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China: Not Tweeting a Revolution

Why did China tweet a revolution and then have almost no one show up? See what Chinese idealists were posting to Twitter leading up to February 20, the day of the first rallies in what many hoped would become the

by John Kennedy On March 2, 2011

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So I’m hoping, people with ideas about this thing can try describing using more moderate language, perhaps as a way to get around keyword blocks. For example, instead of ‘Jasmine Day’, they could try something like “a date with Jasmine”. I think people with more imagination can come up with more creative descriptions. Sina Weiboer: The government will shoot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the people will kneel. However if the people do kneel, the government will definitely shoot. It seems premature, Anonymous speculated on February 20, for the Jasmine Revolution to spread to China. Although seen by some as a joke from the onset, Chinese Twitter users tweeted furiously for two weeks and created a stir the main result of which has been numerous arrestsassaults on journalists, and the 50 Cent Party’s expansion onto Twitter. References to the Kaohsiung Incident have stopped. So, are the people who feigned to stand up to the all-powerful Chinese authorities to demand freedom and democracy crazy, irrelevant, or just cowardly?

Below are a number of tweets which represent much of the discussion leading up February 20, the first day of China’s Twitter-based ‘Jasmine Revolution’. Click on the images to see the original tweet.

February 16, before the initial anonymous call to gather had been made:

Research from last year discovered that Twitter has already become one of the main tools authorities use to maintain rule, collecting comments and information about activities from dissidents and social activists. Which is why Twitter revolutions and rule through Twitter are two sides to Twitter politics.

Post-Egypt, China’s activists and social movements face a tough and tricky environment. The Chen Guangcheng incident, banning beggars, these are just the beginning.

February 18, when the anonymous post had already appeared but was yet to receive much notice:

Even an 8-year-old can understand democracy. You don’t need to be clever or sophisticated, but you do need a young heart untainted by ancient feudal culture. The best chance for democracy in China rests with its young people. They say the Post-90s generation is selfish, but I think selfishness is one of the best reasons why democracy can occur. Democracy is just efficient selfishness.

Why do I get the feeling that the Jasmine revolution was set up by the domestic security department as a way to up their funding?

February 19:

Is there a Jasmine gathering tomorrow? Who initiated it? This all seems reckless and out of nowhere; at least we should first go storm the TV stations to confuse people, for better effect.

Sina Weiboer: The government will shoot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the people will kneel. However if the people do kneel, the government will definitely shoot.

A government which decides to shoot doesn’t worry about injustice, it only worries about how to slaughter everyone.

Authorities’ response to news of the “Chinese Jasmine Revolution”, attacking Boxun, is totally useless. Even if they were to just let the news spread, everyone on the streets tomorrow will still all be shoppers.

The Chinese public today isn’t anywhere close to having the ideological foundation required for a “Jasmine revolution”. Chinese university students today can’t even be bothered to cross the street to avoid the canteen food they won’t stop complaining about, so forget about any revolution. Shouting “revolution” only hurts the dissident community which was already lacking in credibility to begin with.

To be honest, this so-called Jasmine revolution is looking more and more like a funding fishing expedition.

1:30 PM Feb 19th

For the domestic security department, launching a revolution propaganda blitz would not only up their income, but they could just as easily turn and claim ‘crying wolf’ tactics, that repetition of fake revolution news would make reactionaries stop believing all information about any revolution.

What ‘Jasmine revolution’? Just more shanzhai. People copying everything from overseas, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, now even Groupon, quora. People are even plagiarizing the Nobel Peace prize and the Jasmine Revolution. Whatever gets any attention gets copied. How long until we start plagiarizing nationwide elections?

Online mobilizations like this Jasmine Revolution should be a regular thing, it doesn’t matter if people take to the street or not. The second the call goes online, the CCP gets jumpy, then nervous, then goes into battle mode, then flustered. It should happen every month until the Commies can’t calm back down. If it goes on long enough, they’ll get used to it and drop their guard, and then it’ll be time for the real thing!

Whether or not a “Jasmine Revolution” will take place in China has nothing to do with the ideological foundation of the public, but whether or not they fundamentally believe in what it stands for. We’re a faithless nation, there will be no “revolution”, only “uprising”. Revolutions are when people with fundamental beliefs make strong demands for change in the social system. Revolutions, on the other hand, take place when people revolt because they can’t feed themselves or keep themselves warm. You only get to call the shots once you seize political power.

Reuters photo of a protester being detained at the Shanghai gathering on February 20.

Any government which points its guns at its own people is already a ghost.

