O.T. FORD, 2003 MAY 8

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中國 Zhōng Gu can change. 中國 Zhōng Gu will change. In time it will be a liberal democracy, with respect for individual rights, where individual 中國人 Zhōng Gu rn will decide for themselves the nature of their own participation in society. All the lies of 中國 Zhōng Gus rulers, all the myths of Asian values and 孔子的 Kŏng Zi de culture, all the arguments of the apologists, will be proven wrong. Liberalism is not a Western idea and trend, it is a human idea and trend, and the 中國 Zhōng Gu state will not escape the cognitive liberation of the masses that has forced, or will force, political change on all the tyrannies of the world. Perhaps the 中國 Zhōng Gu dictatorship will be the next to fall. Perhaps it will be the last. But it will fall; that is certain.

There are two arguments against this, neither entirely without merit. The first holds that the power of the 中國 Zhōng Gu state is too formidable. The second holds that 中國人 Zhōng Gu rn are by nature illiberal, that their culture is communitarian and authoritarian. But while the 中國 Zhōng Gu state is powerful, so have been others which have nonetheless been brought down. While the 中國人 Zhōng Gu rn are illiberal, so have been others who have nonetheless cast off tyrannies. Indeed, there is sufficient evidence from Western democracies of illiberalism to suppose that all societies should be following the 新加坡 Sin Ka Pho model. Reality says otherwise.

It would be harder to imagine a state more powerful and pervasive within its borders than Сталинist Россия. And yet for all of the terror and intimidation, for all of the purges, an internal opposition, even somewhat organized, existed before, during, and after Сталинs reign. It was poised to shift the state away from Сталинism soon after Сталинs death; and the denunciation of the terror by Хрущев during the 20th Party Congress in 1956 literally rejuvenated the opposition, inspiring the generation, including Михаил Горбачев and Александр Яковлев, that would eventually shepherd the system to an end. It was not instantaneous; nor would be any change in 中國 Zhōng Gu. But the Cold War mentality of the eternal power of totalitarianism has proven not to be a realistic pessimism, but a mistaken one. And beyond that, Ferdinand Marcos in Pilipinas, Suharto in Indonesia, the various русские satellite governments in eastern Europe, and the apartheid rgime in South Africa were all taken down essentially by peaceful protest and a degree of international pressure. While there is no guarantee for 中國 Zhōng Gus future, there is no such thing as permanence in politics.

The rulers of 中國 Zhōng Gu justify their continued oppression by positing that 中國 Zhōng Gu is inherently totalitarian, that 孔子的 Kŏng Zi de culture teaches all 中國人 Zhōng Gu rn to respect, indeed demand, authority and order, and to place societys rights above the rights of the individual. Liberal democracy is a Western-culture system that cannot work among, and is not wanted by, the 中國人 Zhōng Gu rn. And yet there are quite a number of counterexamples. To take the most curious example first, the 中國共產黨 Zhōng Gu Gng Chăn Dăng itself disproves its own rhetoric. The original communists in 中國 Zhōng Gu were adopting an idea that had first been articulated (in the form adopted, anyway) in Europe. Not only was it ostensibly a Western ideology, it was also, decidedly, a liberal ideology. It called for the end of traditional power hierarchies, economic and social. It was accompanied, perhaps necessarily, by a strict rationalism that rejected other elements of tradition as well. Most specifically, it was anti-superstitious, working to free the mind, even the uneducated peasant mind, of subservience to unconsidered social-control ideologies.

It neednt be pointed out that the 中共 Zhōng Gng became one of the most illiberal rgimes of the century. But it was untraditionally so. It did subvert the power hierarchies and engage in a (moderately) successful assault on superstition. And over the course of its reign, in many ways as a device in its own rule, the 中共 Zhōng Gng adopted two other elements of European modernity, industrialization and capitalism. And within current Western thought, at least, industrialization is considered progress and capitalism is considered liberal.1

The early 國民黨 Gu Mn Dăng of 孫逸仙 Syn Yat Sn was largely a Western-inspired movement for contemporary liberal democracy. While it resulted in few, if any, lasting liberal changes, it did demonstrate that real and genuine 中國人 Zhōng Gu rn will embrace democratic ideals. And the 中共 Zhōng Gng claims the republican legacy of Sun and of the overthrow of the monarchy, which embodied in a person all of the reactionary ideals the 中共 Zhōng Gng was formed to fight against.

