FOREIGN AFFAIRS: by Jeffry Babb News Weekly
Australia rolls out red carpet for China's Himmler
, May 26, 2012
Many observers who have not had direct personal experience of the Chinese people imagine them to be like a colony of ants, where regimented conformity produces a perfectly functioning society.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Chinese are natural anarchists, who want nothing more than to be left alone to manage their own affairs. Conformity is an aim that is seldom achieved, however much the dynasty in power may desire it.
The traditional aim of Chinese governance has been what the scholar and sage Confucius called da tung or “great commonwealth”, an era of peace, prosperity and good government.
This has rarely been achieved. The great dynasties — the Han (206BC-220AD), the Tang (618-907) and early Ching (1644-1912) are held up as exemplars.
All central governments have been constantly on guard against the centrifugal forces that have operated throughout Chinese history — the centre pulls the country together while the provinces pull away. This tendency is summed up in what is possibly the greatest Chinese novel, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, written by Luo Guanzhong in the 14th century. It says: “The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.”
Why is this relevant to today? The provinces jealously guard their prerogatives. Apart from the People’s Liberation Army, only one body can exercise its powers across provincial boundaries. That is the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee (PLAC), headed by Zhou Yongkang. Zhou is amongst the most powerful men in China.
Professor Dong Li, a Chinese scholar persecuted during Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, now an academic in New Zealand, says: “Zhou is undoubtedly the czar of the formidable 800,000-strong Chinese armed police, the well-equipped regular police force, all public procurators’ organs, the entire judicial system and China’s prison system.
“Zhou is to Communist China today what Heinrich Himmler was to Nazi Germany.”
Himmler was of course head of the infamous SS and was instrumental in having over 10 million people, including Jews, Poles, members of the Confessing Church, opponents of the Nazi regime and other supposed untermenschen (subhumans) murdered during his tenure as Nazi Germany’s chief of police.
Zhou is hated and feared because he has the power of life and death over almost everyone in China. Amongst his more infamous acts is sanctioning the removal of body organs from Falun Gong practitioners while they are still alive. Falun Gong is a spiritual movement based on Buddhist principles that involves performing a series of exercises that are said to cure a variety of ailments. Since the persecution
of Falun Gong by the PLAC began in 1999, the movement has spread worldwide, attracting mainly recruits of Chinese ethnicity.
As a member of the standing committee of the Politburo, Zhou is one of the nine most powerful men in the country. The Politburo — or Political Bureau — is the highest decision-making body in China.
Zhou is aligned with Bo Xilai, the disgraced chief of the western metropolis of Chungqing. Bo and his wife, once known as the “John and Jackie Kennedy of China”, are believed to be in detention, following the suspicious death of British “facilitator” Neil Heywood (see News Weekly, April 28, 2012).
Bo introduced a Maoist style of government in Chungqing, based on the slogan chang hong, da hei, min sheng (“Sing Red songs, smash gangster elements and promote people’s welfare”). This policy proved to be remarkably popular; but the Communist Party faction opposed to Bo and Zhou, which includes President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, has been quick to exploit Bo’s misfortunes.
Bo is a medium-to-big fish, but Zhou is a very big fish. Attacking Bo is a very convenient way to get at Zhou; and if the Hu-Wen faction can oust Zhou, it is likely a full-scale purge will ensue.
Zhou toured Australia in 2008 as a VIP guest of the Australian government, when his role as China’s executioner-in-chief must have been well known to his hosts.
The powers-that-be did their best to suppress news of his visit and were anxious to prevent specific details of his itinerary leaking to the media. Zhou met Sam Walsh, CEO of Rio Tinto Iron Ore Ltd in Perth, and Colin Barnett, Premier of Western Australia. Zhou had a long lunch with Stephen Smith, another West Australian, then Minister for Foreign Affairs.
From Perth, Zhou proceeded to Sydney, where he showed a great interest in police matters and met his opposite number, Attorney-General Robert McCelland. In Canberra, Zhou had a long meeting with then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The Communist Party of China is a Leninist organisation that is, of its nature, conspiratorial. We do not know for sure what is going on.
It seems certain that if the Hu-Wen faction can purge Zhou and his followers, then a more liberal tendency may emerge. The current situation is the most crucial inflection point in Chinese politics since the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989.