Two Chinas

(Update: I am moving this post up to the top because I think it’s important, and I insist that everyone comment on it. And be sure to read it to the end so you don”t miss the delicious reference to Taiwan as an “undented trophy.” Thanks for your cooperation.)

First, some background. This op-ed piece comes from one Lin Chong Pin, Taiwan’s former deputy defense minister and an oft-quoted foreign policy expert. I point to it as an example of how Hu is quietly using diplomacy to achieve his foreign policy goals.

On Feb. 27, President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan announced the “functional cessation” of the Unification Council, an office that had become largely symbolic. The move, however, could also have been interpreted as creeping step toward independence.

Beijing’s response was notable in its restraint. Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said on March 7 that the Chinese army showed no unusual movements. On the same day, Lu Zhangong, the Communist party secretary of China’s Fujian province, adjacent to Taiwan, said that scrapping the Council would not affect economic cooperation across the Strait.

But while Chinese officials appeared serene in public, they privately expressed concerns about Chen, as Roger Cliff and Toy Reid reported in an article, “Roiling the waters in the Taiwan Strait,” that appeared on this page on March 21.

Beijing apparently wanted to pressure Washington into reining in Taipei. The tactic appeared to work: The Bush administration issued anxious statements and even sent an envoy to Taipei demanding “clarification” after Chen first indicated his intention in late January to abolish the Council.

Since then, Beijing has mounted at least six more moves to win the hearts and minds of Taiwan’s people. That brought to at least 15 the number of such measures since Beijing passed the Anti-Secession Law in March 2005.

They include inviting Taiwanese farmers to sell fruit on Chinese markets, offering scholarships to Taiwanese students in China, providing loans to Taiwanese businessmen, relaxing regulations on Taiwanese professionals seeking work on the mainland and more.

I had the pleasure of hearing Lin speak a few weeks ago at an American Chamber of Commerce event here and left convinced that China is “winning” when it comes to Taiwan and myriad other foreign policy initiatives. He also talked about Hu’s reaching out to the Vatican and to Buddhists as further evidence of China seeking to soften its image in the eyes of a suspicious world. Reconciliation, peace and cooperation is China’s new world order. “Zhongnanhai reached a consensus on how it would deal with the US and other world powers,” Lin said. “The consensus was to make cooperation a priority.”

Even if you think the whole “outreach thing” is bogus and cynical, you have to look at Hu’s diplomacy with a sense of admiration. He knows what he wants for China and he knows how to get it – at least in terms of international relations. Lin went on about what Hu is achieving in Europe, Latin America and Africa and elsewhere, and it reminded me of how the US consolidated its power through brilliant diplomatic maneuvers after both the first and second world wars.

America’s power is in decline and China’s power is on the rise. Unfortunately, that’s not even debatable. That doesn’t mean they are anywhere close to equilibrium; America is still way, way, way higher than China – we’d have to fall a huge distance and China would have to soar to unimaginable (for now) heights before that happens. But the trend is in place, and this really is China’s century.

Just as the 20th Century was America’s, and just as we quietly built global partnerships to ensure our leading position, China, too, is now extending its tentacles into every corner of the globe and making deals designed to guarantee its steady ascension. And they are doing it very well. Americans for generations believed that the Monroe Doctrine guaranteed Latin America would always be under our influence. Sometimes, when that relationship appeared under threat, we didn’t hesitate to send in the troops. That’s changing fast, as more and more nations realize they have to hitch their star to China.

Hu’s string of policy victories in Latin America and Africa, not to mention his incredible success in winning the hearts and minds of his neighbors in Asia, like Singapore, Malaysia and even – who would have ever thought it?- India, is nothing short of miraculous. The same with the European Union; they see China and there are stars in their eyes (or dollar signs) – and Hu has increased China’s influence on the EU more than most of us imagine, according to Lin. “Hu has elevated the imporatance of the EU as a counterweight to the US,” Lin said. “Whenever there is a vacuum of US or European influence, China will fill it, as they are doing in Africa.”

