China Isn’t the Next Egypt

The events in the Middle East have a lot of people wondering just how far these anti-government riots will spread. A few people have even been speculating as to whether or not they could pop up in China (Here, Here, Here, Here). I know I did for a couple of minutes after seeing a video that called for the “rabbits” to rebel (I’m not going to link it to my blog because I still enjoy holding a Chinese visa, but a quick youtube search will help you find it). I also found it surprising that there was no mention of the Egypt riots on People’s Daily until Jan. 30th, maybe the gov’t has been speculating a bit too.

The parallel people are drawing is that Egypt and Tunisia are oppressive regimes that have been in power for a few decades, and when American’s hear “oppressive regime” their mind jumps to China (I’m not saying that China is an oppressive regime, just that we tend to think of it as one). There has also been a longstanding hope/wish in the West for China to become a democracy.

Social instability, like what fueled the protests, is a major concern of the Chinese gov’t. Issues like the gap between rich and poor, inflation, rising housing prices, and special privileges given to the “elite” are all becoming “sensitive” topics, but those aren’t close to being breaking points, yet. It would take a big change in one of these for anything to be possible, and the gov’t is doing everything it can to make sure they don’t become problems.

So I hate to rain on the parade, but China is no closer to Democracy now than it was in 1989.

The simple fact is that life is noticeably improving for hundreds of millions of people in China (literally). China’s middle class is growing faster than ever, and is richer than it has ever been. As far as I know from World History, that doesn’t exactly create an environment ripe for revolution.

Add to that the fact that close to 1/3 of China’s population is traveling home at the moment for the most important holiday of the year with their pockets full of cash (read: not watching the news or organizing on Twitter), and revolution looks doubtful. Also students and migrant workers are not clustered in the cities, which are the typical centers of action.

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About T

I have been working in China for nearly five years now. I have traveled to more than 30 cities and towns, and have lived in 3 provinces. I am interested in issues concerning development in China and the rest of the world. I hope to provide a balanced look at some of the issues facing China as it continues its rise to power.
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6 Responses to China Isn’t the Next Egypt

  1. Pingback: China Isn’t the Next Egypt :: Seeing Red in China

  2. Chopstik says:

    The simple fact is that life is noticeably improving for hundreds of millions of people in China (literally). China’s middle class is growing faster than ever, and is richer than it has ever been. As far as I know from World History, that doesn’t exactly create an environment ripe for revolution.

    Actually, those are often the perfect conditions for a revolution. A rapidly improving society often encourages the citizens to believe that things should be improving even faster than they are. Increased expectations – especially as the result of better economic situations – are a potent ingredient for revolution when people have the time to focus on other parts of their lives that are not where they want them to be (e.g. political freedom and autonomy). In some ways, this is a perfect scenario for the same thing to happen in China as is happening in other places that shall not be named.

    But, that being said, it is appropriate to note that the differences between China and the country that shall not be named (TCTSNBN) are not what some would purport them to be. TCTSNBN is suffering endemic poverty, unemployment/underemployment, a tryannical leader and is not ascendant in the same fashion that China is currently. Combined with the fact that there is not the same general movement of unhappiness in China right now for the reasons you enumerated, it is unlikely that such an upending could happen there (especially considering that there are still far too many people who lived through the 60′s & 70′s in China) in the foreseeable future.

    And just because I am often easily amused, I found the following to be almost laughable (specifically Robert Gibbs comments) –

    And in hindsight, if this post is going to get you in trouble with your visa, please feel free to delete.

    • Tom says:

      I agree with your points here about that people could revolt if things aren’t improving as fast as the people think it should. I’ve heard that China’s economy slowing down to even 4-5% growth could lead to unrest. 1989 was an example of this for sure, but it failed because the growth was still significant for those in the countryside.
      In the past few years China has been wise to offer discounts for purchasing appliances and in some cases cars. It has not only helped prevent a deep recession, but has also helped for it to feel like things are getting better.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why do you expect a “revolution” in China? I bet 90% of the people would not want a “revolution” at this moment. Obviously economic growth is way more important. Chinese are not stupid. Sorry buddy, I think you are wrong this time.

    • Tom says:

      Please read the article one more time, I think you may have missed the point of the article.
      I agree with you completely. Just like in 1989 things are too good for too many people.

  4. Pingback: Hao Hao Report

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