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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Don't Expect Protests to Hurt Chinese Regime

April 8, 2008

Washington Post, United States
April 7, 2008

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This year was supposed to be China’s
grand coming out party. A par-TEH for The Party. Instead, it’s turning
out to be most serious challenge to China’s Communist leadership since
the student-led demonstrations since 1989. This doesn’t mean China’s
(fortune) cookie is anywhere near crumbling. And it actually could mean
that China’s regime will emerge from this stronger than before.

Let’s review the events of the last few months.

Starting in mid-March, Tibetans in five provinces rioted and
demonstrated against China’s rule. A whopping 800 people have been
arrested in Lhasa alone. That’s the biggest anti-Chinese uprising (and I
think we can call it that by now, given the tens of thousands of
security personnel dispatched to quell it) since Tibetans rose up
against Chinese rule in 1959 during which the Dalai Lama fled China to
India.

The Tibetans aren’t alone. Now the Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs, a
mostly Muslim, ethnically Turkic minority) of Xinjiang province are
restless, too. In recent weeks, they’ve demonstrated against Chinese
rule in several cities in Xinjiang – most notably Hetian – famed for its
carpets and stringy lamb stew.

It’s obvious that people with a bone to pick with China’s leadership
think the impending Olympics in Beijing are creating political space to
air their demands.

What’s next? Well, we haven’t heard much in recent months from Falun
Gong, the Buddhist-inspired spiritual sect and the object of an ongoing
brutal campaign of suppression by the Chinese state. No doubt they are
going to pile on soon as well. Who knows, maybe smack in the middle of
the Olympics opening ceremony.

What about us unruly foreigners? We’re screaming at them about Tibet.
We’ve been screaming at them about Darfur – and that’s only going to get
noisier. We want them to allow the Yuan to float higher against the
dollar. We want them to solve the North Korean nuclear problem; push
Burma into the modern world and help convince Iran to shelve its program
to build a bomb. The only bright spot in that arena is in Taiwan where,
in late March, the Taiwanese elected Ma Ying-jeou as the next president.
No doubt he’ll improve relations with China and will do a better job
than his ham-handed predecessor Chen Shui-bian.

So is this going to weaken China’s government? On the contrary. The more
pressure the Chinese get from foreigners and barbarians – which are
actually synonymous in ancient Chinese – the stronger the system
becomes. Indeed, China’s system feeds off this kind of adversity. The
Communist regime has a peculiar genius for turning these types of
threats into opportunities.

There are signs the troubles in Tibet and Xinjiang are already
bolstering the regime. The Chinese blogosphere has erupted in a chorus
of patriotic cheering as the People’s Armed Police have flooded Tibetan
zones. When China calls the Dalai Lama a liar and a “jackal in a
Buddhist monk’s clothes,” Americans cringe. To us it sounds like the
Cultural Revolution all over again. But it rings true to Chinese ears.
In China, most Han rarely if ever think of the guy; they generally view
China’s minorities with a mixture of paternalism and despair. They have
little patience for Tibetan or Uighur desires for more autonomy, much
less independence. Crush them! the blogosphere says.

Same goes for Mia Farrow’s campaign against the “Genocide Olympics.” The
Foreign Ministry and China’s other propaganda organs have already framed
these calls – for China to stop supporting Sudan, free its dissidents,
negotiate with the Dalai Lama – as a foreign plot to weaken China.
Again, to Western ears, that sounds goofy. But it resonates with the
Chinese. With their mother’s milk, they’re nourished on a diet of
resentful nationalism. For 150 years, China has been beaten down and
oppressed by foreigners. Once again, the foreigners are at it. And
what’s worse, they have picked this moment – China’s moment – to do it.
Not only do they want to weaken China, the party’s propaganda organs
crow, they want to make it do something even worse. They want to make it
lose face. In front of 1.4 billion Chinese.

So, keep this in mind when you see footage of workers providing the
final gloss to China’s Olympic locales. China’s big year could be a lot
bigger than the Party figured it would. But prepare for unintended
consequences.
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