East vs West
China Wall Graffiti

Cultural Differences: Street Protests In Western and Chinese Societies

Disrupting Social Stability In China

Today, I saw an interesting thing in Chinese society.

Twenty people in a disciplined line were marching down the dusty streets of Guangzhou carrying placards in their hands and chanting.  Everybody curbside was looking.  It immediately got my attention.

I am looking at it thinking, “That is a protest!  They are pretty loud.”

Everyone in China is aware that there is a political ban on gathering in groups to demonstrate.

I was about to take a video.

Then I noticed the white signs with red writing on the placard, which said, “55元打折.”  It was a discount.  They were promoting their business, and not – as many people had mistakenly believed – disrupting social stability.

Street Protest Tactics In Western and Chinese Societies

I thought, if the Chinese government was really strict, they would not hesitate to stop them.  But, because it is a peaceful advertising campaign, despite looking dangerously like a protest, the security forces will not stop them.  I guess this is how you poke the bear, to see how it reacts – in this case – to protesting.

Because, besides the words on the placards, it has all the hallmarks of a protest.  The only next step one would have to take if one clearly wanted to challenge the establishment is to change the message conveyed on the placards.  Then it becomes a bona fide protest, one to be stopped by the government.

The Treatment Of Protests In Australia and China

You see no protesting in China.  Despite the grievances normal folk have, they just do not protest.

If I were a Chinese confined by my citizenship in this authoritarian country however, I would be protesting about the erosion of freedoms introduced by the intense screening security inside metro stations.  I would be exercising that same “right to protest” in Australia too.  As a citizen of Australia I have those rights.

If you protested in Australia, the police would come and say hello to you, build a safety perimeter around you, and probably give your protesting group some bottled water and words of praise.  They are not lightly going to attack you or arrest you, or take you to prison and keep you incarcerated indefinitely.  That is what the Chinese government is afraid of.

The ubiquitous security presence in China is a physical reminder of how intimately into the average citizen’s life the government seeks to establish itself.  Any form of protest against the Chinese government – no matter how subtle or small – will get cracked down on.

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