(en) Deng is Dead

Fri, 21 Feb 1997 22:40:14 GMT

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The disintegration of the Soviet empire proved a messy affair with the leaders of the once communist party squabling happily for power. The Chinese will not make the same mistake. Deng and his cronies were engineering a more managed entry into the Old American Disorder when he died and this is set to continue. A collective system of oppression has now been in place for some six years during which time Deng was kept on a life support system until his death was felt a safe move. The economic reforms he started will proceed in a more disciplined, more monitored fashion than was the case in the XUSSR. The overall aim is a compact between the political and economic elites where each will cede a legalised sphere of influence to the other. The party will cease to be an ideological instument of mobilisation, as it was under Mao, and instead will play an integrating function. The role of the market will be the usual one of expansion with rich pickings for the expanding urban middle classes and crumbs for the rural rest. This is a scenario which can be compared with Mexico: an institutional party co- opting elites from the upper echelons of society and serving as an integrating institution rather than a force for change. In a word a state.

The West (turning a blind eye to the torture) hope this scenario will act itself out to the full and has no qualm about pressing the flesh with the Tiananmen butchers. The Financial Times sums up Western attitudes when it says that although China is, 'a corrupt despotism' we should still remember that, 'the west should focus its attention on sustaining market oriented reforms'. Of course, '...the west cannot ignore gross violations of human rights in its relations with China, or any other country', it continues, ignoring the history of Western involvement in the region for the last 400 years, but if we get our priorities right, '...trade relations should focus on the policies that affect trade. If trade and economic issues move in the right direction, the policies will follow...' it concludes optimistically.

We would be pushed to come up with a businessman who would be detered by the events such as the Tiananmen square massacre (which did not even deserve condemnation from the Japanese government) or the 10,000 executions that took place prior to that in the 1980s. The Chinese are of course a naughty bunch: massacreing the innocent, locking them up, grabbing a reef, firing a missile near Taiwan, planning to subject Hong Kong to home rule but... well... this is business. The export salesmen insist that foreign policy considerations can be separated out. Deng knew better.

Of course Deng was Han Chinese (sons of the yellow emperor) along with 90% of his compatriots and this homogeneity is also pointed at as another differentiating factor when comparing with the XUSSR. Still, however, in a country the size of China 10% is not a number to be sneezed at and there is significant resistenace to Han domination.

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News is trickling out (again) of unrest in Xinjiang province to the west of the Middle Kingdom which, away from the core of political power, seems a small glimmer of hope in this morass of despair. Since 1962 when tens of thousands of Kazakhs fled the region for the Soviet Union barely a year has passed without reports of unrest in the region. Reports coming through over the last few weeks suggest violence is occuring on an increasing scale. Thousands of Uighurs - an ethnic group which outnumber the Han Chinese in the area by two to one - have been rioting in Yining near the border with Kazakhstan resulting in ten reported deaths. This has been blamed on Muslim influences (there are some 20m muslims in China many of them in this region). Locals paint a different picture claiming the riots were a response to executions in the province. The situation has proved serious enough for a curfew to be imposed and for the airport to be closed last month. Some 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested.

This all has a history which, in reality, goes back to 1995. Over these two years the Chinese authorities have 'dealt with' (read "murdered") 'terrorists' who in turn have dealt with some half a dozen government officials. The main separatist group (based over the border) reckons some 7,000 have been arrested.

This oppression is typical of the regime. The other ruse (as has been used in Tibet) is to flood the area with Han immigrants. Locals resent the way the best jobs in the construction sites and the oil fields go to the newcomers and are outraged at the forced sterilisation of local women. Nor are thay too pleased about having Deng's nuclear weapons test site at Lop Nor in the region.

No doubt Beijing can maintain control. The numbers of troops in Tibet give the place the air of an easily occupied country. And Xinjiang's garrison also is kept strong. It is easy to see why: two-fifths of China's potential oil reserves are here. For real pressure to be brought to bear in the region agitation nearer to the core of power is needed. Deng prepared for that before his death. His butchering cronies may be the new management but the song is still the same.

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