Amid the bad news from Libya, one really needs to be keeping an eye on China and developments there.
The People’s Daily in Beijing basically argues that the Chinese people are too stupid to understand the confusion of information on the Internet and should basically accept the fact that Xinhua will tell them what they need to know. According to a bunch of very interesting Tweets from foreign reporters in Beijing today (too numerous to link, but I recommend Tom Lasseter’s feed as one of the best), most Chinese weren’t sure why the Internet was running so slowly today, and of course the minor demonstrations in Shanghai and Beijing got (to my knowledge) no domestic news coverage.
Gady Epstein at Forbes reflects in a thorough way on the meaning of the Jasmine story and its connection to covering China’s economy. This is probably the best single piece of writing I’ve seen on the issue thus far, superior perhaps to Perry Link’s work. After all, as Epstein points out, there would be severe economic impacts were China to suddenly just shut down the Internet in order to quash a nascent social network of would-be protestors. South Korea is very wisely tooting its own horn at the moment, exemplifying all of the benefits described by U.S. SecState Hillary Clinton about Internet freedom and economic development.
Granite Studio parses things over quite well and wonders why the Wangfujing McDonalds (where I was once followed into the bathroom by an eccentric waving an old green Chinese-English dictionary and a carpenter’s pencil) would serve as the epicenter of a demonstration.
The Internet in China is being scrubbed and monitored like never before. On February 22, an ad-hoc organization identifying itself as the “China Jasmine Group” called for weekly demonstrations in Chinese parks (Chinese version here) in a letter to the National People’s Congress.
Huanqiu Shibao seems to be focusing its attention on the Chinese who are coming home, again.
Finally, there is one’s own attitude toward all of this to be considered. What do we in the West really want from China? Are we all just provocateurs, voyeurs, who wish to see chaos in China simply because a messy world is more interesting (唯恐“天下”不乱)? Is it necessary to analyze China’s response to the Egypt aftermath by predicting Xi Jinping’s downfall, and the collapse of the Chinese system, sometime after he assumes power in 2012? It’s worth asking, even if the CCP somehow lost its mind, abandoned its strongly totalitarian principles, and allowed such an event to go forward, do we want a more liberalized China? Could we tolerate the middle age of the PRC as a kind of neo-Tang era, when, at least as far as the myths go, China was an “open empire,” welcoming all manner of expression, of religion, of ideology? Put another way, and seen more through the lens of internal change, are Chinese intellectuals today the actual heirs of the May Fourth Movement, or has the CCP so tightly controlled discourse that the principles of May Fourth, 1919, lie in abeyance? And is it really good foreign policy for China in Africa to just sit back without comment, as Zhou Enlai said during the Korean War, “with folded hands”?