Journal of International Affairs
Economic Development, Political Stability and International Respect
By Jia Qingguo
My assignment for this essay is to present the official Chinese perspective on issues related to China's domestic politics and U.S.-China relations in a Western academic style. This is a thankless task because it runs a high risk of displeasing both American readers for giving a sympathetic account of the Chinese official position and the Chinese government for failing to present its views accurately and effectively. I accepted the challenge because, as one who has lived extended periods in both countries, I feel a duty to narrow the perceptual gap between them, one that, unfortunately, has become wider in recent years. The Chinese official view has a large and sympathetic audience in China; Western readers should take it seriously, not merely as propaganda.
This paper will first present the official perception of the difficulties which confront China and the achievements it has made in overcoming them. An outline of the Chinese government's views on some important domestic issues follows. The final section describes its view on recent developments in U.S.-China relations.
Western public opinion has been very critical of China in recent years. The Western press is full of stories about China's problems with human rights, arms sales, environment, trade and corruption. Many people in the West especially in the United States have painted China as a totalitarian country making little progress towards democracy. The Chinese government regards this situation as most unfortunate, believing that this view greatly distorts China's situation and creates harmful suspicions and hostility toward China. It genuinely hopes that people in the West will take a realistic attitude toward China and begin to make efforts to understand its situation. While admitting that various mistakes have been made in its administration, the government believes that such mistakes are dwarfed by its achievements. Though China is still confronted with numerous problems, the government is confident that, with the assistance of the Chinese people, they can be overcome. In this process, the Chinese government hopes that people in the West will be understanding and supportive.
Understanding China should begin with an appreciation of the tremendous difficulties with which China is faced. To begin with, China has a huge population, according to a recent census close to 1.2 billion. 1 This presents a great problem in governing China. The most important task of any government is to insure that its people have enough food, housing and other essentials for survival. Such a large population complicates this task enormously. This difficulty is compounded by China's low per capita endowment of natural resources. For example, while China has 22 percent of the world's population, it only has about 7 percent of the world's arable land. In per capita terms, that is about one-tenth of that of the United States and about one-third of the world average. 2 Moreover, despite the tremendous economic progress achieved since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, especially since the adoption of the policy of reform and opening (gaige kaifang ) in 1978, China is still a poor country. According to World Bank statistics, China's per capita GDP in 1993 was only $490. 3 Even when measured with the newly fashionable Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) method, China's per capita GDP is still quite low in comparison to other states. According to a September 1995 World Bank report on distribution of assets in 192 states and regions, China's assets per capita rank was 161. 4
Furthermore, despite China's modernization efforts, China is still a relatively backward developing country. Many of its factories are equipped with old fashioned machines. Its infrastructure is inadequate, and its financial structure is weak. The legal system is relatively immature. Most bureaucrats are inexperienced with management of a market economy, while over 70 percent of its population still live and work in the countryside. In short, much of its economy is still underdeveloped.
Finally, China is in the middle of drastic and fundamental socioeconomic changes. The economy is both growing rapidly and transforming as market reforms take hold. Many new opportunities have cropped up, while many old dreams have collapsed. In the process, people have found it difficult to cope with both the pace and nature of change. Historically, such changes have been accompanied by political turmoil and economic calamities.
These basic facts have profound implications for China's political and economic development and present many irreconcilable problems. For instance, the population is too large to be ecologically and politically sustainable. 5 However, controlling population growth requires competent administrative staff, as well as a system of punishments and rewards (such as pensions and cash rewards for the aged) backed up by sufficient resources. China has neither the qualified staff nor the necessary resources to accomplish these tasks. It is therefore confronted with a hard choice: It can continue with the present population control policy and face strong resistance from those who want more children and mismanagement of the policy by the unqualified administrative staffs; alternatively, it can give up the policy and face a range of problems resulting from excessive growth of population. Choice of the first course may lead to complaints about human rights. With the latter, ensuing problems may be attributed to its poor judgment and ineffective leadership.
As another example, all Chinese wish to catch up with the advanced countries so that they can live as comfortably as others and enjoy equal respect in international society. However, at present, China does not have the requisite resources, capital or technology to realize this dream. The sheer size of the country determines that foreign assistance will never be enough, nor have the rich countries historically been generous in providing China with such assistance. Nevertheless, any Chinese government hoping to enlist the support of the people must produce substantial results in narrowing the economic gap with the West. Under the circumstances, it finds that it must ask and often compel the Chinese people to forego some current consumption so as to invest for the future. Such efforts make the already difficult lives of the Chinese people more unbearable and thus create frustration and political instability. Since political instability undermines economic development as well as government, Beijing is confronted with some hard choices: It can increase consumption and personal freedoms at the expense of development; alternatively, it can insist on development at the price of lower consumption and more political control. If the former option is taken, people will complain that it does not offer much of a future. If it resorts to the latter option, people will complain that it is unkind and undemocratic.
These are just two of the many catch-22s with which the Chinese government has been confronted. Under present circumstances, it is difficult for China to provide food, housing and other essentials for survival much less engage in meaningful economic development. In the future, it will be extremely difficult for it to catch up with the West especially with little external assistance. To do all this in a highly democratic and humane manner would be next to impossible. Democratic and humane government is preferable in theory though hard to put into practice. Take population planning for example. Under current circumstances, the government does not have the financial capability to provide adequate pensions for a large portion of the population and the traditional idea of securing one male child dies hard. Given a choice, many people are unlikely to limit child birth, even with much per suasion. 6 Some coercive measures have to be taken to control the population growth so as to avoid more serious ecological as well as developmental problems.
Similarly, on the question of capital accumulation for economic development versus short-term consumption, a hard choice has to be made. The Chinese government, acting in the best interest of the people, needs to give priority to accumulation while trying to attend to people's current consumption needs. However, given current harsh living conditions, political demagogues can easily incite popular opposition against the government and demand for higher consumption levels, jeopardizing China's economic development and creating political instability. If the Chinese government does not take firm measures to ensure political stability, China will never become modernized and the Chinese people will never see the day when they can enjoy comparable living standards and equal respect in the international community. The Chinese government does not wish to limit people's freedoms. However, if such freedoms create political instability, thus jeopardizing fundamental interests of the people, it has to make sure that these freedoms are kept within certain limits. Stability is a prerequisite to China's long-term economic development and political progress; every measure should be taken to maintain it. 7
Assessing the Performance of the Chinese Government
Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, the government has exerted its best efforts to cope with the difficulties outlined in the previous section. It has made many mistakes, some very serious such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The government has openly admitted these mistakes to the Chinese people. Having said this, one should also recognize the fact that the Chinese government has made tremendous progress in overcoming these difficulties, bringing substantial benefits to the Chinese people.
Table 1: Health and Nutrition - China and India
|Daily food consumption
(calories per capita)
|Crude death rate
(per 1,000 people)
|Population per physician||1,600||1,010 b||4,880||2,520|
|Infant mortality rate
(per 1,000 live births)
|Notes: a 1988, b 1984|
To begin with, the Chinese government has maintained China's independence and thus protected the Chinese people from direct foreign oppression and exploitation, as was the case during period from 1840 to 1949. In the 110 years following the Opium War, China was subject to many foreign invasions and endured huge human and material losses. In 1900, eight imperialist powers invaded China to suppress the Boxer Rebellion; they killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Chinese and committed horrendous crimes. During the Japanese occupation in the Second World War, over ten million Chinese lost lives. During those years, under various unequal treaties, foreigners could roam throughout China at will and did not have to worry about legal punishment should they commit crimes. Meanwhile, Chinese in their own country were grossly exploited and humiliated. One sign erected in front of a park in Shanghai read: No Chinese nor dogs are allowed. 8 The Chinese government put an end to all this and restored China's sovereignty and independence, a feat that many previous Chinese governments had failed to accomplish.
