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Water Cooler – China The Next Revolution? Not If The Goverment Has Any Say

Soldiers on Tiananmen Square

Soldiers on Tiananmen Square by jck_photos, on Flickr

With the news out of Bahrain and Libya tonight thoughts of which oppressive regime might fall next focus on the Middle East (since no matter what the Wisconsin government is not going to fall) will it be Jordan? Or perhaps Yemen? But maybe the next real hot spot might be even further to the East, as in the giant nation of China.

China is a rather different situation than the Middle East autocracies. While they are in no way a free society, the levers of control are very different in the semi-communist nation. While Egypt did try the crude step of turning off the internet, too late as it turns out, the Chinese have always been very concerned about the power of information and its free flow in the 1.3 billion citizen nation.

They have long put strong and on-going censorship on the intent in China, up to and including putting the strong arm on companies like Google and Twitter. This puts them way ahead of the older autocrats of the Middle East who did not really comprehend the “Google” and the “Twitter”.

That said there are a lot of problems in China that lend themselves to a popular upraising. As the economic strings have been loosened the rampant corruption of the Communist Party has again and again been shown. Even though they crack down on reporting such instances it gets harder and harder to make the “few bad apples” argument as corruption affects everything from school construction to licenses to build factories to failing to investigate child abduction (a huge and growing problem in China).

This combined with the capability of micro blogging sites and the fact of two successful popular uprisings and two more up in the air a this time has made some Chinese activist begin to talk about their own “Jasmine Revolution”. Naturally this has the authorities in China concerned.

They have censored any post on the internet containing the words Jasmine Revolution (so this post won’t be showing up on Chinese web-crawlers) and have change cell phone service so that no multiple person texts can be sent.

The Chinese government has also been cracking down on pro-democracy activists in the last few days with several being placed under house arrest and two disappearing all together.   . . .

It was the security forces that broke the Tiananmen Square protests twenty years ago. It seems that the Chinese government learned a lesson from those protests and does not intend to let the start, so they don’t have to bring in the Army to very visibly put them down. This government is more savvy than its predecessor. They remember the years of bad press they got from Tiananmen Square and would rather stop such things in their tracks now.

But for all the cracking down on and swarming of potential protest sites, the Chinese government is worried, just as all the autocrats are worried. From the New York Times article:

In a sign of the ruling Communist Party’s growing anxiety, President Hu Jintao summoned top leaders to a special “study session” on Saturday and urged them to address festering social problems before they became threats to stability.

“The overall requirements for enhancing and innovating social management are to stimulate vitality in the society and increase harmonious elements to the greatest extent, while reducing inharmonious factors to the minimum,” he told the gathering, according to Xinhua, the official news agency.


That is a little muddy to be sure, but the basic point is that they know that there are social problems that the Communist Party has not only failed to address they have failed to acknowledge. Just as Hosni Mubarak promised reforms to try to placate his own protesters Hu Jintao is looking around and feeling that things must change faster if they are to head off the same fate.

This is a very tricky path for Hu to walk, as the other major Communist country that tried to loosen state control of the economy collapsed and was replaced. What is different here is the Soviet Union had two years of double digit contraction in their economy before they collapsed. China has a white hot economy right now, but that may be a bigger problem.

As income inequality runs up against mine collapses and horrible working conditions in the factories across China the people are starting to wonder if there might not be a better way for them all to gain some benefits from this massive economic expansion. And if there is some group better than the Communist Party to be the shepherd of that change.

I can’t say if this will lead to a popular uprising. Such things are very hard to predict, and in China with its massive and organized state security services it is hard to say if it would take off or be able to be sustained. Revolution is always a tricky thing. We have been happy to see the success in Egypt and Tunisia, but the blood on the streets in Libya and Bahrain show the other way that revolution can go. The next few days will probably tell the tale in China.

To me it is hard to say if it would be worth the try in China. I don’t live there and it is not my place to tell them to do it or not to do it. What I hope for tonight is that all the people of the world who wish to have real say in who governs them get it. It is only hope but behind that hope is the commitment to support those who do risk their lives, fortunes and sacred honor for the kind of freedoms we enjoy without a second thought.

What’s on your minds tonight Firedogs? The floor is yours.

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org

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