There are already many posts written about the so-called Jasmine Revolution, or the revolution that wasn’t. I’ve always maintained that China is nowhere near revolution and that any efforts to draw comparisons with Egypt and Tunisia were unrealistic. Some of the ignorance-fueled hype has been truly embarrassing.
Now let me offer the perspective of a Chinese person on this topic, one who I’m lucky enough to know personally and whose opinion I truly value. Pardon the long clip, but it’s a great post.
Yes, China has many social problems, including corruption, unemployment and inflation, some of which may be even more severe than is the case in Egypt, but I still argue that the chances of a “Jasmine Revolution” – never mind anything on the scale of the 1989 Tian’anmen Square protests – are quite small at least for the foreseeable future. The main reason being that discontent towards the government in China hasn’t translated into meaningful opposition.
China today is different from 1989. Over the last twenty years, rapid economic growth has raised the standard of living to an unprecedentedly high level. Most families enjoy a life style that previous generations couldn’t have even imagined. For example, my mom could only afford a small piece of sugar for lunch during the Great Famine in 1960, but her daughter traveled in three continents before she turned 25. Few urban Chinese seem eager to trade their chance at prosperity for dreams of revolution.
Maybe Chinese people’s trust in their government is not as high as the 88% claimed by a recent Pew poll, but the majority of Chinese do believe that this government can lead them to a better life. Think about it: If China had fully democratic elections tomorrow, who do you think would win? It would be the CCP in a landslide.
Furthermore, this anonymous letter was spread through websites which are blocked in China. Spending 60 USD each year on a VPN in order to read articles about democracy and revolution is not a priority for many people in China. People have other things to worry about. How to buy a house? How to buy a car? How to make smart investments and find financial security? How to find a job that doesn’t require too much hard work but guarantees great benefits? This is what we think about every day.
The Tian’anmen generation – some of whom starved themselves in order to see a better future for their country — is long gone. This generation, actually my generation, keeps ourselves very busy with trying to make our lives better, and frankly…there is nothing wrong with that. This is a phase many countries and societies go through. Mao’s been dead for 35 years, is it okay if we don’t have to think about revolution every day and night?
Beautifully said, and I couldn’t agree more. There’s a time and a place for revolution, and the conditions in China are not now rife for one. Do read the whole piece.
I agree with many of my Chinese readers that the US media often shows a good deal of ignorance when it comes to China (though often it’s the haters and blowhards like Beck and Limbaugh and Drudge – as well as some hysterics on the left – who drown out other media and make this ignorance seem more pervasive than it really is). The fact that this story got so much traction in some US media struck me as shocking, but not really surprising, especially in the wake of the media frenzy over the hysteria in the Middle East. A lot of Americans who can’t understand how anyone could happily live under a non-democratic system of government want very much to believe that ultimately the Chinese people must stand up and revolt. Misleading reports of thousands of demonstrations throughout China every year muddy the waters and cause many to see China as a tinderbox that the slightest spark can ignite into a fireball. Those who view a real masses-in-the-street revolution in China as imminent are bound to be disappointed, at least for a long while. Sometimes I think we’re more likely to see a massive popular uprising in America before we see one in China.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.