Both Beijing and Tehran are reacting defensively, seeking to silence pro-democracy protesters and retain totalitarian control.
Is the democracy movement sweeping through the Middle East a purely Arab phenomenon or could it reach dictatorships in non-Arab lands?
That possibility clearly worries the two nations most consequential to the United States: China (for its burgeoning economy and military buildup) and Iran (for its potential nuclear threat). Both are reacting defensively, seeking to silence pro-democracy protesters and retain totalitarian control.
China has used Internet firewalls to censor news of the pro-democracy turmoil in the Middle East. But technology has made international borders porous. So Chinese citizens have deftly maneuvered around banned social media sites like Twitter to demonstrate for change in a nation whose communist government is obdurate in thwarting it. Thus in late February they went national with a call for a “Jasmine Revolution,” beginning in major Chinese cities, to be followed with nonviolent processions and marches each Sunday thereafter.
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If government incompetence and corruption were two of the protesters’ targets, the government showed that the efficiency of its security forces in preventing such demonstrations remains undiminished. Legions of police were on the streets to stop crowds assembling. Plainclothes officers arrested protest planners, prevented others from leaving their homes, and warned Chinese journalists against covering the protests. Foreign journalists were similarly warned to stay away from “no reporting” zones. Some had their homes and offices staked out to inhibit their movement.