EDITORIAL: China: absolute power corrupts absolutely
by Peter Westmore
News Weekly, December 25, 2010
It was about 130 years ago that the great British historian, Lord Acton, penned the line: "All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." These sentiments summarise the problem which Australia and other countries have in relation to the emergence of China as a global economic and political power.
Since Mao Zedong's Chinese Communist Party (CCP) captured Beijing in 1949, the CCP has been the source of all power in China, and promises of freedom of speech, religion and thought contained in the Chinese Constitution are routinely abused. The most recent example of this was Beijing's refusal to permit the imprisoned human rights campaigner, Liu Xiaobo, or his wife, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Liu, formerly a university lecturer from Beijing, was sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment last year for circulating Charter 08, a joint letter signed by 350 leading Chinese intellectuals calling for freedom of speech and the abandonment of the one-party dictatorship in China.
In a speech given shortly before Charter 08 was unveiled, Liu wrote, "[The fact I have been] closely monitored by the police for the past 19 years poses no challenge to my courage. When a government resorts to using its state security apparatus against a defenceless intellectual, it only means the regime has long been rotten at its core and its violence is only an expression of its waning power."
Predictably, the Nobel Peace Prize was denounced by the state-controlled media. Xinhua, the official government news agency in China, said, "Everyone knows that Liu Xiaobo, who is supposed to be 'honoured' in a ceremony in Oslo on Friday, is an imprisoned criminal and what he has done has nothing to do with 'peace'."
It added, "Over the past decades, China has pursued the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and China has so far become the world's second biggest economy. ... China has long pursued a policy of peace and development, striving to build a harmonious world order."
Liu answered this slur in his earlier speech. He said, "I do not feel shame because of the chorus of party mouthpieces singing praise and glory continuously. When the role of the government becomes to sing its infinite praises or to brag about its greatness, the main melody has long become a joke for ... the people and can only sound the falling dusk of a dictatorship."
In China, everything is based on the unlimited power of the party.
China has the largest number of executions of any country in the world. The regime routinely violates the rights of its people, evident in the continued persecution of human rights activists such as Liu Xiaobo and Gao Zhisheng, the judicial murder of thousands of peaceful Falun Gong practitioners to furnish organs for the grisly international trade in human organs, the persecution of thousands of Christians and other believers, and the "one child" policy enforced through mandatory abortion and sterilisation.
Internationally, the Chinese Communist Party is notorious for its unstinting support for states such as North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma (Myanmar).
While reportedly privately criticising North Korea, Beijing has publicly supported the regime at every turn. After North Korea's recent shelling of a South Korean island in the West Sea, the PRC vetoed a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning the attack, instead offering to host six-party talks which for years have gone nowhere.
The Obama Administration, faced with Chinese intransigence, has repeatedly shown itself to be utterly powerless.
While China's growing economy and massive trade surpluses have given it unprecedented international influence, Western nations' attempts to bring Beijing into a constructive political dialogue with the non-communist world have been repeatedly frustrated by the regime's paranoia and xenophobia.
Australia's vulnerability to China arises from our dependence on exports of our minerals and natural gas to China, rather than from any direct military threat.
Apart from the damaging effect on trade of an outbreak of hostilities in North Asia, it is no secret that China is attempting to develop alternative sources of minerals and energy, particularly in Africa, to reduce its dependence on Australia as a source of natural gas, coal, iron ore and other minerals.
The growing influence of China in world affairs is inevitable. What is disturbing about the Beijing regime's actions is that they are the product of a totalitarian system which subordinates everything to the regime's lust for power.
Just as the enslaved people of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe ultimately overthrew totalitarianism in that part of the world, the same can happen in China. Australia must stand alongside the courageous Chinese people, including Liu Xiaobo, who want to establish human rights and freedom in their country.
Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.