Beijing wary of change in Egypt, says Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Historians in the News

The ousting of Hosni Mubarak last week after his 30-year rule of Egypt, following the same fate of his Tunisian counterpart the previous month, has alarmed the leaders of China and North Korea....

Michael Rubin, resident fellow of the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), indicated that the difference probably reflects that compared with China, the North is relatively safe from the impact of the unrest sweeping the Arab world....

Rubin pointed his finger at China as the nation that could be most affected by the unrest in the Arab world.

“China should be very worried. The wealth discrepancy is huge between the coastal cities and the inland villages. Inflation is gaining steam.”

His remarks came against the backdrop of the economic roots of the Egyptian unrest, including deep income disparity and high unemployment among young people.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, professor of history at the University of California, Irvine, observed the Chinese authorities were well aware of the dynamism of popular protests from their own history: the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

“In the 1989 protests that were crushed by the army, inflation and anger over corruption were important factors in getting students and others out onto the streets,” the professor said in an email interview with The Korea Times.

Wasserstrom, the author of the book “China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (2010),” noted the urban protests of the mid-to-late 1940s would be an even better parallel in Chinese history....

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