Former president Lee Teng-hui (
"China's deep-rooted imperial character will hamper modern China from fitting into international society. Eventually China will turn into a debacle, with uprisings from minority groups oppressed by China and the falling-apart of the economy," Lee said at a press conference that marked the release of The New Chinese Empire, a book by Ross Terrill, a US expert on China issues.
The book is a Chinese translation of Terrill's The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States,which was published last year.
Terrill, who holds a doctorate in political science from Harvard University, was, in 1964, one of the first scholars to enter China during the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.
Once honored by Chinese leader Mao Zedong (
Lee and Khedroob Thondup, a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, presided over the book's release.
The book says China's status as an empire derives from its dictatorial rule that rejects the pursuit of democracy in Taiwan and Hong Kong and among minority ethnic groups in places such as Tibet and Xinjiang. The progress of China's political liberation, Terrill says, is far behind that of its economic development.
Lee said yesterday that China's practice of socialism has isolated the country from other modern nations and that restrictions on its economy have crated a huge gap between rich and poor.
"China's imperial national consciousness respects no national boundaries and therefore it claims sovereignty over any group having any relations with China -- including its hard-line belief that Taiwan is part of China," Lee said.
Lee said the book provides insight into questions such as how to see through the guile of the so-called "greater Sinocentric consciousness," how to deal with the emergence of a Chinese empire, whether Chinese civilization will leave a legacy to the modern world and whether the future of China is as rosy a picture as many think.
Terrill makes seven predictions about China's future, including continued authoritarian rule; a gradual falling-apart of the rulers' political grip -- following the path of South Korea and Taiwan; a collapse like that of the former Soviet Union; transformation into a terror state; the development of fascism in China; and finally, after long-term turmoil, the development of a democratic federation.
Lee said Taiwan's democracy is a precious experience for the Chinese population living under authoritarian rule.
"No place in China has become a full democratic entity as Taiwan has. Look at Hong Kong and Tibet and you'll see that China can't tolerate the existence of democracy. Once they come under China's rule, people will lose freedom of speech and other inherent human rights," Lee said.
Lee urged people not to become bewildered as a result of "Sinocentric consciousness," but rather to take a firm stance on improving Taiwan's democracy.