Is China’s Jasmine Revolution Being Won?

Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan asks whether the heavy-handed official response to calls for a “Jasmine Revolution” constitutes a victory of sorts for the organisers:

Thousands of police officers across the country have been working overtime the last two weeks to quell any potential Jasmine protests. Patrols have been stepped up. This past Sunday in Beijing alone, at the supposed site of the planned Jasmine protests, reporters saw hundreds of officers, hundreds more plainclothes officers, and dozens of police vehicles. Those behind the Jasmine Revolution are calling for meet ups in more some 35 cities in China at this point. And they are changing the location of these meet ups in response to police security.

This all adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, being spent on a ghost revolution. How many hours of manpower has been spent in meetings with journalists alone? How much longer can the government continue demanding its foot soldiers work overtime fighting an imaginary revolution? If this is guerilla warfare in the Internet age, the planners of the Jasmine Revolution have, for lack of a better word, completely psyched the Chinese authorities out ….

What we’re witnessing is the equivalent of an elephant being brought in to crush an ant. The excessive show of force and overreaction of officials suggests there are enough people in the bureaucracy so out of touch with the Chinese public they would indeed believe a Jasmine Revolution is probable – and must put a stop to it.

But the harshness of the government’s reaction may not be based on the perception of an immediate threat. On Twitter, Forbes’ Gady Epstein took issue with Chan’s interpretation:

Expanding on my earlier point on @melissakchan’s v good post: Govt strategy is to crush ants, prevent any chance of infestation.

Q: If no one shows up for Jasmine, is it indication of overreaction? Or does reaction to any threat, even tiny ants, ensure no one shows up?

The govt reaction is not really about this time (tho it partly is). It’s about ensuring people don’t get any notions.

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