The implications of President Hu's visit to Australia.
Australia's political leaders, captains of industry and media missed an important feature of Chinese President Hu's October 2003 visit. This was an auspicious month. It marked the creation of the Peoples' Republic of China as a result of the successful 1949 October Revolution. That year, which was the 54th anniversary of the revolution, saw another important event: the launching of a Chinese astronaut into space. The President's visit to Australia after that event is most noteworthy. The statement he made must be regarded as a most important policy document. It should be very carefully analyzed in detail, using the original Chinese language text, for the English version will contain translated terms which have been composed to appeal to the Australian audience. Translating from one culture into the language of another is always most difficult, but when politics are involved there is a chance, always, that translation can become manipulation. For deliberate efforts are made to shape the minds of listeners.
VIEW OF EARLY HISTORICAL LINKS
The Australian hosts missed the opportunity of displaying some knowledge of the history of their trade partner by not commenting on China's historical past. President Hu did not miss such an opportunity. He pointed out the long links which exist between China and Australia. He introduced these by indicating that a visit to Australia was made by Chinese explorers during the Ming Dynasty. The President's comments were not drawn from Chinese researches, which their historians are most capable of making. The idea comes from a recent popular best-selling book by Gavin Menzies, entitled 1421--The Year China Discovered the World. The information in the book is often imaginative and speculative, for many of the original records no longer exist. His comment about the visit to Western Australia is unfounded and shows a lack of knowledge. He claims that after making a long sea voyage across the southern Indian Ocean, the explorers would be in need of vitamin C and food and that this was available in south-western Australia, near Bunbury, where there were supplies of plums and apples. The difficulty with this theory is that the plums and apples in Western Australia were brought in by settlers who cleared the land and planted orchards 400 years after the Chinese sent any expeditions. President Hu would have been more intellectually impressive if he had conveyed the results of Chinese researches into their explorations instead of referring to a Western best seller.
Hu then went on to use the phrase "the Southern Land" which appeals to Australians who have a touch of historical knowledge. That term is not Chinese. In their documents, usually in the form of sailing directions, they use Southern Ocean rather than Southern Continent. Knowledge about such a continent was introduced by the Jesuits who brought a know ledge of Western exploration to China. There are Chinese terms for different lands. These are sometimes hard to identify. A later term used for Australia was the New Gold Mountain. California was the old one. Those Chinese who came to Australia certainly made distinctive contributions to agricultural production in which they were past masters, and to gold mining and production, in which they excelled here as they did at home and in southeast Asia.
Australians could have responded by showing how rich and lengthy were the links with China. Ships which came to Australia, after it was settled by Britain in 1788, opened a trade route to China. They went from Sydney to China where they loaded with tea and the like to take home. This laid the pattern of a regular trade route. Later on, after Federation, Australia began exporting wheat and other products including wool. After that, Australia and China became allies in the First World War, with both serving in France where, incidentally, the Chinese picked up their Marxism. More recently, both nations worked closely together as allies in the Second World War to defeat Japan. Following this, they both worked together to produce a new post war world through the United Nations where the way was opened to establish both regional political and economic blocks and the alternative free trade system favoured by Australia. President Hu by-passed the proposed economic block, which some South East Asian leaders are endeavouring to establish in that part, giving a preference to Australia which has more to offer in the way of resources. Such research-based historical information would have shown President Hu that Australia is a mine of information as well as a mine for iron ore.
PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY AND TOTALITARIAN RULE
President Hu then went on to talk about different political systems and the need to co-exist and understand each other, although on his visit he did not practise what he preached, for he and his security guards made it clear that they preferred not to give the address if certain people were present in the Australian House of Parliament. By doing this, he did not provide a lesson in co-existence and understanding other systems. Hu imposed his system on Australia by insisting on people being barred. The Chinese was shown up by President Bush who, when he addressed Parliament, acknowledged the right to free speech in a democracy. It is highly doubtful if Prime Minister Howard and his security agents could have made similar demands in China when he addressed a ruling Party Congress, for no parliament exists in that country where democrats are viewed as dissidents and elections are not held. Australia, however, seems not to be intent on making a cultural impression, or to support the virtues of parliamentary democracy, as much as balancing its budget by selling products. The trouble with this view is that it could reinforce the long existing Chinese communist belief that parliamentary governments are the puppets of money seeking capitalists. That viewpoint helps explain why the Chinese communist government has banned and jailed members of the Falun Gong group who believe that money should not be a goal in itself and that people should hold higher values. This view threatened to undermine the socialist culture which President Hu talked about so much in his speech. The Chinese communist government skillfully isolated the Falun Gong from outside assistance by manipulating language. They branded the group as a sect, which is a negative word, and this deterred people from helping them.
