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Why China should still care about a restive Arab World: The SinoFile

There are plenty of Bouazizi's in Beijing.

Slain Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid (Surian Soosay).

As revolutionary vanguards Egypt and Tunisia teeter between winning back their revolutions and utter chaos, China continues to censor discourse on uprisings that started two years ago. 

The search terms for 'Tunisian uprising' and 'Egyptian uprising' remain blocked on Twitter-like Chinese social media site, Sina Weibo, at a time when protesters in the streets of Tunis and Cairo say they will reclaim the Arab Revolutions from the Islamist parties that now govern the same old kleptocracies with the same old sense of impunity as their dictatorial predecessors. 

But why should China care? Analysts have said Beijing has nothing to fear -- Now as in 2011, jasmine doesn't seem to grow in China's administrative ecosystem.

The fact is, jasmine didn't seem to grow in Tunisia or Egypt either, before 2011 -- what, despite the chaos that rages on in restive pockets of the Arab World now, remains a game-changer in the history of international social movements. 

Two years later: Still trouble in Tunis and chaos in Cairo

It appears what much of international media has termed the Arab World's 'post-revolutionary nations' aren't post-revolutionary at all.

In Tunisia, the death of prominent anti-Islamist opposition leader Chokri Belaid Wednesday has broken into massive unrest, with thousands taking to the streets and a riot disrupting Belaid's funeral today. 

Various sources allege that behind the multiple gunshot wounds that killed Tunisia's hope at a viable opposition is Ennahda, the Islamist Party that rose to power in the aftermath of 23-year Tunisian President Zine Abidine Ben Ali's ouster two years ago. Others have said Ben Ali's henchmen perpetrated the crime to incriminate Ennahda on the date of Ben Ali's ouster, in a rather convoluted push to undo the achievements of the revolution. 

People who support Ennahda call the rioters that have taken to the streets of Tunis since the murder vandals. They say that sectarianism and continued protest are stunting the act of national institution-building, at a time when tourism -- still the nation's bread and butter, offset by perennial chaos -- continues to falter. To be sure, police quieting chaos at a public funeral with tears gas isn't exactly an invitation to the North African nation's old friends to the North. 

Meanwhile, on the streets of Cairo, countless factions are coming up against authorities, which Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has pledged to use full force to quell "illegal demonstrations." Two years down the road, and we are hearing the same words from Cairo that we -- in the international community -- heard under Mubarak. 

Just as Egyptian protesters were stripped, beaten and humiliated in the aftermath of Mubarak's fall under the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), they are being stripped, beaten and humiliated now.

Looking at the kind of turmoil that exists in North Africa now, it's hard to imagine that any dissident in China would want this for their country.

So why is Beijing still keen to keep information on a two-year imbroglio on the DL?

There are many Bouazizi's in China

I was at my office in the People's Republic when I first heard Tunisians weren't respecting curfews imposed by a quaking Ben Ali administration in its final hour. 

As I'm part-Tunisian, one of my co-workers at the Beijing bureau of an English-language newspaper asked me with great interest about Mohammed Bouazizi, the fruit vendor who set himself alight and started the revolutions we see people struggling with today. 

I had nothing to tell her beyond recounting the footage I was seeing Online, circumventing the Great Firewall and the censorship of information on the Arab World that became more stringent when Egypt joined in the revolution. 

I knew from my family that Tunis -- like other administrations -- had been a kleptocracy, that if you weren't a member of Ben Ali's party and a close acquaintance of the ruling elite, you had no real professional aspirations, as a matter of course.

Needless to say, seeing China while my mind was in Tunisia was an educational enterprise. 

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