Wed, Dec 20, 2006 - Page 8 News List

The West's rosy image of China is a deception

By Cao Changqing 曹長青

In commenting on the mayoral elections held in Taipei and Kaohsiung, many political pundits have said that the results reflected trends among pan-green and pan-blue supporters on the issue of national identity.

The importance of national identity for voters raises questions about how best to tackle the issue.

Ruan Ming (阮銘), a former special assistant to Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦), the late general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and now a member of Taiwan Research Institute, once said: "To identify with Taiwan, we must first understand China."

However, the China that must be understood is not the one that has been deliberately eulogized by pro-China media outlets, but the empire of lies depicted in L'annee du Coq: Chinois et Rebelles by French writer Guy Sorman.

As admirers of Chinese culture, most Western China experts tend to paint a rosy picture of the country.

Many of them are also leftists who loathe capitalism and yearn for the communist ideal of equality for all.

The doyen of sinology, late Harvard professor John Fairbank, was deeply puzzled by Beijing's decision to violently suppress pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and said that China was too complex for Westerners to read.

Today, many Westerners fail to see the dark shadow that looms behind the bright lights of China's economic boom.

What makes Sorman different is that he is a right-wing academic who supports US neo-conservatism and loathes socialism.

He does not paint a rosy picture of China, but has the courage to criticize it instead.

When commenting on L'annee du Coq: Chinois et Rebelles, Pu Ta-chung (卜大中), a local political commentator, said: "It's been a while since we last saw someone making an observation on China with such conscience and dignity."

More importantly, Sorman's book is based largely on first-hand research.

It reveals that in China, legal contracts are often unenforceable, the judiciary has no independence and corruption is rampant.

Sorman also mentions that once foreign businesspeople arrive in China, they begin to lose their sense of judgement and disregard the universal standards adopted by economies around the world.

Sorman finds that economic statistics are worthless in China, for they are compiled by a government that cares little about their accuracy.

For example, during the early 1990s, official Chinese statistics persistently claimed that the country's cultivated land only amounted to about 95 million hectares, a figure that gave China less arable land per capita than Bangladesh.

However, satellite photographs indicate that China has a total of 150 million hectares of arable land. By under-reporting the amount of arable land by almost one third, the Chinese authorities' purpose was to highlight the government's efficiency in feeding its people despite a considerable land "shortage."

Mao Yishi (茅以軾), a Beijing-based economist, said that although China's economy is growing at a rate of 8 percent annually, it has wreaked havoc on the environment.

The resulting land exhaustion, pollution and disease have in fact caused a decline of 10 percent. Thus, China's economic development is really a disaster.

Anyone who attempts to tell the truth in China is suppressed, either by intimidation or by force. Small wonder Sorman views China as a barbarian country.

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