Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Blog-On-Blog: Iran and China

Posted by K.E. White on June 26, 2009

Protests in Iran seem on the verge of being stamped out. But the question of these demonstrations effect has filled the web. Two interesting observations involve China: 1) Why is China reacting so cooly to events in Iran and 2) Will Iranian demonstrations follow Tienanmen Square’s trajectory?

FP’s offers this blog noting the age demographics of China and Iran from 1970-2020. The key point: Youngsters like to revolt (duh!). Current Iranian unrest and China’s ’89 protests both occurred during youth-bulges; and both occurred on the precipice of significant aging within the population. Tentative conclusion: Iran’s population will grow more compliant to their repressive regime.

(Update 12:37 pm- This Brookings op-ed delves a bit deeper into Iran’s youth-problems)

I don’t put too much stock in this age variable alone. Is it just a youth bulge? Is it a large number of ‘frustrated’ youth–i.e. men unable to get married; women hungry for great freedoms; or large numbers of unemployable–thus disaffected–college graduates of both genders? Or is it all these components together with a triggering event–perhaps a stolen election?)

But more important, in my mind, is this: of the many differences between China and Iran histories, regime type stands out. A key component of the Islamic state’s legitimacy–internally and externally–comes from its quasi-democratic practices. This does not negate Iran’s shift to a more authoritarian regime; but while today’s ‘youth-bulge’ recede, cynicism in a long-standing electoral process will leave a distinctive mark on Iran’s current regime.

The impact? We’ll have to wait and see. But it won’t simply be ’89 China redux.

And there’s this thought-provoking blog (James Fallows at The Atlantic) on China’s cool response to developments in Iran.

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