The core of Hu's speech, which appealed to the media and trade magnates and others, was the constant use of the word democracy. This seemed to please listeners and the media, but the term used was an English word, which does not clearly reflect the outlooks held by Chinese communists whose views are based on Marxist-Leninism.
PEOPLES' GOVERNMENT OR PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY
There existed, in fact, two different concepts of democracy amongst the people at Hu's address. The Chinese communist view is that there are Peoples' Democracies where the people are represented solely by a communist party which rules by an elite, and is not elected. Australians differently believe in the value of parliamentary democracy where people choose their own representative from different parties. The latter are to be found in nations with parliaments which consist of elected representatives. These are to be found in Australia, Japan and in Taiwan and other places in the region.
In the case of China, the idea of democracy is conveyed by two ancient characters or words min chu, with min meaning mankind or people and chu meaning lord or master. Sun Yat-sen was quite right when he pointed out to the Americans that Abraham Lincoln was a newcomer, and that China had possessed government for the people for millennia, for that was the point of Confucian humanism. Dynasties and emperors were meant to care for and look after the people. Confucian humanism was attacked and condemned by the Chinese communists who believe that people have only a class nature and not a human nature. This class nature was confirmed by Mao Tse-tung in his analysis of society in his home province of Hunan. This study, which is very superficial, indicated that there are two classes struggling for power in the form of thesis and antithesis advocated by Marxists and Leninists. The term for class in Chinese is also ancient with many meanings including "flow", "descent" and "current". In recent times liu has been given a new meaning indicating economic class. Two classes are recognised, the dispossessed proletarians who have no idea of private property and are therefore socialists, and the class of capitalists and others who believe in private property which communists view as evil. The proletarians who are believed to be in the majority, are believed to need an elite to lead them. That is the function of the communist party. There has thus developed in China a Peoples' Democracy consisting of the sole domination of the communist party, whose members have never been elected. Communists are self-appointed and see themselves as the popular leaders of the people. This fact should have been borne in mind by the Australian Prime Minister when he went to address the Chinese Party Congress. He was not addressing a representative government like Hu addressed one in Australia.
UNITED FRONT STRATEGY
The Chinese communists have not always expressed their view clearly. After the Second World War, when they needed help to win power, they adopted a United Front strategy, attracting all sorts to join their side. This created the impression that they were democratic. But the United Front was soon eliminated, to be replaced by the Great Leap Forward to Socialism, and the Socialist Cultural Revolution. But now a new generation of younger communist leaders has taken over, and changes have been made. People are allowed to acquire wealth. However, they are still required to accept the socialist outlook. This change came mainly as the result of the collapse of communism in Europe. What the Chinese communists have done, is readjust their time table. They now believe that it might take a long time to achieve a communist society. In the meantime they believe that they can build up China into a great economic power under communist leadership, although this means that they could earn themselves the title of being "national socialists', instead of being committed to the principle of international communism. Their attitude to Maoist rebellion in Nepal and South America is relevant and interesting in this regard, and should be monitored.
The communist belief in two classes meanwhile remains. That is why it is not correct for Australian commentators to talk about the rise of a middle class in China. Such a class is not regarded as a possibility, even with its market economy. For class is determined by outlook and not by the amount of money or by the ownership of a computer or mobile phone.
EFFECT ON THE PEOPLE'S LIBERATION ARMY
The shift in China to permit people to acquire personal wealth and to own mobile phones and computers, together with the one-child policy, has other implications. Recruits for the People's Liberation Army are no longer what they were at the time of liberation, and during the Great Leap Forward to socialism. They are not soldiers drawn from the masses, using People's War tactics on behalf of the proletariat to bring down capitalism and end the idea of private property. In the circumstances, China in the future is likely to have a professional technologically trained army. That possibility should be carefully monitored.
