By Jeremiah Jenne
BEIJING, China -- First of all I want to thank Jim for giving me this
opportunity. My usual audience consists
of two classes of Chinese history students per semester and a handful of loyal
readers who follow my blog, Jottings from the Granite
There has been a lot written in the past 24 hours about China's still-born "Jasmine Revolution," and I agree with those commentators who feel the chances of an Egypt-style revolution are very remote -- at least in the short term.
First of all, while many in China are griping about
inflation, rising food prices, and the great difficulties in finding affordable
housing in China's booming cities, there is a general sense --
especially those in urban areas -- that life is steadily improving.
That's not to say there are not conflicts and contradictions in Chinese society. Each year there are thousands of cases of unrest, local demonstrations, and violent clashes between the disaffected and those felt to have benefited unfairly from the system or against the system itself. But despite all the sparks, the tinder never catches, and the reason is that China's leaders have learned from history.
On May 4, 1919 students protesting the cession of Shandong Province to Japan as part of the Treaty of Versailles took to the streets of Beijing. They were soon joined by workers, journalists, merchants, and the common people of the city...and then the movement spread to Tianjin, to Shanghai, and to Guangzhou. The government wobbled and eventually collapsed in the face of massive popular opposition and unrest.