The protests for democracy in 天安門 Tiān Ān Mn Square in 1989 were neither the earliest nor the latest internal calls for liberal reform under 中共 Zhōng Gng rule. A notable earlier movement was that of the Democracy Wall, in which brave intellectuals posted their dissatisfaction with totalitarian rule and corruption in public. Among those intellectuals is the one who has perhaps the highest prestige among 中國 Zhōng Gus dissidents, 魏京生 Wi Jīng Shēng. In recent years, attempts have been made to organize an independent political party within the mainland itself, and to officially register it as the 中國 Zhōng Gu Democracy Party. These efforts have led to the arrest and imprisonment of numerous activists, including 徐文立 X Wn L (also a veteran of Democracy Wall) and 王有才 Wng Yŏu Ci (also a veteran of 1989). Both 徐 X and 魏 Wi have been released from prison on condition of exile.

The 中國 Zhōng Gu diaspora has maintained and nurtured its 中國 Zhōng Gu culture, and yet in many places has a long history of participating in genuine democracy, most notably in the United States. It also has a participatory role in new democracies in Asia, such as Pilipinas and Indonesia. In Malaysia, which is not a democracy, one of the leading opposition groups is a product of the 中國 Zhōng Gu community, the 民主行动党 Mn Zhŭ Xng Dng Dăng of Lim Kit Siang.

香港 Hung Gng is not democratic. It is a colonial fiefdom, just as it was under Britain, with 董建華 Dng Ghn Wāa substituted for Chris Patten, 北京 Bĕi Jīng for London. But it has a pair of very important features. The first is that it has a political culture that is reasonably liberal ― civil society, an independent press, and even a technocratic civil service deriving from British policy of indirect rule. The second is the 香港 Hung Gng Legislative Council, which has the form if not the power of genuine democracy.2 Some members of the council have even come to view themselves as apostles of democracy within 中國 Zhōng Gu, as the part that will show the whole how democratic debate is done.

And finally, there exists an example of self-contained 中國 Zhōng Gu democracy, not merely in form but in an actual sovereign state ― 臺灣 Ti On. 臺灣 Ti On was judged to be running a free democracy after the 1996 election of 李登輝 L Teng Hui, and was demonstrably running one after the 2000 election of 陳水扁 Tn Chu Pn, bringing an end to the one-party rule of the 國民黨 Gu Mn Dăng. The people of 臺灣 Ti On are in fact quite protective of their vibrant, even boisterous democracy, and democracy on the mainland is now viewed as sine qua non to any reunification.

Michael Elliot has proposed that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome may be for 中國 Zhōng Gu what Чорнобыль was for Россия and what the Ciudad de Mxico earthquake was for Mxico. It is difficult to see that these examples have any validity, though. By 1986, Михаил Горбачев was already in power, as the result of a decades-long power struggle between Сталинists and anti-Сталинists which had begun before Ленинs death. The alternation, then, between Сталин and Хрущев, Брежнев and Андропов, Черненко and Горбачев, demonstrated the real dynamic in Русский politics. No outside force had a significant impact on this struggle other than Hitlers invasion. To state that Ronald Reagan, taking office in 1981, or Чорнобыль, taking place in 1986, determined the outcome of this long process is to be ignorant of it. The 1985 earthquake in Ciudad de Mxico, if it did indeed set off political as well as physical shockwaves, took a full fifteen years to accomplish anything, by Elliots own admission. Only then did the eternally-dominant Partido de Revolucin Institucional concede a presidential election defeat, to Vicente Fox. It is worth noting that opposition candidate Cuauhtemoc Crdenas won the first presidential election subsequent to the earthquake, in 1988, but the PRI claimed the victory anyway. This was three years after the earthquake. The public may have responded to the earthquake and the PRIs response; and yet it would be a mistake to suppose that discontent with totalitarian rule did not predate the earthquake, and clearly the impetus to fraud survived it.

And yet small things do add up. Чорнобыль and the Ciudad de Mxico earthquake did contribute to the environment in which the battle between rule and reform took place. SARS could do the same in 中國 Zhōng Gu. It has the potential to kill thousands and thousands of people ― though there is little reason but panic to suppose at this point that it will.3 It has further demonstrated the dishonesty inherent in a totalitarian system ― if any further demonstration was in any way necessary.

In considering how democratization might come to 中國 Zhōng Gu, it is important to emphasize that genuine democracy, not merely its simulacrum, is under consideration. Some of the post-Горбачев states of the Русский empire, particularly the Trkic states, have not, in fact, undergone a transition from totalitarian rule. Generally the last аппаратчик who had been running the state under Горбачев leapt on the independence bandwagon, recast himself as a nationalist, and created a new one-party, oppressive state with sham elections and other shallow appearances of democracy.

