Tue, Jun 07, 2005 - Page 8 News List

China must follow Taiwan's lead

By Joseph Wu 無釗燮

Sixteen years ago, under the rapt gaze of the international media, students around China brought a ray of hope for Chinese democracy by launching a democracy movement and erecting a "Goddess of Democracy" on Tiananmen Square. But the movement was suppressed, leaving sighs of regret and questions regarding China's future development. Will China democratize? Are there other roads for China, besides democracy?

These are also questions that the people of Taiwan are asking themselves, because the question of whether or not China will adopt liberal democracy is an important benchmark for Taiwan as it considers its future relationship with China.

The third wave of democratization, which began in the mid-1970s, took different routes, but almost all routes had one thing in common: following economic improvements by authoritarian governments, people's incomes shot up, their education levels improved and their international experience increased, leading them to demand better opportunities for individual development and political participation.

Although not every democracy prospered and not every wealthy country became a democracy, the strong relationship between economic and political development cannot be denied. As calls for democracy and freedom grow stronger, authoritarian systems could choose to go with the flow of developments and gradually implement political reform, or oppose the democratic wave. This led to different roads towards democratization.

Although the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) constantly developed the Chinese economy since the early 1980s, it may not have considered the fact that economic and social development will necessarily have a political impact. Regardless of whether it is ignited by economic and social issues in the countryside or in the cities, it is only a matter of time before China will see its next wave of democracy movements. The 1989 democracy movement showed us how that wave once again will become the focus of international media attention.

Some people may take an optimistic opinion that the fourth generation of CCP leaders will be more flexible and pragmatic, and that they will allow gradual liberalization and political reform. There is, however, a difference between expectations and real life.

At the fourth plenary session of the 16th Central Committee on Sept. 19 last year, the CCP leadership criticized the media. It said the party could not take a lenient approach toward the media and make the mistake of promoting Western bourgeois liberalization, and that it was therefore forced to strengthen the management of the news media and public opinion. Ten days later, an alarming instruction was issued in a document from the party's Publicity Department: "When managing ideology, we have to learn from Cuba and North Korea."

Then, in March, the same department issued regulations requiring all reporters and editors to affirm Marxism-Leninism, Maoism and the thought of the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) and his "Three Represents," as well as to support the CCP leadership. Since the middle of last year, New York Times reporter Zhao Yan (趙岩) and Ching Cheong (程翔) of Singapore's Straits Times have been detained, each for a different reason.

There have also been several waves of suppression of academic research, including Peking University's firing of a professor named Jiao (), the arrest of the well-known academic Lu Jianhua (陸建華) at the Chinese Academy for Social Studies, the closing down of Internet bulletin boards, and the persecution of well known poets and writers. Access to Internet information from democracies around the world, including the Internet editions of the United Daily News and China Times, have also been blocked.

This story has been viewed 4115 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top