It seems that the seeds of the Jasmine Flower, the symbol of the Tunisian Revolution, have spread beyond the borders of the Middle East, wafting through the air and touching down in the Far East.
In Beijing on Sunday anonymous calls for protest sent across social media and micro-blogging sites resulted in a demonstration outside a McDonalds in the busy downtown shopping district of Wangfujing. By 2PM hundreds of police were on scene. 25-year-old Liu Xiaobai was apprehended for placing a jasmine flower in a planter in front of the McDonalds but was released after the commotion drew attention from photographers and journalists.
The world portrayed in China’s official media has a certain disconnect to reality. Hence the joke from ordinary Chinese: “When can my life resemble the one on CCTV”? Recently President Hu visited a woman in Beijing who said that she paid just 77 yuan in rent per month for low-income housing. Netizens immediately smelled foul play. They postulated that she was a public servant and had gotten the apartment through political connections. In all likelihood the woman really did qualify for low-income housing but the story shows how little credibility official media has among the tech-savvy middle class and how harshly the utopian world it portrays deviates from the daily life of most Chinese.
And to YouTube, and to Facebook. The crisis in Iran is still unfolding, and everyone is already proclaiming it to be the first revolution brought to you by the Internet. The Nation writes that “the outpouring of texts, tweets and video from Tehran has sparked a worldwide solidarity movement,” while Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic boldly pronounces that “Twitter will doubtless be cast as a protagonal technology that enabled the powerless to survive a brutal crackdown and information blackout by the ruling authorities.” Andrew Sullivan updates his blog constantly with new tweets, even changing his colors to green in solidarity; Meanwhile Jon Stewart makes light of the fact that the CNN newsroom has basically turned into a bunch of people logging into MySpace.