Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition News and Article Release Issue: A34-M4
Release Date: October 25, 2003
Topic: Refocus Global Attention to China’s Political Transformation（Fang, Jue）
After the War on Terror: Refocusing Global Attention to China's Political Transformation
By Fang Jue
Aug 1, 2003
(Research report written at the Fairbank Center
for East Asian Research, Harvard University)
After the collapse of the Soviet Union ended the Cold War, world attention shifted to Communist China with curious expectation. However, the next decade would prove disappointing for those hoping for the transformation of the last powerful communist regime: while the Party lifted some constraints on the economy, its political repression continued. The Chinese government used political detainees as bargaining chips with the international community, releasing prisoners as symbolic gestures in return for concessions from western nations.
However, all that changed as American foreign policy altered irrevocably after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. While the world concerns itself with fighting international terrorism over the next several years, it also must struggle to formulate a workable China-policy. Since the Cold War ended over a decade ago, it has been hard to identify the dynamics of the new world order that will drive the next few decades -- but it will be a fight to end international terrorism and a fight to bring real, transparent democracy to China.
1. China's Transformation As Compared to the Soviet Union's Perestroika:
In the era of glasnost and perestroika there were readily identifiable criteria used to measure the transformation of the East European communist countries and former Soviet Union.
However, it seems we have fewer expectations when pressing for the transformation of China. This is puzzling: there are no essential differences between Chinese communism and that of the Soviet Union and its allies in the East European bloc. Therefore, it would seem commonsensical to evaluate the democratic transformation of China by using the exact criteria we used in judging the success of the former Soviet Union.
Therefore, China's transformation must include the at least the following two criteria:
1) Initiate the real process of democracy. The communists need legalize political opposition parties and allow democratic elections. Leaders at all levels of government, as well as representatives for the people's congresses, need to be elected through free and direct general elections.
2) Privatize the state-owned enterprises on a grand scale. Privately-owed enterprises should be allowed to participate in all economic sectors, and a free market economy based on private enterprises should be established.
Based on these essential criteria, China has not yet had an actual transformation.
After the collapse of European communism in 1991, it is noteworthy to state that the goal of Chinese leaders has not been to learn from the democratic transformations that took place. Instead, in the guise of preventing economic chaos, their sustained goal has been to prevent a Chinese brand of perestroika from breaking out across the mainland.
Even as recently as the 16th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party ( CCP )last autumn, Chinese leaders publicly reiterated the solemn duty of the Party to guide China in the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Excerpts from the statements of Jiang Zemin's address emphasized the necessity of the Party guiding the state.
1) "From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, there occurred serious political disturbances in China, drastic changes in Eastern Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Socialism in the world suffered serious setbacks. China was faced with unprecedented difficulties and pressure in its efforts to develop the socialist cause. At this historical juncture bearing on the destiny of the Party and state, the Party Central Committee successfully brought the overall situation of reform and development under control and safeguarded the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics…"
2) "The Party exercises leadership over the state and society…"
" Party committees, playing the role as the core of leadership among all other
organizations at corresponding levels…"
" In ensuing that the Party's views become the will of the state and that
candidates recommended by Party organizations become leading cadres of
the organs of state power…"
3) " We must uphold Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng
Xiaoping Theory as our guidelines in the realm of ideology…"
4) " There must be no wavering in upholding the fundamental principle and
system that the Party leads the people's army.”
5) " It is necessary to consolidate and develop unswervingly the public sector of
the economy. Expansion of the state sector and its control of the lifeline of
the national economy…" 1
It needs to be pointed out that the new leaders unanimously agreed with this conservative stance.
