Popular outrage over auxilary police beating to death a citizen journalist who was taking pictures of them beating yet other Chinese citizens appears to have motivated the Chinese government to action. The story has raced around Chinese blogs and news sites, and led to at least one official being fired and dozens more under investigation.
This is not the first article I've read along these lines regarding events in China, and it appears that they do at least exert some impact on real-life policy. It seems that the Chinese citizenry is beginning to flex some real muscle in terms of liberalizing their country. It's slow and unstable, and thus far it hasn't put true democracy on the table, but it's real.