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The Egypt Effect

Red Uncle & Snowman

And now a song adds to Chinese nervousness and gets blacked out by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security

Red Uncle & Snowman
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

"Go, go, go! Forge on ahead.

"The awakened lion is roaring.

"It will smash corruption, and bury the dictatorship.

"Mighty Egypt has no room for clowns.

"With no equality or human rights, these are the roots of poverty.

"May democracy shine on the Nile.

"Its people are no longer sheep."

This is a song ostensibly in praise of the Egyptian Revolution, written and tuned to music by two Chinese, one of whom goes by the name Li Lei, alias Red Uncle and the other by the name Snowman. This song, which started spreading fast among the Netizens community of China, on February 17 has since been blacked out by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, which is responsible for internal security.

According to Radio Free Asia, funded by the US State Department, the song was released onto Chinese video-sharing websites Tudou and Ku6 earlier last week, and had proliferated across at least 30 sites by 6.00 p.m. on February 17, according to searches on Baidu and Google.

By February 18, only two video-sharing sites still carried it, with popular YouTube-style site Tudou producing an error message instead. The music in the song on Egypt is reportedly similar to that in a popular Chinese song on Mao Zedong.

Radio Free Asia has quoted Li alias Red Uncle as saying that he and his songwriting partner wanted to use the song to educate their own people, as well as to support the Egyptian revolution, which brought an end to the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak, whose picture is reportedly seen spinning away in the video. "The people of Egypt have demanded democracy," Li said. "Their political goals are very similar to those of the Chinese people. We felt we had to write this song in support of the Egyptian people. At the same time, it's also an education for us [in China]. That was the aim."

According to the Radio, the video was rapidly picked up and passed along by netizens across China, apparently striking a chord with many. One netizen in the northern city of Chengde reportedly told Li that he had not heard such a rousing and motivating song in ages. Another, a bus driver in Inner Mongolia, reportedly vowed to play it to his passengers. "This guy said that he'd listened to it dozens of times over," Li claimed.

Red Uncle added in his interview: "Normally, you need an army to change the course of history. But the ordinary people can also rise up in revolution. And I think the Internet can speed up the rate of social progress and help make history."

Worried over the possible impact of the Egyptian Revolution on China, the Chinese Communist Party is reported to have set up an office for maintaining internal stability. In a paper on the internal situation in China presented at a seminar on China organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) of New Delhi in the beginning of December, I had drawn attention to the fact that China spends more on internal security than on its armed forces reflecting the nervousness of the Party leadership over internal stability. I had said: 

"Maintaining internal security against economic unrest in the Han-inhabited coastal areas and against ethnic unrest in the Tibetan and Uighur inhabited border areas has become a major concern. Chinese leaders have, of late, been speaking of their core interests and major concerns. When they talk of their core interests, they mean their disputes with other countries. In their perception, the threats to their core interests arise from abroad. When they talk of major concerns, they largely mean threats to their internal security. The Chinese authorities have seen to it that the rest of the world does not know much of the internal security situation, but it is of major concern to the leadership. This would be obvious from their enormous budgetary allocation for their internal security apparatus, which, according to the Global Times of August 23, amounts to US $ 76 billion. If the Global Times is to be believed, China spends more money for maintaining political stability than for protecting the country from external threats. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that the leadership is going slow on political reforms." 

During that presentation, I had said that while the Chinese would continue to be confronted with security and stability related problems in Chinese-Controlled Xinjiang and in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region, they should have no difficulty in maintaining stability in the Han core of the country. I am not that sure now.

I wrote subsequently on December 15: 

"Can China disintegrate under the weight of its internal security problems? This is unlikely. The undoubted economic prosperity and the interest of the homogenous Hans as a whole in ensuring that this prosperity is maintained guarantees against any tendency towards disintegration in the Han core of the country. The Tibetan and Uighur uprisings have shown that economic prosperity has not diluted their yearnings for freedom. So long as this urge for freedom remains alive, the danger of instability in the border areas will remain. India should closely monitor and study the internal security situation in China without trying to take advantage of it. An unstable and insecure China is not in India’s interest. This should not mean that India should forsake the Tibetans. They are our objective allies. We need to nurse them and help them to keep the flame of Buddhism alive in China. We need to pay more attention to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and interact with him more frequently politically and in religious matters. An alienated Tibet will always look up to India for moral support in its hours of distress. We have a moral responsibility to be attentive to their hopes and fears. How to give back the Tibetans and His Holiness their dignity as a proud civilization without causing the disintegration of peripheral China? This is a question that should keep engaging our attention." 

That advice remains valid as the Chinese nervousness in the wake of the Egyptian Revolution increases. Don't wish ill of China as a state. But at the same time wish well of its people. If they want democracy here and now, why not? Let the tribe of Red Uncles multiply. May God give them strength and freedom from fear.


B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies

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