While hope accompanies a change in leadership, especially in an autocratic regime, the new leaders that have emerged in China since November 2002 have clearly tipped their hands regarding in several instances:
· In the first half of 2003, the human rights’ situation right in China has not progressed; in fact it has worsened. There are increasing numbers of dissidents who are being tried and imprisoned, and adherents to religious and labor movements are suffering persecution continuously. The promises that China made to the international community to improve its human rights' record have gone unrealized. 2
· In the spring of 2003, when the international SARS epidemic originated in South China, the Chinese government initially suppressed media reports on the outbreak. When the international media made this story impossible to suppress domestically, the Chinese government relented and gave its consent to the media. Instead of using this opportunity to increase transparency the government dealings and increase the freedom of the media, after SARS left the worldwide headlines media controls have been put back in place by the government.
· The CCP's new general secretary Hu Jintao, gave an important address commemorating the founding of the Communist Party on July 1, 2003. In this speech Hu made not a single mention of political reform, contrary to the forecasts optimistic Western and Chinese observers had made. Hu reaffirmed in each instance the conservative policies of his predecessor.3
· Also on July 1 this year over 500,000 Hong Kong residents demonstrated against Article 23, a security measure that would violate both personal and political freedoms. In protesting Article 23, they went a step further and asked for democracy in Hong Kong. Less than three weeks after the demonstration, however, New President Hu Jintao and new Premier Wen Jiabao made known their collective position: Article 23 must be implemented in Hong Kong. Toward this end the Chinese government will continue to support a Hong Kong chief executive who has lost the support of the Hong Kong people, and the government in Beijing continues to delay the progress of democracy in Hong Kong.
Although the ruling clique disagrees on some minor issues, there is in fact no opposition on the main issues. It would be hard to imagine any sound forces arising within the leadership that would push forward the transformation of China.
2. China's Strategic Position
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, by promoting both the economy and nationalistic feelings the Chinese communist regime has continually deflected the calls of the people for democracy. This has a dual purpose. Because it regards America and its democratic allies as its main rivals, China views rapid economic and military growth as essential to bolster its strategic position. A quick overview will show how China engages nations in its sphere of influence:
· In Northeast Asia: China is the main (if not sole) supporter of North Korea. China props up the North Korea regime to create a strategic front in Northeast Asia to tie up the forces of America and its allies.
· In the Taiwan Strait: China's military threatens Taiwan. This not only cows independence-minded Taiwanese, but also weakens American prestige in Asia. When tension grows in the Taiwan Strait, China uses this as a bargaining chip to persuade America to concede on other issues.
· In Southeast Asia: China's military encroaches upon disputed islands in the South China Sea in order to punish countries who would align themselves too closely with America. In Southeast Asia China also supports the military dictatorship in Burma. It thus creates uses aggression to create "allies" or buffers in Southeast Asia that will help it oppose democracy and the West.
· In South Asia: China supports the Pakistan military dictatorship in developing its nuclear and missile programs. The purpose is to encourage Pakistan to distance itself from the West and use Pakistan to as a buffer against India, whose success with democracy creates a growing regional competition to China.
· In Central Asia: The new Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a consortium of China, Russia, and other former Soviet republics, wields influence to counterbalance the interests of democratic countries.
· In the Middle East: China supports theocracy and missile development in Iran and proliferates sensitive technology and goods through aid to Syria and Libya. China also supported Iraq's former dictatorship over a long period of time.
· In Russia: China and Russia cooperate to restrain America from playing too large of a leading role in the world. This cooperation serves mutually to bolster the influence of Russia and China in the international community.
After the cold war, the fundamental strategic policy of China has been to defend its one-party autocracy and to obstruct the new world order set forth by America. Therefore, China has consistently opposed “American hegemony” by advocating a multi-polar world with regional powers, be they autocratic countries or democratic countries. To this end, China has pressed forward with military preparation, striving for the ability to overwhelm opponents in regional wars with superior technology.
3. The Domestic Factors for Democratic Transformation in China
It is unlikely that other circumstances arising in China could hasten the transformation along independently. There are several factors that could influence it, however:
1) Private Entrepreneurs and A Market Economy
While some people believe that the growth of private entrepreneurs and a market economy will eventually of themselves lead China to freedom and democracy, this view is too simple.
