Sun, Jun 13, 2004 - Page 8 News List

China's a dying tiger, to be feared in decline

Jin Zhong金鐘

When Hong Kong residents rallied to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown, they mourned with a question in mind: Why did 1989's wave of democratization help end communist rule in Russia and across Eastern Europe, when at Tiananmen it heralded a rollback of people's rights that has lasted 15 years since then?

Princeton University professor Yu Ying-shih (余英時) once remarked on China's future with the saying "a dying tiger is the most ferocious." The 3,000-year-old tiger of China's feudalism devoured many, but the tiger of China's communist tyranny is even more bloodthirsty, preying on tens of millions. But the 1989 democracy movement sounded the communist tiger's death knell. Ever since the Tiananmen massacre, a sense of crisis has weighed heavily on China's government.

Earlier this year, some Beijing scholars described China's policy framework as "market economy, elite alliance, authoritarian politics," claiming that this framework will remain unchanged for the next 10 years. Such is the autocracy that has emerged in China since 1989. After a visit to southern China, the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) gave the green light to a free-market economy, linking China's bureaucracy to international capital to strengthen the dictatorship's effectiveness.

This link between the bureaucracy and capital allows Deng to create an alliance of elites, buying support from the intellectual elite. By using superpower diplomacy and taking advantages of its role as "factory of the world" and its own huge market, China could force Western countries to make political compromises. In fact, China's authoritarian politics is just another name for one-party rule.

China has tightened its restrictions on news and publications; even references to the anti-rightist movement and the Cultural Revolution became taboo. The regime further enforces its rule using special agents and authoritarian measures to nip all possible unrest in the bud, including the high-tech monitoring of online media. Doubtlessly, the goal of China's "stability above all" is to maintain the existing order.

Under China's severe controls and softer tactics, the limited freedoms of 1989 have evapo-rated. Not only are rallies and demonstrations strictly regulated, but the iconic figures of the Tiananmen incident also disappeared from the contemporary political scene. These figures include Bao Tong (鮑彤) , Yen Chia-chi (嚴家其), Fang Lizhi (方勵之) , Liu Binyan (劉賓雁) and Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), to name a few.

Two countries survive under the tiger's claws: Hong Kong and Taiwan. Although Hong Kong and Taiwan face different situations (Hong Kong's as "one country, two systems" and Taiwan's as "one country on either side of the strait") and their residents have different agendas, the people in Hong Kong and Taiwan share the same memory of the massacre.

As the interactions among Hong Kong, China and Taiwan become more frequent, the freedom and democracy Hong Kong and Taiwan enjoy certainly will impinge on China's one-party rule. China has switched its targets, eyeing Hong Kong and Taiwan with hostility.

Nonetheless, each armed with its own strengths, Hong Kong and Taiwan are able to stand up against China's unification campaigns to different degrees. Taiwan in particular has mature democratic institutions, so China's roar fails to intimidate.

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