So, back to the title of this post, Two Chinas. This stems from a question I asked Mr. Lin as he described in breathtaking detail the triumphs Hu quietly achieved in terms of foreign policy from 2003 to the present. So this is, in a nutshell, my question to Lin:

Mr. Lin, you are describing foreign policy performed at the very highest levels of sophistication. The way you are describing Hu, one would have to think of him as an uncannily adept, brilliant deal maker and a man of incredible power and persuasion. And yet, at the very moment of some of his most impressive successes in 2003 – at that very instant, China was making some of the greatest domestic blunders in the nation’s history, lying to its own people about SARS, losing their trust and dragging the country into a state of panic and confusion that resulted in the loss of billions of dollars and immeasurable losses in terms of world public opinion. How do we reconcile this? How can we have Hu the super-diplomat in one corner, and in the other corner we have Hu the great bungler who was too stupid to follow the most fundamental rules of crisis control: don’t lie when it’s inevitable you’ll get caught? It’s almost as if you are talking about two Chinas, one that is skillful and incisive and ingenious, another that is hopelessly inept and amateurish and foolish.

The bottom line is this: Lin said this was exactly correct. There are two Chinas and they exist in separate universes. Now, this is not any great revelation. We’ve discussed it here many times, especially in regard to local officials who are free to act at whim with no fear of reprisal or justice, existing literally in a universe apart from The central Party. Lin said the great paradox here is that despite Hu’s awesome power, he is literally helpless to make any changes in China’s domestic situation, only in its foreign policy (which, granted, can then in turn affect China’s domestic situation).

So I’ve been thinking about this paradox all week. Should we admire Hu Jintao as the Bismarck or Metternich of his time, using political skill to achieve enviable results? Or should we laugh at him for being utterly impotent to effect any meaningful change in the country over which he allegedly rules? If he is so utterly incapable of halting corruption, of freeing the innocent, of enforcing the law, of imprisoning unabashed scoundrel and murderers, why does he even live in China? Couldn’t he set up a condo in Bermuda and run China’s foreign policy from there? What difference does it make? According to Lin, he’s literally irrelevant to China’s domestic situation.

What an odd paradox, a leader with so much power, and at the same time a leader with no power at all.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on China nor have I ever claimed to be. It’s simply a place that interests me and so I blog about it. Nothing that I say here is necessarily “true” (though none of it is intentionally false), and I’m more than willing to be proven wrong about everything, as I frequently am.

On a more mundane note, my home PC is still broken, so this’ll be the last post of the night. This diatribe was written at work, but after working hours (of course).

Update: Just to be clear, Lin believes China is utterly intent on winning Taiwan, no matter how pacifist it makes itself appear. “Hu’s idea is to seize Taiwan as a ravishingly beautiful and smiling bride and to hold her in China’s embrace,” he said. “He intends to win it as he would a shining trophy, which he will then place, undented, on a shelf.”

The Discussion: 43 Comments

What? This kind of story is usually one that generates dozens of fired up comments.

For the record, my view: Beijing has zero chance of regaining possession of Taiwan through a charm offensive appealing to the Taiwanese population. Zip. Nada. None.

I think China will do considerably better in its relations with other countries, now it’s started to learn the lesson of how to talk in language that doesn’t make them look like a bunch of communist ideologues. Nothing has changed of course, but in the west our politicians aren’t much better … they’re just better lubricated (with slime). I’ve really noticed that English language media websites such as China Daily are using a considerably more diplomatic turn of phrase in the last couple of years … I’ve had to start turning to the PLA’s English language website for the really funny stuff.

Oh, the bad news? China’s foreign relations don’t really matter. Not in the long run. China’s success or failure will depend on internal factors … and I’m afraid I’ve seen nothing to convince me that the country isn’t in trouble. There’s nothing more dangerous than raised expectations.

April 13, 2006 @ 6:56 am | Comment

Yeah, all this work and no comments! What can I do. ๐Ÿ™‚
China’s foreign relations do affect the domestic situation, so they do matter. It affects the price of oil, international investment, the number of new companies setting up shop inside China – and all these things affect domestic life in terms of jobs, wealth and the cost of living. Still, as you say, the country is in deep trouble thanks to its domestic mess. The fact that it’s still going with its head above water is to the party’s credit. The true test will come when China runs into the inevitable speed bumps, like a recession or inflation or deflation.

April 13, 2006 @ 8:27 pm | Comment

Well, Richard, I think it’s one of those posts that is very complete and hard to take issue with. So my comment for the most part would be, “well done!”

