Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What's China's Problem With Egypt?

People around the world have been glued to their TVs, computers and smart phones by the ongoing story of the Egyptian protests - that is people around the world except for China. In the tightly-controlled world of the Chinese media, the Egyptian protests are apparently a no-go zone, or at the very least a go-if-you-tow-the-party-line zone. According to the Christian Science Monitor, media outlets across the nation have been told that they can only use the official news stories provided by China's state-run Xinhua news agency in their reporting of the events in Egypt, there have also been reports that Internet searches on the word “Egypt” were being blocked by China's aggressive web-filtering software.

The reason for China's hardline stance though doesn't seem to be fear that their own bitterly oppressed minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang will suddenly follow the lead of their Egyptian brethren, but rather just unease in the top levels of the Chinese government over where the protests are heading. Energy-hungry China relies on the North Africa/Middle East region for half of their imported oil, while the widespread belief is that Egypt will not be the last country in the region to face widespread protests aimed at their autocratic rulers. Faced with such uncertainty, the Chinese position seems to be to say nothing, or at least as close to nothing as it is possible to say about the biggest news event of the year. According to the CSM, Chinese media outlets were warned they could be shut down “by force” if they did not stick to the rule of only broadcasting Xinhua's version of the Egyptian events.
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