Thu, Aug 27, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Now for the overseas fifth column

By Sushil Seth

Instead, when faced with dissent, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has always sought to deal with suspected enemies by demonizing them, and this brings us to the insecurity that is inherent in a system in which the ruling party has a monopoly on power.

The CCP’s insecurity borders on paranoia. Any challenge to it is a challenge to the nation.

Beijing demands utmost loyalty not only from Chinese citizens but also from nationals of other countries of Chinese descent. The party is, therefore, seeking to rally overseas Chinese around the flag.

At a recent congress for overseas Chinese, Wang Zhaoguo (王肇國), a politburo member, reportedly called on the delegates to use the “blood lineage” of their common descent “to achieve outstanding results in uniting the broad masses of overseas Chinese.”

To emphasize the indivisibility of national and party interests, he told delegates to “do a better job of uniting the force of the circle of overseas Chinese around the party and the government.”

This is a dangerous exercise, and Beijing has embarked on it quite openly.

Chinese diplomatic missions are already highly active in organizing and mobilizing overseas Chinese, as evidenced during the anti-Tibet rallies that accompanied the torch relay for the Beijing Olympics.

Beijing may not realize that the attempt to rally overseas Chinese could create a backlash against them if concerns are raised about their loyalty.

If Beijing persists with such politics, it won’t be long before some start accusing overseas Chinese as being part of a vast potential fifth column.

China feels emboldened by its new reach and power, and would argue that the benefits of rallying millions of overseas Chinese around the flag far outweigh any hostile reaction in other countries.

Beijing probably considers that no country in Asia — where most overseas Chinese live — would dare create trouble for its ethnic Chinese population for fear of crossing China.

If this is the line of thinking that is shaping China’s policies, it is not a good omen for the region, or for the world.

Sushil Seth is a writer based in Australia.

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