The success of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, the first of its kind in an Arab country, has caught the world’s attention. Chinese are watching closely, too. Internet users and Chinese commentators say the dramatic events in Tunisia are an inspiration for the Chinese people.
Tunisian society bears many similarities to contemporary Chinese society, such as great disparities between rich and poor, soaring food prices, high unemployment rates, government corruption, an entrenched political dictatorship, and serious social turmoil. These similarities lead several experts to contemplate the possibility of a similar outcome for China.
Hu Ping, chief editor and political commentator of Beijing Spring magazine, says the policy of Tunisia’s former ruling party was “seeking development in stability and stability in development,” which is the same slogan used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Tunisia’s economy developed quickly, like China’s. Yet, that such a small incident—the self-immolation of an unemployed youth turned street vendor—could turn into a movement to overthrow the regime reflects pent-up, deep grievances, and greatly encourages the Chinese, Hu Ping said, adding that there’s every chance it makes the CCP quite nervous.
Hu added that similar incidents [self-immolation and other suicides] have taken place in China many times already, and many of them reflect the people’s deep resentment toward the regime. But since China is so large, it is not easy for the people to join forces and create a large-scale movement; hence it is difficult to change the entire society to any great extent. But movements of the sort could take place simultaneously in many locations, the regime collapse is foreseeable.
Political commentator Chen Pokong agrees that there are similarities between Tunisia and China. He says that although Arab countries’ culture and religion differ from China, the fact that the Tunisian people loudly demanded freedom, democracy, and human rights indicates that no culture or religion can block these universal values. That is another inspiration for Chinese, he said.
Internet citizens, or netizens, spoke out loudly under the protection of anonymity.
One wrote, “The eruption of popular discontent in Tunisia inspires us either to struggle to survive or to die in silence.”
Another said, “This is not a movie plot: a street fruit vendor overthrows a country.”
Human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan wrote on a blog, “The self-immolation of the Tunisian unemployed youth turned street vendor became the last straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Another netizen wrote: “The sudden change of power in Tunisia came as a shocking surprise, as it is one of the few countries with a good economy in Africa. But cases like this with a street vendor being beaten by urban management officers can be seen in China every day—it is simply very common. What is even worse is that there are people who are beaten to death and whose homes are demolished by force.
“Unfortunately, rulers of some countries still believe that as long as they can ensure economic growth, they will be able to stay in power forever. They should really learn their lesson from Ben Ali.”
It's unclear whether such courageous words would be followed through with actions by millions of citizens. Mass incidents occur frequently in rural areas, and are often crushed pitilessly by paramilitary police.
Political commentator Wen Zhao said that in China, when an incident breaks out in one location, the authorities will immediately cut local communication and transportation and dispatch military police from other areas to suppress it.
However, Wen said that two things can pose a challenge to the regime: First, simultaneous large-scale mass movements across different areas, which are possible if news is spread quickly via QQ, MSN and Twitter.
Second, should a large-scale mass gathering take place in a political center like Beijing or Shanghai, no current CCP leader has the stature or boldness of Deng Xiaoping to have the army open fire. That eventuality, Wen said, would be a dangerous one for the Party.
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