To a great degree, the existence and growth of private enterprises in China relies on the protection of officials in the communist regime, as well as their permission and favor. This is especially true for the growth of large-scale private enterprises, as they vie for public resources (such as land, loan, stock, etc.) controlled by government officials. In order to survive and grow, the majority of private entrepreneurs tend to favor the communist regime over democracy. Well-funded private entrepreneurs keep close to the Chinese communist regime in order to hook in officials. A few recently exposed relationships between well-known entrepreneurs and corrupt, high-ranking officials typify the actual political attitude of Chinese private entrepreneurs.
There has been an obvious growth in China's market economy during the past 25 years. However, China has not completely implemented a free market economy. The communist regime still dominates the main economic resources (monopolies in key industries, banks, important sources of energy and raw materials, etc.,) and state-owned enterprises still play the leading role. Some economic planning and economic policies by the state still determine the direction of the Chinese economy. The bottom line is this: the communist regime is neither willing to allow private enterprises become the main engine driving the Chinese economy, nor it is willing to give up its state controls on main economic activities. If it were to do so, the regime might lose its economic foundation, thus shaking its political power.
Take a look at recent history as an indicator. Among the former communist countries, there is no single country which relied on the growth of private enterprise and expansion of the market economy, to create political change in the system. On the contrary, former communist nations all implemented democratic reforms first. Only after democracy had created an atmosphere of transparency and openness did they open the door towards privatization and a market economy. Because totalitarian political system controls the economic system in every communist nation, there can be no fundamental change in the economic system without first a change in the political system. That is why there are no apparent signs that weak private entrepreneurs or the limited market economy is having a noticeable impact in the political transformation of China.
There are very few Chinese intellectuals who openly embrace liberalism and democracy. Even if there were, because of oppression from the communist regime, it would be very hard for them to broaden their influence and take political action.
The regime is effective at placing constraints even on intellectuals. Because the regime holds a monopoly on both education and the media, a minority of intellectuals has sufficient access to the wealth of information or new ideas. This severely limits intellectual development, spiritual growth, and the knowledge that political options do exist.
Furthermore, many intellectuals can only find work at organizations controlled either directly or indirectly by the communist regime. This forces them to accept official ideology simply in order to survive.
Because providing for themselves and their families distracts many intellectuals, the regime also entices their loyalty in practical ways. Proven loyalty commands a relatively high salary, a nicer living environment, more opportunities for acclaim, and status that are more important. These kinds of rewards are some effective. From the 1990s onward, some intellectuals have become active supporters and defenders of the Chinese communist regime in order to pursue personal ends.
Above all, we must not overestimate the potential that Chinese intellectuals have to promote the transformation of China.
3) A Phenomenon Worth Noticing - Labor Movement
A budding labor movement is beginning to emerge in China. In over a dozen demonstrations, groups of thousands or even tens of thousands of people have congregated to protest. On a smaller scale protests occur more frequently.
There are two major components to China's labor movement: poor workers from the city and poor farmers from the countryside. There are over one hundred million workers in the cities, and an estimated 1/3 of them are unemployed or under-employed. There are nearly nine hundred million farmers living in the countryside, with over two hundred million living below the poverty line. The potential strength of a labor movement dazzles the imagination.
Although a labor organizer might dream of combining the workers and the farmers for common good, they often have different goals. Workers in the cities are primarily concerned with finding secure employment or collecting welfare benefits when unable to do so. Farmers in the countryside are concerned with ridding themselves of peremptory orders, unreasonable fees, and inconsistent government policies. Due to the expanding gap between the rich and poor in China, relief for the poor and unemployed will be far from adequate. Government corruption and incompetence will exacerbate this; hence, there will likely be more and more labor protests in China.
