The wave of mass demonstrations and political uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East will not spread to Asia, according to our most recent web poll.
Two-thirds of our readers reckoned that Asia will resist revolution, which is probably about the same level of confidence as China’s leaders have. It is difficult to know whether the Chinese jasmine revolution was ever on the cards or if fear of reprisal kept people off the streets. Certainly, the authorities responded nervously to any hint of uprising in the run-up to the National People’s Congress, but, so far, they have found few people to lash out at.
Or few that are reported. Their harassment of foreign journalists in the middle of Beijing hints at the kind of treatment being doled out to ordinary citizens.
But China might not be Asia’s best candidate for revolution. That could be Pakistan, though it will be a different kind of uprising to those in the Arab world. Instead of freedom from oppression, fanatics in Pakistan are clamouring for the introduction of a medieval blasphemy law, on the way to a full-blown Islamic state. Such extremists have already murdered Shahbaz Bhatti, the minorities minister, and Punjab governor Salman Taseer for opposing the new law.
Setting aside that depressing outcome, North Korea seems a good candidate for a more democratic uprising, of the kind seen in Tunisia and Egypt. Its people have already launched small demonstrations this year in response to food and power shortages, according to South Korea, and face many of the same problems as their Arab counterparts.
But there is slim hope that the message from North Africa will reach far into North Korea. The state’s most effective weapon against dissent is its creaking Cold War infrastructure – there are barely any computers in the country, never mind broadband internet connections or Twitter. In Pyongyang, the revolution might be televised, but it will not be tweeted.
Overall, 64% of readers said that revolutionary fervour would not take hold in Asia, while the remaining 36% cheered Vive la revolution!