In the wake of Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution,” a chain of popular revolts have swept across northern Africa and the Middle East. Following this trend, calls for a similar revolution in China have recently appeared on Chinese Web sites. China’s autocratic rulers are of course determined not to let “jasmine” bloom in China, so they have put the nation’s security forces on high alert to deal with any gatherings and activities that might be held in response to the online calls.
Beijing imposed strict censorship on the Internet and mobilized the entire Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and state apparatus. Reports say at least 100 dissidents have been arrested. Judging by the current situation, the conditions for a Jasmine Revolution in China are not ripe.
Be that as it may, the fact that a couple of online posts got China’s rulers worried shows just how nervous they are.
The Chinese economy may be growing, but serious problems are lurking just beneath the surface.
Once the dam bursts, the floodwaters will be unstoppable. That is why the powers that be in China feel compelled to guard against a homegrown Jasmine Revolution.
Reading dubious official statistics will not reveal what is really going on in China. Behind those abstract numbers, political corruption and social conditions are going from bad to worse. Clashes are widespread and hard to contain. Predictions of the collapse of China are not just alarmist talk.
China may not yet be ripe for a Jasmine Revolution, but it is only a matter of time.
Twenty years ago, Western observers said that helping China develop its economy would naturally lead to political reform. The reality, however, has been rather different. China has achieved rapid economic growth, spurred by the inflow of Western capital and, more importantly, the influx of Taiwanese entrepreneurs, but this has not led to even the most basic reforms.
That is because the CCP, which rules China as a one-party state, has turned into a new class with a vested interest in keeping things as they are.
Keeping a firm grip on society through the combined mechanisms of party and state, this class has not given the Chinese masses a fair share of the fruits of economic growth, still less allowed them basic human rights.
Instead, it is using new resources and tools at its disposal to further clamp down on public demand for freedom.
It goes without saying that the actions of China’s autocratic rulers fly in the face of the worldwide spread of democracy. Last year’s awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) was clearly meant to point an accusing finger at China’s autocratic government.
Not surprisingly, instead of humbly accepting the criticism, China’s rulers have further unleashed the forces of state violence, jailing dissidents or putting them under house arrest.
They are determined to prevent discontent from growing into a Chinese Jasmine Revolution, which for them would be a tragedy.
Let us not forget the events of 1989, when the peoples of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe rose up one after another to topple communist regimes, pushing the third wave of democracy of the 20th century to unprecedented heights.
Just as these events were unfolding, China used tanks and machine guns to massacre unarmed protesters. China’s current breed of rulers are the successors of those who massacred so many people more than 20 years ago. As such, they are sure to use any means available to snuff out any spark of popular revolt.