PRC Ministry of Truth “People’s Daily Online“:
For the pro-America republics, such as Egypt, the United States hoped the authorities would answer the people’s call to end Mubarak’s long-time rule. For the pro-America monarchies, the United States needed to maintain the status quo because of oil interests and the potentially volatile situation in Iran. In those anti-U.S. countries, such as Iran and Syria, the United States would definitely agitate anti-government protests to trigger change.
The author, Zhang Xinyi is the English language Editor of the People’s Daily and a former Olympics News Service manager, suffice to say he’s probably a tad nationalistic or owes to job to guys that are.
The PRC doesn’t seem to get that all of these protests were homegrown, and unrest was inevitable, regardless of later intervention. Or maybe they do get it, and this is a rehash of the Chinese language stories they’re running. Either way to publish this kind of overly simplistic pabulum in English doesn’t do them much good.
Anyone outside of China is clearly aware that whatever the foreign forces in Libya are doing, unrest followed autocracy and clearly preceded NATO fighters.
Why so skittish? Apparently China’s leaky Great Firewall was unable to stop some vague microblog calls for demonstrations around China, termed the “Jasmine Revolution”, a copy of the Tunisian name.
This comes only a short time after Hu Jintao spoke about the coming challenges to “solve prominent problems which might harm the harmony and stability of the society” to a gathering of provincial and minsisterial level functionaries.
However, it seems that things never really got off the ground, with police and journalists outnumbering protesters. China has historically been very wary of an kind of mass demonstrations, even ones against Japan, as they can cut both ways. They may assuage nationalist sentiment, but run the risk of becoming too xenophobic, as I wrote about in a paper for a class. They can also move away from nationalist sentiment and towards calls for reform, as the NYT reported was happening today.
The messages calling people to action urged protesters to shout “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness,” an ostensible effort to tap into popular discontent over inflation and soaring real estate prices.
There’s really no way that Beijing is going to allow a movement overtly calling for change (without a nationalist angle) to run its course naturally. In the past it has managed anti-Japanese protests very closely, even ordering organizers out of Beijing in 2003. There’s no way it will treat a baldly reforming agenda with kid gloves.
If there are any demonstrations this spring they will occur without the slightest tolerance from the PRC.
As Joshua Kurlantzick notes in Asia Unbound, China is not in the same boat as the current or former Middle Eastern regimes in Bahrain, Tunisia, and Egypt.
The era of Chinese intellectuals and pro-democracy activists looking clearly to the United States for guidance, if that ever existed, is over.
China’s regime has, since Tiananmen, remained pretty consistent in managing the tone of its opposition to the US. In the mid-90s, the book “China That Can Say No” was published, to great fanfare on the Mainland. It attempted to set Chinese values at odds with the trends in the West (primarily the US), and sold well for years. It relied heavily on Han nationalim, stating
In the next century … Chinese thought, and Chinese entrepreneurial abilities will deeply influence the world, becoming the sole force leading human thought
This type of thinking appeals directly to what David Shambaugh has called the “nativist” element in his paper “Coping With a Conflicted China”, comprised of “populists, xenophobic nationalists, and Marxists.” This group may not like what the CCP has done in regards to its opening up and trade with the West, but it still views the government as the best vehicle for spreading the thought leading force it views as China’s birthright in the coming years.