With the populist uprisings across the Middle East showing no signs of losing steam as they head into their third month, policy experts are keeping a close eye on China to see if and how the government there chooses to acknowledge the Arab world's political turmoil. So far, all indications seem to be that Beijing intends to keep a tight lid on political dissent.
"Even as China’s Premier Wen Jiabao was online answering questions from the Chinese public over e-mail, the government was making efforts to prevent the 'jasmine revolution' from gaining any steam," says Michael Kulma, Asia Society's Executive Director for Global Leadership Initiatives.
"With the word out for pro-democracy demonstrations to take place around the country, large numbers of police officers were present in downtown Beijing and Shanghai," Kulma says. "It remains to be seen how far the Chinese government will go to prevent such activities and how far the Chinese people are willing to go to pursue them."
"Clearly, the Chinese government has no small concern about the various populist revolutions that have broken out in the Middle East. I think they remember all too vividly what it was like to have their own main square—Tiananmen Square—occupied as it was in 1989 by young demonstrators with a democracy agenda," notes Orville Schell, Director of Asia Society's Center on US-China Relations, before adding, "their anxiety, while understandable, is not fully borne out by circumstances."
Watch Orville Schell's complete remarks below: