Zoellick warns China

US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, in his most strongly worded China speech to date, called for the country to immediately begin a democratic transition, stating that the closed one-party system was simply not sustainable and that China needed to quickly make the government more responsible and accountable to the people. He warned that communist rule could not cope with the rising challenges that beset the country.

He also questioned China’s rapid military build up, warned China not to take access to the U.S. market for granted and accused China of mercantilism. He called piracy in China “rampant theft” and also accused the country of attempting to “lock up” energy supplies around the world.

Zoellick concluded by citing three examples of China’s challenges and contradictions: one umbrella labor union, but waves of strikes; a party that came to power as a movement of peasants but now confronts violent rural protests and a government with massive police powers but one that cannot control spreading crime.

China’s official response came the following day:

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters he had “taken note” of comments by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick that China’s one-party system was unsustainable, but insisted the country was stable and that communism had brought substantial benefits to its 1.3 billion people and said the United States had no right to dictate political morality to China.

“The internal affairs should be handled by the government and people of each country. We should respect another country’s right to chose its own development road. We have achieved sustainable and stable economic development and the people’s living standards have increased day by day,” he said. “Our social undertakings such as human rights and legal development have been forging ahead.”

The Discussion: 18 Comments

Interesting how the CCP makes this debate go around in circles. Someone says they should make the government representative and all the people a say. The CCP says “internal affairs should be handled by the government and people of each country. We should respect another country’s right to chose its own development road.”

But the entire point of it is that the Chinese people don’t have a choice in any of those things.

Hu Jintao: “I AM CHINA!”

September 22, 2005 @ 3:09 pm | Comment

Yeah, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the whole “People should choose whether or not they want democracy” argument. Need I explain further? It’s absolutely absurd, but I guess it makes people feel “open-minded” or something.

September 22, 2005 @ 6:32 pm | Comment

Agree with another commenter last week, forget his name, but he said that if the Greeks could handle ‘demos cratis’ thousands of years ago, then surely the Chinese with their ‘ancient culture’ should be able to handle a bit of voting?

Unfortunately, it’s not a question of whether they can handle democracy, it is more a question of can the ccp afford, quite literally, to allow democracy. Those mistresses, bribes, overseas holidays, American university fees, seaview villas etc won’t pay for themselves you know!

September 22, 2005 @ 6:50 pm | Comment

Oh yeah, a one-party imperial system is unsustainable in China.

Not to suggest that it should be sustained, but to toss rhetoric that suggests multi-party democracy is some sort of historical inevitability in a country with thousands of years of one-party rule sounds a lot like Marxist history.

And given Guitar George’s use of tariffs and quotas on various Chinese-made goods and nobid contracts to cronies, it’s kind of ironic that the former trade rep Zoellick would be accusing anyone of “mercantilism”.

September 22, 2005 @ 7:27 pm | Comment

I asked my sociology teacher, who is the president of Tsinghua social science school and also the leading scholar in China’s sociology field about his opinion about voting rights in China. and he commented that so many people, especially in rural areas, are not educated and informed at all, if you ask them to choose, they would probably still choose Mao Ze dong!

Partly dubious, partly true. In one of the classmeetings i asked about my classmates who came from the countryside about how the democracy is going in their hometown. “not very well” one classmate told me, ” some candidate would give twenty to each of the peasant in my hometown to buy their votes; and people there also seemed very happy to give up their votes for twnety kuai”. She comes from one of the close suburban area near beijing.

I think partly, i can understand those innocent “voters”. In china much is associated with money, it’s not only that they want the money for themselves, but also that if the chosen leader does not have money, then he is may want, but is quite possibly not able to do many things. about two months ago i read in the newspaper about how voters in one rural area sold their votes to one rich guy in the village and later on sued him for not doing anything. They said the local government is so poor that you have to trust on the local leader’s wealth to really do things. ( the fact is, after the tax reform, much of the local government at least in the village level lost most of its income. and the central government is debating whether or not should we abolish the government on the village level.)
But is there any conditions for one person to be chosen as candidate? ” Yes” she replied,” you nto have at least colledge degree if you want to be a candidate. but in practive nobody cares about it, you can either buy one or just neglect it and go on the money politics.”

September 22, 2005 @ 8:56 pm | Comment

I’m in the difficult position of agreeing with Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang. It’s difficult to listen to a representative of a closed two-party system lecture China about the evils of a closed one-party system. Increasingly, especially given Zollick’s examples, the differences are a matter of degree.

