China’s ruling Communist Party claims to be winning an “ideological battle” against opinion leaders on social media.
At the recent China Internet Media Forum, People’s Daily Public Opinion Monitoring Unit director Zhu Huaxin presented a study illustrating the initial impact of an online offensive launched in August, Oiwan Lam writes for Global Voices Online.
The results show a marked drop in political commentary and conversation on social networks and other platforms over the past two months.
The offensive began on August 10, when the State Internet Information Office compelled major online opinion leaders and Internet celebrities to adopt and promote a set of seven “self-censorship guidelines.”
Later that month, President Xi Jinping told Party leaders that ideological control should become the Party’s number one priority, and ordered the CCP propaganda machine to build “a strong Internet army” of government censors who would focus on eliminating online “rumors”.
Zhu explained in his presentation that over the past two months, on leading social media platforms, the total number of messages posted by state-controlled media outlets and government branches have well out numbered messages posted by “public opinion leaders” or those who use online platforms simply to share their own personal views.
The chart above presents data from Zhu’s report, showing the total number of messages in three major sectors according to a his research samples.
Mao’s era of excessive, “unrealistic” ideology; Deng Xiaoping’s introduction of “capitalism to a socialist country”, Jiang Zemin’s shift to allow the Communist party to represent wealthy businessmen and intellectuals, along with the working class; and finally Hu Jintao’s pursuit of a “harmonious society” amid widening social and economic fissures.
“Judging these events, [we see] the same party – totalitarian system – has the ability to act according to new realities,” he concludes. Yet Hu’s quest for a harmonious society “more or less failed”, he says. “The method to promote harmony [was] through tight control and relying on use of force. That is the mistake. Logically, harmony must come from the heart … Harmony very much based on trust. As soon as use force, creates fear. Fear and trust cannot go together.”
The Dalai Lama “remains the living embodiment of Tibetan aspirations for dignity, and cultural and religious freedom. Beijing’s blustering rhetoric against him only reinforces that sense of where true power lies,” Kazmin suggests.
The Dalai Lama received the 2010 Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy.
When Tunisia’s founding president Habib Bourguiba (right) was asked “Are you for laïcité [French secularity]?” he answered that he was “not Ataturk.”
He was affirming a policy of reconciliation between Islam and modernity rather than a strict secularist approach aiming for the separation of religion and politics, says Montassar Jemmali, founder of the Tunisian League of Young Patriots. In fact, President Bourguiba often relied on Quranic verses and prophetic Hadith in his political speeches, and he consulted with sheikhs of the prominent al-Zaytuna mosque to support his political decisions, he writes for Fikra Forum.
“Religion is important to Tunisians, most of whom are Muslim, and for whom the mosque represents a part of their identity,” he notes, suggesting that Tunisia’s secularists need to update Bourguiba’s reconciliation of Islam and modernity:
Secularist parties in Tunisia will certainly play an important role in defending the country’s modernist stance. Even if they remain in the opposition, they have the capacity to exercise oversight of the government. However, in the long run, Tunisian society will continue to witness great transformations. If the secularist factions and intellectual elites remain removed from the realities of the Tunisian population, there is a good chance that they will become politically obsolete.
Montassar Jemmali is a member of the International Youth Council and the founder of the League of Young Patriots in Tunisia.
“The Arab people,” Albert Camus wrote in Algerian Chronicles, “wanted the right to vote because they knew that, with it, and through the free exercise of democracy, they could eliminate the injustices that are poisoning the political climate of Algeria today.”
Substitute “Egypt” or “Tunisia” at the end of that sentence and Camus could be writing about today’s Middle East, Jason Berry writes for Salon.
“The Arab spring channeled Camus’s understanding of rebellion. An individual being treated as less than human stands his ground, saying ‘that’s enough, I will resist this outrage, this assault on my integrity has to stop,’” Robert Zaretsky, the author of A Life Worth Living and a history professor at the University of Houston, told GlobalPost.
Syria ‘the new Balkans’
“For Camus, it’s so critical to find that moment when the individual discovers there are others who are saying the same thing and act upon that recognition. It’s something we all have in common, our integrity, our dignity. What those qualities demand in others is that you resist, never lose sight of humanity. The oppressor is as human as the colonized; pushing back is essential, while not turning into an oppressor or killer yourself.”
“Apart from Tunisia, the other iterations of Arab spring have failed,” said Zaretsky. “They’ve resulted in either autocracies returning to power, as in Egypt, or civil war — think of Syria. The protest against Assad in the opening stage was a rebellion of the kind Camus had in mind – peaceful, you don’t take another’s life unless there’s no other choice. Now the country has been reduced to the new Balkans.”