China is edging closer to democracy partly because of the Internet but should avoid the deadly social unrest seen in countries such as Egypt, a state-run newspaper said in an editorial Thursday.
Chinese are increasingly able to make their voices heard through blogs and micro-blogs and do not need to protest, the Global Times daily said in an editorial under the headline "democracy doesn't have to start from revolt".
"The country's accountability system is working; many officials have fallen from grace after their scandals were exposed on the Internet."
"These things could not even be imagined five years ago," said the influential paper in its English and Chinese editions.
The editorial, which warns against emulating the violent street protests seen in Egypt, comes as China experiences several cases of labor unrest, amid rising prices and slowing economic growth.
The mass movements that have swept the Arab world since February, bringing down regimes in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, have worried Chinese authorities, who earlier this year launched a huge crackdown on dissent.
Rights groups say that up to 100 activists were warned, placed under house arrest or disappeared into police custody as Beijing tried to prevent a repeat of the Tiananmen democracy movement, which was violently crushed in 1989.
Protests are not new to China, as breakneck economic growth over the past three decades has widened the gap between rich and poor, given rise to major pollution and often fatal public health and safety scandals.
But the rapid growth of the Internet, and in particular China's Twitter-like weibos, or micro-blogs, has helped mobilize protests against perceived injustices.
"Democracy is a good thing, but is this also true when latest street protests in Egypt claimed dozens of lives?" said the Global Times, which is owned by China's Communist party mouthpiece The People's Daily.
"We need democracy, but a truly good democracy that will avoid autocracy, promote scientific decision-making, combat corruption, and more importantly, not give way to social unrest."