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Archive for the ‘tiananmen’ Category

Interesting BBC Article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12544624

Here’s a nice quote from everybody’s beloved Gaddafi:

Anyone who played games with the country’s unity would be executed, he said, referring to the Chinese authorities’ crushing of the student protests in Tiananmen Square among other historical events.

Except unlike the Chinese protesters of 6-4, those in Libya have guns.

Economist: http://www.economist.com/blogs/newsbook/2011/02/libyas_uprising

An Egyptian accountant working in Tobruk said youths wielding swords had taken his company’s bulldozers to capture arms from army arsenals.

In their reclaimed towns, including Benghazi, the country’s second city, the migrant workers report that Libyan youths cruise the streets in their stolen cars using heavy weapons and even tanks looted from army bases.

Oh what a wonderful world we live in.

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Tunisia and Egypt got through their protests with relatively few casualties. The army wasn’t sent in to crack down or anything like that. Maybe they military weren’t willing to go in and shoot people or maybe those dictators weren’t willing to have that blood on their hands. Whatever the reason, widespread massacre of civilians didn’t take place (or at least wasn’t reported).

Now in Libya and Bahrain, it seems like things are different, especially in Libya. Check out this BBC article about Libya: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12512536

Now China is currently in a pretty different situation so it is extremely unlikely that unrest would spread over to the People’s Republic. But the protests in the Arab countries today do share some similarities with the Tiananmen protests.

First of all, there is the underlying economic issues that tend to be the main cause of most protests. High unemployment for educated youth and inequality between those in the government and the ordinary citizens are two main similarities. Then there’s that talk about political reform and what-not, but those are usually over-hyped because it sounds better that people are protesting for freedom rather than a TV. People of the less developed world are generally brought to protests for material reasons rather than ideological ones.

Anyway. The mindset of the Chinese government and military back in ’89 had more in common with that of Libya than Egypt. The willingness to go to extreme violence and the united will of the government with the military usually means civil disobedience turns into a lot of dead people. In those situations, peaceful protests don’t really have much of a role.

But today, it is difficult to see how the Chinese government would respond to similar types of protests. Sure, the military and paramilitary forces in China would most likely be willing to crack down on their own people, but is the Chinese government willing to send them in? Some would say yes and provide examples of how the Chinese government dealt with the Xinjiang and Tibet unrest. However, those protests were made by minority groups. Violence used against a minority group is easier than violence against the majority because there aren’t that many of them. But if Han Chinese were to rise up again in large numbers rather than Manchurian or the Yue, would the Chinese government be willing to pull another 6.4?

Who knows.

EDIT: Bah… The Economist said the same thing I did except better and a day earlier… http://www.economist.com/node/18178177

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It’s pretty difficult to tell whether or not such protests would be successful or not. For example, back in 1989, there were a lot of successful non-violent and violent revolutions that took place. The Fall of the Berlin War, the Velvet Revolution, and Solidarity were all pretty successful in creating democratic governments in Eastern Europe. Then, there was the Tiananmen Massacre which has led to… well… what we have right now in the PRC. A little later, there were the Color Revolutions that led to the creation of mostly democratic states in Georgia (the country, not the state) and a few others. Of course, there was also that massive failure in Myanmar where the monks didn’t really force that much change.

Protests are sometimes useful, but most of the time, they’re just around long enough for the media to exploit for ratings. If the majority of the people in a country, not just the urban or educated elite, support the revolution, it’ll probably have a higher chance of success. Like in East Germany, I would guess that there was a decent amount of support and knowledge about plans for reunification. In China back in ’89 on the other hand, the peasants in Ningxia had no idea what democracy was, let alone what the students were doing in Beijing.

I don’t know too much about Iran, but it really doesn’t seem like the faction that is supporting reform is large enough yet. At least I haven’t heard much about the peasants and the poor joining in on the protests. Marx was right when he was talking about the prerequisites for communist revolutions, except it can be expanded to revolutions in general. Development increases the chance that a political revolution would be successful. If the people are poor and starving, they can be easily riled up to protest, but at the same time it is easy to buy them off with some food or redistribution of some land. Those who have satisfied their basic needs can be riled up to protest as well, but if they are given economic mobility and consumer goods are available for purchase, they can be distracted from the revolution as they seem to fulfill their consumption needs.

Now once you got that TV and motorbike, the marginal benefit of consuming more decreases. Getting that first TV gives you much more benefit in comparison to having to trek over to a Best Buy to watch on one of those display TVs. On the other hand, a bigger TV might make you happier, but less and less as your TV gets bigger and bigger. The people can no longer be as easily bought off with economic reforms. They’re going to want a cleaner environment, a safer place for their kids, and other public goods. They’re going to demand this from the government. Kaboom. We got a civil society forming. The civil society expands from demanding services from the government and goes into immaterial things. Human rights, democracy, freedom, liberty, and so on and so on.

I’m not saying that the poor won’t want ideas like freedom and equality, but they usually have more important things on their minds. They want freedom so that they can sell their goods on the market at a fair price. They want human rights to protect their land from wealthy men and armed thugs. They want democracy so they can choose a leader that they have connections with so that they can get help. They want these ‘ideas’ to achieve material gains, not just for the sake of having these rights’. That’s why most communists are students or comfortable intellectuals. The poor inner city youth would prefer a sweet ride and a couple hos in the back.

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