Published on 3 Feb 2011

Will Egypt follow the ‘Chinese example’?

Had a chat today with someone who worked in Whitehall for many years at a senior level looking at the Middle East.

I pass on what he had to say, conscious that I have no expertise whatsoever in this area but because his views struck me as very interesting and, as I watch pictures from Cairo now and Premier Suleiman on TV talking about “infiltrators” and “foreigners” and “a complete plot”, it looks particularly interesting.

Mubarak will, without doubt, follow the Chinese example, my contact said. By that, he said, he meant that after a few days of watching the demonstrators do their stuff, the clampdown comes. Ringleaders are rounded up and an air of menace is spread.

Chinese connections with Egypt are extensive but, as my contact put it, “they wouldn’t need a phone call explaining how it works, they’ve swallowed the book.”

They will also have been watching Tehran’s past disturbances and how they were put down. The army and police in Egypt are important career avenues for people from poorer backgrounds with no connections to exploit.  Most of these individuals will feel they have much at stake. “Doesn’t mean they’ll succeed,” my old Whitehall hand said, “but they will try.”

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4 reader comments

  1. Afar says:

    The Iran example (after the controversial presidential election) is very relevant. The use of plainclothes “thugs” in Tahrir reminds one of the basij in Tehran. Even occasional snipers. One imagines that there are actually two playbooks being referenced (or “swallowed”) in the current crackdown.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    This Whitehall “expert”……..He wouldn’t be one of those who sees “communism” behind all the woes of the world would he?

    If so, since China is the only “communist” nation left maybe he’s just doing his job of injecting poison where none exists.

    The Egyptian establishment is beholden to the Americans, not the Chinese.

    As for “swallowing the book,” that can only be the gospel according to Guantanamo concentration camp, and regular American invasions and assaults in Central and South America and genocides in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Phillipines amongst many others.

    If I were you I’d take your “contact” with a very large pinch of salt. As an analyst he sounds like he’d make a good bin man.

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