The two personnel models for an actual transition to democracy are those where a reformed аппаратчик created something like genuine popularity, or at least fear of the unknown, and held power; and where the leading opposition to totalitarianism was swept into office at the first available election. The first pattern, in which, for instance, Борис Ельцинs early break from the system in Россия allowed him to work against the system from a position of relative prominence, was also followed loosely in Romnia and, after a stormy interregnum, in საქართველო Sak'art'velo.4 The second model, in which usually the most celebrated political opponent became the focus of the transition, was followed in such diverse places as South Africa, Československo, Pilipinas, Per, and Indonesia.5

Polska offers an important sub-model. When Solidarność arranged with the rgime to take power6, a compromise candidate was selected to be the first democratic prime minister, presumably to prevent one of Lech Wałęsas rivals from strengthening his own challenge. And yet this built the new prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, into the liberal candidate who eventually challenged Wałęsa in presidential elections, on the fear that Wałęsa was too autocratic.

A common feature of democratic transitions in national empires has been devolution. This happened in Indonesia in a limited and painful way, in Jugoslavija in an extensive and painful way, in Československo in a limited and peaceful way, and in Россия itself, miraculously, in an extensive and peaceful way.7 The one certain commonality in these examples is that devolution followed internal political lines. There has been no rationalization of boundaries; there has been no reversion to any boundaries that might have been redrawn by the center.8 International recognition or its lack have proven important, noting that in the case of Timor Loro Sae and the Baltics, their absorption was never internationally recognized, and in the case of Беларусь and Україна, a strange compromise had seen them seated in the United Nations throughout its existence. And, of course, in each case there has been an agitant minority calling for independence, and the greater its international sympathy, the greater its chance of success.

Solely based on recent precedent, then, བོད Bod will absolutely become independent under a democratic 中國 Zhōng Gu, though only within its new borders (devoid, that is, of eastern territories lost to other provinces). བོད Bod has strong international sympathy, a small 漢 Hn minority, limited resources, and a distinct culture. In fact, based on history it is more a question of whether བོད Bod can afford to declare independence than whether a democratic 中國 Zhōng Gu will let it go; but Timor Loro Sae may provide a comparison there. The most likely scenario would see the D‛armsāla exiles return to བོད Bod at some point during the transition, the ta lai bla ma officially renounce a right to rule, and negotiations take place not with the 中共 Zhōng Gng, but with the incoming democrats.

新疆 Xīn Jiāng is a more complicated matter, considering its resources and its large 漢 Hn minority. International sympathy is difficult to find at this point. At present, with Central Asia torn between Сталинist аппаратчики and اسلامى Islāmī fundamentalists, and strong stereotypes of September 11, there is no call for an independent Eastern Trkestan9. For that to change between now and 中國 Zhōng Gus democratization, 漢 Hn colonization will have to slow or cease, and the Trkler, especially the Uyğurs, will have to develop an organized, peaceful front to present a claim to the world and to the nationalist democrats who will make the final decision. The decision will be between national chauvinism and territorialism on the one hand, and humanitarian concerns and the desire for peace on the other.

Historical precedent also suggests that, should the བོད་སྡེ Bod Sde and Trkler participate in the democratization, if they are full partners in pressing for and winning democracy in 中國 Zhōng Gu, they will be in a strong position to demand their own independence from their partners. This dynamic led to the independence of the Baltics and other republics in Россия, the secession of ኤርትራ Er-t-rā from ኢትዮጵያ It-jop'ija, and the division of Československo.

Obor Moŋgol is at this point too heavily colonized to demand independence through self-determination. There is ample counterprecedent for a partial change of borders; the most likely outcome is the establishment of cross-border ties, as now exist between Magyarorszg and Magyar minorities in Romnia and Србија. And no other minorities, the Cuǝŋь, the Hmoob, or others, have internal boundaries to which they can refer10, to say nothing of anything approaching international recognition.

But there is a clear weakness to all precedents and all present models. They exist in the world of the present. If 中國 Zhōng Gu takes so little as twenty years to democratize, it will do so in a significantly-different international atmosphere. Global and regional integration will make the idea of outright independence almost laughable in twenty years. There are no states that exist in isolation, and the concept of the state is itself under assault. Certainly regional trading blocs and the overarching reality of the global economy will define the extent of independence available to any future states. Security will likewise be a concern.

