“Don’t Let China off the Hook”

That’s the title of Jim Hoagland’s column on why the European Union shouldn’t lift the arms embargo placed on China following the TSM. He said the death of Zhao underscores how important it is not to let China off easy.

Zhao’s economic and political reforms in the 1980s began to free the energies that have made China the world’s manufacturing hub and a better place than it was. And yet his comrades and successors made Zhao live, and die, in obscurity and detention rather than face the truth about what they had done.

Their fear is a great tribute to the former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. The severe restrictions that were immediately imposed on news and comment about Zhao’s death and on funeral arrangements demonstrate that what Zhao did in Tiananmen Square in 1989 still matters.

What he did was weep, apologize and express sorrow as he unsuccessfully begged peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators to go home. Zhao knew but did not say that he had lost the argument in the Politburo, which was preparing to send troops with shoot-to-kill orders into the streets of Beijing rather than allow continuing public dissent.

That display of human feeling for others was probably seen as Zhao’s unforgivable crime by Deng Xiaoping, the country’s paramount leader and great friend of American presidents. Deng would allow no weakening of the images of invincibility and historical inevitability that the Leninist regime had cultivated as its greatest weapon of control.

Deng calculated that the regime would pay relatively little abroad for putting Zhao under house arrest (where he remained for 15 years), killing thousands of peaceful demonstrators throughout China and brazenly telling the world that the slaughter was necessary to protect the country’s economic progress. The West will quickly forget, he told the Politburo.

Hoagland argues that to forgive and forget despite China’s less-than-stellar human rights record. “That would betray the humanistic legacy of Zhao, which may grow faint in the West but which lives on vividly in China. The anxious silence of the Politburo is proof enough of that.”

The Discussion: 3 Comments

I know this is an opinion piece, but some of the stuff in this article is just too ridiculous even by opinion piece standards. Here’s a few quotes from the article that jumped out at me

Zhao Ziyang, who did more to create a post-Mao modern China than any other individual

Errr… more than Deng Xiaoping? Even Hu Yaobang far far outweighs Zhao in terms of contributions to the reforms. This is not a slam on Zhao. After all, Zhao was only head of CCP for a grand total of 2 years, and he was largely a figurehead anyway.

The West will quickly forget, [Deng] told the Politburo

How does he know what went on in CCP politburo meetings? Does he even realize that Deng was not even a member of the politburo by 1989? And the implication that the CCP leadership made their decision in 1989 based on what the West will do is just beyond laughable. The West was probably the last thing they were worried about at the time.

That display of human feeling for others was probably seen as Zhao’s unforgivable crime by Deng Xiaoping

I think no comment is necessary for this one

January 20, 2005 @ 9:09 pm | Comment

The article seems truly strange in both its high praise, going further than Bao Tong would probably even go, and its digs at America, especially considering the topic is EU arms sales to China. At first I would say that this article is part of the cult of Zhao in the west that has cropped up following his death, but Hoagland takes it to a whole new level and shows an absolute lack of understanding of the situation in China from Tiananmen to today.

January 20, 2005 @ 9:56 pm | Comment

Of course, America’s objection to the sale of arms to China have nothing to do with the thousends of US personel in Okinawa do they.

If China had advanced radar and missile systems capable of matching the US blow for blow, or a few of those nifty little french missiles that tore British ships out from under them during the Falklands, it would make America think twice about backing Taiwan.

China has all of the weapons that it needs for internal oppression, but what it lacks are the tools to fight the US on a level playing field, and America wants to keep it that way.

Imagine the difference that it would make to US stratagists if China could simply blow the USS Kitty Hawk away, or if it could jam US radar like the US can jam Chinese radar.

We need a more balanced playing field in the Pacific. When one side becomes too powerful, it gets ‘ideas’.

These weapons won’t help China oppress its people any more, and they won’t jepodize the safety of India, Korea, Russia, Japan or any of China’s other neighbors, but they will make America think again.

January 23, 2005 @ 5:10 am | Comment

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