This week, a search for ‘India corruption’ on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, Sina Weibo, produced 21,304 tweets.
Across urban China, and notably from Shanghai and the booming south coast, Chinese netizens are fearlessly rooting for Indian anti-corruption protesters even as some government-run newspaper editorials report the campaign to highlight the drawbacks of democracy.
“How come there’s no one like Hazare in China? Look forward to that!”' posted Guaiguagua from Shanghai.
At a time when a section of Indian society is disillusioned with the slow pace of democratic development as compared to the China model, Chinese netizens are pointing out that Indians, at least, are empowered to change and criticise their government.
The Weibo account of China’s investigative magazine, Caijing, received nearly 200 comments for a post referring to Hazare as the New Gandhi. “Economically, hard to say, but the (Indian) political system is definitely better than China’s,” replied a netizen in southern Fujian to the Caijing tweet.
“When will China’s corruption, which is worse than India’s, explode?”' asked a netizen from southern Guangzhou.
“Nice. At least their people dare to go on the streets. That’s an improvement!”' tweeted Free Will and Personal Responsibility from central Hubei.
In contrast to the outspokenness of Chinese netizens, Indian residents in Beijing who are following the Hazare campaign online were reluctant to speak on record because Chinese authorities may disapprove of their belief in protests.
A group of NRIs considered submitting an anti-corruption memorandum to the Indian embassy in Beijing, but finally dropped the idea fearing action by Chinese authorities and corporate bosses.
Indian anti-bribery websites this year inspired the launch, and later censorship, of Mandarin versions in China.
Perhaps wary of sparking comparisons and protests in China, the government-run newspapers report the story almost daily but do not play it up.
“Some Chinese intellectuals think that democracy could effectively curb the spread of corruption,” said a recent Global Times editorial. “However, it didn’t happen in India.”
On Thursday, it published a cartoon of Hazare and Gandhi under the caption: Hunger for change.
On August 18, when the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, Hu Xijin, tweeted that India’s corruption is worse than China’s and an anti-corruption ‘tsunami’ has hit India, he received a volley of counter-arguments from Chinese micro-bloggers. “You’re making this up,”' commented Shanghai-based ‘Zhipeitaigang’ on this post. “China’s corruption is not transparent, it’s like a black box.”
On Hazare’s recent arrest, a netizen named ‘Ancient machine’ from southwest Sichuan posted: ‘At least they didn’t send the tanks’.
India ranked 84 compared to China at 79 on the Transparency International corruption index in 2009. A search
for ‘government corruption’ on Sina Weibo yields over 26,000 comments. Last year, a five-city poll found that citizens believe corruption is the ‘biggest blot’ on China’s image.
“We know Hazare is the right person to fight corruption,” said software professional Peeyush Gupta who keenly follows the news from Beijing. “When I travelled in China since two years, I was really surprised to see that development works here.”
Chinese netizens may say Gupta has only seen the surface. “If not curbed, corruption can cost the Party the trust and support of the people,”' China’s President Hu Jintao warned on the ruling Communist Party's 90th anniversary in July.