Politics: April 2008 Archives
I have spent the past few days in Canada, and everywhere I go people ask me about how China is reacting to the torch protests. I was a guest on the Al Ferraby show in Victoria this morning, and he too admitted that there is not enough information in Canada from China's point of view.
I'll be on a flight to Hong Kong in a few hours, so thought I'd pass this along in the meantime: A good friend has sent me a Tianya post which summarizes, in the author's view, why the west (and United States in particular) is protesting China. This student goes by the online name of 仁者无敌, which roughly translates into "The Benevolent Have No Enemy". He is a Chinese overseas student in Germany who recently attended a seminar called "Human Rights in Asia". (The full Tianya post - in Chinese - can be found here. The author provided the translation.)
1. Historic review
Human right problem of China became a focal point to criticize China only after the foundation of PRC. This was based on severe ideological conflict. When china became a rising power, the western countries consider China as a strong potential enemy. Human right becomes an important civil weapon against China.
2. Malicious strategy of the US
Since the iron curtain was established after the Second World War, the US started to lead the western party, fighting for its own global strategic profit against the communistic world. After the disassembly of USSR, China became the only remaining potential enemy power against American global supremacy. The US established a malicious strategy, putting china into a dilemma.
First, the US wanted to repeat the victory against the USSR - to force China racing on armament. To achieve this, they apply deterrent (threatening) against China with extensive military pressure. China was forced to develop its economy and military force as fast as possible. China made his best to make economic and military wonder, but the price for this ultimate efficiency was the depression of social morality, unjust and severe environmental pollution.
Then, the US used the human rights as a moral weapon. In one aspect, the human right was an effective factor to establish solidarity all over the world against China. In western world, the mentality was similar. Western people tend to pay more attention on individual rights. With this method, the whole western world, from government to people, can be united against Chinese government. In another aspect, the overflow of the criticism against human rights in china can provoke the attention of the Chinese people on the accumulating unjust. This decreases the trust of people to the government, accumulating the anti-governmental force.
The power of China is based on its united reign and stable social community. In Chinese history, none of the dynasties died because of being invaded. They died because of the unstable society, and the invasions were just catalyst. If the anti-governmental force is strong enough, the current Chinese government will be undermined, and this biggest potential enemy will be turned into a new colony of western countries. This is proven by the history.
3. Popular psychology of western people
Western culture was based on nomad culture. A very dominant feature of nomad culture is that when a tribe is strong enough, he will definitely invade other tribes to control more territories and more resources, because they will soon deplete their own resources in a limited time. This means that every rising power will be a future enemy. Actually, the history of China proved that china, based on agricultural culture, has never invaded other countries for more territories or resources. But as western people don't understand this because of the different basis of culture, severe misunderstanding exists.
Nomad cultures believe in jungle rule, while agricultural cultures don't. Based on this, the colonization history provides the western people an important mentality: superiority over Chinese people (as well as almost all the Asian people). Because of this superiority and arrogance, they don't want to make effort to understand Asian cultures.
But the rapid development of China challenges the superiority of western people. The daily life of western people is largely dependent on China. The economy of western countries (especially Europe) is closely connected with China. Nowadays, China is independent of western countries on most high technologies. If you don't sell a product to China, Chinese people will make it (even better ones) in a short time. If you don't sell are source to China, we can find enough in our huge territory. This kind of asymmetrical dependence, i.e. western countries depend on China while China is relatively independent on western countries, raised huge panic of western people.
Because of the misunderstanding of Chinese culture, western people believe that china is no more a potential enemy, but a practical enemy, an enemy against their superiority. No one wants his enemy to live happily. However, the life of western people is highly dependent on China. They don't have enough ability to change the situation in the near future. So they dare not to see that China is already strong and prominent. They dare not to confess that they are being exceeded by China. They dare not to confess that any change on Chinese policy will deeply affect their life. They dare not to see that China is developing. In a word, they dare not to admit the fact that the former "lower class" China, is defeating them. So they have to filter out all the positive facts in China. They want to collect all the dark side of China to persuade themselves that "China is still very bad". This ostrich psychology can only relieve themselves from panic for a short while.
