Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tehran's Tiananmen?

One of my favorite sources for China news, China Digital Times, has a new post that looks at the various comparisons between what is happening in Iran today and the events in Tiananmen Square 20 years ago, leading with the piece on this subject in the NYT today.  It also analyzes how events in Iran are playing in China.  I was particular interested in the piece by Evan Osnos in the New Yorker on how the Chinese blogosphere is commenting on events in Iran: 

There is an engaged, relatively mainstream population that is thinking seriously about what Iran’s experience says about China. Several bloggers, for instance, are using the unrest in Iran as a way to benchmark China’s movement toward democracy. Wu Jiaxiang, an intellectual and former researcher in the General Office of the Communist Party Central Committee wrote the other day:

For over ten years, Iran’s presidential elections have had turnout exceeding seventy percent, so much so that the closing hours had to be delayed until midnight. What does that show? It means that indifference towards democracy comes from the lack of democracy. There is no excuse for non-democracy.

Mao Anlin, another blogger, goes one step further:

Even Iran, such a religious country, has had so many years of elections. Candidates can squabble, the results can be questioned, the legislature can talk, and Khamenei can keep right on working. We [in China] insist on appointing every single candidate in advance, even for the chief of Macau. This is more than a little lagging behind Iran.

This is fascinating - Chinese "establishment" commentariat noticing that China has a democracy deficit IN COMPARISON TO IRAN.  

If nothing else, this kind of thing continues to give me some hope that the cramped realism that most policymakers fall into when it comes to China will prove as narrow and, ultimately, incorrect as it did predicting both political events in Iran and how US policy should look.
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