April 13, 2006 @ 9:52 pm | Comment

Richard,

You see, there has been little left to fire-up passionate glib regarding Taiwan, Chinese leadership and its course to greater power. Much has been exhausted or as missed opportunities for the U.S. on Taiwan.

On the second note, George W.: the most “powerful” man in the world, and some argued the most incompetent. Is that such an interesting paradox? And, is Hu powerful and/or powerless? Come on. What’s leadership?!

April 14, 2006 @ 12:39 am | Comment

I agree that a Charm offensive would be difficult to bring Taiwan into PRC’s fold. If it does succeed, it’d be the first time in history a prosperous democracy’s given up its freedom to join a authoritarian regime.

China’s foreign policy having no influence on domestic policy? I have to disagree. China’s foreign policy is geared to improve China’s standing but also to help the CCP maintain is power. Many free world nations that would never deal with authoritarian regime give up their principles when China’s market is a factor. This has two causes: 1) is that the CCP’s control will be seen as what is bringing in the economic growth and investment, and 2) nations and international firms will care less abou the domestic pains the Chinese face, given their financial interests.

April 15, 2006 @ 12:30 pm | Comment

Agreed, Sky – I think it’s just one tactic in a more long-range plan to prepare the Taiwanese for eventual reunification. It may not work; I agree, the Taiwanese would never voluntarily join the authoritarian CCP, unless, many years from now, they truly believed it was no longer what it used to be. I honestly don’t believe the CCP can change its stripes like that, not even in 100 years, but they are sure trying – at least in terms of appearance/perception.

We agree about China’s foreign policy affecting domestic policy. I see it as a trickle-down process, where the progress in foreign policy brings benefits that ultimately seep down to the people and help further domestic progress.

April 15, 2006 @ 8:10 pm | Comment

I agree with skystreaker. The Charming Mr. Hu comes bearing gifts – access to China’s booming economy – and is welcomed everywhere. It’s just high level PR. He could, but hasn’t, done much that that has made a real difference in the world.

I don’t know enough about internal policies, except what I see around me every day, but it seems he believes in the “trickle down” economic theory. He has the power, it’s a choice to use that power.

April 15, 2006 @ 8:28 pm | Comment

One thing I can tell you is that Hu is not the brain behind China’s foreign policy, but he DOES have enough sense to follow the advice of his more intelligent and sensible advisors.

There are still a lot of fools and madmen in China’s foreign policy establishment (especially in places like that vile whorehouse, CASSS), but at this time they’re not calling the shots. The good ones are. And the more America and Europe give them positive reinforcement for sensible foreign policies, the better the long term outcomes will be.

April 15, 2006 @ 8:50 pm | Comment

PS, typo error in my above comment. I meant to type “CASS”.

CASS is the ultimate intellectual whorehouse. The “professors” there make South Park’s “Mister Slave” look like a virginal choir boy.

April 15, 2006 @ 8:58 pm | Comment

I disagree with the poster above who said that the charm offensive would fail. The charm offensive might work ALWAYS PROVIDED that it is backed by weapons — the velvet glove over an itchy and iron fist. It thus provides a way for Taiwanese to rationalize giving in to the reality of killing.

Further, Taiwan has only an imperfect sense of itself as a nation. It has been a colonial its whole career. Many habits of thought remain unrevised from the KMT period — referring to China as “the mainland”, for example. It has a large fifth column in the form of mainlanders who do ardently support China. And its institutions remain largely under mainlander dominance and control.

Hu is the first Chinese leader to understand that as along as China does not threaten Taiwan it can coax it in, at gunpoint.

Michael

April 15, 2006 @ 9:23 pm | Comment

Rich, the seeping I’m talking about doesn’t necessaily mean benefit. The many domestic problems for example, featured by the Frontline Tankman documentary, is largely ignored by internations corporations. These firms might in fact benefit from lack of benefits or freedoms of individuals, as long as they get their production cheap, so turn a blind eye.

For example, while Nike may get crap in the US for having sweatshops, etc, in southeast asia, mainlander migrant workers in China according to Frontline often go unpaid. Perhaps this is due to system wide corruption rather than officially socially accepted norms. But there seems to be no international discontent at the magnitude regarding southeast asia sweatshops?

April 15, 2006 @ 11:31 pm | Comment

Initial comments:

All the talk that this is China’s Century is overrated; usually played up by Sinologists who want to solidify their position as consultants, by news writers who feel they have to say something dramatic, and certainly eaten up by Chinese who long to identify with past greatness of the Middle Kingdom. For a different version, does anyone remember all the Yellow Peril talk of the 1920’s.

Certainly everyone is enamored of the great China market and it is played up by the Marketing Departments of major companies, but the last people I would trust for bottom line stuff are Marketing Departments; they live in a world of hype and promise.

One could as easily make a case for this is India’s century. But I think the world is becoming to interconnected for it to be anyone’s century.

Everyone wants to hitch their star to China? Yes right now, but they can just as easily hitch their star to the next cheapest place to produce. In twenty years most of Taiwan’s factories moved overseas from Taiwan; a majority of them moved to China; but they could just as easily move elsewhere in the next twenty years. Some already are looking at Vietnam; it all depends on who offers the best deal.

Hu living in two worlds–for sure; most Chinese have no problem with that; especially those at the top; they can preach Confucianist concern but live by a code of the Legalist tradition and control. As long as they can get those underneath to believe that they are fulfilling a hierarchical care for those underneath they can exploit them.

China’s need to take over Taiwan feeds two different concerns or traditions; in one sense it helps focus attention outwards to avert questions on why progress is so slow within (for that reason they don’t want to take it too fast because they would need a new outer substitute for it) On an opposite side it speaks and taps into the virtues of filial care for the motherland etc. which can be used as a mobilizing force again directed outward, even though Taiwan as an inseparable part of the motherland is a part of recent ideological jargon.

I’ll add more later.

April 16, 2006 @ 2:52 am | Comment

You know how suspicious I am of China, Jerome. But Hu’s foreign policy prowess seems beyond argument. Where it ultimately leads remains to be seen, but I have to be fair and acknowledge China’s stunning turnaround in projecting a kinder, gentler image to the world, and also in overcoming some of the practical crises that I always thought would keep it down, such as the weight of the iron rice bowl (the SOEs) and the chaotic banking system – both of these impossible situations are actually being resolved, to my astonishment. As much as I hate to acknowledge the achievements of an oppressive regime, I must say China seems to be doing the impossible. I know all about the flaws and weaknesses in the system, and I believe most of the hopes of the world’s retailers who see China as The Next Big Thing are built on sand. But China is tilting the world in a new direction, and in a way that India simply is not. It all remains to be seen, but after Lin’s presentation – from a man deeply suspicious of the CCP and fully aware of its hegemonistic intentions – and after reading a number of reports on China’s economic progress, I can’t deny the obvious: Something right is being done in China, at least on some levels. This is of little consolation to Hao Wu and the millions of rioting peasants and the countless victims of the CCP’s corruption and lawlessness, I know. But we’d best keep a clear head and not discount Hu’s recent achievements on the diplomatic front, and in regard to the country’s economic infrastructure.

As I always say, one unexpected gust of wind could bring down the house of cards. But if the banking system really is stabilized and if the SOE crisis is as well, then those cards have a lot better chance of standing up, especially if Hu’s diplomatic efforts open new markets and keep open a pipeline of resources for which China thirsts. We’ll see.

April 16, 2006 @ 7:05 am | Comment

Skystreaker, agree about the tragedy of the unpaid workers and the sweatshops. Still, some of the benefit of the global wheeling and dealing does reach the people in terms of new jobs, availability of oil and new markets for selling goods. As vile as conditions are for China’s laborers, there is no denying that they have it better now because of this free trade than they had it under Mao. Hu is shrewd to continue the process so aggressively.

April 16, 2006 @ 7:15 am | Comment

Richard,
Let me add another perspective on why Hu can be successful in the international arena but not able to accomplish a lot domestically. In international affairs he is not messing with anyone’s personal rice bowl and may be contributing to such so he will get a lot of support; when it comes to domestic affairs He starts to interfere with personal, local, regional rice bowls and that makes a big difference. They don’t mind reform, but not in their back yard.

April 16, 2006 @ 8:28 am | Comment

Ivan, what’s CASS?

April 16, 2006 @ 12:52 pm | Comment

I guess you have closed trackbacks (too much spam?). I commented on this post here:
http://uselesstree.typepad.com/useless_tree/2006/04/sun_tzu_and_tai.html

April 16, 2006 @ 5:24 pm | Comment

Lisa,

CASS is a whorehouse. (Sorry, you set me up for that one ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, it’s “China Academy of Social Sciences” in Beijing, and it’s China’s equivalent of a political “think-tank”, whose principal purpose is to concoct intellectual fig-leaves to justify eternal One Party Communist Dictatorship. And their secondary aim is to say “American Hegemony” over and over and over again until it sounds like a duck quacking.

April 16, 2006 @ 6:03 pm | Comment

Hmmm, cause there are some pretty liberal intellectual types – aren’t there other competing “think-tanks”?

April 16, 2006 @ 7:47 pm | Comment

Sam, I was getting hundreds of spam trackbacks every day. A real shame that the fu*king spammers have to ruin the Internet for everybody.

April 16, 2006 @ 7:54 pm | Comment

I’d thought I’d add the wealth of informion on the CASS frm wikipedia:

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (中国社会科学院; pinyin: Zhōngguรณ Shรจhuรฌ Kēxuรฉyuร n) is the national academy of the People’s Republic of China for the social sciences. It is an institution of the State Council of China. It was founded in May of 1977.

That’s it.

April 16, 2006 @ 8:46 pm | Comment

Was JZM a great diplomat? JZM put on a charm offensive? Deng? Not to be reductionist, but isn’t it just a function of China’s economic position? As China grows richer and can buy off the opposition or dangle market access in front of people’s noses, their foriegn policy becomes more “successful.” And then this is (mis)attributed to Hu’s prowess. Bush is the “the most powerful man in the world” for the same reason. Despite his complete lack of leadership. Sometimes leadership isn’t required. It is always better to have good leadership, but you rarely get it.

April 17, 2006 @ 12:31 am | Comment

I posted on this in a different topic. Let me expound here.

My perspective of Hu is that he is a decision maker. This is important. Not to say Jiang was not, but I believe that Hu is more firm in sticking to the plan.

I still believe that the Mainland would be perfectly happy if the reunification took place in 100 years. China has absolutely nothing to gain financially by getting their hands in to The Island’s national checkbook.
Meanwhile the Mainland continues to encourage Taiwan invenstment on the mainland because it’s good for the economy. It’s good for the Mainland’s national development of technology. It’s good for the Island, as they get cheap labor, cheap land, good return.

The Island people are free to work and play on the Mainland. Though the flight makes a circuitous route, it is no worse than commuter flights from the Southern part of the USA to major cities such as Chicago, New York or LA.

I don’t know why the Island leadership makes so much “ruckus”. If they would just “play dead”, and avoid talk of independence, what would it hurt? What do they lose?
What country is going to attack the Island? They have defenders in China, USA, Japan, South Korea and possibly Australia. It is ridiculous for it to be said that the Island people “live in fear”.

the US policy has always been a tough position of One China, defend the Island (Nationalist Goernment).
The US led the Warsaw discussions, insisting that the Island agree to peaceful reunification. THEY DID AGREE in 1958 under pressure, to seek peacful reunification.
Though the UN let the Island hold the seat on the Security Council for a while, the US policy faltered but never fell.
We, the USA, agreed in Shanghai that:
“The U.S. side declared: The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position.”

What is the problem here? During the build-up to the meeting, and during the entire 50’s, 60’s the Mainland refused to give up it’s right to use force. And you know what, WE, did not make them agree in the communique.

So it’s really a simple matter of everybody doing what they said they would do umpteen years ago.

I would be interested in someone from Taiwan telling me how they feel about the whole thing.
@skystreaker I would argue that there have been many mergers between countries made at the point of a gun (Republic of Texas). Including almost all of the former USSR satellite states were “re-united”.

April 17, 2006 @ 1:08 am | Comment

I’m curious as to how many of you think that Taiwan would be placed “undented on a shelf”.

Surely, one of China’s prime considerations on taking over the island will be political: how to undermine Taiwanese independence ideology and keep it down? Using such excuses as the chaos of war and the martial exuberance known as collateral damage, permanently disappear specific pains in the ass. Exit all foreigners. Ban reporters save those with peckers affixed firmly in the CCP’s pocket. Arrest various activists, politicians, reporters and writers and jail them for lengthy terms. Depress funding for local universities and move the better part of their equipment and libraries to China. Flood the island with Mainlanders who will work for peanuts and give them various economic/guanxi incentives and tax breaks. Put mainlanders in all positions of power from political to constabulary to bureaucratic. Eliminate the local currency at a punishing conversion rate to destroy people’s savings and investments and thus further clear the way for mainlanders trying to get a leg over. Move local industry over to mainland China via fiat and regulation and/or nationalization for allegedly patriotic motives and otherwise turn Taiwan into a crony capitalist/carpetbagging backwater.
Much of this was done by the Soviet Union in 1945/46 with Japanese assets in Manchuria and by the KMT in the latter 1940’s moving Taiwanese assets to China. Perhaps large economic migration out of Taiwan to the major cities of China will be encouraged. The focus of Taiwan’s economy will return to agriculture and low-tech like Japan’s islands of Kyushu and Hokkaido. New infrastructure will largely facilitate new military installations ringing the island as Taiwan’s primary purpose returns to unsinkable aircraft carrier shielding China from the US, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam while extending its reach into the Pacific and acquiring additional South China Sea assets (Spratly Island oil and natural gas, for example). Not only does all of this win kudos from nationalists and job-seekers within China, but it ensures Taiwan’s people lack wealth and leisure time to engage in political activism and other naughtiness. I presume the post-bellum poverty of the Southern Confederate states (whether deliberate or accidental) helped ensure that there was no significant resurgence of Southern Independence activism in the US post-1865.

Having said this, I don’t pretend to really know what I’m talking about in this regard so I’d be more than interested to hear opposing views…

April 17, 2006 @ 2:57 am | Comment

Great Post.

I agree with much of what you say, but I think you have gone to far. Is it really brilliance to realize that the way to win friends and influence people on the world stage is to pay attention to them and give them money? Conversely, though I agree that Beijing has far less power over all of China than most people realize, it does have power and that means Hu Jintao does as well.

April 17, 2006 @ 7:55 am | Comment

It isn’t just giving stuff away. It’s also forming alliances that undermine the US and the EU. Sorry if that wasn’t made clear. The giving stuff away is the easy part, and also, in Taiwan’s case, the least effective. It’s the deals with countries in African and Latin America I’d be keeping an eye on.

April 17, 2006 @ 6:11 pm | Comment

Richard,
“but I have to be fair and acknowledge China’s stunning turnaround in projecting a kinder, gentler image to the world, and also in overcoming some of the practical crises that I always thought would keep it down, such as the weight of the iron rice bowl (the SOEs) and the chaotic banking system”

Um, if you begin to weigh in the wages Beijing thinks it has secured over Taipei, you would be more cautious on praising Hu. Keep in mind who from Taiwan just visited Beijing with an entourage of over 100 corporation heads and KMT affiliates. This is unprecedented drama, of course. And hence the caution on your generosity in praising Hu. I suspect you are simply bemused by the recent cross-strait development, which, undeniably, has been more than entertaining after a curiously long standing bottleneck phase between the governments.

April 17, 2006 @ 10:49 pm | Comment

Richard, Hu is the boss in China but you keep talking about him as he were a reformist isolated alien whose good intentions are stopped by bad fellows. I don’t know if it’s only naivety or real blindness but at this point of history it’s a bit preposterous (euphemism) to repeat again the “Hu’s good faith” litany.
When you praise your favourite dictator (please, don’t be offended at this sentence, it’s not an attack against you, only an observation), try not to forget you’re speaking of the boss of one of the most repressives regimes on Earth. You’re not so inclined to forgiveness whe the object of your reflections are democratic leaders you don’t like.

