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.