By Roland Watson
June 23, 2008
One thing you can say about
the run-up to the Beijing Games: it is revealing the nature of the Chinese Dictatorship,
in full and undistorted view, to the people of the world. This is interesting
in it own light, as a lesson about authoritarian societies, in particular because
China is the world's largest political dictatorship; and also because of what
it is saying to the many consumers who buy Made in China products because the
price is cheap, without thinking about the broader consequences
Chinas behavior is reprehensible, both in the international and domestic spheres. For the first, it is the primary and unwavering backer of many fellow dictatorships, foremost North Korea, Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe. In the United Nations Security Council it blocks all diplomatic progress on motivating such regimes to change, and on the ground it is the primary supplier of the weapons that they use to repress their people. In the worst cases, in Darfur, Sudan, and Eastern Burma, the local regimes are committing genocide, which crimes against humanity would not be possible without Chinas help.
China also engages in international conquest, in Tibet, which is in no way a part of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). It is a conquered land. It has similarly threatened to invade Taiwan. With the local regimes consent (more accurately, blackmail), it is encouraging its people to colonize the northern provinces of Laos and Burma, although not, interestingly, Vietnam. China also invaded Vietnam, in 1979, which invasion was successfully repelled. The Vietnamese remain extremely distrustful of the Chinese, and have refused to allow a cultural assault as well.
Domestically, China is suppressing the people of Xinjiang Province, which like Tibet is also arguably not a true part of the country (rebels in Xinjiang have ample reason to say that they are an independent nation; they call their land East Turkestan), and of course ordinary Chinese. For the latter, China is a police state, with community spies, secret police and kangaroo courts, and prisons and forced labor reeducation camps. Like all dictatorships, political dissent is forbidden and harshly punished. The government maintains a media blackout on dissent, and this extends to the complaints of farmers whose land has been expropriated, or poisoned with pollution, and parents whose children died in an earthquake because of poorly constructed school buildings. Chinese media is a massive and well-organized propaganda machine. It even targets the Falun Gong, a peaceful association of individuals who engage in meditation, simply because they are freethinkers and refuse to submit to the regimes demand for conformity.
Following the popular uprising and subsequent mass murder at Tiananmen Square in June 1989, the Communist Party of China (CCP) realized it had a problem. The people were unhappy, and were no longer so willing to accept the status quo. They were beginning to demand democracy. The Chinese system is a variant on the Soviet model developed by Vladimir Lenin. At the top are the leaders of the Communist Party, the Politburo, as well as the regional leaders. Underneath are the ordinary members of the Party. Below this is the bulk of the population, the workers, or proletariat. Lenin envisioned that the progress to the communist utopia would have two stages. A vanguard, the Party, would lead the way, and during this stage dictatorship would be necessary. However, with arrival at the utopia, this system of distinctions would be dissolved and a classless and consensual society would be achieved.
The first stage in practice is meant to serve the people, but in reality it serves only the top party leaders. The Chinese people, following tumultuous and dreadful periods such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, were beginning to see through the charade.
In response to this development, and Tiananmen, supreme ruler Deng Xiaoping decided to open the country to capitalism, as a means for ordinary people to improve their circumstances. China became what has to be one of the greatest oxymorons of all time, a capitalist communism.
This hasnt exactly worked out as planned. The primary beneficiaries have been Party members, who because of their status and connections were best positioned to grasp the new opportunities: to open factories and other types of businesses. The ordinary people moved from rural villages to the cities, only to end up in sweatshops and dormitories and slums.
At the same time, the push for rapid development has had disastrous environmental consequences, both in the cities and the countryside.
The net result has been to increase slightly the population of the privileged class, while leaving the condition of the workers little improved. In fact, their quality of life has declined. This means there is still the potential for widespread unrest, and demands for political participation and empowerment, i.e., democracy.
The Chinese leaders are a clever lot, and they have been adapting to this threat as well, first by distributing the propaganda that a system of dictatorship is acceptable, since it is the continuation of historical norms dating back to the glorious Chinese empires. Secondly, the Chinese have been following the standard operating procedure of authoritarian regimes everywhere, by initiating a popular hatred of external enemies as a means to divert the people from their own problems. If you are consumed with hatred, for example of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans, this takes your mind off the fact that you are really a slave in a totalitarian nightmare.
Chinese nationalism, though, has a distinctive racial bent. It is not the people of China against the world; rather, its Chinese people against the world. There is an undercurrent of racial superiority that makes this form of nationalism much more virulent. Ordinary Chinese are being taught that their past was magnificent and noble, whatever the real situation on the ground might have been, and that they have a manifest destiny not only to rule or at least dominate East Asia, but perhaps even the world. Moreover, this covers more than the people of the PRC; it subtly extends to all Chinese people everywhere. (Note: evidence of this is that of the thousands of Chinese who demonstrated along the Olympics torch route, many of them were undoubtedly not citizens of the PRC.)
