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.