Chinese state media: Egypt proves that no one should ever protest again


Protesters hold a banner in the Chinese village of Wukan in 2011. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

The Global Times, an English-language newspaper run by the Chinese Communist Party, says that this week's turmoil in Egypt is proof that all forms of street protests are now "outdated" and counterproductive, and should cease. Unsurprisingly, it concludes that the "political damage caused by street movements nowadays is bigger than their positive influences." But there are actually some interesting little moments in this otherwise standard Communist Party output.

The newspaper editorial actually makes a reasonably strong case against protests, pointing out that they can be co-opted, are often politically polarizing and can actually subvert legal and political systems that are often better suited at channeling dissent. Those are all solid points, even if they're made in implicit defense of China's severe restrictions against political protest.

Ironically, the Global Times paints itself into a corner, reaching the compelling but highly self-defeating conclusion that governments should preempt protests by developing "smooth legal channels for political expression" and making it easier for people to seek "political expression" through "the framework of the constitution." China is good at lots of things, but "smooth legal channels for political expression" is not one of them. And you could argue that one reason China has dozens or hundreds of protests every single day is because the country lacks an inclusive political or legal system.

The Global Times's attempt at discrediting street protests in general, then, actually ends up being a pretty persuasive case on behalf of street protesters in places such as China.

The paper also makes the less-compelling argument that protests are "not a mainstream means of political movement in developed countries, such as the U.S. and the European countries," where governments can "control the movement's scale and influence." Americans will of course be familiar with the tea party and Occupy Wall Street protests, at least the former of which effected some real political influence, and many Europeans will know all about anti-austerity demonstrations.

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Caitlin Dewey · July 9, 2013