The government has improved essential living conditions for the Chinese people over the years. It has not only effectively resolved the food problem, one that Chinese governments in history could not solve, but also managed to raise Chinese caloric intake to the world average. Since the start of the People's Republic of China (PRC), while Chinese population grew by 14 million annually, the calorie intake grew from 2,270 kilocalories (kcal) in 1952 to 2,311 kcal in 1978 and to 2,630 kcal in 1990. In part because of this factor and the establishment of a system of medical and social welfare, the average Chinese life expectancy rose from 35 years before 1949 to 70 in 1988, above the world average. Meanwhile, the annual death rate has declined from 33 per thousand to 6.67 per thousand, one of the lowest in the world. The infant mortality rate in 1987 was 31 per thousand, close to that of the industrialized states. Chinese children are healthier and taller than before. And the Chinese people are no longer the "sick men of Asia". 9
The Chinese government has initiated sustained rapid economic development during the PRC period. Between 1953 and 1990, China's GNP grew by 6.9 percent annually. China has already become the world's largest producer of grain, cotton, meats, cloth, coal, concrete and TV sets, among other products. Its production of steel, crude oil, electricity and chemical fiber also ranks among the highest in the world. Economic development has significantly improved the people's living standards. Consumption in China in 1990 was 8.4 times higher than that of 1952 in comparable prices. Even on a per capita basis, Chinese consumption in 1990 was 2.7 times that in 1952. 10 Since 1991, the country has developed at an even faster rate. Between 1991 and 1994, the Chinese economy grew at an annual rate of 12.2 percent, much higher than the world average of 1.9 percent. Meanwhile, living standards of the Chinese people have experienced similar improvement. 11
Various efforts have been made by the government to ensure socioeconomic equality. Chinese distributionary principles promote equality while providing incentives for people to work hard. Consequently, despite the recent rapid economic development, the government has managed to keep the gap between the rich and poor in China within limits. According to the 1990 statistics, the income of the richest 20 percent was only about 2.5 times that of the poorest 20 percent. In addition, the government has exerted itself to maximize employment, provide free education, increase medical facilities, care for the aged and protect the rights of women and children. 12 Recognizing the fact that there are still millions of Chinese living under the poverty line and the gap between rich and poor regions has grown larger in recent years, the government has taken many measures to change the situation. As a result of these measures, the number of Chinese living under the poverty line decreased from 85 million in 1990 to 70 million in 1995. The government plans to make even greater efforts to eliminate poverty throughout the country by the end of the century. 13
The government has exerted itself to protect people's legal rights. Over the years, especially since 1979, China has developed a reasonable legal system which emphasizes due process and prevention of abuse of power. While in practice there are still many problems, China has been making rapid progress. China's crime rate is low, 0.6 per thousand in 1990, as opposed to 20 per thousand in one Western country. Meanwhile, the total number of prisoners occupies a very small percentage of the whole population, in fact, much smaller than some Western countries . In 1993, for example, 455 out of every 10,000 Americans were kept in prison while 103 out of every 10,000 Chinese were prisoners. The death rate of Chinese prisoners has also been relatively low. In 1993, it was 2.87 per thousand, much lower than that of American prisoners. Progress is especially evident in the area of reeducation of the prisoners. Only about 6-8 percent of released prisoners commit crimes again, a sharp contrast to 41 percent in the United States. 14 The Chinese government does punish those who attempt to overthrow it. What government does not? In the United States the punishment for such a crime is more severe than in China. According to the American legal code, anyone who attempts to promote the overthrow or destruction of the U.S. government and its subordinate organs is subject to a maximum fine of $20,000 or a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment. 15
The government has made much progress in reducing unemployment and introducing various social welfare programs. As a result of such efforts, China's unemployment rate is about three percent. While the wages of Chinese workers are low in monetary terms, Chinese workers enjoy many social welfare benefits including substantial subsidies in housing, education, medical care, transportation, pensions and social insurance. Consequently, Chinese urban residents spend only about three to five percent of their income on housing, transportation and medical care. 16
