The Current Discussion: The Olympics open in two weeks, and offer a perfect platform for anti-government protests by ethnic minorities and dissident groups. Who's likely to protest and how should Beijing respond?
China has come a long way since Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. It is fair to say that over the last 19 years, China has transformed beyond recognition as both sides in that episode have learned to soften their rigid stance. The generation of 1989 students are now enjoying unprecedented economic benefits and a relative comfort that was a distant dream for their parents. Concurrently the older, first generation revolutionaries are now replaced by a class of younger “revolution babies,” technocrats with a softer, more confident approach to management and governance of a giant. As such, I think this question is an unnecessary speculation, and perhaps a typical ill-conceived perception from a distance.
In this classic abrasion of Oriental versus Western ways, Chinese authorities will read these PostGlobal pages (of an American political newspaper) with raised eyebrows and deep suspicion that is part of the Chinese, and especially Chinese government, culture. The intentions here are merely a round of debate and a theoretical exercise, but a Chinese intelligence office will wonder whether this blog page is some sort of a signal for pre-coordinated actions against the Chinese state. (And a case for internet filtering, perhaps?)
As in any other developing country, where economic security gradually is assured and becomes less important, the debate over the choice of economic vs. political reform is likely to gain momentum. But that is proven to be a false choice for the fact that it is a concurrent process (and not a project). It is best left to patient, evolutionary methods that typically take decades in the orient. This might well be out of the patience range of westerners, but not grounds for meddling in Chinese affairs. Outside encouragement of showy and violent, aimless protests-- with no backbone of a logical and detailed doctrine-- will be self-defeating and eventually snuffed out with an old-fashion crackdown.
The xenophobic, always wary Chinese authorities insist that it is an internal matter and will deal with it in such way. It is probable that the Chinese authorities have long planned, rehearsed and set up elaborate actions and preventions for any event that could ruin China’s biggest celebration and a national coming out party. It is a carefully planned festival to show that China has turned the corner from a rural country to an economic powerhouse. Losing face is considered to be a serious failure in eastern cultures. And for a great majority, the Chinese cultural discipline is probably the most predictable, unwritten rule in favour of the authorities -- mixing a celebration with militant politics and violence is considered to be taboo.
Business visitors, especially from the Middle East, are coming back with tales and experiences that report a rigid, high alert status already in practice in Beijing-- extra questioning and double checking all around, even if that person is in China for the 10th time on a trip to buy toys or other goods. Add the previously announced travel restrictions in Beijing (be it for pollution or other purposes) and this could only mean that the Chinese authorities have cleverly covered all angles in a much more sophisticated way than the old methods of a naked iron fist or bring out tanks in the town square. China has come a long way since 19 years ago.
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