Coverage of the tumultuous events in the Middle East in the official Chinese press has gone through a few iterations. At first, the policy was no coverage or at best laconic coverage. Lately, due to internet postings and official nervousness the tone has changed to ‘ why it can’t happen here’ and ‘why it must not happen here’.
Anonymous groups have posted comments on Chinese dissident websites outside of China calling for a Jasmine Revolution in China. China’s web censors, or what is unlovingly referred to as the “Great Chinese firewall,” have managed to keep the site off-limits to most of the population, but where there are geeks there is a way. The wannabe Chinese revolutionaries have denounced the trampling of constitutional rights, the corruption and the cronyism endemic in China.
China’s leaders were so alarmed that Chinese President Hu Jintao told party leaders that it was necessary to exert greater control over “virtual society” and provide guidance in “healthy directions” .
Ever since China began its great modernization following the death of Mao Ze Dung, the party has insisted that democracy in China will eventually follow economic modernization, but this is still a few decades over the horizon. To bring it in prematurely would court disorder and vitiate the economic gains.
At first, the “revolutionaries” told their supporters to gather in various locations, including a McDonald’s branch in the capital of Beijing. At the appointed hour there were more plainclothes police and reporters than there were Jasmine revolutionaries, but outgoing US ambassador Jon Huntsman (who fancies himself a Republican presidential candidate) was identified despite his sunglasses.
The Jasmine revolutionaries then came up with an ingenious ploy. They called upon their supporters to express themselves by taking a stroll in the park. Obviously the plain-clothes police could not arrest all the park strollers, nor would they want to create the impression that what was officially dismissed as a miniscule group was actually quite sizable.
The official press shifted gears deriding the “performance art” of a few extremists. The prospects for a Chinese revolution, wrote Global Times the English version of the official party People’s Daily, were dim “The priority is the economy. China has a rapid GDP growth and the quality of life is improving. Egypt and other countries had seen these matters slide,” Shi Yinhong, a professor at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.
The Chinese press claims that would-be revolutionaries work against China’s national interests “China’s national rejuvenation has been a dream for generations of people with lofty ideals. The 21st century may witness the realization of the dream. All of Chinese society must maintain social cohesion by allowing the country to develop.
If the revolutionaries expected Western support, they were mistaken and this could be deduced by hesitant reaction to events in the Arab world “. The international community is no longer clamoring for emerging countries to become democracies as it was shortly after the Cold War. On the one hand, they are happy that more are embracing democracy, on the other, real concerns exist about the potential rise of Islamic fundamentalism in case of a power vacuum in the Middle. “
Another argument put forward by an economic Journal in Hong Kong was that if China wanted to avoid the grievances that fuel the Middle Eastern revolutions, China had to buckle down and implement the party’s policy of rapid economic growth that constituted the key to narrowing income gaps.
Source material can be found at this site.