Last night I thought for a bit about where I would be if there were a revolution or if the economy were to collapse. My conclusion is that there isn’t a single thing in it for me. For those of us who can’t just up and leave the country, it’d be even worse.

Tomorrow’s “Jasmine Revolution” keeps brewing; one by one, Baidu topic threads keep shutting it down. Though, in doing so, Baidu has led people to go from questioning why to wondering just what Jasmine is all about. Even though I think everything Jasmine so far hasn’t been thought through very well, this perhaps isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I have no idea where Jasmine will blossom, but I do find this a good opportunity to observe authorities’ response of implementing information lockdown measures. Barring shutting off the Internet, what we’ve seen today is about all they can do.

So I’m hoping, people with ideas about this thing can try describing using more moderate language, perhaps as a way to get around keyword blocks. For example, instead of ‘Jasmine Day’, they could try something like “a date with Jasmine”. I think people with more imagination can come up with more creative descriptions.

Nobody knows if China’s Jasmine Revolution is about to unfold tomorrow, but just looking at the government’s various responses, they definitely are ants in a frying pan now.

Suddenly, it arrives. Suddenly, it’s about to bloom. Suddenly, it’s all round us.

People are frantically trying to rationalize why a Jasmine Revolution won’t happen. ^_^ Gotta laugh. RT @lihlii2 @noooo0000: The Jasmine Revolution is a sure thing, even flunky paper Ming Pao has reported on it.

@noooo0000 One obvious effect has been to make “revolution” a reality for the CCP. Even if you yourself are against the revolution, just discussing the question of revolutions is progress in itself. Haha.

This rumored Jasmine Revolution, everyone’s just treating it like a joke. But with the way it’s made authorities so terrified, it appears they’ve been terrified for quite some time already. RT @zokio: Jasmine sure has had quite a comic effect on the Commies, even has me laughing like the concubine Baosi.

From the sound of it, police must tired like dogs by now, they just can’t keep up. This Jasmine Revolution joke has those illegitimate power bandits completely freaked out. They know the authority they hold doesn’t belong to them, and the one thing bandits fear most is people snatching things out of their grasp. RT @nuochan: If there was a Jasmine assembly every month, a year from now the police and domestic security agents would be on our side.

A virtual jasmine flower, scared the crap out of the Party Central Committee.

The Jasmine Revolution is hot online, I kept thinking it was just another piece of performance art. Then today Jasmine became a banned sensitive keyword. Fine, if the government is taking this so seriously, to not take part now would be a major waste of Stability Office money. Tomorrow I’m definitely going to check it out!

From the look of it, authorities have responded in two ways: first, by heavily blocking any spread of the news on mainland websites; second, by heavily cracking down on activists. Still waiting to hear if barriers are being set up at sites of the planned locations being spread around.

The Jasmine Flower’s importance is that the first time she cried out, the wolf showed up…..

Why are we using Jasmine Flower? Why not Rose? Then all lovers can help further the movement. The worst part of that would be that the government would ban Valentine’s Day, which actually wouldn’t be so bad an outcome.

Jasmine flowers everywhere….too bad this is all one big dream! Other countries are having Internet revolutions, but our Internet just gets used against us. I just got a call from my boy who’s a deputy commander in the navy up in Beihai, Qingdao. He says things might happen tomorrow like Falun Gong activities, told me to stay away. All I could do was tell him not to be nervous…and that his superiors got punked.

The Jasmine has become an endangered species. Are we going to find all Jasmine tea banned from officies tomorrow? No politics allowed, no Jasmine allowed either. A tiny flower has made an entire country go berserk, a new epidemic for a prosperous China: anthophobia.

Every time any little breeze comes along, microblog censors all have to work overtime. Savages.

Faking a left, going right, that’s one of the favorite moves of the Grass Mud Horse. With its opponent limited in armed force options, the grass mud horse’s power in numbers can be played to full advantage…by posting online that everyone will be going to People’s Plaza. Then the government deploys 2,000 military police to seal off the plaza. What they didn’t expect is that someone would make the call to head to the TV tower, which is where the grass mud horses went, and occupied the TV tower…to declare the revolution a success. Hehe, just having fun.

Emergency notice: The time for tomorrow’s Jasmine activity has been pushed up to midnight tonight. Location: Every gas station on every major road in every major city. Everyone lined up is on our side!

A notice this morning from the Sina Weibo secretary bot: Given the recent tense situation, please refrain from posting news of foreign riots. You’ve been informed! //Everything is so interesting in China. Some things happen outside the country, and they all become riots. Things happen inside the country, but never get called riots. Those are called mass incidents.