Much effort has been made in China to protect the rights of minorities, including minority nationalities, religious groups, women and children. The Chinese Constitution stipulates that all nationalities are equal and prohibits any forms of discrimination against the minorities. To address problems left by history, while the minorities enjoy all the rights of citizenship, they are also entitled to certain special prerogatives. The Constitution stipulates that government organs at various levels should give adequate representation to minority nationalities. In the Seventh National People's Representative Conference, for example, 15 percent of the representatives came from minority nationalities. In Tibet, 66.6 percent of the cadres are Tibetan. In addition to all this, the Chinese government sets aside a substantial fund to support economic development and social welfare programs for minority nationalities. 17 Since the founding of the PRC, the lives of Chinese women have changed fundamentally. The Chinese Constitution prohibits discrimination against women and stipulates that women are entitled to equal pay for equal work. Further, the government encourages women to join the work force. As a result, over 96 percent of Chinese women are employed, only 2 percent lower than that of men. 18 The Constitution also stipulates that Chinese citizens have freedom of religious belief. While this freedom was suppressed during the Cultural Revolution, a result of the leftist policies of the time, the government has made many efforts to redress the problem, including massive restoration of temples and churches. Now, beside numerous believers in Buddhism and Taoism, China has over 17 million Muslims, 3.5 million Catholics and 4.5 million Christians. The Chinese government protects the legitimate religious activities of all these groups. 19
The Chinese government has made much progress in establishing a democratic political system consistent with China's particular situation. It has instituted direct popular elections of the xiang (township) and county governments and indirect elections of governments at higher levels. It has also adopted a system of political consultation, in which eight non-communist political parties cooperate with the Communist party through deliberation and participation in making important policies. This system has broadened contacts between the Party and the people, facilitating political stability. 20 In short, despite the tremendous difficulties China is facing on its development path and despite all the errors and mistakes the government has made over time, it has accomplished tremendous feats. The present government has proved to be the only one in modern history with the ability to tackle China's problems and bring genuine hope for a better future to the Chinese people.
Some Issues of Concern
In recent years, some misperceptions about China have developed in the West, especially in the United States. The first is related to the so-called China threat. Viewing the rapid economic development of China, some people believe that China will become the next superpower threatening international stability and peace. The second concerns the role of the Party in a more market oriented China. There are people who argue that as market forces develop, the Party will lose its leadership legitimacy. The third questions China's political stability. One hears claims that China will find it difficult to go through the current leadership succession. Once Deng Xiaoping passes away, stability will end. The fourth misperception centers on the relationship between the Party and society. Some argue that the gap between the two has been growing ever larger with little hope of abatement in the future.
These views have some factual basis but are, for the most part, misleading. China's government and its people are pleased with the country's recent period of rapid economic growth. For the first time in modern history, the Chinese see a real hope of closing the gap with the West. They have good reason to be pleased. However, while the Chinese government and people feel heartened by this, they are realistic enough to recognize that the gap will not be closed soon. China is still poor and backward.
It is important to consider these circumstances when examining the threat China could pose to other states. At present, China simply does not have the capacity to pose such a threat. Even when it does, one should note that it has long been the official policy of the Chinese government not to seek international hegemony. Chinese military doctrine is purely defensive in nature. 21 Further, the Chinese government has no intention of projecting its military power beyond Chinese territorial borders. History indicates that China is not an expansionist power; when China was strong and capable of external expansion, as it was during the Ming Dynasty for example, it refrained from such action. Unlike many other empires, the Chinese government of that period did not send troops to conquer and colonize other parts of the world.
Recently, there have been many reports about China's sovereignty claims over the Spratly Islands, China's military exercises in the Taiwan Strait and nuclear tests as evidence of China's intention of external expansion. This is simply not true. China has always claimed that the Spratly Islands were historically part of its territory; therefore, it has only conducted military exercises within its territories. Also, China has conducted limited nuclear tests only for defensive and safety purposes. China has never claimed other countries' territories. It has never conducted military exercises in other countries territory let alone stationed troops there. Further, the number of its nuclear tests is only a fraction of that of the United States. And despite the fact that it still cannot conduct nuclear tests in laboratories as some nuclear powers can, it has expressed willingness to enter a test-ban treaty. The defensive nature of the Chinese military posture is only self-evident.
