© Associated PressChina's educated classes know their news is filtered
Media censorship is part of life in China and - though it may go against the Western belief that everyone is yearning for equal freedoms - many in China do, to a certain degree, acquiesce in the necessary evil of a system that has delivered untold prosperity.

It is not just that ordinary Chinese censor themselves (which they do, conscious of where the red lines are) but more than that, they also often actively support the government's view that some censorship is necessary to maintain stability.

It is possible to justify the need for censoring reports of kindergarten knife attacks (to avoid copycats) or even reports on Charter 08 and the Tiananmen Square killings which touch on the touchiest subject of all - one party rule. However, coverage of an international news event, such as the protests currently unfolding in Egypt, fits into a slightly different category.

These have been censored in China to the extent that official media is basically running a deliberately bland Xinhua news agency story, and even then burying it low-down the running orders of television news bulletins. Today's main lunchtime news showed no footage of the protests, only shots of Hosni Mubarak meeting officials.

There have also been reports of even the word "Egypt" being censored on China's domestic microblogs, although our researches today suggest that that censorship is being targeted only at comments deemed really unacceptable.

The Global Times, the nationalist tabloid produced by the People's Daily, has reported more on Egypt, but also been quick to emphasise the politically correct lessons to be drawn from the violence last weekend in which nearly 100 died.

In a commentary, the paper warned (as you might expect from the mouthpiece of a nervous autocracy) that such colour revolutions couldn't achieve real democracy and that stable economic foundations were required first as a foundation for democracy. None of this is surprising, but it is, to judge by the tone of comments on several Chinese online chat sites today, irritating to many educated, urban, middle class Chinese who feel they ought to be trusted enough to see straight reports of what's happening.

After all, the impacts of chaos in the Middle East, where import-dependent China sources vast amounts of its oil, are as important to a Chinese as to a westerner. All of our economies depend on oil.

Urban, educated Chinese routinely disparage the state broadcasters unutterably dull news output as really only fit for the simpler minds "you find in the villages", as an undergraduate at one of Beijing's elite universities memorably said to me recently.

They know the game, but it doesn't change the fact that no one likes being patronised. China's new middle classes deserve better than the infantilised news coverage they receive from state media - and what's more, they know it.