China and the Revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa

in Middle East Law and Governance
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The 2011 revolutions in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) led to considerable hope for some people that China would experience a similar political uprising, as well as considerable anxiety for the ruling regime. The government’s immediate response was to downplay the risk of a similar event occurring in China by distinguishing between China and MENA, while at the same time cracking down on activists and other potential sources of instability—including attempts to organize popular revolutionary protests in China. Although the government has so far managed to avoid a similar uprising, neither response has been entirely successful. Despite a number of significant diff erences between China and MENA countries, there are enough commonalities to justify concerns about political instability. Moreover, relying on repression alone is not a long-term solution to the justified demands of Chinese citizens for political reforms and social justice. Whether China will ultimately be able to avoid the fate of authoritarian regimes in MENA countries will turn on its ability to overcome a series of structural challenges while preventing sudden and unpredictable events, like those that gave rise to the Arab revolutions, from spinning out of control.

Middle East Law and Governance

An Interdisciplinary Journal

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