03/09/2009 - 00:00

True leadership missing in China

03/09/2009 - 00:00


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China needs a drastic rethink on how it engages with the world.

True leadership missing in China

NEARLY every second headline on press stories about China last month carried the word "snub".

Beijing snubs Rudd, or, China Snubs Aussie Minister, or Minister Snubbed by Beijing, and so on.

So much snubbing was highlighted that it seemed diplomatic relations would be ruptured.

But no.

Towards the end of August, we learned China had concluded a $50 billion long-term liquefied natural gas contract with Australia.

What, therefore, is to be learned from this highlighting of so-called snubbing as trade proceeds as if no snubbing occurred?

What's crucial when attempting to understand China's intolerant totalitarian bosses is to rid oneself of all preconceived ideas and stick to cold hard facts.

Failure to do so most often leads to a bout of fanciful thinking.

Some Westerners, for example, still regard China as a huge market waiting to be plucked, and they're prone to cast all else aside for the hoped-for dollar.

What they misunderstand is that China is primarily an importer of raw materials - minerals, coal, gas and oil.

In addition, it seeks foreign capital that's generally closely linked to its aim of acquiring technical know-how.

It's largely because of China's raw materials needs that Australia has undergone only a slight dip over the so-called global financial crisis.

However, with regard to direct foreign investment it's worth stressing that much of this emanates from that other, the tolerant and democratic China, Taiwan, also called the Republic of China, as opposed to the People's Republic of China, which we sometimes refer to simply as 'Beijing'.

China today, as in the past, prefers autarchy, so abides by a mercantilist trading approach, which simply means it seeks to meet its needs domestically to the maximum extent, thereby keeping imports at a minimum.

And there's no reason to believe this will change soon or in the longer term.

China has only ever turned to Australia when it's been unable to meet its needs for particular commodities. Today this includes iron ore, (but not steel because it seeks to manufacture that itself) coal and gas, plus several other crucial minerals.

Because China began boosting industrialisation after 1979, its needs in those areas are presently huge and growing.

This has resulted in tense negotiations, with intolerant Beijing using a number of tactics, including arresting Rio Tinto's Shanghai-based manager, Stern Hu, an Australian.

Steel is invariably a key component of industrialisation's opening stages as witnessed in early 19th century England, and late 19th century Germany and America.

Likewise with energy; in all those cases it was dominated by steam power, which was quickly replaced by electricity and liquid fuels.

Another often forgotten commodity China has sought from Australia - despite political and ideological differences - on a massive scale for the past 50 years is wheat.

That market emerged in 1960 because of the insane Maoist policy of enforced collectivisation - the so-called Great Leap Forward - of the peasantry that led to the starvation of millions.

The final death toll has never been released by the Chinese leadership, which, ever watchfully and ever guardedly, still rules.

This tiny, intolerant group that controls 1.3 billion people is wishing and hoping nothing changes in the governance area.

But it is under growing pressure from within, from a brave and admirable intelligentsia that's seeking to transform China into a liberal democratic nation.

The CCP leaders resemble Iran's primitive ayatollahs.

Like them, they are custodians of a rigid, anti-democratic and intolerant ideology constantly encountering complex and growing problems with modernism and their people's desire to be free of regimentation.

Those doubting this should Google "Charter 08" Lingba Xiànzhang since there's a translation carried of that powerful and moving manifesto.

Charter 08 was released last December and signed by 303 heroic Chinese intellectuals and human rights advocates "to promote political reform and democratisation in the People's Republic of China".

Since then about 8,000 people - both within and outside China - have signed up to back Charter 08, which calls for: freedom of association, assembly, expression and religion; an independent judiciary, public (not just the CCP) control of public servants; protection of private property; and election of public officials, to name just eight of its 19 demands, which are so hated by CCP leaders and their crony-capitalist backers.

Such calls throw those who control the CCP into a frenzy, which is why the heroic Liu Xiaobo, who helped frame Charter 08, was immediately arrested."His arrest came hours before the release on the internet of the '08 Charter', a rare, outspoken document challenging the ruling Communist Party to grant greater freedom of expression and to hold free elections," The London Time reported last December."Its publication was timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights today."

The next day, Tibet's Dalai Lama welcomed Charter 08.

"I am greatly encouraged by the launching of Charter 08 by academics, artists, farmers and lawyers in China on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," he said.

"Their call for political, legal and constitutional reform is admirable."

Since then another western province, Xingjian, has experienced unrest. And Beijing has sought to extend its intolerance into Australia by calling on the Rudd government to deny entry here of Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer.

I don't' recall Australia ever asking China to discontinue contacts with one of its Africa favourites, Zimbabwe's intolerant president Robert Mugabe, who so horribly represses his people.

All this prompted me to contact recently retired New Zealand academic Dong Li, whom I was fortunate to meet at the 2007 Summer Sounds conference in Blenheim, New Zealand.

Professor Li was forced to work as a pig stye helper for several years after being purged during the 1960s Maoist Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution for making a few innocent inquiries.

"The Australian government has stood up against the CCP, and displayed moral courage," Professor Li wrote.

"This is admirable.

"I hope this will create a precedent and more countries, especially the United States, to be as courageous.

"It must be understood that China needs the world as much as the world needs China.

"The CCP's legitimacy results from, among other things, its international standing, among which respect from developed and civilised West is actually much sought after.

"China does not have all the cards in its hands. In dealing with the CCP, countries like Australia need to adhere to their principles and hold on to their values.

"Values and principles are not just fine words, but are the most important things for a country as well a person.

"China today is powerful, but its power is mainly derived from its foreign currency reserve and armed forces, while it is very weak in values.

"In a sense values are the best weapons for the world to deal with the CCP.

"Very often handling of the relationship with the CCP may become clashes of wills and a war of nerves, but this is often what diplomacy is about, isn't it?"

So well and so succinctly put.

The CCP's leadership obviously hasn't realised it yet.

But it has reached the point where it should be sitting down - like Poland's communists did in Warsaw in 1989 - and talking seriously and sincerely with representatives of their people and Confucian culture about the path proposed by Charter 08.

If they don't they'll be living out their lives snubbing people here, there and everywhere.


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