For the first time in memory, places like Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen are starting to understand what Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote that "when the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. " Middle East citizens have long been fearful -- but now with protesters overwhelming the streets, the regimes finally are too. Yet as people power has swept autocrats out of Tunis and Cairo, Middle Eastern regimes aren't the only ones getting nervous. Beijing is also paying rapt attention.
By Jefferson's definition, China today looks a lot like these newly weakened Middle Eastern governments. The country's people are certainly afraid of their government, with its internal security apparatus busily cracking down on protests, monitoring China's active blogosphere, and even censoring the remarks of China's own premier. Yet so too does the government in Beijing fear its people. Although China is not nearly close to a popular revolt on the scale we see today in the Middle East, its leaders are nonetheless nervous.
Por: Abraham Denmark is a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, where he directs the Asia-Pacific security program. He is a former country director for China affairs in the office of the U.S. secretary of defense.
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