February 12, 2011 / 4:49 AM / 9 years ago

China paper warns Egypt of "nightmarish" instability

BEIJING (Reuters) - An official Chinese newspaper on Saturday called for stability in Egypt after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak and said foreigners should keep from intervening, offering Beijing’s first reaction to the Egyptian leader’s resignation.

The comments underscored that Beijing’s reaction to the upheaval in Egypt is likely to be more cautious, and more driven by concerns about its own internal control, than the welcome in Western capitals to Mubarak’s resignation.

“Following this extraordinary development, it is hoped that the Egyptian military, government and its people will make every effort to maintain social stability and restore normal order,” the China Daily newspaper said in an editorial.

“Social stability should be of overriding importance. Any political changes will be meaningless if the country falls prey to chaos in the end,” said the paper, China’s official English-language newspaper.

“Given Egypt’s status as a major Arab power of pivotal strategic importance, if the current situation continues to deteriorate, it will not only be nightmarish for the 80 million Egyptians, but also perilous to regional peace and stability.”

The editorial was the first extensive comment from China’s state-run media on Mubarak’s ouster on Friday after 30 years as Egypt’s ruler.

The Foreign Ministry later issued a brief statement, without mentioning Mubarak’s resignation or saying what had happened.

“China has been closely following the changing situation in Egypt and hopes the latest developments will help Egypt to restore national stability and normal order as soon as possible,” Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

“Egypt is a friend of China and we believe Sino-Egyptian relations will continue to develop in a healthy and stable manner.”

China’s Communist Party government is wary of any foreign upheavals that could reflect badly on its own authoritarian controls and it long been suspicious of what it sees as Western-led efforts to topple governments in other countries.

“Stability comes before all else,” is a slogan that Chinese officials sometimes use to sum up their domestic priorities.

Echoing comments from the Foreign Ministry in recent days, the paper said “what is happening in Egypt is an internal affair. It should be resolved without foreign interference.”

State television news reported on Mubarak’s fall without comment and did not show pictures of crowds in Cairo, while the Chinese-language People’s Daily newspaper ran a story on its third page, but made no editorial comment on the matter.

Many commentators have noted that Mubarak’s departure came on the 32nd anniversary of the Iranian revolution and 21 years since Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. Saturday was also the 99th anniversary of the abdication of the last emperor of China, who stepped down on Feb 12, 1912.

Chinese Internet sites have restricted public comment on the unrest in Egypt, apparently reflecting official worry that criticism of Mubarak’s regime could also turn on Beijing.

The popular Sina.com micro-blogging site, which operates like Twitter, told users searching for comment on Egypt that it could not be displayed for legal reasons, which it did not explain.

But discussion of Mubarak’s fall, both for and against, could nonetheless be found on blogs.

“The impact of this event will go beyond the Arab world,” wrote one Chinese blogger on Sina.com. “Faraway China will also feel its consequences.”

Reporting by Tom Miles, Chris Buckley and Zhou Xin; editing by Ron Popeski

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