The best proof is that in the 1980s, when China is still very poor, and the ideological conflict was largely relieved, there were very less criticism on human rights problems in China. When the time flies, in 1990s, there were more and more criticisms on human right problems.
4. Globalization: strike to the self-confidence of western people
It seems unbelievable, but it's true.
A couple of years ago, Hamburg lowered the salary standard of workers. The reason was that some big companies wanted to move their factories to China, resulting tens of thousands of unemployment in Hamburg. Everyone knows that China is the world factory because we have cheaper workers. The Hamburg workers have to lower their salary in order to keep their job. This is just an example of the general lowering of salaries in all western countries. This is a natural result of globalization, because globalization makes the whole world as an entire market. But lowering the salary means lowering the living standards. Of course the western people complain. It's very likely that they believe that China is the reason why they live worse than before.
Actually, the western companies in China make many serious human rights problems:
- They force Chinese workers to work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- They pollute the environment in China.
- They give extremely less salary to the workers, without paying any social insurance.
- They lower the protection of the workers, resulting many irreversible industrial diseases, but the companies refuse to be responsible for that.
Obviously, these problems are based on the greedy western capitalists, not China. They want to make more money, but they cause serious human rights in China, and also cause problems in western countries. Of course, these greedy capitalists won't confess that they are guilty for that. In their own country, they mislead the public opinion against China.
Since they have caused a lot of human rights problems in China, this is a good excuse to blame China.
Because of the historic and practical reasons, the western world, from government to people, would like to criticize China, especially on the human rights problems. Their aim of criticism is not to help Chinese people to live happier, but to try to make China poorer, less stable, less efficient, less developed, less challenging, less competent, and so on.
5. Sovereignty is the basis of human rights
The very basic human rights are the rights of survive, the right of development, and the right to keep his own dignity. The first line of German constitution is "The dignity of human beings is protected."
Without these very basic human rights, the other human rights are just Utopia.
In a country without its own sovereignty, the people there don't have those very basic human rights. We see the real examples in the history:
The US said that they wanted to bring human rights to Kosovo and Iraq. The US defeated their government and controlled those areas. But in those areas, do the inhabitants get more rights? They worry if they will be robbed or killed tomorrow. The US soldiers can torture man freely, rape women freely. That is the life without sovereignty.
If these areas are so far away from us, let's see the history of Germany in 1949-1950. An old German lady told me a story. After Germany was defeated, the French soldiers controlled her hometown. The Germans didn't have any rights. If the French soldiers were unhappy, they can catch any German freely and torture him or her, just for fun. The French soldiers lived in their beautiful house, and her family was driven into the small, cold and humid basement. She got serious problems in all of her joints - arthritis, till now. The French soldiers robbed her food. So her family was very often starved. Her neighbor was even starved to death. No one cares. Till now, this lady is still afraid of fireworks, because this will revoke her tragic memory. That is the life without sovereignty.
Besides the French soldiers, the Soviet soldiers raped over 2 million German women, according to the incomplete statistics. That is the life without sovereignty.
China suffered this kind of tragedy 70 years ago. We never forget that miserable history, and we don't want that this tragedy happens again to us. We don't want to be the second Kosovo, the second Iraq, or the second Germany, because we don't want a life without our own sovereignty.
Yes, you can write a long list, listing huge amount of cases that the individual human rights were broken in China. But this is much better than the semi-colony period. At least, now we have our very basic rights. Our rights to survive and rights of dignity are secured by our military force.
6. Force is everything
Basically; Chinese culture is based on agricultural culture. This basis determines that China won't be an invading country; China won't be an enemy against anyone, even when it's strong. But the western countries forced us to join the game of their jungle rule. Just like Napoleon's famous sentence "China is a sleeping lion. Don't wake him up." The western countries forced us to wake up. And this lion roars.
