Hundreds of people have been arrested when rumors began circulating on the Internet that a coup was underway in the People's Republic of China. The posts alleged that military forces were taking to the streets of Beijing at a time when the Communist Party is set to determine its new leader. Chinese officials are now cracking down on blogs and social media, in the process of erasing "harmful messages".
This cycle seems to be particularly tense as opposed to previous years. The change in power has already seen the incrimination of one of the top contenders, Bo Xilai, when one of his top aides defected to an American embassy in March of this year. Mr. Bo is also linked to the death of a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who claimed to have been a part of his inner circle. Mr. Heywood was said to have had a falling out with Mr. Bo's wife following the defection of Mr. Bo's aide, and was said to have been fearing for his life ever since.
The moves by the Communist Party have put added pressure onto social networking sites to silence the rumors and to report incidences to the authorities, in order to maintain social harmony and balance within the country.
The rumors come at a tricky time for China, as they're also dealing with a potential increase of reform for the next several years. What kind of reform is going to be pursued is anyone's guess at the moment. The rumors of a coup certainly won't be helping the process along, and it may end up crippling efforts to bring about changes due to the heightened fear that reforms could lead to collapse of the Communist party's rule in China.
The shadow of the Soviet Union's collapse still hangs in the air of history, and if the Chinese leaders are at all worth their salt as leaders, the lessons of those events from the 1980's and 1990's will not be lost. Only time will tell if this kerfuffle will lead to any changes in the planned courses of policy in Chinese government. For now, let this stand as yet another interesting case in a country of vital significance in the world's economy and society, where things aren't as they seem behind the screens of power.