Asian Powers Comment on Turmoil in Egypt: 2011 Versus Now
The Egyptian military’s deposition of former President Mohamed Morsi has observers around the globe reflecting on how events have changed since the Arab Spring in 2011. This Post compares domestic viewpoints expressed then – from China, India, Russia, and Japan – to opinions in these countries now on the unfolding story in Egypt.
Read our 2011 Policy Alert for additional comparative views.
While China’s Foreign Ministry said it would ultimately respect the decision of the Egyptian people, media commentary echoed doubts expressed in 2011 that these kinds of “revolutions” could ever lead to democratic change in Egypt:
- “Color revolutions will not bring about real democracy,” ran the headline of an editorial in theGlobal Times. “Whether the [democratic] system is applicable in other countries is in question, as more and more unsuccessful examples arise,” said the Communist Party-sponsored English daily.
- The Global Times remained cynical about the “prospects of revolutions” bringing about real democracy, especially when it leads to the copying of “a Western-style democratic system.”The editorial predicted the Egyptian people will “soon get sick of the army” and how events play out will be a test of “whether a country can escape from post-revolution chaos.”
Additional sources shared these pessimistic concerns:
- A China Daily editorial felt the coup d’état “ignited deep worries that the most populous Arab country may plunge deeper into political crisis and social unrest.” The paper worried “divides and even hatred between different forces and factions will still exist after Morsi’s ousting” and will make reconciliation “difficult in the short term.”
- The South China Morning Post wondered why the Egyptian public was so quick to praise the army for deposing Morsi after decrying the military as “thugs” when it aided the collapse of former President Mubarak’s regime. Unless “all sides keep their bargain and are tolerant and understanding,” the paper declared “Egypt’s future will be bleak.”
- Xinhua reported that overthrowing Morsi may further complicate Turkey’s efforts to improve relations with Egypt and coordinate economic and foreign policy, especially on the crisis in Syria.
Editorials in leading newspapers did not express the same optimistic outlook they espoused after the end of Mubarak 30-year rule:
- The Hindu said “the Egyptian state has lost all legitimacy” and that “we are almost certainly witnessing a transformative moment in the modern history of West Asia.”
- The Hindu called the recent coup an “ominous development” after the Arab Spring seemed to “herald a genuinely democratic future for Egypt.” The editorial hoped that the military – despite its “long record of corruption and other abuses of power” – will “quit politics” or “else gains of the Tahrir Square revolution will be tragically lost.” This concern was shared in a Business Standardop-ed by Una Galani.
- The Indian Express characterized the Egyptian uprising as “a re-emergence of the Arab tradition of liberalism.”
- The Indian Express was surprised “how feeble in the end appeared to be the fidelity among protesters to the yearning for democracy that electrified Tahrir two years ago, and the so-called Arab Spring.” This view was shared by The Hindustan Times¸ which argued that recent events “dashed any hopes that what was sowed by the Arab Spring would lead to a speedy democratic harvest.”
Other media sources were more optimistic that the military coup was just a bump along Egypt’s path toward democracy:
- The Economic Times wrote, “This could well be the moment when democracy gets its chance in the Arab nations, India, the US and all other democracies should embrace the change in Arabia.”
- The Economic Times argued that Egypt is at another critical moment in its young democracy. If the military stays neutral and holds fresh elections, the paper thought that “democracy is poised to advance in Egypt.” The Hindustan Times also saw a “silver lining” in recent events, because “Islamicist politics has overplayed its hand across the Muslim world” and now sees “a zero-sum game between winning popular support and imposing the Sharia.”
- One op-ed in The Times of India said “Western governments, as well as India, should commit themselves to the establishment of full democracy in Egypt.” Another commentator saw this as a reaffirmation of India’s democracy, which has been key to domestic stability because it “allows for oppositional voice.”
- An editorial in The Times of India predicted turmoil in Egypt and around the globe in the coming years. The editorial viewed protests through the world – including anti-rape protests in India – as a common thread of “citizen anger that democracy has not brought accountability.”
In contrast to the low-key reactions of 2011, Russian editorials and official reactions responded smugly to Morsi’s ousting and blamed American involvement for the recent turn in events:
- Analysts attributed the lack of official reaction to worries in the Kremlin that events in Egypt could spark similar movements in Eurasia.
Russian authorities expressed worry that Morsi’s overthrow would spur instability in the Middle East:
- “The main consequence for Russia here will be that violence in the Middle East will be prolonged, with a civil war in Egypt becoming a real possibility,” said Geidar Dzhemel, chairman of the Islamic Committee of Russia and a well-known Middle East analyst.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed, adding, “Syria is already engulfed in a civil war, and no matter how sad it may sound, Egypt is also moving in the same direction.”
- “The Arab Spring has only led to chaos in Egypt and a bloody foreign-backed drama in Syria, war in Libya, a mess in Tunisia, and war in Mali,” tweeted Alexei Pushkov, the chairman of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee.
Similar to 2011, the Japanese press appeared preoccupied with Japan’s domestic politics, paying little attention to the events in Egypt:
- In 2011, the Asahi Shimbun called for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately. This time, its editors wrote, “The fundamental rules of democracy dictate that a popularly elected administration can only be replaced by popular vote. Whatever spin the military may put on what it has done, it is a coup d’état, plain and simple.”