In a sense it is akin, although not as pronounced, as the type of brainwashing that Al Qaeda is trying to perpetrate on the Muslim community.
For their nationalist propaganda, the Chinese rulers have been taking advantage of the common response in East Asia to insult. An insult, or for that matter any criticism, is viewed as a loss of face. For people who do not have experience with this, it is difficult to convey the importance in such societies of face. Causing someone to lose face is unpardonable. You could easily be killed for doing it. Such a reaction is even considered acceptable in many places.
The CCP has been capitalizing on this trait over criticism of the Beijing Games and its recent crackdown in Tibet. Chinese nationalists have been outraged, and with all manner of response.
As noted, there were fervent demonstrations by the nationalists along many stages of the torch route. There have been calls in China for boycotts of foreign companies, from France and the U.S., as revenge for these nations displeasure over Tibet. Foreigners in China have been assaulted. Chinese people themselves who have had the audacity to disagree with the nationalists, have been attacked over the Internet, had their personal information including phone numbers and home addresses posted online, and received death threats.
This is something that foreigners who are planning to attend the Games, and everyone who wants the Chinese people to escape from their tyrannical overlords, should consider carefully. Elements of the Chinese public are becoming an ultra-nationalist mob, and with CCP encouragement and blessing. But once such a mob is formed, there are no atrocities that it does not have the potential to commit.
For instance, even with the sympathy that exists over the Sichuan earthquake, it is likely that there will be many expressions of dissent during the Games, including by visitors and also the athletes, focused on Tibet, Sudan, Burma and other issues. These actions will certainly inflame the ultra-nationalists, and a violent reaction is likely.
It is also significant the effect that all of this is having on freedom of expression within China. The regime has allowed the Internet to boom, which has enhanced personal freedom, although at the same time the authorities are conducting a major effort at censorship and retaliation against those who diverge from the party line. But with the rise of the ultra-nationalists, the Internet in China is in a sense becoming self-policing. Anyone who does not parrot party orthodoxy is immediately and aggressively attacked.
(Many of the most apoplectic nationalists are young Chinese, who because of CCP censorship do not even know about Tiananmen and the pro-democracy movement that developed at the time.)
This is a huge and new barrier to democratic change, that large numbers of Chinese have been successfully brainwashed, and no longer oppose the CCP. Instead, they are becoming its popular enforcers: its thought police.
Outside China, there are many people, largely business people and their professional retainers political leaders and diplomats who argue that we should ignore all of this. At the least, they say, think of Sichuan. We shouldnt put pressure on the regime while the country is recovering from a national tragedy.
They are the same as the individuals who say, of Burma, think of the poor people who are dying in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. There is no need to push for freedom and democracy at this time.
Anyone who argues, let China be let them open up and change at their own pace, is effectively saying, let torturers and murderers be. Let nuclear proliferation and for that matter anything else that you might be concerned about be. Nothing can stand in the way of our profit.
We, meaning the world and most importantly the United States, do not want to have close ties to the Chinese regime. We do now want to participate in its experiment to merge political dictatorship with capitalism.
Contrary to the statements of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, China has not been helpful on North Korea, Sudan or Burma. Please do not try to deceive the world that it has.
China has to change. The CCP has to go. The real national tragedy in China, like Burma, is that a small group of criminals has been able to rule over everyone else for so long. Boycott the Beijing Games. Protest. Our goal should be to make the Chinese dictatorship lose as much face as possible. Boycott Made in China. Pressure your leaders to stop kowtowing to China, and instead demand that it end its support for the other dictatorships of the world; that it Free Tibet and East Turkestan; and that it renounce dictatorship and embrace democracy.
Increasing protest inside China is inevitable. The country cannot fuel its industrial powerhouse for much longer. It is running out of natural resources, oil is too expensive, and this is affecting both production costs and international demand. It is already losing ground to other, even cheaper, national competitors. A turning point is coming, and it may be a cataclysm, when laid off workers cannot find work factories in the Pearl River delta are already closing and the villages they left behind can no longer support them. It will be a traumatic period, and we outside China should do everything we can to help the Chinese people, so they are able to throw off their rulers as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
One final comment about the Olympics: in 1936 in Berlin, Hitler wanted to showcase Nazi Germany. In exactly the same way, China wants to use the Beijing Games to promote itself as an Asian ideal of authoritarian social order.
Hitlers attempt to prove the racial superiority of what he called the Aryans (which is not even a real group) was negated by Jesse Owens, and through this his overall aspirations for the Berlin Olympics were defeated. The 1936 Games are forever tainted.
It will be the same with China. Something dramatic is almost certainly going to happen in August, and seventy years from now the Beijing Games will be remembered not for Chinas grand coming out party but for this event or events. More generally, people will understand that another Dictatorship Olympics should never have been allowed. If there is such a thing as an Olympic ideal, freedom must be part of it. This means that the host, if not all of the participants, must be free and democratic, and also that the International Olympic Committee has no right to forbid the athletes to freely speak their minds.