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Turmoil in the Middle East and Prospects for the Chinese Communist Party

Public Security Bureau car at Tiananmen Square; photo by author, 2008

In recent weeks, many in the West, and even some in China, have speculated about the resilience of China’s authoritarianism. Could what happened in Egypt happen in China? (For some U.S. perspectives, see a Forbes.com article by Gordon Chang from January 30th and a Wall Street Journal article by Loretta Chao from a couple weeks ago.) China is clearly playing it safe as it reacts with force to even the smallest hints of protest this week.

The Tiananmen Square massacre remains the template for authoritarian responses to popular pro-democracy movements. “The unity of China is more important than those people in Tiananmen Square,” Muammar Qaddafi said last Tuesday. (In fact, Qaddafi was attempting to justify actions so appalling that even China has voted in favor of a unanimous UN Security Council resolution that said those attacks against civilians “may amount to crimes against humanity.”)

So, what would it take for another revolution in China? And what would China’s communist party (the CCP) be willing or able to do to stay in power?

Here are some things to think about.

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When the Going Gets Tough…Google Leaves
[22 March 2010, Comments Off on Google’s China Blunder, Tags: , , , , ]

There was never a chance that the Chinese government would cave to Google’s demand that it end censorship of search results, as I argued when Google first announced its threat to leave China in January:

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Gambling for Free Speech, and Losing

GoogleGoogle’s decision yesterday to begin reviewing “the feasibility” of its business operations in China has reverberated around the world, particularly in the high tech sector. Responding to the hacking of its corporate network and the accounts of Chinese human rights activists, Google is threatening to leave the Chinese market entirely, and says it is no longer willing to censor its search results on Google.cn.

What is Google’s strategy here? And what happens next?

Google’s statement reads, to me, like pure frustration and anger, not strategy. Human rights advocates are heartened by this move, which suggests finally that Western countries can stand up to Chinese authorities; but the outcome of this mess is likely to be bad for Google’s corporate interests and detrimental to the goal of developing freedom of speech in China.

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