Geopolitics

China And The Arab Uprising: Could It Spread?

The reverberations from Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli can be felt in Beijing, where Party leaders are clamping down and counting on economic growth to prevent any similar Chinese uprising.

Student protest in Beijing (SFTHQ)
Student protest in Beijing (SFTHQ)
Arnaud de La Grange

BEIJING - Tiananmen Square, alas, is not Tahrir Square. At least, for 2011. And yet, Colonel Gaddafi's threatening parallel between the Libyan rebellion and the (crushed) 1989 democratic revolt in China did not bring comfort to the leadership back in Beijing.

Since the early Arab uprisings, there has been a palpable edginess from Communist Party leaders, beginning with the censorship of the keywords surrounding the popular revolt in the Arab world after calls for "jasmine gatherings' circulated on the Chinese Web. We even saw the U.S. ambassador to China – by pure coincidence -- in the streets of Beijing at the moment that a mini democratic rally was kicking off.

Internet activists and human rights advocates have been arrested for "subversion", after simply forwarding emails about this activity. The foreign press has also called to order. Without directly addressing the turmoil in Tunis, Cairo or Tripoli, President Hu Jintao has called for a strengthening of both censorship and the "management of social problems."

With all these signs, is there really the smell of jasmine in China,? The popular blogger and commentator Sima Nan noted that "China has no fewer difficult social problems than Egypt." He singled out the rising cost of living, the steep housing prices, high costs of medical care and education and, of course, corruption. Sima said that it is hardly absurd to think that one day the Chinese masses are bound to copy the tactics of the Egyptian protesters.

True, but the economic picture in China is very different than it is in Egypt. Moreover, as Perry Link of the University of California recently stated to Agence-France Press: "If you were to add together the fringes of the population who have been bullied or bought or indoctrinated, it would make for a formidable revolt, but they are just not well-organized enough, not enough to make China the next domino."

Even if the Chinese masses might be triggered to react to police abuse and corruption and one expropriation too many, and deeply held instincts surfaced to seek greater freedom of expression, more justice -- nevertheless, they still do not express a widespread desire to see power change hands. Here, perhaps, reveals more of a commitment to the Confucian order of things than we see in the Arab world. But perhaps more to the point: there's no denying that for a vast majority of Chinese citizens, even if at very uneven rates, living standards will improve each year. This alone greatly reduces the chances of seeing the Chinese street ablaze any time soon.

Still, several factors worry Beijing. Islam expert Gilles Kepel's analysis of the structure of the first Arab implosion in Tunisia showed the way the revolt began with the mobilization of young urban poor in isolated neighborhoods, followed by unemployed university graduates, before finally hitting a middle class fed up with the arbitrariness of the regime. In China, these very same groups exist, with their own frustrations. And nothing worries Beijing more than a scenario in which these resentments one day coalesce. The security response is based on blocking any horizontal spread of these grievances, which explains the censorship of social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The other problem Beijing sees is that the winds of revolt are blowing this time from the South. "The claims being made within Arab societies are challenging the standard anti-Western arguments," says Jean-Pierre Cabestan of Hong Kong Baptist University. This can weaken the claims of superiority for the "Chinese model" that justifies the grip of the regime for the sake of economic efficiency, which Beijing would like to spread in developing countries." Beijing's thesis, which held that the defense of certain "universal values' is just a U.S. or Western preoccupation, has been gravely undermined by those rising up in North Africa. This fact alone is charged with significance.

Read the original article in French
Photo credit - (SFTHQ)

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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