Thank you to the Party Central Committee for making Jasmine Flowers just as sensitive as the Nobel Peace Prize or Ai Weiwei’s crab feast.

February 20, the day of the initial gatherings:

It seems the direct result of this “revolution” has been that a bunch of people have been called out for tea, a bunch of microblog accounts have been deleted, a bunch of Twitter 3rd party clients have been blocked, and microblogs are under heavier controls than they ever have before—and, 99.9% of the mainland public haven’t heard a thing about this “heavy casualty revolution”.

Spouting off at the mouth aside, this bunch of pro-democracy warriors are empty-handed. Tomorrow’s march won’t have any effect, because conflicts on the mainland aren’t yet acute enough where revolution is the only way for people to go on with their lives.


I hope today goes well. I hope the rally is peaceful. I hope the CCP’s own SS doesn’t start shooting. I hope there are no deaths. I hope China can change for the better! Call it the Jasmine Revolution or the Peony Revolution, all I hope is that it heralds a new era for the constitution, democracy and freedom in China.

The 50 Cent Party sure are working hard, like a magician working a crowd that sees through all his tricks, and the audience is bored to death.

Once can see how vulnerable the CCP authorities are from their response to news of the Feb. 20 “Jasmine Revolution” floating around the Internet. So apparently frightened because of one post being spread around just shows that heavy-handed stability measures may placate them for now, but won’t hold up for long. Such paranoia, they’d be better off just giving people their rights back, and soon.

A thought on this Feb. 20 Jasmine Revolution, you could say that a single tweet triggered this flood of stability efforts. With one Twitter user’s single click, the CCP’s stability maintenance costs surged like a tsunami. But given the high costs, it wouldn’t appear the CCP is fooling around. But if this keeps up, when government departments at every level finally realize that it was a prank call, things won’t look good for stability maintenance efforts.

I think that if China has a revolution now, and the economy collapses, what good will that do for the average citizen? In any event, aside from complaining, these revolutionaries don’t seem to have any idea about running a country. If you want to seize power but lack any ability to run a country, aren’t you just being destructive?

This so-called “Chinese Jasmine Revolution” in reality is just some moron instigating some psychopaths to take some stupid actions. The result will be that a bunch of innocent people and everything around us will end up getting hurt by these psychos.

China will never see a color revolution, the character of the Chinese people guarantees it: no faith, no sense of social morality, no sense of justice, no desire to gain freedom, no sense of shame for their servitude, only avarice, deceit, self-serving, short-sighted greed and decadence, which is why no flowers will be opening on this mystical piece of land. Only self-destruction awaits it, yellow peril.

Executive report: The pro-democracy warriors in the Twitter psychiatric hospital are acting normal, talking gibberish; as usual, nothing we can’t handle. Bait threads are gradually proving their worth, particularly among these “independent thinking” psychos; the plan to draw the snakes out of their holes has been executed perfectly. //OH, via someone else’s phone call.

RT @FifthDimen: Apparently today is the Jasmine Revolution, mostly just police, undercovers and domestic security agents gathering in a rally.

Via my classmate: The mastermind behind this Jasmine Revolution is definitely KFC, which hopes to use Jasmine to knock its competitor McDonald’s right out of Wangfujing!

Even if mainland youth aren’t afraid to die, their parents still won’t let their kids go take part in the Peony Revolution. The way the older generation see it, their pensions come from the Communist Party, and if it goes down, so do their lives. Also, the majority of people in their 20s an 30s were single children, their parents still need them to take care of them.

Many people say China isn’t ready for a revolution, but you can see what the situation is just by looking at the response by authorities these past two days. Authorities have a much clearer idea of what the situation is.

Top news in today’s Apple Daily is “China’s Jasmine Revolution, the People’s Liberation Army waiting on standby”, made me laugh to death. Actually I think 99% of people have no idea about this, press restrictions and Internet censorship are still just too effective.

This is fun, the Jasmine Revolution is today and the entire country’s police and domestic security agents are marching on the street.

“Certain foreign illegal elements within society are now going around assembling illegally. All classmates must be more vigilant, refrain from spreading rumor or stopping to watch, and must not participate in any form of gathering so as to avoid entanglement in trouble of any sort.” From a class notice we received for the new semester.

As someone who only tweets about my life all day, I think that if you blame the bad things in your life on the nation’s flaws, and from that would turn to revolution, I say forget about it. The thing average people like myself fear most are losers like that taking control. I would rather see people with pure motives like Ai Weiwei working to better the country’s system, people who do practical work to fix the violent system, to improve the system.