Following history, the most likely scenario for democratization in 中國 Zhōng Gu will begin with a shift in the power struggle within the 中共 Zhōng Gng, possibly contingent upon the death of the paramount leader. The Политбюро Standing Committee will be reweighted in favor of the reformist faction. This, by protocol, may happen during a party congress, or it may happen, as in 1989, after a crisis. A gradual thaw will begin, with a loosening of controls on expression and communication. Civil society and political organizations will begin to take shape, particularly coalescing around established democratic leaders. Some of these may be drawn from 香港 Hung Gng, but it is likely that the thaw will also involve an expansion of democracy at the local and perhaps provincial level, and a limited amount of genuine democracy within the 中共 Zhōng Gng itself. The greatest internal forces for change will be located in the intelligentsia; though the ability to reach out to the working class and the growing middle class, which proved so successful in 1989, will be crucial. 北京 Bĕi Jīng will be one center, 上海 Zaz6 He5 a second, but the third and perhaps most important will be the 珠江 Jy Gng Delta region, with its bustling economic centers and the semi-protected societies of 香港 Hung Gng and 澳門 uh Mūn. Emerging from these centers will be a pro-democracy coalition, whose success will depend on its ability to unite disparate factions in and out of 中國 Zhōng Gu. For this reason, it will most likely be led by the most experienced organizers, those in 香港 Hung Gng, either the 民主黨 Mān Jy Dng or its successor. Acting on behalf of independent democracy and labor groups in the various cities, prominent exiles, the D‛armsāla administration (whose ta lai bla ma may or may not at that point be old enough to contribute), internal religious groups presumably including the independent Catholic Church and 法輪功 Fă Ln Gōng, and possibly an اسلامى Islāmī or Trkic pressure group from the northwest, this coalitions leaders will open negotiations with the 中共 Zhōng Gng for national free elections and the transfer of power. The 中共 Zhōng Gng will contest those elections; but the opposition will, at least for the first election, be united, and dominate. The southern leader of the coalition will become head of government, a prominent 漢語 Hn Yŭ speaker will become the figurehead president, and བོད Bod will be granted its independence, as will Eastern Trkestan if, and only if, it is at that point sufficiently well organized to participate meaningfully in the demonstration of strength that will persuade the 中共 Zhōng Gng to hand over power.

For this to happen any time soon, with the present cast of characters, certain things will be required. Most importantly, current paramount leader 江澤民 Jiāng Z Mn will have to die, and 胡錦濤 H Jĭn Tāo and 温家寶 Wēn Jiā Băo will have to be revealed as bona fide members of the reformist faction, rather than merely technocrats. 江 Jiāngs faction on the Политбюро Standing Committee will have to be decisively weakened, possibly even displaced, with 曾慶紅 Zēng Qng Hng especially removed or counterbalanced by a larger presence of reformers on the Standing Committee; and that will either require a significant crisis, or at least the five years to the next party congress, more likely ten. 胡錦濤 H Jĭn Tāo will have to designate an open reformist as successor, and demonstrate the ability to effect the succession. And the leading democrats ― Martin 李柱鉻 Lei Chyu Mīng, 魏京生 Wi Jīng Shēng, 徐文立 X Wn L, 劉賓雁 Li Bin Yn, 方勵之 Fāng L Zhī, 王炳章 Wng Bing Zhang, 王丹 Wng Dān, Harry 吴弘达 W and 王有才 Wng Yŏu Ci ― will have to organize themselves effectively and decisively the moment an opening emerges, particularly one that allows 魏 Wi, 徐 X, 劉 Li, 吴 W, 方 Fāng, and 王丹 Wng Dān, all in exile, to return. 王有才 Wng Yŏu Ci and 王炳章 Wng Bing Zhang are presently in 中國 Zhōng Gu, in prison. Martin 李柱鉻 Lei Chyu Mīng, as the leader (though not chair) of the 香港民主黨 Hung Gng Mān Jy Dng, would be likely to play a central role, as outlined in the general scenario.

There may also be a role to play by ousted leaders of the 中共 Zhōng Gng, either 趙紫陽 Zho Zĭ Yng and 李瑞環 Lĭ Ru Huan, or, more likely, younger leaders of the future who are purged by the conservative faction. They may reemerge, as did Alexander Dubček, as sentimental figureheads, or they may, as did Ельцин, take part in lower level elections preceding the national transfer of power.

Between now and the establishment of democracy in 中國 Zhōng Gu, the economic integration of the world and of East Asia will continue. It is in that context that the independence of བོད Bod and the reintegration of 臺灣 Ti On will take place. 臺灣 Ti Ons primary economic affiliation will be, certainly, with East Asia; and 中國 Zhōng Gu, before and after democracy, will be the center of that. བོད Bod may choose to make its primary affiliation with India; though it is more likely that, given what has already been many decades of integration, it will maintain its ties with 中國 Zhōng Gu as well. If the Central Asian states and Монгол are pulled into the 中國 Zhōng Gu orbit economically, the issue of independence for Eastern Trkestan or even Obor Moŋgol can be finessed as a part of a negotiated regional accommodation.11 The confederal solution to the 臺灣 Ti On issue has been proposed by Annette 呂秀蓮 Lu Xi Lian, for instance; but while she was leaning towards its nominal value, economic integration, as it continues, will make this a practical confederation as well. Globalization is, indeed, slowly changing the meaning of sovereignty and independence, to the point where few states even now can be said to have such freedom of action.

