China: Playing Revolution on Twitter

Have the Chinese caught the freedom flu, or is China's Jasmine Revolution a bunch of amplified wishful thinking spread almost exclusively on Twitter? Why was everything posted on Twitter? Why is there no leadership? Numerous arrests have been made, computers and cellphones seized and, already, charges of [correction: inciting] state subversion have been laid.

Other questions floating around: Was the original anonymous Boxun post part of an elaborate sting operation aimed at silencing those who Beijing authorities feel might give growth to a movement in the months or years to come? Or, as well-known Beijing-based liberal commentators and heavy Twitter users Mo Zhixu and Stainless Steel Mouse (along with many others) feel, and with a second round of protests coming this weekend, did authorities, through their heavy-handed response, take what looked like something of a joke at their (and taxpayers’) expense and give it inertia?

Thoughts on these and more from Mo and Mouse over the past few days are aggregated below, but first, a sample of the myriad things that have been tweeted since this started:
昨天中文推特发推量达到227K,达到有史以来的最高纪录 #twittercn
11:10 AM Feb 21st

Isaac Mao: 227,000 Chinese language tweets were posted yesterday, an all-time record high.
早上一来,收邮件发现有一封来自某IDC机房的紧急通知,看后才知道,原来在周末发布的关键字屏蔽列表里,居然还有“梅花革命 牡丹花革命 映山红(金达莱)革命 葵花子政变”……

10:05 AM Feb 21st
Kevin Li: First thing this morning I checked my e-mail, found an urgent notice from my IDC server room. Reading it was the first I'd heard that this weekend's banned word list contains things like ‘plum blossom revolution,’ ‘peony revolution,’ ‘azalea revolution,’ ‘sunflower seed coup'……
10:16 AM Feb 20th

Alice 7vong: I got a text message from my class leader: “Urgent notice from the Ministry of Education, all students are required to remain on campus today (Feb. 20th) and are not allowed to leave (Please don't ask me why, because I don't know either).” //Because of the “Jasmine Revolution”? Jiong…last night a classmate called me up to go out for some hometown snacks, turns out we're on lockdown so I couldn't go…
8:49 PM Feb 19th

Zokio: The Jasmine Revolution is just a practical joke, it'll be over the second anyone takes it seriously. What took the Soviet Union down was Reagan's virtual reality-ism plan—it crumbled against his “Star Wars” initiative. Ge You said it best: Whoever gets stirred up is done in for.
8:19 PM Feb 20th

Utopian1989: Was just eating with a friend when the Hong Kong news came on with a report on the Jasmine Revolution, followed by the revolutions in Bahrain and Libya. Sigh, this world is changing too fast. But I feel more that it's been too long since it last changed, I still have hope that it will change, within our lifetimes, too.
9:03 PM Feb 20th

Utopian1989: Oh how I wish I was in Beijing now, out on the street with him. We'd buy a bottle of Jasmine tea and share the joy of being alive. We'd march together, then go home together, and with the now-changing China together, watch the Jasmine flower bloom.
真正的弱势群体没有加入到这次活动中来,比如地下教友、复原军人、失地农民、下岗职工、城市贫民、法轮功等等。。。所以说,今天只是开始。。。 #cn220 #freechina
11:08 PM Feb 20th

SamuelInCn: The truly disadvantaged groups haven't joined in with this, like underground churches, rehabilitated soldiers, landless farmers, the laid-off former SOE employees, the urban poor, Falun Gong, etc…which is why today is just the beginning…
4:51 PM Feb 20th

Jia Jia: This gathering is one big joke, but they think it's for real. Seems they've gotten caught up in their own web. If a crowd gathers, it'll for the most part be due to the excess size of police forces. But to be honest, their battle posture will definitely frighten people. Many families with children will leave quickly, worried something will happen. Everybody senses that something big is about to happen, but they also find it unimaginable.
5:18 PM Feb 20th

Jia Jia: In a word, keep on hoping that the right information keeps spreading quickly and far. Otherwise, judging from today, assemblies with no goal or demands or clear action will be easily dispersed in the name of maintaining public order. This is a joke, all people did was inspect the well-equipped police force raised on taxpayer money, didn't even lose a minute of sleep.
最好玩的还于,他们和外部世界都以为是真的。于是一坨屎盆子自己倒在自己头上。。。RT@_ym: “爸爸讲个故事吧喵~”“很久很久以前,有个宅男吃着泡面费着纸,在秘密树洞发了个推,让世界上¼的警察走上街头,让我的api挂了喵…”
5:32 PM Feb 20th

Jia Jia: The funniest part about this is they and the rest of the world took this seriously. Then a pile of bedpans got dumped on their heads… RT @_ym: “Daddy, tell me a storrrry” “A long, long time ago, a home-aloner finished his noodles and soiled his kleenex, then sent a tweet out the shudong. Then 1/4 of all police on earth filled the streets, and then my API got blocked…”
5:39 PM Feb 20th

