This week has been a momentous one for global politics.
It would be easy to be consumed by the bright lights, tickertape and digital barrage that was the US election, but we should also be mindful of the political events unfolding in the East as much those in West.
The 2012 US presidential election will go down in history for a number of reasons: Washington will remain Blue for another term; the US electorate re-elected its first black President; the political world finally embraced the digital, and social media came of age.”Four more years” was the tweet used by President Obama to announce his victory to the world and it soon became the most retweeted tweet in history – the figure currently stands at just over 800,000!
Throughout the campaign, both candidates invested heavily in co-ordinated social networking campaigns. This approach climaxed on results night with the Democrat using email and Twitter to announce his victory to supporters – even before the President had made his speech and other world leaders, such as David Cameron, took to the service to offer their congratulations.
To the East and movements in Beijing’s politburo were just as intriguing if not starkly different from Tuesday’s White House result.
Yesterday Chinese President Hu Jintao opened the Communist Party congress beginning a once-in-a-decade power transfer with a stark warning.
Addressing more than 2,000 delegates, President Hu said that “China faced unprecedented opportunities and challenges”, and the nation “must aim higher and work harder and continue to pursue development in a scientific way, promote social harmony and improve the people’s lives.”
Despite President Hu’s message around a new age of social harmony, China is still very much at odds with this and many other civil liberties.
Take the continued censorship and monitoring of the Internet and certain terms: for example, type Tiananmen Square into a Chinese search engine and it will return no hits – the new generation of China are at risk of literally having its history erased; surely simply putting a line through a country’s history – no matter how undesirable it may be to a regime – is not the way to promote a better future?
The US and China wield huge influence over the rest of the World, and both have much to offer. If China wants to truly promote social harmony over the next 10 years it should look to engage and empower its citizens by removing its prohibitive Internet censorship; and it could do a lot worse than take a leaf out of President Obama’s book when it comes to engaging the public through social media and digital channels.