Nothing in this analysis suggests that the 中共 Zhōng Gng or its leadership as a whole will be required to surrender their desire to rule 中國 Zhōng Gu in perpetuity. It is simply a fact that a minority cannot rule a much-larger majority forever. In the case of 中國 Zhōng Gu, some of the minority will eventually lose its will to impose rule on the majority by force. And as the myth of a right to rule ― the mandate of heaven ― breaks down even further, the masses will only be ruled by force. Clearly elements of the 中國 Zhōng Gu power structure have a willingness to use force, and the conservative faction is well-tied to those who, in 1989, crushed a mass movement through the violent deaths of thousands of its members. But at some point the numbers and the resolve of mass discontent will exceed the ability of even the Peoples Liberation Army to quell it. There is a constant calculation, among those whose rule rests on force, about the likely need for its use, and its likely success. If, in that last moment, the rulers judge that they will not be successful, they will negotiate their own escape. If they extend their rule past the point of mass tolerance, they will meet the end of Mussolini and Ceauşescu. But history also suggests that 中國 Zhōng Gus rulers will prove shrewd enough to step down before that moment arrives. In an optimistic future, though not an unrealistic one, they may also prove humane enough.


1. The disaster that was 中國 Zhōng Gus industrialization, primarily in the 大躍進 D Yu Jn, does not detract from the fact that 中國 Zhōng Gu embraced Western material culture.

2. This refers to the two-fifths, or by next year half, of the Legislative Council that is actually elected, the so-called geographical constituencies.

3. The primary justification for any fear of SARS is that it is (still presumably at this point) an airborne pathogen, and viral, and therefore highly communicable and resistant to antibiotics. And yet even with 中國 Zhōng Gus cover-up of cases, it clearly has not spread uncontrollably or caused the sorts of deaths that would warrant such media hype.

4. საქართველო Sak'art'velo is not unquestionably democratic under ედუარდ შევარდნაძე Eduard evardnaze, as elections are conducted with a fair amount of fraud, and შევარდნაძე evardnazes predecessor, dissident nationalist ზვიად გამსახურდია Zviad Gamsaxurdia, was ousted by a coup.

5. Megawati Sukarnoputri was a more prominent leader of the masses than Gus Dur (Abdurrahman Wahid), who preceded her as president, but he had certainly been a noted critic of the Suharto administration.

6. An election had previously been held in which Solidarność dominated the freely-elected seats, and the Сталинists had held a parliamentary majority through reserved seats. But some of these seats were in fact reserved for parties affiliated to the main ruling party; when that ruling party (the Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza) agreed to allow those affiliated parties to vote with genuine independence, Solidarność was able to form a parliamentary majority without new elections.

7. This refers, of course, to the break-up of the larger Русский empire, the Советский Союз, and not the smaller (but still considerable) Русский empire, the Российская Федерация, which has fought any remaining devolution through the example of repeated bloody interventions in Noxiy 8. The boundary between independent Україна and Moldova has not reverted to that originally between Россия and Romnia, nor has Polska reclaimed land lost to Беларусь and Україна, and the land issues between Հայաստան Hajastan and Azǝrbaycan are still, as far as the international community recognizes, fixed at their last points under the Русский empire, despite earlier shifts. The new international boundaries of Jugoslavija are nothing but the old internal boundaries, even though wars were fought with the intention of rationalizing them, and with a good deal of justification.

9. The likely name of 新疆 Xīn Jiāng should it attain independence, both in keeping with historical precedent, and to distinguish the territory as a whole from Uyğuristan. The name Eastern Trkestan would include, among others, the К,азак, and Кыргыз.

10. A curious possible exception is the 漢 Hn مسلمون muslimūn of 宁夐 Ning Xia province.

11. This was essentially the solution offered by some ישראלים Jiśraelīm with regard to a فلسطينى Filastīnī state, that it would take place in the context of a confederation of ישראל Jiśrael, فلسطين Filastīn, and الاردن al-Urdun:. It was held by اعراب Acrāb to be, and probably was, an attempt to deny true sovereignty to the فلسطينيون Filastīnīūn, and has thus far been rejected by them.

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