Admittedly, there is nothing that the Chinese government can do to convince others that it will not be a threat when its capabilities improve; past and present performance does not determine future behavior. However, if the past and present behavior of the Chinese government is of any relevance at all, a stronger China is clearly unlikely to be a threat to others in the future.
With regard to its future role, the Party sees its mission as promoting economic development and building socialism. Building socialism does not mean appropriation of personal assets. On the contrary, the state protects private property and individual interests. Socialism means promotion of a more equitable distribution of wealth and genuine political equality. The Party believes that only through economic development can a firm material basis for the development of Chinese socialist system be established. Through its experience, the Party realizes that one efficient way to develop the economy is to introduce some market principles. The Party recognizes the negative implications of marketization such as economic inequality and excessive individualism. Since the adoption of reforms, regional differences and the gap between the income of the rich and poor has widened and some people have engaged in various activities jeopardizing societal and community interests ranging from illegal business practices to official corruption.
However, the Party cannot do away with the market simply because it has certain negative effects. Instead, the Party's position is to maximize the benefits of the market while trying to contain its negative effects. 22 Along these lines, the Communist party will try to create conditions to encourage the healthy growth of the market and keep inequality and excessive individualism under control. As the market economy develops, the Party will exert itself to promote social justice and political democracy.
Admittedly, whether the Party can succeed in doing so is still a question. The undeniable fact is that historically, no Communist party has commanded a market economy, and there is much for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to learn. However, this does not mean that the party is going to lose its leading role or is doomed to fail. In the past, the Party has faced various challenges of no less gravity. When the Party completed the Long March in the mid-1930s, few believed that it had a chance to take over the country. When the Party did take over the country, not many believed that it could stay in power for long. During the Cultural Revolution, many also questioned the future of the Party. However, the Communist party did manage to seize power; afterwards, not only has it stayed in power for more than 46 years, but it has also achieved rapid economic development and social and political progress unprecedented in modern Chinese history. After the Cultural Revolution, the Communist party introduced a policy of reform and openness which has brought about the current wave of development and prosperity. If history is any guide, the Party has a lot of potential to adapt itself to changing circumstances.
The question of political succession has understandably elicited much speculation and concern because historically it has been a problem. However, the Communist party believes that the current political succession process offers more promise to succeed than before. First, both the Party and state constitutions now have specific items dealing with the term length of top state leaders, as well as specific procedures to be followed in determining leadership succession. 23 Second, with the blessing of the senior generation of leaders led by Deng Xiaoping, the new generation of leaders has already been in place for a number of years. During this time, they have accumulated experience and established their leadership position. Finally, the current leaders have a strong working relationship. They have worked in harmony in the past few years and there is every reason for them to work together in the years to come.
Some people have expressed concern about the role of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in the coming succession. They argue that with the passage of Deng Xiaoping's generation of leaders, the army will have both the intention and power to dominate China's domestic politics and determine China's political succession. This argument, however, does not have factual support. In the history of the People's Republic of China, the PLA has always followed the leadership of the Party and has never intervened in the political succession independently. Both the Chinese Constitution and the Party Constitution specifically limit the role and responsibilities of the PLA. The Chinese political system also has various mechanisms to ensure that the PLA acts within its constitutional responsibilities. Since the adoption of the policy of reform and openness, the accelerating political institutionalization process has affected not only the civilian government but also the military establishment. Consequently, the power of the military leadership has been increasingly regulated by laws and regulations. All this ensures that the PLA will follow the civilian leadership and favor a smooth political transition in the years to come.
