IN THE words of a senior foreign policy adviser to the Chinese government, the official attitude towards the Arab Spring can be summed up very simply: “Ever since it started, all they want is to keep it as far away from China as possible.”
So nervous were Chinese officials about the fragrance that might have wafted eastward that last year, after a delicate flower became a symbol of revolt in Tunis, Cairo and elsewhere, censors blocked searches for the term “jasmine” on the internet—and police blocked the sale of jasmine at Beijing flower markets.
The reason for such skittishness is not hard to understand. The sight of authoritarian governments with dynastic tendencies being toppled in civil uprisings after decades in power is…unsettling, for the rulers of China’s one-party system. The support that most Western countries showed for that succession of revolts, whether in the form of explicit statements or merely in nods and winks, has likewise been unwelcome.
Today however, even as Syria’s government seems to teeter on the brink of becoming the next casualty of the Arab Spring, China is enthusiastically welcoming one of the wider movement’s key beneficiaries, Egypt’s newly elected president, Muhammad Morsi, on an official two-day visit.”