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Tiananmen 2.0? Freedom is coming to China – one way or another.

China's fierce crackdown of sporadic protests in recent weeks shows that Communist leaders there are watching the Arab uprisings with great anxiety. China would be wise to stay ahead of events by rolling out political reforms.

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For the second time in just over two decades, China’s Communist leaders watch anxiously as a series of popular revolutions in another critical area of the world sweep out entrenched dictators and threaten to reverberate in the People’s Republic.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was fellow Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union that toppled under people power. Now it is Arab and Persian tyrants who face the wrath of the people they have oppressed for generations. Events have seemed to reach the critical tipping-point when the regime’s fear of the people exceeds the people’s fear of the regime.

Chinese bloggers have been quick to raise the obvious question – could it happen in China? – and to begin testing the waters. Internet postings have called for silent protests in several Chinese cities to emulate Tunisia’s “jasmine revolution.” They have spawned a few sporadic gatherings that the authorities quickly snuffed out before they could grow – but it was a surprisingly early indication that the spark of hope for freedom in China is not extinguished.

Libya’s violent and indiscriminate crackdown against the protesters posed a dilemma for Beijing because it endangered thousands of Chinese working there. Compelled to defend its own citizens against mistreatment by a foreign government, China for the first time openly criticized a Mideast dictator’s repression of its people.

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