THE PROBLEM OF TAIWAN
These changes promise to have an affect on the Taiwan issue, which is not clear-cut. Taiwan is not one of the original provinces of China. It did not become part of that empire until the last dynasty in China. Prior to that it was a Pacific Island inhabited by aborigines. It has a varied history. It was taken by Portugal, which discovered it in 1590 and named it Formosa. It was also settled by the Dutch and by Spain. The Chinese started to come in to the coastal areas at the beginning of the seventeenth century, to escape the effects of famine in nearby Fukien Province. After the Manchus captured China in 1644, Taiwan was taken by a Sino-Japanese leader, Koxinga (Cheng Ch'eng-Kung). It became a refuge for the defeated Ming forces. The Manchu government captured the island in 1683 and made it part of Fukien Province. Migration followed. It was not until 1886 that Taiwan became a separate province. But it did not remain Chinese for long. In 1895 it was ceded by China to Japan after it lost the war. The island remained Japanese until 1945 when Japan was defeated. When the communists won control of the mainland, the nationalist forces shifted to Taiwan where there is at present a move to create a separate independent republic.
The main point to be borne in mind about Taiwan is that it is one of the Asian and Pacific states with a parliamentary form of government. Peking's pressing Australia to help it to take over Taiwan means that Australia would be confronted by the spectre of ending a democratic form of government in Asia, and handing over the people there to a totalitarian regime, without consulting the people. This would be at odds with what the Prime Minister of Australia said at the Armistice Day ceremony in London when he reminded people that young Australians fought in two world wars to preserve democracy, and to preserve freedom. Any help given by Australia to Peking in its civil war could have serious repercussions. A previous incident of that nature caused serious damage to democratic aspirations in China, helping to pave the way for communism. On 14 August 1917 China declared war on Germany, becoming one of the Allies. After the War the Paris Peace Conference opened on 21 January 1919. On 30 April China was shocked to learn that the Conference gave Japan control over the German areas in Shantung Province instead of returning them to China. This gave rise to the May Fourth Movement when intellectuals and students demonstrated against the decision. There were two important outcomes. First, the democracies were condemned as countries which gave other people's lands away without asking the people. This helped the communists to win support and later get control. Secondly, on 28 June 1919 China refused to sign the Versailles Peace Treaty. The matter was not resolved until 1922 in the Washington negotiations when the dispute was settled. Incidentally, Australia's Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, stood firm, refusing to allow the Japanese to be given a mandate in New Guinea.
It would be unwise for Australia to earn the reputation of giving away democracies. This could not be justified on the grounds of improving trade, and getting money. That argument would confirm the communist belief that political leaders in democracies are the puppets of capitalists, and will do anything for money. Aeschylus, who helped lay the foundations of our civilization, inveighed against this expediency in his drama The Persians, denouncing the trading of men for gold while embracing the principles of democracy and recognising that each individual has a conscience and can think and is capable of choosing their leaders by way of voting.
OBSTRUCTIONS FOR REUNIFICATION
It is speculative to believe that the Taiwan issue will be simply and automatically solved by a shift in Peking's economic policy and the imagined rise of a middle class, which some Australians believe will bring political virtue and democracy together with wealth. There are six divisive issues which stand in the way of reunification, and which must not be put out of sight by those looking at money and trade.
First, the old regime in Peking seriously blotted its copybook by massacring democrats in Tien An Men Square in 1989 when they revived the May Fourth demand for democracy. This will be hard to live down. The new regime has not helped. Holding democratic beliefs is now a crime coming under the definition of subversion.
Secondly, although both parts of China speak the same, the written language is now different. In the communist region there is a simplified script. Taiwan uses the full characters. If this is changed, people in Taiwan will lose access to traditional Chinese culture and will not be able to read the works in their bookshops and libraries.
Thirdly, the absorption of Hong Kong reveals that Peking would impose controls in the form of sending in the People's Liberation Army and appointing a leader responsible to Peking instead of to the people.
Fourthly, China's economic development is being made by way of key economic areas, such as Shanghai. There is no guarantee Taiwan would remain as a highly sophisticated economy and become a key area. Hong Kong was soon overshadowed.
Fifthly, the whole complex system of welfare developed in Taiwan would be threatened with change.
Sixthly, most important, the large Christian community in Taiwan, which embraces Protestants and Catholics, and has schools and universities, would be threatened with extinction. This could cause conflicts between Peking and the Vatican and American Protestant churches.
PROPOSED SOUTH EAST ASIAN TRADE BLOC
It is interesting to note that the Chinese President, unlike President Bush, flew over South East Asia without stopping to contact or take note of the efforts being made there to create a trade bloc. Such a bloc does not have the potential to become great. It is essentially tropical and lacks the resources possessed by countries like Australia. China is seeking liquid gas and oil in Australia, which has attractive supplies of light sweet crude oil which needs little refining. It can also be used straight away after it is raised from the earth. This and other vast resources make Australia, in particular Western Australia, an attractive trade partner which the Chinese President recognises.