Labor movements force communist regimes into an embarrassing situation, because they cannot suppress protests joined by large numbers of the working class. Their only recourse is to go after the leaders, in order to deter those who would lead other protests. In May 2003, the Chinese government sentenced two labor leaders who led tens of thousands of workers to demonstrate in Northeast China. The leaders were sentenced to four and seven years' imprisonment, respectively. This should not be an effective deterrent to the desperately poor who are living at the rock bottom of society. Despite the sentencing, labor protests still occurred in several cities after the government's warning. This indicates there is room for a vital labor movement in China.
The Chinese government strictly forbids independent labor unions or farmer organizations in order to restrain labor movements. Because there is no way to form a variety of independent labor organizations which can support and cooperate with each other, the Chinese labor movement cannot not possibly coordinate protests on a scale that would influence political policy.
4) Another Positive Phenomenon - More Freedom of Religion
The activities of Christians, both Protestants and Catholics, who belong to underground churches are especially meaningful. It is estimated there are more than ten million of Christians who participate in these churches. This enables some Chinese to form a link with mainstream western civilization through their religion.
Religious movements deconstruct the communist system to a certain degree in two ways. By belief in a higher authority, Christians shake off stale communist ideology. Too, it drives Christians to try to establish direct links with religious institutions and figures in the West, such as the Vatican.
Chinese communist regime has continuously oppressed independent Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, and sometimes imprisons dedicated members of the clergy. However, people who hold dear to faith usually overcome their fear, so that intimidation by a communist regime is less effective than otherwise might be.
The Chinese communist regime effectively restrains religious freedom by forbidding Chinese Christians from openly forming independent Chinese churches. The regime also forbids direct contact with the hierarchies of numerous branches of Christianity, including the Vatican. Before the Chinese communist regime ends this prohibition, the deconstruction that religious movements play on communist system will be very limited.
5) Minority Autonomy
If you note that the areas where China's largest minorities live (Tibet, Xinjiang, Qinghai, and Inner Mongolia), you will see that they account for more than half of China's territory. Furthermore, they were consolidated into China Proper in modern times. These facts convey some of the complications surrounding the issue of autonomy for minorities of China.
In Tibet a national movement arose over 40 years ago and has gained support of an overwhelming majority of Tibetans. A government-in-exile, led by the Dalai Lama, is seeking real autonomy for Tibet.
The Islamic minority nationalities (there are several distinct groups) are increasingly dissatisfied about what they see as intrusions. They are beginning to protest for increased political rights, and for more priorities given to their economic interests and cultural heritage.
Mongolians also feel deep concern about increasing resettlement of Han Chinese in their traditional homeland in Inner Mongolia.
Although the Chinese communist regime has applied constant pressure to thwart the minorities clamoring for more autonomy, their calls continue. This weakens the communist regime by creating a whole exocentric force, which detests the regime in wide areas of the countryside. The Chinese government potentially faces widespread instability in its vast borderlands.
The minorities, however, have no route to autonomy; the communist regime obviously possesses a ridiculous advantage in economic and military power.
4. The External Factors for the Transformation of China
So far, those external factors, which might affect the transformation of China, seem not to have played any significant roles.
1) Foreign Policies of the West Linked to China's Record of Human Rights
In a country such as America, our foreign policy should reflect our values of human rights. This means that we should link our foreign policy with each nation to democratic values. For without democratic reforms, the condition of human rights will not have any basic improvement, as the root of human rights' violations is an autocratic system.
If there is no democratic goal for American's human right policy toward China, it will weaken the actual role greatly in China.
For many years, the main achievement in the human rights' arena has been to persuade China to release a few well-known political prisoners. Nevertheless, this has not come without cost to the West; in fact, the West has had to concede quite a bit to China in order to obtain releases for these prisoners.
