Why we should fear China

By Ian Boyne (story taken from phayul.com)

The fact that most discussions about China focus on its astounding economic and industrial success rather than on its continued autocracy and suppression of human rights again highlights our distorted values and obsession with materialism.

China is today using – quite successfully and with our complicity – its phenomenal and dazzling economic prowess to mask its backwardness and underdevelopment in terms of civil liberties and political democracy. At the end of the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama triumphantly proclaimed The End of History, a book which was to become famous among scholars and intellectuals.

According to Fukuyama, with communism decisively beaten and the free-market system left with no rivals, history as a struggle over ideology had terminated. Democracy and free markets had won, with their competitors totally discredited. But in a brilliantly argued essay in direct allusion to Fukuyama, the now oft-quoted scholar on international relations, Robert Kagan analyses ‘The End of Dreams, Return of History’ in the August/September issue of the respected Policy Review journal.

“The Cold War may have caused us to forget that the more enduring ideological conflict since the Enlightenment has not been between capitalism and communism, but between liberalism and autocracy,” says the highly engaging scholar. Continues Kagan: “The European monarchies of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were thoroughly convinced of the superiority of their form of government. They disdained democracy as the rule of the licentious and greedy mob. Only in the past half a century has liberalism gained widespread popularity around the world. If two of the world’s largest powers (China and Russia) share a common commitment to autocratic government, autocracy is not dead as an ideology.” This is the essence of the Chinese threat to the global democratic order.

Great Power

My worry over China’s rise as a great power has nothing to do with Western chauvinism and racism which resent the rise of “yellow power”. It is not premised on any belief in America’s Manifest Destiny and its Divine Right to be the world’s unchallenged superpower. It is not fuelled by any belief that the Chinese are not suited to superpower status or that the Chinese people are inherently inferior to Americans or Europeans.

My fear concerns China’s failure at political reform. My fear is that an autocratic great power will have little interest in reining in autocratic regimes globally and might provide a model of autocracy with economic development. My fear is not irrational: Witness China’s support for autocratic regimes in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, North Korea and its support for an illiberal regime like Chavez’s in Venezuela.

Westphalian notions

China conveniently clings to Westphalian notions of the supremacy of sovereignty and territorial integrity even in the face of genocide and brutally oppressive regimes. When the international community is moving toward a concept of “the responsibility to protect” and stressing the international community’s moral obligations to citizens rather than to the Governments which happen to be ruling their territories; and when it is accepted that human rights norms are universal and trump the rights of states over their peoples, authoritarian regimes like China and Russia hide behind the cloak of national sovereignty to disguise their totalitarian instincts.

“Chinese leaders will always be extremely reluctant to impose sanctions on autocrats when they themselves remain subject to sanctions for their own autocratic behaviour,” Says Kagan in his Policy Review piece. So China has used its Security Council position to block efforts to stop the genocide in Sudan.

An autocratic state like China’s gaining more power in the global system is a threat to democracy and liberty everywhere.

This is not an attack on the Chinese people whom I believe deserve liberty and liberal democracy, just as any Westerner deserves it. Every Chinese in the Diaspora should support freedom of conscience, freedom of assembly and freedom of the Press for their Chinese brothers and sisters at home. They should join me in lobbying against the dictators who hold their brothers and sisters in bondage – all 1.3 billion of them. In terms of democracy and civil liberties, China is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Only the Chinese dictators and their paid servants in their embassies could deem logical the view that the U.S. President’s receiving and having a meeting with the Dalai Lama constitutes “interference in its (China’s) domestic affairs by another country”, as the local Chinese embassy said in a fatuous reply to me in last Sunday’s In Focus. In that embarrassingly unconvincing response, the local embassy sets up a straw man by saying I was not acknowledging Tibet as a part of China. Nothing of the sort was said, but that is standard communist distortion.

The Dalai Lama has not been calling for Tibetan secession, but for real autonomy which does not exist.