The Chinese government does not hide the fact that there are still many problems in China some of which are still very serious. These include problems in the economy, such as the management of state-owned enterprises, corruption, environmental pollution, excessive population growth and growing inequality between the rich and poor and between the coastal areas and inland provinces. The government is trying to dealing with these problems. It will continue to try all means to revitalize the state enterprises. It is determined to deal with corruption. Last year alone, party and state disciplinary and supervisory organs at various levels processed 126,320 cases of violations of party and government disciplines and regulations and punished 137,168 offenders. This included 3,257 senior cadres. About 7,465 serious offenders were subject to further legal prosecution. 24 The Chinese government also has made many efforts to cope with inequality, environmental pollution and excessive population growth. It has the confidence to tackle these problems and welcomes foreign assistance in doing so.
Many Westerners hold the view that there is a gap between the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese society which is growing ever wider. To some extent, this is true. Many Chinese are critical of the problems mentioned in the previous passages. However, one should not exaggerate such a situation. The Party believes that the Chinese people appreciate what the Party has done and support the goals and efforts of the party and government in overcoming difficulties in development. For its part, the Party will continue to try to improve its work and to narrow the gap already in existence.
Recent years have witnessed poor relations between China and the United States. The two countries have serious disputes on a whole range of issues. Among them, four key issues deserve special attention: human rights, arms sales, trade and Taiwan.
The United States has repeatedly stressed in public that China's human rights practices are unacceptable. It has denounced China for restricting political freedoms, taking political prisoners and failing to introduce democracy. Washington has also publicly criticized China for selling weapons, especially missiles, to certain countries which the United States regards as security risks. It has demanded China forego these sales and strictly observe international treaties and agreements between the two countries on this matter. Thirdly, Washington has held China responsible for the large deficits in its trade with China. It has demanded that China take drastic measures to lower its trade barriers and step up its efforts in protection of intellectual property rights. It has also blocked China's entry into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) by insisting that China is not a developing country and therefore should not enjoy the trade concessions granted to them. Finally, Washington recently has made it clear that it wants to upgrade its relations with Taiwan, a most sensitive issue for China. Despite Beijing's strong protest, Washington reversed its previous position and granted a visa to Lee Teng-hui, president of the Taiwan authorities, allowing him to go to the United States and causing U.S.-China relations to enter a nose-dive.
In an attempt to change China's behavior, Washington has adopted a series of measures: it threatened to suspend China's most favored nation trade status; it tried to rally world public opinion against China; it has imposed restrictions on high-tech exports to China; it has blocked China's entry to the GATT and the WTO; in 1993, it even went out of its way to oppose China's bid to host the Olympics in 2000. 25 China views these demands and pressures with grave suspicion and frustration. It argues that there are several kinds of human rights: rights to life, economic development, social justice, cultural development and political freedom. It believes that a country's most important task is to ensure people's right to life and to protect people's economic, social and cultural rights. Only when these basic rights are ensured can it offer genuine protection of people's political rights. 26 As discussed in previous passages, the Chinese government has made significant progress in the provision of daily necessities to the people, in bringing about rapid economic development, in maintaining socio-economic equality, in encouraging cultural and religious diversity and in promoting political democracy. While there is still much to be desired, one should recognize China's difficulties and the priorities dictated by these difficulties. The Chinese government does not oppose dialogue on the human rights question, but it stresses that such dialogue must be conducted in the spirit of equality and cooperation. It believes that the attempts to impose American priorities on China while ignoring its situation are both arrogant and unacceptable. 27 China's objections to criticism by the United States on the sale of weapons are equally strong. China claims that it has no objection to restricting arms sales to security sensitive areas and to preventing nuclear proliferation. And it has faithfully implemented various international obligations and agreements with the United States. The fact remains that it is the United States which is the largest arms exporter in the world. It is the United States which sells arms to Taiwan, a most sensitive area for China, politically as well as militarily. The Chinese government regards Taiwan as part of China and U.S. arms sales to Taiwan as nothing less than a double challenge to China's sovereignty and political authority over its own territories. This U.S. practice is therefore well described by the Chinese saying zhixu zhouguan fanghuo, buxu baixing diandeng (a hegemonic practice that allows big officials to set fire to people's houses while prohibiting ordinary people from even lighting candles).