Peking does not seem to be interested in the proposed trade bloc. It is opting for bi-lateral links, which fits in with the Australian outlook. Since the demise of the British Commonwealth as a protectionist trade block, Australia traditionally supports the principle of free trade and G.A.T.T. This is somewhat ironic, for G.A.T.T. was promoted by De Gaulle as an anti-American strategy when he withdrew from N.A.T.O. and developed close-ties with Moscow in 1956. As part of this move he promoted G.A.T.T. to be used as an instrument to limit the spread of American economic power.
The one major issue which was missed out in the public pronouncements by the Chinese President, is the current reign of terrorism. China certainly holds fears about this in the light of the forthcoming Olympic Games, and other ceremonies to be held in China. China itself, in the meantime, seems to be safe from attacks by fundamentalists although it shares a border with Afghanistan, and with troublesome former soviet republics where there are armed confrontations, although China itself has a large Muslim population. There have been troubles in the past. There were five Muslim rebellions in China in the nineteenth century when efforts were made to create Sultanates. These were crushed and the regions were brought under Chinese control in the same way that Taiwan was brought under Chinese control in the east. Since then, in more recent times, the boundary with Afghanistan and former Soviet territories is strongly controlled, and the Muslim population inside China, like the Tibetans and the democrats, have also been brought under control.
An interesting factor in this regard is that the parliamentary government in Taiwan has traditional links with the Middle East and has a representative of the Muslim International Movement. China has shown more of a tendency to accept Israel as a factor. This alignment also needs to be thoroughly examined and monitored.
"BIG WIG" RELATIONS
The initial moves made in Western Australia indicate that forging the links will be done by way of friendship between "big wigs" and not by friendship between the people as was encouraged when Australia first recognised Peking. A group of obviously important Chinese, seated in limousines with their own security guards, for example, drove at their own pace causing traffic to bank up in Perth and raising comments. That sort of behaviour can be seen when high communist officials drive through Tien An Men Square and Peking's streets when they go to attend party meetings. They act as if they were new emperors. This attitude may affect the image of China amongst democratic Australians.
In the meantime there are real issues to be watched and monitored. Conducting commercial relations with China has caused problems for other countries. The relationships are very personal. It takes time to find the right person to work with. There are also difficult issues to be resolved. Agreements have to be made about the use of trade marks, about the recognition of patent rights, about rates of exchange, about weights and measures, about re-exports of cheap Chinese products under Australian labels, and in particular about commercial law, for there is no rule of law as we know it in China. This is not new. Outside nations found that when they came to China in the nineteenth century to trade. That is why they made China sign treaties. These treaties never worked. There were constant demands for treaty revisions. That is why Britain built up Hong Kong where merchants were protected by established commercial laws. The role of commercial law will have to be defined carefully. Similarly, Australia's established methods in industry and production need to be watched over. Trade unions have a place here, but not in China. Australian shippers should get a share of the bounties, and Australian seamen should benefit from the trade as should other workers. Manufacturing must also be observed. In the 1930s, Australia was relegated to be an exporter of metals and the like. Our manufacturing sector declined and our young people had to go to war badly equipped. It was during and after the war that Australia became a noted producer of manufactured goods with a skilled work force.
China also is building an industrial base, and this may have repercussions for the leadership and in regard to the continued drive for socialism. China's advances are based on scientific thought and education, which discredit the Marxist-Leninist idea that dialectical thought is the basis for all thinking. That viewpoint brought down the communist regimes, and discredited communism, at its birthplace in Europe. In East Germany new young technocrats organised the gates to be opened for people to walk past the bewildered guards to enter West Germany. The wall fell down and the system collapsed. In China a new wave of scientists and technocrats may rise who will challenge the new emperors.
CHINA'S INTERNATIONAL BORDERS (clockwise from Vietnam) Country Status and Problems Vietnam -- Laos -- Burma border yet to be defined India (NW) border yet to be defined Bhutan -- Sikkim -- Nepal Site of Maoist Communist insurgency India (N) dispute over Tibet India (NE) site of Kashmir dispute and dispute about Aksai Chin territory (Sinkiang Province) occupied by China and claimed by India Pakistan border yet to be defined Afghanistan -- Tajikistan new Muslim republic Kyrgyzstan new republic--large Muslim population Kazakhstan new republic--large Muslim population Russian Federation -- Mongolia -- Russian Federation disputes over river border North Korea -- Taiwan (Oceanic) continued "civil war"
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|Publication:||National Observer - Australia and World Affairs|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2004|
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