In this world, if we come to the international affairs, we clearly see that there is no virtue and morality. The only determinant is the force. Of course, this force includes military, economy and culture. Now China is accumulating strong force, and the other Asian countries are also developing. The Asian power is rising in the world.
The US also has many serious human rights problems. They might be just a little bit better than in China - if at all. Why the criticism against American human rights problems is so less in the world, comparing to the criticisms against China? Very simple, because the US is very powerful, much more powerful than any other current power in the world. So, according to the western philosophy and history, the best way of China to get rid of the criticism is that we develop our country until we are much stronger than any western country. At that time, it's our turn to criticize the western countries on the human rights, and no one dares to criticize us
Yes, we have problems. But we develop. Not like the western countries, we don't have colonies all over the world. We have to accumulate every single cent by our effort. We will solve these problems, but not immediately, not under the pressure of western countries. We will solve these problems by ourselves.
We live happily in Asia. We live happily without you western countries. We welcome the communication with good will, of course. But we have to keep our sovereignty, because this is the basis of all the other human rights. We have our own culture and we have our own standards. We don't have to accept your standards. We have our own way to develop. We don't have to follow your way. The history has proven many times: China is a very good friend to the friendly people, but will be definitely a nightmare to hostility.
If you really want to do something to help China to improve the human rights, please do three things:
- Stop your prejudice and hostility. Throw away your arrogance.
- Come to respect, understand and experience our culture deeply.
- Make the US less hostile to China.
If you can't do these, you, the western countries, should better shut up. You won't make things better. This is none of your business.
Human right is not an issue to discuss. Human right is an issue to fight for.
Events on Hainan Island this past weekend have created a potentially interesting international PR situation when it comes to Beijing's stance on its 'internal affairs of state.'
At this weekend's Boao Forum for Asia, Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Taiwan's Vice-President-elect Vincent Siew. Both agreed that Beijing and Taipei would restart official dialogue when the new administration in Taiwan takes over at the end of May. These talks have been frozen since 1999.
But what I find interesting, and something that the anti-Beijing establishment might be able to key on, is Beijing's willingness to open up political discussions with the leadership in Taiwan, while at the same time refusing to meet with the spiritual leadership of the Tibetans. Why has Beijing become so steadfast in its unwillingness to sit down with the DL, while at the same time enter into talks with the same political organization, the KMT, which was bent on destroying the CPC until it was chased off the mainland in 1949? I'm looking forward to hearing some of the arguments on this question. And, just for fun, I'm going to try to presume and respond to the one I think would be the CPC's argument to this point:
- The Dalai Lama is a 'splitist,' bent on Tibetan independence. So why should Beijing negotiate with someone who wants to break up the country. The people of Taiwan want to reunite with the mainland, so we're willing to talk with them.
Here's my two cents on this one: The Dalai Lama has been on record numerous times as saying that he just wants more autonomy for Tibet, not independence. Perhaps this is just a nefarious attempt to subvert Beijing's authority to the point where eventually independence will be reached for the Tibetan people. Who knows? But on the surface, the DL seems to be willing to make concessions to Beijing, so why not sit down with the guy and hammer some things out. And if it turns out that he was lying - and Beijing can prove it - then it's won. It's got its PR victory, and can just throw that in the face of anyone who says otherwise. And if it turns out the DL is as good as his word, then Beijing has still won, because it will likely quell any sort of complete independence movement within its borders, and can use the good will gesture to the Tibetan people as a PR victory to the world. But by not meeting with the DL and stoking up talks with Taipei, the anti-China establishment can use any forthcoming negotiations between Taipei and Beijing as a way to point out that Beijing says one thing and does another when it comes to its 'internal matters.'
Tomorrow marks a very interesting time politically for one of China's most important regional partners. Australian President Kevin Rudd will arrive here tomorrow to meet with his Chinese counterparts, the last leg of his first major international tour. And while the western media here is going to be focused on Rudd's thoughts on the torch relay and the situation in Tibet and the Chinese media is going to be focused on Rudd's support for the Olympics in China and his reiteration of support for the 'one-China policy,' one of the key challenges for the new Prime Minister, which is highly likely to go untalked about, is going to be the unsexy, but highly critical issue of Chinese investment in his country's resource sector.
