This uneven response to similar situations casts the U.S. under a curious light. If you are a friend, be careful, you can expect to be highly criticized in public while private phone calls will demand that you compromise with the people in the streets, even if they only amount to a fraction of the total population.
However, should you be an enemy of the United States, expect only brief verbal criticism and little else. How little has been said about events unfolding in Libya and Iran.
Now consider China. Curiously, here the American administration has purposely taken no notice. How long will we be silent on China?
As this column has been stating for months now, the situation in China is unstable. The unequal distribution of wealth coupled with the high poverty, high unemployment, high food costs, lack of human rights, severe corruption, and growing inflation have set the stage for public outcries just as in the Middle East. Only 10% of the population is non-ethnic Chinese, but they represent fifty-five different ethnicities and occupy 2/3s of the land mass…mostly in the poor west. This is a potential powder keg.
Suddenly, this past Sunday, a call went out from a dissident web site urging the Chinese people to follow the lead of their kindred spirits throughout Africa and the Middle East by embracing the ”Jasmine Revolution.” The site urged the Chinese to shout the slogan:“We want food! We want work! We want housing! We want fairness!”
Chinese security forces responded immediately. First they cut off the Internet; all searches for the word “Jasmine” were blocked. A search for "Egypt'' on the Sina micro blogging service brings up a message saying, "According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search results are not shown".Second they cut of Weibo services (similar to Twitter); next they arrested or detained nearly 100 known Human Rights activists and attorneys; lastly they flooded the streets of major cities with police, soldiers, and undercover agents. This is a nation that fears its own citizens.
Liu Xiabai, a twenty-four year old man, placed a white Jasmine flower in a planter in front of the local McDonald’s restaurant then stepped back to take a picture with his phone. He was instantly seized by police, his phone confiscated, and he escaped arrest only because the police thought it best not to apprehend him with the crowd growing. Liu walked away wondering what had he done?
Needless to say, the Chinese authorities are paranoid about an uprising like the ones igniting around the world, and they have every reason to be concerned. China has the same problems and they remember Tiananmen Square all too well.
China’s President Hu Jintao spoke volumes when he responded to the situation. And, like the Oracle of Delphi, he spoke in words that can be interpreted in any number of ways. He ordered officials “…to solve prominent problems which might harm the harmony and stability of the society.”
What does Hu Jintao mean by that? Is this a command to correct the problems that so plague Chinese society? Did he order authorities to open the door to greater participation in government and open the economy for better by all members of the society? Is this a call to end corruption?
Or, more likely, is this a command to solve the problem by eliminating the opposition through purges, arrests, and intimidation? Notice the focus was NOT on the people, but on the phrase “…harmony and stability of the society.”
Harmony can be accomplished by having everyone willingly harmonize. It can also be achieved by eliminating those who won’t.
What has been the Obama Administration’s response to the repression in China? Not a word! It is as if nothing had happened.
Just like the Chinese themselves, this administration evidently believes that if you look away, it goes away. Make no mistake; the Chinese authorities have marked this lack of criticism well. They fully comprehend the concept of kowtow. They invented it.
by Ron Chapman