Not really a dinner party either

In order to remind local subjects of their place in the quasi-feudal, neo-colonial order, Beijing’s emissaries in Hong Kong rarely deign to address the media, and by extension common people, directly. The only time we usually hear from them is when they make coded comments for public consumption at gatherings of loyalists. When they do speak into a stranger’s microphone, something important must be happening. Thus the Standard/Sing Tao quotes the Liaison Office’s director general of publicity, culture and sports, Hao Tiechuan:

…there will not be a Jasmine-style revolt in the mainland. Leaders in Beijing “are clear-minded” and only in power for two terms, he said. They do not hold on to power for decades like in some countries. Economic growth meant a “high degree of confidence” in the central government, Hao added, and people who plan social unrest are irresponsible.

In Tunisia and Egypt popular and predominantly youthful protest movements have ejected ossified old dictators. Yemenis have tried to emulate them. In Bahrain, Shiites take to the streets to demand reform. In Benghazi, Gaddafi’s helicopter gunships and mercenaries seem to have slaughtered hundreds in an uprising. Milder demonstrations have taken place in Jordan, Algeria and now Morocco. The Arab people, as Mao Zedong might have put it, have stood up.

As what seems to be little more than a childish prank over the weekend, on-line mischief-makers in China called for a ‘jasmine revolution’ of their own. Tiny numbers of genuine participants turned up, outnumbered by curious onlookers, Western reporters and police. A handful of brave souls making such gestures as laying fragrant white flowers were arrested.

The locations of this nationwide revolt – a McDonalds in Beijing and a Starbucks in Shanghai – give a clue about the sort of people involved: young, urban, middle-class types with the inclination and means to follow what happens on the other side of the planet. A privileged class relatively untouched by the corruption, unemployment, cronyism and rising food prices that have finally roused the masses in the Middle East. Such evils exist in abundance in China, but they crush the rural and other poor who do not follow events in Tahrir Square and the Pearl Roundabout and are not going to unite on Twitter and rise up. China’s jasmine revolution was a bit of radical chic, and the propagandists can safely declare it a joke.

What are interesting and telling, however, are not Beijing’s words, but its actions. Arrest harmless lawyers in the name of stability, send thousands of cops out to confront a handful of young romantics with Nile fever and – can you get more pathetic than this? – ban the word ‘jasmine’ on the Internet. The Liaison Office’s Hao mentions a “high degree of confidence” in the central government, but it is clear that China’s leaders do not share this optimistic assessment of themselves. They are scared of their own people, nervous about what might leak in from the rest of the world and apparently petrified that their whole grand edifice could collapse in on them at any moment. Either they are delusional paranoiacs, or they know something we don’t.

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9 Responses to Not really a dinner party either

  1. Sir Crispin says:

    If the powers that be are so concerned with “social harmony” why don’t they actually do something about it, before their house of cards comes crumbling down? What a joke.

  2. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    I vote delusional paranoiacs, at least for the Han dominated areas.

    Urumqi could potentially be an interesting place right now, but seems to be radio silcence for now.

  3. the proletariat says:

    that’s how the cookie tumbles

  4. Claw says:

    They are not paranoid: paranoia is unjustified fear and suspicion. They have seen it done in their own, or just before their own, lifetimes and it was their own Party which did it, so they know it can happen in China.

    What is interesting is the level of their fear at the moment.

  5. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    I wonder if protests could work better using cheap reverse psychology, like “The Chinese people don’t deserve democracy” posters.

  6. Stephen says:

    And if the protests catch on then the CCP can ramp up the Nationalism – get the masses worked up about Taiwan, Japan etc – and life under the CCP continues. Human nature tells us it will all unravel one day but rather than prepare,it looks like it will be messy and (tragically) bloody.

  7. Honey Chile says:

    Da revolution is comin honey. Da crops are failin and de prices are risin. When oil reaches what it should be at, bang goes China and Hong Kong down da plug hole.

    Or do you tink da Libyans and Iraquis and Egyptians and Bahrainis are goin to be poor for eva? Better get dat bag of rice unda your bed right now.

  8. Maugrim says:

    Claw and Stephen are right. The black hair brigade know their own country’s vast history. One awaits the next nationalist based ‘oh look over there’ moment where protests are organised against Tesco/Carrefour/Japan etc over some perceived slight.

    That said, the Central Goverment should perhaps be asking Unca Donald in HK about how to deal with the issue. Open deckered buses with waving politburo members, banners in the street with some banal slogan, countless public service advertisements about the dangers of jasmine, a rap song with Hu Jintao and some aspiring pop star etc etc ought to work, they seem to work here.

  9. FOARP says:

    Interesting to note:

    Country GDP per capita (Nominal USD, nearest 100)

    Bahrain 19,600
    Libya 12,100
    Iran 4,500
    P.R. China 4,300
    Tunisia 4,200
    Egypt 2,800

    Whatever else China is, it is not “too rich” to have a revolution, and the old nationalism/foreign enemies gag eventually wore thin with the people of Libya and Egypt, despite the government’s best efforts. No, the main strength of the CCP is that they have had at least some kind of turnover in leadership in the past 20 years.

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