I suspect that politically speaking, Mr. Rudd finds himself in a somewhat precarious situation when it comes to China right now thanks to natural resources. As most people are quite likely aware, Mr. Rudd - though new on the international political stage - is considered to be an old China hand. Given that he was a former diplomat here in China and speaks fluent Mandarin, there was quite a bit of buzz in China surrounding his election. As such, I suspect many people inside and out of government here in China are expecting Mr. Rudd to be somewhat pan-sympathetic to China's concerns on both a political and business front. And while he'll undoubtedly put on an impressive display in front of the cameras, say the right things and wow the Chinese media with his ability to take questions in Mandarin, behind the scenes is going to be a different story.
One must not forget that first and foremost, Mr. Rudd is an Australian politician that has to put both his country's interests, and his supporter's interests, ahead of what the Chinese government may be expecting of him. Though Mr. Rudd is considered somewhat on the right-side of the spectrum when it comes to his political leanings within his own party, Mr. Rudd was elected as the leader of a party which has strong union support within Australia, and is generally left-of-center. As such, if he wants to maintain his core support in Australia through his term in office, he's going to have to be cognizant of their concerns. And, undoubtedly, one of the issues concerning the union movement in Australia has to be China's recent moves toward acquiring more interests in Australian-based resource firms.The most recent example is Chinalco's February move to acquire a 9-percent stake in mining giant Rio Tinto. While 9-perecent might not seem like much, Chinalco has been making rumblings about acquiring more stake in the company. Perhaps this is why Australia's Resource Minister was quoted earlier this week as saying that his government had a responsibility "to maximize returns for Australia as a nation."
Everyone knows that China is sucking up energy and natural resources faster than an Auzzie can go through a jar of Vegemite. But if Beijing is expecting Mr. Rudd to open the flood gates when it comes to plucking his country's natural resources because he knows China, it may be in for a bit of a rude awakening.
I read a quote several weeks ago when the Tibetan unrest first began. I have searched for it since, but can't seem to find it. It was from a Chinese government official who claimed that Beijing knew there would be protests during this Olympic year, but they didn't know it would get this bad. If that's the naivete that BOCOG and the Chinese government are working under, I can't possibly fathom how this Olympic games will be a success.
There are such strong emotions on all sides, but I can't help but feel everyone is aiming their grievances in the wrong directions. Chinese people, largely, feel like foreign powers are ganging up on them, once again, to keep them from succeeding. They feel like foreigners are trying to muddy China's image and embarass them in their big moment. Because of this, chanting things like "Shame on China", which occurred in London, is counterproductive and naturally leads Chinese people to become defensive. The more protests and pressure put on China, the more the Chinese people rally around to defend themselves. The more people criticize China, the more China gets its back up, and the more rigid it becomes.
This is a spiralling situation. Protests occur to force China to improve its human rights, but China becomes even more firmly entrenched. Protesters grow weary that they have little effect, and become more violent and vigilant. China becomes even more firmly entrenched. This powder keg will continue until it blows at some point, and probably sometime between August 8th and 24th.
The whole situation is quite sad, and I can't help but feel the Chinese government bears the ultimate responsibility. It asked for the games and promised to improve its human rights in the process. It then ignored its own pledge. It then failed to foresee what a lightening rod the Olympics would become, when evidence of the controversy was right under its nose. It seems unprepared and surprised with what has transpired, and its lack of planning and foresight has tarnished the image of China and hurt the Chinese people. The Chinese government has always been good at dealing with foreign governments on a diplomatic level, but it is a bumbling amateur when winning the people outside of its borders.
Since arriving in China in 2004, my colleagues, friends, visitors, and people living in Canada have all mentioned at some time or another, that 2008 would be the year of the protests. Even people totally unfamiliar with China knew this was coming. So how did China drop the ball?