbigfuture 3 months ago
    Also,is it supposed a positive statement about the United States that many people can actively protest current spending and financial policies and tens of millions can support Fair Tax or Flat tax systems and the US majority and politicians will mostly ignore these citizens and continue with tax and financial systems which are known to be horrendous ?
  • timmaguire 3 months ago
    I can't get over what sore winners Obama's online supporters are (or at least the Obama trolls). This is a fascinating article that leaves me wanting to learn more about Bueno De Masquita and his algorithm. I can't imagine how a mathematical formula could make some of these predictions. By the time I got to the bottom, I had forgotten about the Tea Party angle, but along comes 24blahblah who probably didn't even read it, but he sure does have an opinion on it. I leave Mr. 24blahblah with the following thought:

    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
    Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
    Margaret Mead.
  • dsm012 3 months ago
    Bueno de Mesquita has a book (The Logic of Political Survival) and he's been interviewed a few times by Russ Roberts on EconTalk. You'll find more on my blog.

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