April 18, 2006 @ 7:55 am | Comment

” Richard, Hu is the boss in China but you keep talking about him as he were a reformist isolated alien whose good intentions are stopped by bad fellows. I don’t know if it’s only naivety or real blindness but at this point of history it’s a bit preposterous (euphemism) to repeat again the “Hu’s good faith” litany.
When you praise your favourite dictator (please, don’t be offended at this sentence, it’s not an attack against you, only an observation), try not to forget you’re speaking of the boss of one of the most repressives regimes on Earth. You’re not so inclined to forgiveness whe the object of your reflections are democratic leaders you don’t like. ”

e.r – You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. Seeing the host of this website has traveled throughout the region, he is probably in a better position to speak on this topic than most people.

April 18, 2006 @ 10:20 am | Comment

Obviously, my Chairman.

April 18, 2006 @ 10:30 am | Comment

Sure, HU is silver tongued when it comes to foreign policy but imho the brother part of the goodwill towards China comes from the marketing departments of western companies whom westerners (for some reason or other) 1) tend to believe 2) have better access to than the People’s Daily.
Its not even like everything they touch is a success.
One move that I call a Foreign Policy blunder is the Anti-seccessionist Bill, threatening death and destruction to Taiwan in case of this and that.
Their sweet talking and releasing a few political prisoners immediately before a big state visit, is routinely debunked as nothing but a show in the media (at least here in Denmark).
The SARS crisis also didn’t do them a whole lot of good image-wise.
If Hu himself had planted the “1.3 billion customers” mantra in the heads of marketing execs then I’d agree to give him the credit.
In fact, I suspect, he did not.

April 18, 2006 @ 4:17 pm | Comment

Just to clear up any misconceptions, my respect for Hu is limited and China today is still the poorly governed mess of a country it was yesterday. I am impressed with Hu’s public relations and international deal-making capabilities. I never said i think he is a reformer – but he may indeed end up being perceived as one, and that’s a coup for him. This post in no way credits Hu with getting the foreign marketing companies to all (rather ignorantly) salivate over China’s 1.3 billion consumers. That occurred long before Hu. What I do credit Hu with is his forging partnerships that will ensure China has a tactical advantage when it comes to world influence, filling in gaps wherever the EUand America shrink away due to ethical considerations or whatever. Now, these deals may be “evil” (when you are playing with Mugabe and Iran’s firebrand president you really are dancing with the devil) but from a coldly practical standpoint they are shrewd to say the least.

Jonas, I know all about the BS of their periodic prisoner releases, and I certainly know more about the CCP’s history during SARS than most people. That doesn’t change the fact that in the eyes of the masses, China’s image is now improving. Keyword: image. I never said this meant that China really is better or more tolerant or fair. It is not. But I know good PR when I see it, and I also know a good dealmaker. Hu’s a good deal maker. For whatever that’s worth.

April 18, 2006 @ 8:38 pm | Comment

Good response Richard, and I’ll vouch for you in front of these people who don’t seem to have been following this blog long enough to understand that you views are exactly as expressed, and are thoroughly consistent with everything you’ve said before. No one would accuse you of being a stoog of the CCP, but you’re always inclined to try to give credit where credit is due.

April 18, 2006 @ 10:40 pm | Comment

Thanks, FSN, and forgive me for savaging you in another comments thread today. ๐Ÿ™‚

April 19, 2006 @ 12:21 am | Comment

to say that 21st century is china’s century is a gross overstatement. as you may very well see. it’ll still be america’s century in the coming century, despite some third world countries trying ferverently to catch up. or at worst, it’ll be indian’s century. the recent economic progress over there is nothing short of amazing. it has a sound democracy, stable social structure, not to mention profound sense of spirituality, which is probably the last line of defense against modern commercialism.

the truth is, while china enjoys a huge market, as a result of its huge population, it’s all that it’s ever going to be — a market place. in ten or twenty years time, they will lose their edge in cheap labor; in 50 yrs time, they will even lose their edge in population. they have no remarkable heavy industry, incapable of even making any decent automobile; their technological know-how is decades behind the developped nations; there is no such thing as innovative research and invention in that huge place; and finally, they are thoroughly westernized and have no culture of their own.

in other words, the prosperity they enjoy is only temporary, probably lasting no more than a nother 1-2 decades or so. when they are exploited and used up, the corporations will transfer their investment to other, more lucrative 3rd world countries, and you’ll be left with nothing more than just another exhausted third world country.

