Protesters from the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions demonstrate outside the Egyptian Consulate in Hong Kong February 8, 2011, in response to the "Day of Action for Democracy in Egypt" called by the International Trade Union Confederation. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)
Earlier, I posted on China’s reaction to the uprising in Egypt, which was basically to try to shut down any coverage of the protests in the Chinese media at all. Some reporters and commentors have suggested that this is a sign of China’s instability, that it bears some resemblance to the Arab-Muslim states now feeling the heat. Though I wish that were true, it’s probably not. Why?
1. China’s urbanites haven’t turned against the regime
Unlike the educated and secular men and women who thronged to the central squares in Cairo, many Chinese urbanites essentially support, or tolerate, the regime. And why not? The government has been very, very good to them, as Minxin Pei documented in his book China’s Trapped Transition. High growth, perks for professors and urban dwellers, restrictions on rural people’s housing and schools – all of these are reasons why urbanites, in polls, show high appreciation of the current state of affairs.
2. China’s leaders aren’t as out of touch, isolated, and brittle as those in the Middle East
The CCP leadership is not Hosni Mubarak. It is an authoritarian regime, but a collective one, one that does have some response to public opinion – see the 2008 Tibet protests, or China’s crackdowns on infant formula fakers – and uses its collective to make shared decisions that do not rest on the shoulders of one man or woman. The leadership has proven relatively flexible and tenacious, able to adapt to changing international currents, and to co-opt some of the finest political and business talent into the Party.
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