February 1, 2011

BORROWED TIME:

Egypt Is the Next Tunisia. What Is the Next Egypt? (Gordon Chang, Jan. 30 2011, Forbes)

China’s communists have every right to be concerned. In a world connected by optic fiber, revolutionary fervor not only crosses from one country to the next but from one continent to another. That is undoubtedly the reason why Chinese netizens cannot search the characters for “Egypt” on some Mainland sites and the authorities are censoring news of the distant upheaval. Beijing’s officials know that every resentment felt by Tunisians and Egyptians is shared by those they rule.

So it’s not surprising the Chinese are closely watching the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. China’s netizens, for example, cannot stop talking about the lone Egyptian who stood in front of an armored car last week. “Must see!” Tweeted human rights lawyer Teng Bao yesterday. “Egypt’s Tiananmen movement, a warrior blocks a military vehicle!”

Is there a connection between the events in North Africa and Asia? Like the Tunisians and Egyptians, the Chinese are losing their fear of dictators. “Many people on the Chinese blogosphere and netizens believe that the future road that China takes is like Tunisia,” remarked Chinese blogger “Twokeqi,” in a session arranged by the American embassy in Beijing. He and other Chinese netizens were peppering two American officials—Jeffrey Bader and Ben Rhodes—who were connected by a video link as they sat in the White House basement. “Does the U.S. government also think so and does the U.S. government have a strategy if this happens?”

Neither Bader nor Rhodes would answer either of Twokeqi’s direct questions. Rhodes, for his part, rambled on about Washington’s human rights policies and Bader talked about the American civil war and slavery in the South, so it is obvious that the pair were afraid of offending Beijing’s officials. Yet China’s citizens—or at least some of them—are not so concerned about the tender feelings of the Communist Party elite.

That’s a dangerous moment for autocrats, even if they dwell thousands of miles from the pyramids. When a people begin to ignore authoritarians, political transformations occur.


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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 1, 2011 5:55 AM
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