‘Knock Down the Berlin Wall': Even though what happened today was a complete practical joke, the police and domestic security agents can't really go back and say they got bad intelligence, so instead they report back that they arrested this and that dangerous element with excellent results. Their higher-ups will hear this and celebrate then smugly say: Lucky we're so good at what we do! We annihilated this revolution while it was still in the crib.
3:32 PM Feb 20th

Tang Baiqiao: The CCP is almost finished, just look at what a shabby job those new 50 Cent Party members did and you can see they don't have much time left. Each and every one of them look desperate like they're backed up against a wall. Even clueless people have started to see through it now: a dog backed into a corner would go to such lengths.
3:46 PM Feb 20th

Tang Baiqiao: Goodnight, everyone. The Jasmine Revolution rehearsal is over. Tomorrow I'll write a post summing it up. Everyone seems to think that large numbers of police and domestic security agents have been mobilized all across the country. How scared are the rulers? And those pathetic 50 Cent Party members, our lives may be in vain, but what you've done is tarnish the image of the CCP and shown people its true ugly face. Your hard work has paid off, just not the way you intended. Though, even worthless 50 Cent Party members should not overdo it.
7:05 PM Feb 20th

No_Z_turn: So today the CCP practices shutting down a cyber revolution? Even when XXX went XXX, there wasn't this big a response! With “the old friends of the Chinese people” overthrown now, it seems their turn is next.
现在看来这次国内所谓的鲜花革命是一场由网民倡导,由党中央响应和领导,由各级维稳部门倾力参与,由民主人士全力配合,由人民群众围观鉴赏的后现代民主主义革命。 #cn220
1:59 PM Feb 20th

Yinxin Gongzi: Seems now that this domestic so-called flower revolution was initiated by netizens, but the Party Central Committee's response has been to take lead and force Stability departments at every level to take part. A postmodern democratic revolution with the full cooperation of democracy advocates and the masses standing around to appreciate it.
4:24 PM Feb 19th

He Xilou: The eruption of the Xinhai revolution should tell us that in China at that time, all hope of political leaders improving society was dead and political changes had to be carried out by leaders within society.

See more photos from the Beijing branch of the Jasmine Revolution here. Also building on the idea that China's Twitter users intended Sunday's gatherings as a joke but went out of curiosity were tweets like these:
10:37 PM Feb 19th

Hangzhou-based journalist Zan Aizong: Tomorrow is Sunday. This week, on the 20th, is there anything happening? I'll be going to church.
12:54 PM Feb 20th

Guangzhou-based journalist LangziChn: I'm off to the bookstore on Beijing Rd.
1:13 AM Feb 19th

Shanghai-based lawyer Li Tiantian (status unknown following her arrest Saturday night): I definitely have to go to the Shanghai Book City near People's Square this Sunday, I haven't been to the bookstore for ages. Is anyone else going to the bookstore?
1:17 AM Feb 19th

Li Tiantian: I think that at 2pm on Sunday, I'm going to go to People's Square and give people free directions.
上海人民广场附近很多酱油。@leqing77: @litiantian 那附近哪里能打酱油?
1:56 AM Feb 19th

Li Tiantian: There's lots of soy sauce for sale around Shanghai's People's Square. RT @leqing77: @litiantian Where can I get some soy sauce near there?

Mo Zhixu's Jasmine tweets from Saturday through to Monday:

12:24 PM Feb 19th
靠, 啥中国茉莉花,整个就是闪客行动嘛,作为老一辈闪客行为艺术家,我感到压力很大;

C'mon, a Jasmine Revolution in China? This is just a big flash mob, that's all. As an older generation performance artist, I think I just might have to cope with this.

12:39 PM Feb 19th

But I think, this Chinese Jasmine Revolution is a great performance art idea. International, trendy, fashionable, whether you're grassroots or an official, it'll fail if people take it seriously; Revolutions don't get sparked by performance art installations, they can only be sparked by mistakes Zhongnanhai makes….

Sun Feb 20 2011 00:29:12

Chengdu police have made a huge mistake this time. Given Ran Yunfei's temperament, there's no reason he shouldn't be let go tonight. Even little girls will get frightened if they keep him, and then there will definitely be something happening after that!

Sun Feb 20 2011 10:41:41

They way they've given no thought to expanding political participation and gradually opening up the system, instead trying to use up the entire system's resources to manage society, I actually think that's not a bad idea, means no more chatter about implementing political reforms.

Sun Feb 20 2011 14:41:14

A policeman just asked me solemnly what exactly is going on. I guess he's just as confused as upstairs is. I explained a bit and said there's no need to worry, this is all just performance art, people jumping over the Great Firewall of China and whatnot. I think he hung up just as confused.

Sun Feb 20 2011 16:08:45

The Jasmine Flower never blossomed, so why haven't they released people yet?

Sun Feb 20 2011 17:35:22

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.

Mon Feb 21 2011 02:42:07

The thing about this “Jasmine Revolution” performance art, taking it seriously was bound to fail. But authorities did, which is why they lost. I think even department head Wu Hao was smarter than that, smart enough to just play along, which is why he got back so much…I strongly suggest department head Wu Hao be promoted!

