Riots in Egypt, is China next?

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Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby Quantum Potatoid » Tue Feb 01, 2011 4:20 pm UTC

Here is an interesting blog post on a new site:
http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/20 ... n-egyptian
Spoiler:
BEIJING - For nearly a week now, as much of the world remains riveted by the events unfolding in Egypt, China is making assiduous efforts to appear uninterested.

At least judging from what’s being reported and what’s being discussed here.

The political turmoil in Cairo has received barely a headline in the People’s Daily, the main Communist Party newspaper, or much coverage by Xinhua, the state-run news agency. And a quick thumb through issues of the China Daily since last Tuesday show the protests only made the front page a couple of times, and photographs from the streets of the Egyptian capital were conspicuously rare.

What has been written is sanitized and the focus is largely on lawlessness. “[W]e hope Egypt could restore social stability and normal order at an early date,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Sunday.

The coverage also avoids details of the underlying political factors or the calls for democracy, with the demonstrations characterized generally as “anti-government” or “anti-American.”

Information online hasn’t been any more comprehensive. Over the weekend, searches for the word “Egypt” was discovered to have been banned on Weibo, the leading microblogging site run by Sina, and then from other Twitter-like sites and online discussion groups.

No discussion of dissent
The tight restrictions on media coverage and Internet discussion of the protests in Egypt isn’t much of a surprise. Beijing, after all, played from the same rulebook in July 2009 after riots broke out between ethnic Han Chinese and Uighurs in Xinjiang. Internet and cell phone services were immediately cut off in the northwestern province and were only reinstated very gradually over the following year.

There’s been no public official pronouncement, of course, on the information restrictions, but an editorial in the Global Times, a state-run newspaper with strong nationalist leanings, reinforced the fact the Chinese government tolerates no discussion that might lead to questions about its supremacy:

“[D]emocracy has been accepted by most people. But when it comes to political systems, the Western model is only one of a few options. It takes time and effort to apply democracy to different countries, and to do so without the turmoil of revolution.”

The Chinese, of course, know a little something about the turmoil of revolution. The scars from China’s 20th century upheavals – the Great Leap Forward (1959-61) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), to name just two that caused the deaths of tens of millions – have left the Chinese government, and arguably the Chinese people, with little appetite for political instability.
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At least that’s what some China-watchers are betting.

Is China next?
As the protests in Egypt entered their second or third day, and unrest appeared to spread to Lebanon and Yemen, foreign journalists began wondering aloud whether China would be next. To some, it seemed obvious. The images of tanks rolling through the streets of Cairo, in particular, recalled the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and could well rekindle that kind of mass uprising in China.

In fact, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times arrived in Cairo’s Tahrir Square over the weekend and drew immediate comparisons to Tiananmen Square, which he’d covered for the newspaper.

One reporter even point-blank asked U.S. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs at a press conference: “Does the U.S. believe – or do you think that China should be concerned in any way about what’s happening in Egypt? Or do you think it’s – they're such completely different societies and that this is mostly an Arab-Muslim thing at this point?”

Here, in the land of China-watchers, the question provoked confident responses of “No.”

‘Churning change…’
While acknowledging “anything is possible,” Richard Burger, a PR specialist who has lived in Taiwan and the mainland, explained why he believed China is different.

“China has done a far better job than Egypt and Tunisia in terms of keeping people employed and placated,” said Burger. “Its public works projects and subsidies of Chinese businesses have helped keep unemployment in check and, unlike in Tunisia, the mood in China [is] wildly optimistic.”

C. Custer over at ChinaGeeks, a China-watcher’s blog, is more circumspect, noting that the chief reason for Beijing’s sensitivity to Egypt coverage is because “the protests in Egypt are motivated by factors that exist in China, too: wealth disparity, corruption, censorship, etc. Of course, China is not Egypt. But the spin machine is still running.”

At the New Yorker, however, Evan Osnos, who has experience both in Egypt and in China, noted, “For all of China’s problems these days, the simple fact is that the dominant sensation in China is the polar opposite of that in Egypt: China is a place of constant, dizzying, churning change…[T]he lives of average Chinese citizens continue to improve fast enough that they see no reason to upturn the system.”
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At any rate, today saw slightly more coverage of Egypt in the Chinese media. In part, that came because Beijing issued a warning to its citizens not to travel to Egypt and made arrangements for some 500 Chinese travelers currently stranded in Egypt to be evacuated by plane.