The Chinese communist regime does not plan to improve the actual human rights' condition in China; it primarily uses these issues to horsetrade with America and its allies. When the well-known political activists are released, the Chinese government actively seeks to arrest new "notable" political activists. To secure their release America then has to provide new concessions to China. Thus, we are stuck in a vicious circle that benefits the Chinese government. China endlessly creates "notable political prisoners", and America continuously make efforts to rescue them and by making concessions to China. Thus, the human rights' condition in China has not shown any reversal or substantial improvement.
The Chinese government knows the key to the issue of human rights issues is democracy, and it will not make a fundamental concession on democracy. Therefore, America should leave no stone unturned until it forces China to atone for more than a few, limited cases of individual political prisoners.
2) The Uncertain Effects of Investment and Trade on China
It is still not very clear how much western investment and trade will affect the democratic transformation of China.
When the international community agreed to China's entrance into World Trade Organization (WTO), China was not required to immediately privatize state industries nor completely implement a free market economy. There was also no prerequisite for political transformation. This is peculiar to the history of WTO.
Without doubt, western trade and investment have played a constructive role in expanding the market economy in China, notably improving the standard of living, too. However, as the communist regime will not allow domestic private enterprises the free competition to develop competitive advantages, it will certainly not allow fair competition between foreign enterprises and the state-owned monopolies in key industries. Furthermore, it will restrict the flow of foreign capital and goods into Chinese market in the long run. The rationale behind the lack of free and fair competition is that the communist regime wants to ensure its political influence by controlling the Chinese economy.
In some ways the foreign investment and trade with China plays into the hands of the regime. For example, many foreign ventures in China do not have labor unions or only allow a branch from a government-affiliated labor union. As another example, some foreign enterprises acquiesce to the CCP by establishing party branches inside their organization. In these regards foreign investment neither encourage the formation of the independent labor union nor restrain the totalitarianism of Chinese communist system.
It is worth reflecting upon that foreign corporations are building joint ventures and cooperative enterprises with state-owned companies (sometimes with fronts for the People’s Liberation Army) that unmistakably lend strength to the communist regime. Sensitive equipment and technology transfers that western enterprises export to China directly help China improve its national defense and develop its military technology. The American government has punished some well-known American corporations individually for this kind of conduct.4 However, the cases exposed and investigated may, in the real world, just be the tip of the iceberg.
The explicit aid U.S companies give to the Chinese Communist regime in order to aid repression is startling. China restricts Internet access more than any country in the world, and the police has hired large numbers of high-tech professionals to monitor Internet activity. However, China has not been able to develop efficient technology quickly enough both to monitor the Internet and to filter out undesired content. Therefore, a large portion of the equipment and key technology that China uses to monitor the Internet is purchased from American companies.5 This is a bitter contradiction: When Chinese people who long for freedom and democracy search for the news and information coming from the West, American companies turn a blind eye to ethics and sell tools for the Chinese government to limit the freedom of the media and the exchange of information.
Some American companies certainly benefit from investing in and trading with China. China's low wages attract a great amount of foreign investment to set up factories that export cheap goods back to America. This is the one side of the coin. The other side of the coin has been the loss of jobs and profits in America's manufacturing industry, as it cannot cost-wise compete with the goods made in China. Even as America's trade deficit with China has surpassed $100 billion, there are still lobbies in Washington who exaggerate the active role that China's booming economy plays in transforming China politically. A few special interest groups seem to posses too much influence in forming America's foreign policy to China.
3) The Hopes in Cultural Exchange
Increasing numbers of Chinese students and scholars have gone to study and research in
the West, causing hope that through these cultural exchanges the then-westernize Chinese
professionals will return to China to become leading force in the transformation.
As a matter of fact, the results have not been necessarily encouraging.
The Chinese sent by the communist regime to study and research in the West are commonly vetted. They often identify with communism or nationalism. They are sent mainly for the purpose of grasping advanced science and technology or useful management skills in order to serve better the communist regime when they come back to China.
