After having read Arthur Waldron's article ("China's rise and world democracy," Sept 21, page 8) I would like to make a few comments. Any opinion about China contains always and only part of the truth, and yours is of no exception. Just let me use an example to illustrate my opinion about China's friends in the world.
The relationship between the US and its friends (France, Germany and so on) is also strained in one way or another (eg, war in Iraq, trade and other issues). The president of the US is also a good friend of oil-rich dictators from the Middle East and elsewhere. So where is the difference in this respect between China and the US?
It is also of my opinion that the arrogance of the US as expressed by some Americans, and illustrated by your article, constitute certainly one of the factors that gets the US into trouble in many places in the world, such as Iraq. It is also forgotten that those who first settled in the US many many years ago not only mistreated the local indigenous people, but even killed most of them.
I certainly agree that China needs to do better, but those who want to give lessons to others need to be clean first. As far as I know, that is certainly not the case for the US.
Arthur Waldron replies:
Nothing is more gratifying to a writer than feedback from intelligent readers. Obviously you are not happy with what I said. But allow me to make a few points. First, no one who has spent his entire adult life studying Chinese language, literature, history, and so forth could have anything but the highest opinion of Chinese civilization. It would be insane to devote yourself to something you did not profoundly admire.
Second, although you do state that "any opinion about China contains always only part of the truth" you do not in fact adduce any new facts about China that contradict those I have given, or that might affect the inferences I have drawn. So unless you can show me where my facts or inferences about China are incorrect, I will not be able to learn much from you.
Third, I sense your real concern is not so much with China as with the US. That is fair, but remember that had I been speaking about the US, I would have given a very different speech, and one that you might have found more congenial.
Certainly my country has many faults, and you mention some of them. But if alliances with corrupt or dictatorial regimes (Saudi Arabia), or use of force (Iraq) or the killing of indigenous peoples is wrong, then they are wrong for China, too. Nothing is gained by showing that the US, too, sins and falls short. My loyalty is to a set of ideals, not to a particular country, and when my country goes wrong, I will speak out.
Furthermore, I would ask you to weigh the two systems. Is a government-controlled press equivalent to a free press? Is pressure for democracy -- ? not everywhere, but very clearly in Taiwan, South Korea, Philippines, and so forth--equivalent to support for dictators everywhere? Is a system where people do not vote to be equated with one where they do? For all its blemishes and errors, I think freedom -- ? what we find not just in America but in Taiwan and India and Japan and France and Poland and South Africa -- is to be preferred to what we find under Communism in China or North Korea or Vietnam or Cuba. Furthermore, I think that China will change.