Whether that is the only ripple effect remains to be seen.

One more China pundit enters the fray. Christina Larson at Foreign Policy notes a few more features that set China apart. "There is no widespread seething anger towards China's rulers equivalent to what exists in Tunisia and Egypt," she writes. "In recent years, high-profile protests in China have erupted over specific grievances – ethnic tensions, land rights, environmental degradation among them – but they have not touched Beijing.”

But perhaps all this speculation is misdirected. As Adam Minter writes, “It might be better – if not more empirical – to step back and ask whether China has sufficient, robust institutions whereby average Chinese citizens can vent their frustrations, anger, and grievances.”


It is discussing whether China will follow Egypt and revolt.
The consensus among those who watch China seems to be 'no'. What does the fora think?
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Zamfir
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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby Zamfir » Tue Feb 01, 2011 4:41 pm UTC

I wonder to what extent people in China think the situation is in any sense comparable to their own. After the riots in Tunisia, Egyptians clearly thought that Tunisia was a country like them, in a similar situation as them.

But I wasn't looking at riots in Tunisia and thinking that it resembled my country, and that if riots riots would improve conditions there they might improve things here too. The thought didn't cross my mind.

From China, Egypt is at least as far and strange as it is from here in Europe, and its political and social situation is not that much like China either. So it's far from obvious that people in China would en masse recognize themselves in Egyptians.

The response from the Chinese government suggests they at least see some resemblance, but they routinely block information on lots of things, just as precaution.

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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby broken_escalator » Tue Feb 01, 2011 4:43 pm UTC

I don't think there will be similar riots in China unless their economy slows down substantially.

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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby PeterCai » Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:33 pm UTC

who's going to revolt, the ultra nationalist young adults or the status quo ingrained adults?

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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby podbaydoor » Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:31 pm UTC

I do enjoy how no actual Chinese - either 'man on the street' or professors/intellectuals - were interviewed.
tenet |ˈtenit|
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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby MartianInvader » Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:10 am UTC

This article reminds me of an old webcomic:

http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db ... 2075#comic
Let's have a fervent argument, mostly over semantics, where we all claim the burden of proof is on the other side!

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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby Thesh » Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:22 am UTC

broken_escalator wrote:I don't think there will be similar riots in China unless their economy slows down substantially.


Well, China is already worse than Egypt in terms of poverty; they have 36% of their population living on less than $2 per day (15.9% living below the WHO poverty line of $1.25 per day). Egypt has 18.5% of their population living on less than $2 per day (less than 2% living below the WHO poverty line of $1.25 per day). Then again, if you look at the national poverty line determined by the government (*cough*), China has one of the lowest poverty rates in the world with only 2.8% of the population living in Poverty, compared to 16.7% for Egypt using their national poverty line.

That said, I have no clue whether they would revolt. I would doubt it, though.

EDIT: Forgot to link to my source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_co ... in_poverty
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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby PeterCai » Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:30 am UTC

Thesh wrote:Well, China is already worse than Egypt in terms of poverty; they have 36% of their population living on less than $2 per day (15.9% living below the WHO poverty line of $1.25 per day). Egypt has 18.5% of their population living on less than $2 per day (less than 2% living below the WHO poverty line of $1.25 per day). Then again, if you look at the national poverty line determined by the government (*cough*), China has one of the lowest poverty rates in the world with only 2.8% of the population living in Poverty, compared to 16.7% for Egypt using their national poverty line.

That said, I have no clue whether they would revolt. I would doubt it, though.

EDIT: Forgot to link to my source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_co ... in_poverty


umm, maybe you should take into account the cost of living instead of questioning the government data, chinese census is pretty accurate when it comes to stuff like this.