The reputable U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, in its independent task force report issued in May this year and titled US-China Relations: An Affirmative Agenda, A Responsible Course says, “Chinese efforts to develop Tibet have occurred with little meaningful participation by the local populations in decision-making. In fact, in important respects autonomy is nowhere more constrained than in China’s so-called autonomous regions living standards have improved across the board, the bulk of the profits have flowed into the pockets of Han migrants rather than local minorities”

Tibetan protesters of Chinese oppression have been brutally put down.

The communists have been legendary for their “paper rights”. Their constitutions speak loftily and hypocritically about all manner of rights which they in practice routinely deny. No less an agency than the U.S. State Department, no enemy of China, says in its 2006 country report on Human Rights Practices (issued March this year) “Although the constitution asserts that ‘the state respects and preserves human rights’, the Government’s human rights record remained poor and in certain areas deteriorated. There were increased number of high-profile cases of monitoring, harassment and imprisonment of journalists, writers, activists and defence lawyers, many of whom were seeking to exercise their rights under the law.” Ignore the cant contained in the response of the local Chinese embassy.

The US’ 38-page report on China gives great cause for alarm and is a horror story, despite that country’s impressive economic strides detailed so well in the World Bank’s book I issued this year, Dancing With Giants.

The Council on Foreign Relations’ task force report says, “the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has maintained its authoritarian grip, restricting political activities and suppressing criticisms directed at the basic principles underlying CCP control. Political reform has stalled and there has been backsliding in respect for international norms of human rights under President Hu Jintao.”

The 2007 Human Rights Watch Report on China says, “human rights conditions in China deteriorated significantly in 2006. Authorities greeted rising social unrest-marked by violent confrontation between protesters and police-with stricter controls on the Press, Internet, academics, lawyers and non-governmental organisations. The Chinese Government continues to use a vast police and state security apparatus to enforce multiple layers on critics, protesters and civil society activists.”

I ask of my Chinese brothers and sisters in Jamaica: Is that what you want for your fellow Chinese in the homeland? If freedom and democracy are good enough for you in Jamaica and the West, why is it not good enough for those on the mainland? What gives the present rulers of China the moral right to deny 1.3 billion people the right to democratically choose their Government, freely roam the Internet, publish and buy whatever newspapers and magazines they want and the right to practice whatever religion does not advocate violence?

Is it enough that they are lifting millions out of poverty and that they are providing more luxury items and giving the people more bread, as it were? Can man live by bread alone? Do you measure progress purely in the material? Don’t human beings deserve more than to be fed, housed and entertained? Isn’t freedom of the will essentially what our humanity is about? If a state denies that does it not dehumanise? Then how can we judge China as a success? Our values are warped if we do!

Says Human Rights Watch in its 2007 report: “During 2006 the Chinese Government and communist party officials moved aggressively to punish transgressors (of free press restrictions). Journalists, bloggers, webmasters, writers and editors who send news out of China or who early debate politically sensitive ideas among themselves face punishments ranging from sudden unemployment to long prison terms”. In the first half of the year the Chinese dictators shut down 700 online forums. They prevent the formation of independent trade unions and restrict religious freedom. All religious groups have to be registered with the Government.

A few weeks ago Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying that “the Chinese Government is intensifying its repression ahead of its party Congress”. Just last Tuesday Human Rights Watch called upon the International Olympic Committee to challenge China on its ongoing breach of undertakings to relax its media repression, a commitment given to the IOC to win the bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games. But the Chinese leaders have as much respect for honesty as they have for human rights.

Says Human Rights Watch on Tuesday: “In practice, foreign correspondents routinely face harassment, detention and intimidation” by Chinese security forces “and plainclothes thugs who appear at official behest.”

One Agence France Press reporter and an American colleague were arrested for the crime of taking photographs of an informal matchmaking service! “Guards seized and roughed up a foreign television crew that had discovered an illegal detention centre in Beijing for petitioners”. These atrocities continued to take place while we worship at th of the Chinese economic juggernaut.

The rise of China as a Great Power with military and economic might-unless present trends are reversed-portend danger for democracy in the world. While we worry about the Middle East and Islam, there is another nefarious threat, in Asia

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