The Jasmine Revolution post on Boxun might have been planted by authorities, as a reason for the Party and the military to carry out field exercises.

This silly “cry wolf revolution” will not only not desensitize authorities to microblogs and social networking sites being used to mobilize people, rather the opposite, making them even more on guard than they were. Next will be to step up controls on domestic microblogs, and build the Great Firewall of China even higher.

A couple days ago when news appeared about a Jasmine Revolution action in China, I thought for sure it was fake. In fact up until now I thought it was a stupid joke. I didn’t expect that people would take it seriously and go on high alert. The government’s nervousness is what made this fake thing come true.

I hope the central government deals with “Jasmine” rationally, treats “the masses” who seek freedom and justice fair and square, not instead blindly dispatching the army, police, water cannons and tanks against the unarmed. Domestic security agents, police and soldiers should use wanton violent against crowds; shooting to kill is something that belongs back in the Mao era, not with you now, because this era is not just all about you. Killing people comes with a price.

This afternoon an undercover (domestic security, I suppose) officer said he starts work at 4am, just to stop people from coming on the streets and disrupting social order. He said I should realize the consequences of retweeting, that this is a serious political issue, that making criticisms or talking politics online are useless. He said I should treasure my work, stay away from politics.

When a society gets swamped down by lowly values, then it inevitably becomes easy for those older members of society with vested interests to wind up as stakeholders in those values, unwilling to let go or admit their mistakes. Therefore, perhaps another sort of voice should be heard today: a country is only as intelligent as its elders, and a country only as strong as its elders; independent elders make for an independent country, just like free elders make for a free country. A country progresses along with its elders!

Yesterday news appeared on a foreign website of a “Jasmine Revolution”; by nightfall, police had already launched into action. Today was even worse. Based on past experience, the response by authorities will be neither quick nor subtle, therefore the only inevitable possibility is that the “Jasmine Revolution” will be of authorities’ own making, through their creation of a climate of fear by means of a large-scale military response as well as preventative measures aimed at their own uncertain future.

All you need is to take Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and then the country is won. Given the current economic situation, this is still true. For maximum effect, the Jasmine Revolution can only be carried out in these cities…and then other places will follow…

The most aggravated right now is probably the Central Propaganda Dept. and the State Council Information Office, working overtime trying to block any news about the MENA revolutions. With the overkill response from police, plus our public love of gossip, everyone will know what’s going on in no time.

Aye, everyone’s talking about Jasmine like crazy, but if it’s only us who wind up hearing about it, what’s the point? The people who need to hear about it are the one’s who can’t get here on Twitter. And with people talking about a revolution, is there even a viable plan? A group? Let’s hope this next stage of the Jasmine revolution isn’t just a reckless mad rush.

How much of the Party state Stability budget went into today’s farce of a “Jasmine revolution”? How much taxpayer money was wasted?

Today our company also received notice from the higher-up management department, the Public Security Bureau wants us to filter out a long list of words, but there doesn’t seem to be anything going on today. Inspections are for the 20th, and so many poor APIs got killed off, I just don’t see the point.

Sina Weibo really has started censoring functions, and now my screen is full of people who usually pay no attention to current events asking each other: did something big happen today?

I have this growing feeling that this is just a practical joke some ambitious young idealist decided to play on the Domestic Security Department as revenge for inviting him out to drink tea.

I can’t upload photos or post links to Sina Weibo now, and even the search box is gone. Are they seriously afraid there’s going to be a revolution?

Forget whether or not this is some performance put on by morons, or that there’s no organization, no discipline, no slogans or message, it’s still good for the comfortable and the starving alike to get out on the street once a week to get some exercise. People are worried this is a waste of taxpayer money, but come one, that money was going to be theirs whether this was happening or not. And even if that money wasn’t being spent on this, it still definitely wouldn’t be spent on you.

Next time they should choose a vegetable, much easier to find than flowers. Can you imagine everyone carrying around bok choy leaves? RT @mozhixu: Anyway, this Jasmine Revolution performance art wasn’t going anywhere: you can’t find Jasmine Flowers in the middle of February. Aye, city kids these days know nothing about floriculture.

The police officer said that even if this is a joke, it’s still being taken seriously. I laughed and said: You might get a bunch of police heading there only to discover another bunch of police already there, all dressed up as netizens. If they start fighting, then you get your Jasmine revolution. The officer gave a bitter smile.

This post was originally published by Global Voices Online

Photo Credits: Flickr CC x-ray delta onewang.liangliang

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