September 22, 2005 @ 10:33 pm | Comment

Only, there is a big difference. In the US, while there are two major political parties, there are scores of minor parties as well. Granted, the minor parties are not in the big leagues, but there dissenting voices are not silenced. Plus, there is nothing legally forbidding the establishment of a new major political party (note: I am not referring to financial constraints, monetary support, voter habits, etc) However, real opposition political parties ARE illegal in China.

September 22, 2005 @ 11:10 pm | Comment

Yes, making other parties illegal is different from rigging the system to make sure other parties are permanently marginalized. But the results are similar.

However, it’s mainly the schoolmarm lecturing that bugs me because I can point out areas of US life that are less free than China (for example, the US tax regime is arguably the most repressive in the developed/developing world). So in this particular instance, my gut reaction is to agree with the Chinese spokesman that the US has no right to dictate political morality to China.

September 22, 2005 @ 11:26 pm | Comment

I think that the US pays considerable lip service to the theory that democracies are less inclined to go to war against each other. The theory goes that China would be less of a long term threat if the goverenment were more accountable to the people.

Also, his speech took a two-pronged attack – one reagrding the trade side. That relationship is becoming increasingly one-sided in China’s favour. Also, because Hu’s trip was recently cancelled, he didn’t get the chance to splash out on Boeings and all sorts of trade deals that might have placated the AMericans – atleast temporarily. US$15 billion was mentioned at the time.

The second thing concerned fre3doms in China. Not economic free3doms but political ones. China is still one of the most politically repressive regimes in the world. For example, it doesn’t even have the merest semblance of an opposition and few dissenting voices. This is something that many of us sometimes forget.

September 23, 2005 @ 8:53 am | Comment


Hu Jintao: “I AM CHINA!”

To that I would like to add:

French King Louis XIV: “L’Etat, c’est moi” [I am the state]

And we all know how well THAT worked out…

September 23, 2005 @ 1:42 pm | Comment

Queen Elisabeth I became a ‘virgin’ and dedicated her life to make her country stronger. England flourished under her rule. Democracy does not always contribute good leaders, neither do authoritarian systems always produce bad leaders.

September 23, 2005 @ 6:37 pm | Comment

I think one of the problems is when things don’t go well under an authoritarian govt. The people have no way out and the govt wants to cling onto power. That’s one of the biggest fears of authoritarianism.

September 23, 2005 @ 6:48 pm | Comment


As fahreed zakaria said, “England was liberal long before it was democratic.” He also wrote a whole book called “Illiberal Democracy” and elaborated on the importance of liberalism and not simple procedural electoral government

September 24, 2005 @ 12:11 am | Comment

I dont know why the American guy wanna a democratic China, can you remember that Hitler was choosen by his people?Can you remember Mao was trusted and even idolized by his people?
Now in China, only the guy like Hitler can be choosen by millions of poor peasants as their GOD to fight against CCP, then the whole world!
And, one more thing, in 1945-1949, democracy was used as a powerful weapon by CCP to against JiangKaishi,who is supported by U.S. Unfortunately, Jiang and U.S failed. Mao won, as a repensitative of poor peasants, as repenstative of democracy!
Who will be MaoII?

September 24, 2005 @ 11:25 am | Comment

Hu Jintao is definitely defferent from any king and any emperor. He can’t make any big mistakes since he can at most rule China for 10 yrs. He has to satisfy 60 millions CCP memebers and thus the whole China. Look at Jiang Zheming, he is over now…can you imagine an emperor abdicates every ten years leaving his throne to someone else who might be his political enemy?

This is very important for Chinese people, considering 100 years ago there was an emperor in China who can kill anyone for any reason and considering just 20 years ago the China has just ended Mao’s 39 year’s era!

September 24, 2005 @ 11:46 am | Comment

I see where you are coming from Almond but demo in the People’s Republic just ain’t gonna happen.

I am now beginning to consider that the rule of law maybe could and should happen but demo? Not in a million years.

September 24, 2005 @ 6:19 pm | Comment

Almon, which election was it that Mao won? I forget…

Hitler was rejected by his own people and did not win an election to become chancellor until long after he was appointed by a bunch of scheming generals and officials who thought they could use him to cruch the communists. If they had not named him chancellor in 1933, he probably would never have been elected. Democracy had next to nothing to do with Hitler’s rise – rather, it was a perversion of democracy by true, dedicated democracy haters that paved his way.

September 24, 2005 @ 6:39 pm | Comment

Score one for richard and passing euro hist class.

September 25, 2005 @ 3:19 am | Comment

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