Events in the Middle East are reverberating throughout the world, but no government is as committed to squashing domestic protests as is the leadership in Beijing. The government there has begun a crackdown against liberal voices in China. This seems to be a systematic effort that includes control of communications, beefing up internal security, arrest and prosecution of progressives, and even extralegal mechanisms.

We say "seems" because the Chinese government claims to have no hand in recent events. China's lack of transparency provides deniability, but there is no mistaking Beijing's concern about stability and maintaining social harmony, no matter what the cost.

"Social management" has been identified as a top priority at meetings of senior national and provincial leaders. At the recently concluded National People's Congress, the Chinese government unveiled the 12th Five Year Blueprint on Economic and Social Development. This document focuses on public security, in particular containing and reducing the tens of thousands of mass-demonstration incidents that now occur in China each year. The Chinese plan includes measures that range from increasing the number of "volunteers" who will keep an eye out for and respond to unrest to beefing up the budget for public security forces. For the first time, the official budget this year spends more money on public security ($95 billion) than the People's Liberation Army ($92 billion).