The return of private newspapers in Myanmar after an absence of almost five decades has triggered envy and frustration among Chinese citizens who are wondering whether China, with its tight media controls, will ever follow suit.
After Chinese newspaper Beijing Times reported [zh] that the four private newspapers in Myanmar sold out as soon as they hit the news stands on 1 April, 2013, other Chinese media outlets picked up on the story, triggering a lively debate on China's most popular social media platforms.
China Daily newspaper editor Craig McIntosh commented on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo:
A great day for Myanmar. A free, unbiased and fair print media can play a huge role in protecting human rights and other freedoms.
Another news editor “Guilin Ribao Laona” wrote [zh]:
A small step for private newspapers, a giant leap for a country's democracy.
Most commentators, however, expressed frustration with China's own media censorship. “Xianshi Wangtian” wrote [zh]:
Congratulations to the people of Myanmar. The constitution in our country also says that Chinese citizens have the right to run their own papers, but when can Chinese citizens have the right according to the law? This is also the Chinese dream, when will it come true?
One user calling himself “ShanghaiJuice” replied:
That's not going to happen in China.
While another commented [zh] sarcastically:
It seems that Myanmar has stepped on the road towards democracy, and China will have less and less friends.
Another commentator called “Liushi Buhuo” echoed [zh] the sentiment:
After dozens of years of reform and opening, we can't even beat Myanmar or Vietnam, maybe after two more years, we will be even more backward than Cuba, perhaps there would only be North Korea left for us to compare.
“Hujin Wenyu”, in turn, suggested [zh]:
If so, How about running a Chinese newspaper in Myanmar?
One user expressed hope, however, writing [zh]:
Maybe that's also the future of China? Not sure how many years or decades it's gonna take though.