April 19, 2006 @ 6:21 pm | Comment

i’m rather sympathetic of Hu. There is little doubt that regional governments’ struggle for power with the central government undermines its ability to rule.

the relationship between the regional and the central government is complex. On one hand, CCP in beijing relies on its underlings at the local level to enforce their laws and policies, collect taxes, establish a power base for the party, and select future officials. on the other hand, beijing must also limit the power of these governments, regulate the way they conducts their affairs, balance the interest of different groups, while keeping everybody happy, not to mention taking the blame for abuse of power, corruption and all kinds of mess left by local governments.

it’s nothing new. it’s been happening for thousands of years. there was almost never a lack of will to make the country better in the highest levels of government through the past thousand years or so, but so long regional powers had their own stake in the pot, things would just keep on getting worse.

in other words, nothing short of a bloody revolution, beakup of china into no less than 7 or 8 smaller pieces, establishment of mature and responsible democratic governments, as well as change of basic mentality of its populace. of course, that process may take 50 years in the best circumstances, it may be excrutiating painful, and it may drag asia, if not the world, along with it .

April 19, 2006 @ 6:55 pm | Comment

Let’s not forget that most of the Standing Politiburo are all hand-picked by the former President.
EVEN IF Hu were a real reformer, how would he be able to fight them, the regional gov’s, and maintain growth?
I am not a stoog of the CCP either. But I am optimistic, that as a laowai living in China, that the future is only getting brighter under Hu.
Though he is not following the US/China buddy-buddy plang that Jiang did, who can blame him? China’s taking over Africa and S. America people.Like it or not, the checkbook diplomacy will continue.
If the USA’s citizenry would start saving (a little) money, elect representatives that don’t spend all of the tax money, then maybe the USA could spend some [more] money in those areas.
Sorry for the run-on ideas, coffee deficient this morning.

April 19, 2006 @ 7:51 pm | Comment

Guys, you have culture, informations, opportunities. How can many of you still believe in Beijing propaganda? How can many of you, living in democracy, praise a dictator who, if possible, has further tightened the autoritharian rule of the party-state? One thing is to analyse chinese foreign policy in depth (Richard, I believe you when you said that that one was your real intention and no other), another thing is to say “I believe in Hu”. Check reality, please.

April 20, 2006 @ 6:19 am | Comment

ER, you really don’t know this blog, do you? Did you read the articles listed at the top of the left sidebar? In many ways I despise Hu. But I try to be fair. To just blast him and not acknowledge the shades of gray would be stupid; I’d be descending to the level of CCP propagandists: “Japan Bad. China Good.” I hope we can transcent that kind of black-and-white thoughtlessness.

April 20, 2006 @ 8:20 am | Comment

Richard, I know very well your blog. Maybe it’s you who don’t carefully read my remarks. No problem. I think you get my point and fundamentally share it.
It was only an “always remember who and what you’re talking about”.

Anyway I hope you could “transcent that kind of black-and-white thoughtlessness” also when you talk about american politics. In the same week you praised the virtues of a despot, you bashed an american president and his administration (censurable, of course) in such termes: “They really are criminals” or “In just a few short years, I’ve watched my country disintegrate. I’m so glad to be living overseas”. Not an example of balance and, in my opinion, not so consistent with the spirit of your blog as you describe it. You should put things in context. Thank you for your attention.

April 20, 2006 @ 8:48 am | Comment

Don’t get me started on Bush. I am totally fair and balanced on the subject, and am delighted to say that now more than 65 percent of Americans have come around to my point of view. I would love to post good things about Bush, just as I would love to about Hu. Unfortunately, for both men, most of the things they do are bad. When you see something good that Bush has done that you feel I should write about, let me know, okay? I look for such things every day, but I can’t find them. Same with Hu; usually I can’t find anything at all positive to say. When I see evidence that perhaps he’s done something noteworthy or admirable, I am the first to give him the credit. Same with Bush. I’m just dying to share postive information with everyone about Bush. If only he’d let me.

April 20, 2006 @ 9:02 am | Comment

Dear ,i need of article on internal factors in Foreigen Policy of China

May 20, 2006 @ 1:27 am | Comment

[…] a given, that the party in Beijing simply has no control over local party criminals. Here’s what I wrote about it back when I was in Taiwan after attending a talk with the country’s former defense minister Lin Chong Pin: There are […]

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