For a time, it was perceived that the power of the Jasmine Revolutions would somehow find its way to Asia. Unfortunately, this has proven to be more optimism than reality. How is it that the countries in the Middle East and North Africa are able to stage their peaceful revolution while Vietnam and China seem nearly unshaken by this ordeal? There are several factors that have contributed to the prevalence of the totalitarian regimes. The biggest reasons why the Communists have the upper hand lie in the Communists’ revolutionary expertise, the Confucian orthodoxy of Asian society, and the peoples’ vague knowledge of true democracy.
The most obvious obstacle of all stems from the brutality and sophistication of the Communist system. These people have descended from the most brutal of dictators like Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, and Joseph Stalin. Born and bred in the revolutionary arts, they are systematically trained to brainwash, capture, and eliminate anyone or anything that poses a threat to the Party. In a matter of speaking, the Communists have trained their men to think like robots. Obey the government, and nothing else. The massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989 should show how far the Communists will go to cling to power. They killed their own people, and are prepared to do it again.
Another very strong reason why the autocrats have been so strong in Vietnam and China comes from the Confucian aspect of Asian society. The teachings of Confucius always preached the greatness of the emperor and how the people should submit to him, no matter what the cost. And because the people of Vietnam and China followed these teachings more than 2000 years, it is enshrined in both cultures that the government goes unchallenged. The Communist leaders are viewed as the new emperors, and this Confucian aspect of Asian society stands in the way of a true popular uprising in both countries.
Lastly, having never experienced the true potential of democracy, the people of Vietnam and China have no clear foundation to establish themselves. It is true that South Vietnam was once democratic, but that generation is slowly withering away. Some intellectuals studying abroad have learned about democracy, but they have been shut out and silenced by the overbearing strength of the Communist system. Furthermore, the northern half of Vietnam has never experienced democracy, and are even less capable of conceptualizing the idea of democracy. They think Communism is all there is, and is what always will be.
The brutality and ruthlessness of the Communist system has created a powerful barrier, preventing the people from rising up. The teachings of Confucius, which teaches the people to respect and submit to the emperor, reflected today by the Communist Party, helps blur the fact that these governments are completely incompetent. Finally, even if the people of Vietnam and China were to stage their revolutions successfully, they need to learn more about democracy in order to establish a sustainable foundation. Before these issues get revolved, a popular uprising in Asia is highly unlikely.
That being said, nothing is written in stone. Just because the country is faced with these challenges, it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. The old Communists may have found ways to suppress the population, but that does not mean that these methods will work forever. One courageous act can change the course of history, and in the end, the fate of the country will lie in the hands of the people. The non-intellectuals of Vietnam and China may not know about democracy, but in this age of endless information, this situation can be fixed very quickly. Those who follow the teachings of Confucius should take a second look at the “Mandate of Heaven,” and finally see that the current regime has lost all legitimacy, and that it is time for a change. To the people of Asia, to the people of the world, press on. Never give up.