Of course, many more Chinese come to study in the West through non-government channels. The majority of them are interested in earning degrees, income and residency in the West (through a resident certificate or citizenship). Instead of thinking about how to help China become a democratic and free society, many become westernized to the point they no longer wish to return to China.
Those Chinese who return to China to start their own business under the encouragement of the Chinese government often fall prey to the corrupt nature of Chinese business practices. Instead of actively promoting fair competition, honest and clean administration, and the rule by law in China, quite a few of them praise the communist regime in exchange for special benefits.
Without doubt, the idea of freedom and democracy is an uplifting influence on those Chinese who have gone to study, work or visit the West. This will play a certain role in helping to transform China. However, there is no evidence to show they may be an important political and social strength for the democratic transformation of China.
5. Next Global Strategic Emphasis
As long as leaders in China view transformation negatively, other domestic factors in China that might effect its transformation are not powerful enough. Too, the external factors might effect the transformation of China are not effectively wielded.
If China can not be transformed in the long run, one fifth of the world people will be deprived of basic freedom and democracy. Furthermore, the Chinese communist regime will to oppose the post-Cold War world order America and its allies are creating.
While the international community nearly as one has correctly turned its attention to combating terrorism, with continued dedication and unity we have reason to believe successes will be won in a few years. When that time comes, and the world has sufficient resources both to combat terrorism and to return to another agenda, communist China will be still there. Communist China will be the only world power with the strength and political will to resist democratic states. At that time, it will be necessary for the international community to regain its urgency about the transformation of China.
The collapse of Soviet Union and the East European communist bloc created an expectation that China, too, could be transformed, that it would be transformed by freedom-loving people in China and the world. We have waited a long time with little result. New and urgent priorities have emerged, and the tasks of eliminating international terrorism and disarming rogue states loom large. When successes are won and allies lend generous support to the causes, America can then divert resources to other needs. This is an unprecedented historical opportunity to end communism and totalitarianism after the Cold War.
A global strategy to transform China into democracy could be built on three basic points:
1) Push China to establish a democratic system based on free elections, with candidates from multiple parties.
2) Push China to implement economic system based on private enterprise and fair competition.
3) Maintain strong pressures in strategic locations surrounding China, to counter the intentions of the Chinese communist regime to spread its influence throughout the region. American must also continue to combat totalitarianism in other parts of the world. This will prevent America from losing allies in the region surrounding China, and promote, if nothing else, a gradual transformation in China as other totalitarian regimes transform or cease to exist.
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Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition News and Article Release Issue: A34-M4
Release Date: October 25, 2003
Topic: Refocus Global Attention to China’s Political Transformation（Fang, Jue）
Original Language Version: Chinese
(English at beginning, Chinese version at the end)
Please visit our website if you have problem to read Chinese in this issue
分析一种类似的现象或许具有启发性:中国是目前世界上对互联网监控最严格的国家,中国的警察系统使用了世界上人数最多的监控互联网的专业人员。但是,中国本身没有 能够有效监控互联网的高级技术,中国监控互联网的主要设备和关键技术很多是从美国公司购买的。° 这就形成了一组相互矛盾的画面:向往自由和民主的中国网民在互联网上苦苦搜寻着来自西方的新闻或信息;美国公司无所顾忌地向中国政府出售扼杀新闻自由和信息流动的工具。这个现象生动地表现了西方的对华经济活动有时候并非有利于中国的转型。
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1 See the English version of the full text of Jiang Zemin's Report at the 16th Party Congress in November 2002, issued by the Chinese authorities.
2 See the criticism about the Chinese human rights’ situation on the first half of 2003, from the spokesman of U.S. State Department on July 2, 2003.
3 See the English version of Hu Jintao Addresses Symposium on "Three Represents” Thought on July 1, 2003.
4 Recently the U.S. State Department has punished several well-known American companies due to the advanced technology they provided China to improve missile, rocket and satellite technology.
5 The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China held a hearing regarding on American company transferring their advanced technology used for monitoring Internet to China in July, 2003.
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