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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby Thesh » Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:38 am UTC

Not sure how accurate this is, but it isn't THAT much cheaper to live in china.

http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/co ... try2=Egypt

EDIT:

According to this, China's poverty line is $85 per year, or $0.23 per day:

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2006 ... 672510.htm
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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby PeterCai » Wed Feb 02, 2011 12:49 am UTC

Thesh wrote:Not sure how accurate this is, but it isn't THAT much cheaper to live in china.


cost of living by region varies greatly in china. the state poverty line determines central government policy, so it's usually the lowest denominator, but each provinces have it's own definition of proverty.

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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby Thesh » Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:03 am UTC

Well, since that article, China has raised its poverty line to $176 per capita annual (so they even agreed $85 was too low):

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2010 ... 467561.htm

They still say that's too low, but it does look like things are starting to look up. All I'm saying is that China's poverty line being set to show that they only have 2.8% of the population in poverty is a huge stretch.
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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby PeterCai » Wed Feb 02, 2011 7:40 am UTC

Thesh wrote:Well, since that article, China has raised its poverty line to $176 per capita annual (so they even agreed $85 was too low):

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2010 ... 467561.htm

They still say that's too low, but it does look like things are starting to look up. All I'm saying is that China's poverty line being set to show that they only have 2.8% of the population in poverty is a huge stretch.


I agree that 2.8% poverty line probably doesn't reflect reality, but that's the problem with the definition, not the data. China is a mobilized country, people from other provinces constantly move to other provinces for work. For these people, even if they don't meet poverty line in the province they work at, most of them can live relatively well back home with the money they earned. The problem of raising poverty line to meet average provincial standard is that this standard will include migrant workers who don't actually need welfare. Poverty line is defined such as to meet the lowest provincial standard, so that the central government can feed those who can't feed themselves anywhere in the country, instead of wasting money on those that can. Of course, under such definition, the percentage of population in poverty doesn't reflect those that live in high cost living provinces, but since these provinces have their own welfare plans(in theory anyway), the central government doesn't concern itself with them.

The changes in poverty line actually indicates that the government is willing to adjust it when needed in order to reflect reality.

As a general rule of thumb, China takes care of it's citizens as long as they don't get too political, it gives the government legitimacy.

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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby Jahoclave » Wed Feb 02, 2011 9:25 am UTC

Also, it's not just poverty, but also, education and poverty. There's a lot of decently educated people over in Northern Africa that are economically marginalized. I dunno if that's the same for China, but I highly doubt it. Plus, as has already been mentioned, their economy isn't exactly headed towards the shitter.

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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby Gelsamel » Wed Feb 02, 2011 10:05 am UTC

No.

I think this TED talk is imformative as to why. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imhUmLtlZpw
"Give up here?"
- > No
"Do you accept defeat?"
- > No
"Do you think games are silly little things?"
- > No
"Is it all pointless?"
- > No
"Do you admit there is no meaning to this world?"
- > No

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Re: Riots in Egypt, is China next?

Postby Zamfir » Wed Feb 02, 2011 11:20 am UTC

Jahoclave wrote:Also, it's not just poverty, but also, education and poverty. There's a lot of decently educated people over in Northern Africa that are economically marginalized. I dunno if that's the same for China, but I highly doubt it. Plus, as has already been mentioned, their economy isn't exactly headed towards the shitter.

But neither is Egypt's. It migh not have as spectacular growth as China, but it is not in any sense heading to the gutter. People are getting richer, and poverty had been reducing for decades in both countries. China started far poorer and has mostly caught up, but both are getting better.

And China definitely has problems finding educated jobs for educated people. It's a pretty common gripe that people finished lots of education and then discover that the best jobs around are just as available to people with basic high school.

If anything, an economic difference might youth unemployment, not just for educated people but for everyone. Chinese unemployment is officially on the low side, although there seems to be a lot of make-work. Egypt's official number is comparable to the US or Europe, but Egypt has (relatively) much more young people than either China or the west, and youth unemployment is high. On the other hand, China's export sector in particular runs on young people, and its unemployed (and poorly employed) people are more often old people.

It might a bit too much guesswork, but I can imagine there is a great difference in revolutionary appeal between young and poor people whose parents have a job, and old and poor people whose kids have decent jobs. China has a lot of the latter, but that doesn't make a revolutionary mass.


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