04 April 2011

No jasmine revolution for China—Pew survey

With revolution all the rage, so to speak, in the Middle East, pundits have been pondering the prospects of similar passions being sparked elsewhere. Inevitably China, the blossoming superpower on everyone's mind, comes up for consideration. To examine the possibility of an uprising there, the U.S.-based Pew Research Center compared the results of surveys taken in 2010 in China and Egypt to compare attitudes in the two countries. The results strongly suggest the Chinese won't be taking to the streets en masse any time soon.

Whereas the number of Egyptians who where satisfied with the direction their country was taking was low and dropping, 28 per cent down from 47 per cent in 2007, the number of satisfied Chinese was high and rising, 87 per cent up from 83 per cent in 2007. Their hopes for the future also varied starkly. Seventy-four per cent of Chinese were optimistic about making personal progress in the next five years while only 23 per cent of Egyptians were.

According to the Pew Center, "While the Egyptian and Chinese publics rated their current lives comparably, Chinese reported much more personal progress over the past five years and much more optimism looking ahead. The prevailing feeling in Egypt was one of losing ground." This suggests "that in the lead-up to this year's popular revolt frustrations may have been mounting not only with respect to democratic yearnings, but in terms of personal aspirations."

It is reassuring to know that China isn't about to explode in violence like say, Libya, yet one can't help despairing at the ruthless persecution of critics of the regime. According to human rights campaigners, China has just recently launched the most severe crackdown on dissidents and activists in years following anonymous online calls for "jasmine revolution" protests. Despite little sign of support for the appeal, the Chinese government began detaining and harassing people within hours of its appearance. The word "Egypt'' has been blocked from the country's wildly popular Twitter-like service, and a search for "Egypt'' on the Sina microblogging service brings up the message, "According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search results are not shown."

One might think that with a generally contented population, Chinese officials might be less paranoid, but then paranoia is always the close companion of dictators. As long as the Chinese government can keep the good economic times rolling they should be secure, but if the economy falters ... who knows. After all, they have little else to offer.

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