Monday, May 05, 2008

Red China or Mad China?: Tibet, Olympic, and Repressive Regime

Controversies over the Beijing Olympic and Tibet have been intensifying day by day as freedom activists all over the world protest against the torch relay. Facing harsh criticism by conscientious global citizens, the Beijing authority decided to mobilize Chinese people to overwhelm pro-Tibet protesters with a sheer number of Communist supporters.

In Canberra, Nagano, and Seoul, a huge flock of Red Chinese surrounded pro-Tibet activists on the street, and imposed substantial psychological pressure on freedom fighters. When I saw these bizarre flocks of Chinese carrying the Red Flag, those scenes chilled my spine. How can the Chinese government mobilize such centrally controlled street activists against freedom fighters? Although those Red Chinese did not punch or kick against pro-Tibet activists, that sort of intimidation is nothing but a kind of violence. It reminds me of an Orwellian world. A dreadful behavior like that should never be accepted as an act of patriotism! It turned out that China is a backward and dangerous state despite seemingly rapid modernization.

Think again. When the United States and Britain faced vehement criticism on the Iraq War, both governments never ordered their citizens to go to the street and protest against antiwar activists. Even the Soviet Union did not do so, when it was blamed for invading Afghanistan. It has become apparent that current China is a dreadfully authoritarian society, and in the midst of the Dark Age.

In order to discuss backwardness and repressiveness of China, I would like to refer to some authors. What terrifies me most is that China had been assuming itself the supreme nation in the world until defeated by the British gunfire in the Opium War. Throughout the history, Chinese Emperors imposed the “ce feng” system all over East Asia, and had been demanding monarchs there to show loyalty to China. Having been defeated by the Royal Navy, the lord of the universe in the Confucian world order accepted the Westphalian regime. Has China become sufficiently modern since then? It is absolutely essential to understand the nature of current regime in China when we talk about freedom in Tibet.

Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, casts doubt to a widespread opinion among China watchers that the West accept this country as a “responsible stakeholder” (“Behind the ‘Modern’ China”; Washington Post; March 23, 2008). Kagan criticizes the idea that growing middle class would lead China to liberalization of politics and adaptation to the global economy. He calls it a self-interested wishful thinking of commerce-oriented Western businessmen, because autocrats are simply interested in holding their power and they use money earned from global business to repress Tibet and threaten Taiwan.

Also, Kagan rejects the idea of building the East Asian Community. Europeans respect local ethnic minorities such as Catalans in Spain, Flemish in Belgium, and Scottish in Britain. To the contrary, Chinese Communists have no hesitation to impose their authority on Tibet, Taiwan, and Xinjian. Also, I would like to mention that Chinese leaders force their neighbors such as South Korea and Japan to accept their evaluation of Asia history.

Robert Kagan points out that autocrats want to keep the world safe for their own at least, which is incompatible with desire of Western leaders to keep the world safe for democracies. Therefore, Kagan argues that it is wrong to think of integrating China into our liberal world order.

How do Chinese leaders see their country and their position in the world? Wang Jisi, Dean of the School of International Studies at Beijing University and Director of the Institute of International Strategic Studies at the Central Party School of the Communist Party of China, comments that national interests of China and the United States are so intertwined that mutual cooperation is the best way for both countries, though he does not expect a true Sino-American friendship. Also, Wang admits that US hegemony cannot be overturned for a long time (“China’s Search for Stability with America”; Foreign Affairs; September/October 2005).

However, Wang Jisi points out that post 9-11 security in the world and increasing mutual dependence in the economy has led the United States and China to explore closer strategic cooperation, though both nations do not expect real friendship each other. Despite difficulty in improving the relationship with the United States, Wang insists that it is Beijing’s interest to pursue closer ties with Washington to modernize China, because the United States is the global leader in economics, education, culture, technology, and science.

Despite modest tone of this article, Wang asserts that the Taiwan issue is a domestic problem. As he is in a top position of foreign policymaking in the Communist Party, it is apparent how Chinese leaders think of ethnic minorities in Tibet, Xinjian Uighur, and Inner Mongolia. Actually, he does not mention anything about reforms of political and civil liberties in China. Wang simply talks of gains from business transactions and strategic bargaining with the United States. This means that Chinese leaders are not interested in real modernization but superficial renewal. A state like this shall never be acceptable to our liberal world order.

Freedom House has launched the “China and Olympic” advocacy activity to condemn the decision to hold the Beijing Olympic by the International Olympic Committee. This site is linked to numerous useful articles, reports, and press releases. Let me have a brief look at “Ten Things You Should Know about China” by Freedom House. I will mention a couple of points among them.

2) China imprisons more journalists than any other country in the world.
The media must mention this more frequently than ever.

5) 65 crimes in China carry the death penalty.
Capital punishment itself is no surprise for me, because some states in America and whole Japan still retain it. The problem is the following.

The Chinese justice system has a number of other problems. Torture is often used to induce confessions, judges lack independence, and a lack of media freedom means that the press is unable to hold the judiciary accountable.

Regarding the Olympic and Tibet:
7) Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and practitioners of other religions face frequent harassment.

Though constitutionally recognized, religious freedom is given little respect in China. All religious groups are required to register with the government, and while officially sanctioned groups are tolerated, members of unauthorized religious groups, such as Falun Gong, are harassed, detained and imprisoned in brutal conditions.

In Tibet, religious freedom is strictly limited by the Chinese government. While some religious practices are tolerated, officials forcibly suppress activities viewed as vehicles for political dissent or advocacy of Tibetan independence. Possession of pictures of the Dalai Lama can lead to imprisonment, and Religious Affairs Bureaus continue to control who can study religion in Tibet. Only boys who sign a declaration rejecting Tibetan independence, expressing loyalty to the Chinese government, and denouncing the Dalai Lama are allowed by Chinese officials to become monks.

In conclusion, I would suggest that we call this country Mad China, instead of Red China. I have not been so radical as to reject products of made in China until quite recently, but I may have to start a China free life from now on. Finally, I would request the Smithsonian Museum not to sell merchandises made in China at the souvenir shop. If you need something inexpensive, you can buy them from Mexico. The hall of American spirit should not be dirtied by a mad regime.