BEIJING – Mindful of the parallels between Tahrir and Tiananmen, Beijing is hardly celebrating the popular uprising in Egypt that brought down an authoritarian regime.
The Chinese government offered a sobering assessment Saturday of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement that China hoped “the latest developments help restore national stability and social order at an early date.”
News coverage of the 18-day uprising has emphasized looting, rioting and violence, while downplaying the jubilation of the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. A short editorial Saturday in the state-run English-language China Daily used the word “stability,” a favorite of the Chinese Communist Party, seven times. It warned that “any political changes will be meaningless if the country falls prey to chaos in the end.”
But Chinese dissidents and critics greeted Mubarak’s downfall with undisguised glee.
“Today, we are all Egyptian,” Ai Weiwei, a dissident and artist, said in a Twitter posting. “It only took 18 days for the collapse of a military regime which was in power for 30 years and looked harmonious and stable. This thing (the Chinese government) that has been for 60 years may take several months.”
In a bold retort to the party’s rhetoric about stability, the influential new business magazine Caixin editorialized on its Web page Saturday: “It is autocracy that creates chaos, while democracy breeds peace. Supporting an autocracy is in reality trading short-term interests for long-term costs.”
From the beginning of the protests in Egypt last month, the Chinese propaganda machine sought to limit and direct coverage. Although the story was too big to expunge, news media were directed to run reports only from the state-run New China News Agency. On some social networking sites, searches for the word “Egypt” were blocked.