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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I feel obligated to begin this post by stating that I know far more about Chinese affairs than I do of Iranian affairs. Having stated that, we must take caution in making comparisons of the current events in Iran to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Since the dust has yet to settle on the Iranian situation, let's focus on the perception of these current events within China.

Little has been reported on the Chinese reaction to the protests in Iran because, frankly, there has been little media exposure of these events within mainland China. As James Fallows reports:

Over the past six weeks, as H1N1/swine flu has been waning as a front-line concern in most countries, it has been end-of-days news inside China. And right now...when Iran's fate is dominant news in much of the world, it's a second- or third-tier item in the official Chinese media.
When the government-controlled media does mention the unrest, the focus rests on Iran's claims of western interference in their domestic affairs - a tune the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) knows well. (However, the Global Times has reported on the recent violent crackdown by security forces).

I have maintained friendships with several Chinese citizens from the eight months I spent as a student in China. According to one, now a graduate student at a major Chinese university, the students know a problem in Iran exists, but the Chinese language media has been restricted from even mentioning it. This censorship has upset many students, but the Chinese government has two key factors in their favor right now (and neither involve the expansive reach and power of the CCP):
  1. Final exams - Most Chinese students are in the midst of studying for their final exams which will take place over the next two weeks. With their minds on their books, the Chinese government does not have much to worry about from the long politically-inactive student population.
  2. The economy - Many students simply don't care about any international situation apart from the global economic recession. According to my friend, "Chinese students concern more about future jobs rather than Iran."
While you could view this as a setback on the road to freedom in China, the consequences for the Chinese government are potentially important. The government's reliance on censorship is no longer an effective means of preventing the free flow of information to its populace. The information is available. The Chinese people just have too many other factors influencing their inattentiveness to the Iran situation. It may not be so next time.

Posted by Eleutherian

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  1. Snips Says:
  2. I'm not sure where you're getting this view but I just spent a month in China and the crisis in Iran was reported quite extensively although the swine flu took precedence before I left at the end of June. Example:


  3. That blogger doesn't have much of an understanding of the Chinese resistance movement or the government's censorship tactics. The CCCP has grown increasingly aware that they are unable to prevent their citizens from accessing certain content (thank you, proxies!). As a result, they continue to increase their web-monitoring staff in an effort to control the spin on the country's numerous forums and chat rooms.

    Yes, a few media sources did cover the Iranian events. However, they were largely English language media sources, which are given more leeway by the government. The Chinese sources provided difference content, largely focusing on the Iranian government's claims of Western interference or UN interference.

    To follow the effects of Iran in China, we must watch the protests in rural China. Rural resistance has grown to dangerous proportions in some areas of China. In 2005, an estimated 87,000 mass protests occurred throughout China, an increase of nearly 1,000 percent since 1993. Additionally, estimated participants in these protests increased from 700,000 to 5 million over the same period of time. Approximately 40 percent of these incidents occurred in the rural countryside.


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