And Stainless Steel Mouse's tweets through to today. Stainless Steel Mouse, it should be pointed out, is both a close associate of Liu Xiaobo's as well as vocal holder of the belief that he and others sympathetic to the causes of freedom and human rights should be in prison, if Beijing authorities are so willing to incarcerate people based on their writings alone. She is also known for her translation of works such as A Force More Powerful.

Sat Feb 19 2011 01:39:20

There's more than one McDonald's at Wangfujing

Sat Feb 19 2011 12:17:12

What happens tomorrow if the Party runs into a bunch of shoppers?

Sat Feb 19 2011 12:22:10

Yelling you want food to eat right in front of McDonald's, that's hilarious.

Sat Feb 19 2011 12:28:31

Really, this wasn't my stupid idea.

Sat Feb 19 2011 15:13:46

It would be a good idea though to buy a bunch of Jasmine flowers and sell them on the street tomorrow, right?

Sat Feb 19 2011 15:14:42

Or would selling tea turn a better profit?

Sat Feb 19 2011 15:17:44

Everyone getting called out to drink tea these two days, they're all drinking Jasmine tea

Sat Feb 19 2011 18:12:00

Will Jasmine flowers be banned from Happy Farm on Kaixin001 tomorrow?

Sat Feb 19 2011 22:42:42

The main force behind tomorrow's action will be police. People should note that large numbers of police will be gathered at all the preset rally locations.

Sat Feb 19 2011 23:11:41

I support revolution, as a chance to sell flowers at inflated prices; I support self-immolation, as a chance to sell lighters at inflated prices; I support throwing bricks, as a chance to sell bricks at inflated prices…..

Sat Feb 19 2011 23:33:04

Revolutions should be like book readings at San Wei Bookstore: once a week, with the location chosen at the last minute.

Sun Feb 20 2011 14:38:17

How exactly did today come about? Nobody actually knows, but the Party at least has gone crazy, wahahaha

Sun Feb 20 2011 14:42:54

McDonald's must be having good business today

Sun Feb 20 2011 18:02:05

When you make your strategy public, you force your opponent to adapt.

Sun Feb 20 2011 21:36:15

This so-called revolution, it's A standing and watching B, B standing and watching C, C standing and watching D, and D standing and watching A. Then the revolution is complete.

Sun Feb 20 2011 21:37:25

This so-called revolution, it's only the Party that thinks there could be a revolution, so it mobilized a massive police presence to suppress it, and in the end the revolution began.

Sun Feb 20 2011 23:06:47

If you look at either Charter 08 or this Jasmine Revolution, if the Party hadn't responded with such force, they probably wouldn't have gone anywhere. Which is why I'm saying they created the revolution themselves.

Sun Feb 20 2011 23:11:36

In other words, as long as the Party sees this or that as a threat, then it's guaranteed to become a threat; if the Party suspects a revolution is coming, then one is guaranteed to come.

Mon Feb 21 2011 05:59:34

Nobody knew beforehand if anyone would actually show up. For next time they should consider carefully what to do after people gather, how to explain themselves to everyone who gathers around to watch.

Mon Feb 21 2011 06:10:33

A revolution needs to make full use of its environment.

Mon Feb 21 2011 08:11:44

Today's is the age of conspiracy, not the age of plots. The Party still thinks it can find someone running things from behind the scene, when it's possible there is no one standing behind the scene. The original author of the post on Boxun could just as well have been someone that nobody's ever heard of; people took to the streets because they wanted to. This didn't need anyone to organize.

Mon Feb 21 2011 08:20:30

Many things are the result of how people influence each other, and not because there's some bad guy behind the scene calling the shots.

Mon Feb 21 2011 08:29:41

Nobody directed us to action, we all adjusted our action based on information coming from abroad. For comparison, in a free market nobody directs buyers and sellers to conduct transactions. Both sides adjust their behavior based on price signals.

Mon Feb 21 2011 08:34:01

The information based on which we decide to take action is itself the result of someone else's action; we don't even need to communicate directly with other people in order to engage in cooperation with them.

Mon Feb 21 2011 08:37:32

Therefore, we don't need to organize crowds just to start a movement. We can launch a movement just through movement itself.

Mon Feb 21 2011 08:43:57

Violent revolutions love plots, but people's uprisings don't need them, Romania for example happened spontaneously.

And today:

Regarding turning yourself in, doing it alone is kind of a waste. If you're going to surrender, you should find a group to do it with. If it's performance art you want, you have to get a bunch of strangers to turn themselves in together.

Everyone rushing to claim leadership, now there's some real performance art.

Otherwise just don't bother with having a leader. You know, I think this thing might have even been planned by some artificial intelligence.

Otherwise, come this Sunday, everyone will just turn themselves in.

In fact, leaderless revolutions can succeed too. For example, people could choose their gathering locations based on the Nasdaq index

Look, the Jasmine Revolution is just an act of performance art, why are people talking about people's heads rolling? That's a bit of an exaggeration.

The people being arrested now have nothing to do with Jasmine, older revolutionaries aren't taking part, the people who are taking part are all fresh. The Party's in a pickle.


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