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The Guardian view on the future of China’s unrest: more complex than it seems | Editorial

A binary reading of these remarkable zero-Covid protests does not help anyone understand their significance

Among the Communist rhetoric cleverly repurposed by China’s anti-zero-Covid protesters is a phrase that Mao Zedong employed: a single spark can start a prairie fire. When a political system is so rigid, observers can easily fall prey to one of two conflicting tendencies. The first is to seize upon any significant unrest as the first crack in the edifice, which could bring the whole system down – as when the death of Mohamed Bouazizi precipitated the Arab spring. Since such collapses are usually astonishing at the time, even if explicable in retrospect, the temptation to suggest that they really could be coming this time can be hard to resist.

The other tendency is to look at the unlikely triumph of the Communist party and conclude that any dissent is not only doomed but futile. The party has spent years studying the demise of the Soviet Union to ensure that it does not suffer the same fate. It ruthlessly crushed the student-led protests of 1989, in which millions, not merely hundreds, took to the streets. It learned from that experience too, refining other means of repression. It is a sign of how limited the political space has become that these protests, attacking a policy attached to Xi Jinping by name, and in a few cases even calling for his departure, seem so utterly astonishing. Unlike in 1989, there are no signs of fissures at the top, domestic security spending dwarfs even China’s hefty military budget, and technological advances have made surveillance even more extensive.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

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