There is no denying it. China is making enormous and rapid strides in improving its image as a persecutor of those who practice religions not wholly approved by the state. This is just one of several recent stories that indicate a real breakthrough that has the potential to shift world opinion and help cast Hu Jintao as a true reformer and purveyor of increased freedom in China.
Hong Kong’s new cardinal said the Vatican and China are holding “real talks” in Rome about normalizing formal relations that were cut off more than five decades ago when the communists took over the mainland.
Cardinal Joseph Zen’s comments on the Sunday TV talkshow “Newsline” on Hong Kong’s ATV World were among the most detailed he has made about the nature of the meetings between the Beijing and Catholic leaders in Rome.
The show’s host, veteran journalist Frank Ching, noted that a senior Chinese religious official, Ye Xiaowen, recently said Beijing and the Vatican have only been in “contact” about the issue of forging new relations.
But the outspoken Zen insisted the meetings were much more substantial than mere contacts.
“My impression is that they’ve entered into real talks,” Zen said, adding that negotiators were meeting in Rome.
Stay tuned. The Peking Duck is reconsidering his long-time stance on Hu, who just might end up living up to the original hopes of his being a reformer – at least in some respects. The jury is still out, but there’s definitely tantalizing evidence to consider. Whether these breakthroughs derive from Hu’s sense of altruisim and universal brotherhood or his desire to maintain the Paryty’s grip on power is another issue. But there’s no denying that, no matter his motivation, he’s willing to take major steps to transform China’s image of mindless intolerance. And that’s good for China, and the Chinese people.
Update: I mentioned the Dalai Lama in the headline; there are interesting stories about Hu reaching out to him, as well, but I’ll have to cover them when I have a little more time. It may be pure Machiavellianism, but I see it as shrewd and smart.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.