On the question of a Chinese trade surplus with the United States, China has argued that U.S. figures are grossly inflated, having incorrectly counted many exports from Hong Kong as exports from China. The actual surplus China enjoys from its trade with the United States is not significant. China had its own share of deficits in this trade a few years back. It did not complain profusely then, as the United States does now. If the United States is unsatisfied with the situation, the two countries can discuss the matter and make efforts to address their differences, not threaten trade sanctions. Further, it is harmful to use the human rights question as an excuse to solve trade problems.
On the question of China's entry to the WTO, China claims that it has already taken many measures to liberalize its trade and to implement its agreement on intellectual property rights. As a developing country, China's record in this regard is not bad. China strongly disagrees with the U.S. claim that China is not a developing country and therefore should not enjoy certain trade concessions as any other developing country would. China regards this U.S. move as a cynical tactic which totally disregards the facts.
Finally, Washington's recent decision to allow Lee Teng-hui to visit the United States caused strong reactions from China. While Washington claims that it has not changed its "one China" policy, the Chinese government believes otherwise. It has noted a series of U.S. moves on the Taiwan question in recent years. The United States has sold more advanced weapons to Taiwan. It has reevaluated its policy toward Taiwan. It has upgraded its unofficial mission in Taipei. It has allowed many important Taiwanese political figures to visit the United States. Many Chinese suspect that the real U.S. intention is to promote Taiwan independence. After all, it was the United States which, since the 1950s, prevented China's efforts at reunification, and it is the United States which is providing advanced weapons to that island province.
Most Americans do not see anything wrong with Washington's efforts to upgrade its relations with Taiwan. To them, Taiwan is many things: a faithful Cold War ally, a great market economy success story, a good showcase of democratization. Therefore, the Taiwanese have every right to self-determination. Most Chinese, however, could hardly disagree more. They still vividly remember the humiliation their country suffered from foreign invasions and large territorial cessions to foreign powers in modern history. Therefore, irrespective of their political persuasions, most Chinese view Taiwan as an inalienable part of China and a symbol of China's territorial integrity and national pride. They are willing to recognize Taiwan's achievements over the years and to take a gradual approach toward the question of reunification. However, they cannot permit it to become independent. In the Chinese view, Washington has abused the principle of national self- determination: Taiwan is part of China and all Chinese should have a say on the Taiwan question. If a plebiscite is to be held, all Chinese, rather than just those living on the island, should vote to decide the fate of the island.
The Taiwan question is not only one of nationalist sentiment in China, but also a critical political issue. Since most Chinese are against a sellout on Taiwan, no Chinese government dares to let Taiwan go independent, even if it wanted to. However, excessive Chinese official reactions to Washington's moves regarding Taiwan might appear to Americans, they do reflect the strong feelings of the Chinese people. It is not an exaggeration to say that encouraging independence for Taiwan constitutes nothing less than a direct and most serious affront to the Chinese people. Any attempt to detach Taiwan from China will meet the strongest Chinese resistance. 28 For an average American, China is only a fraction of their daily concern; they have little knowledge about China. The fact that they have accepted such an over-simplified view is no surprise. It is, however, a great pity that many of those who are in a position to offer a more sophisticated description and explanation of what is going on in China have refrained from doing so. It is worth noting that the U.S. government has not done much to rectify this situation. Instead, it has resorted to ideological rhetoric and contributed to the worsening of relations between the two countries.
Note 2: Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Guowuyuan Xinwen Bangongshi (The Press Office of the State Council, the People's Republic of China), Zhongguo de Renquan Zhuangkuang (China's Human Rights Situation ), (Beijing: Party Documents Publishing House, 1991) p. 5. Back.
Note 4: Cited in Guowuyuan Xinwen Bangongshi (Information Office of the State Council), "Zhongguo Renquan Shiye de Jinzhan (Progress in China's Human Rights)," Renmin Ribao (People's Daily ), 28 December 1995, p. 1. Back.
Note 5: The Chinese government has admitted that its population policy during the 1950s and 1960s contributed to the severity of the current population problem. "Zhonggong Zhongyang guanyu kongzhi wo guo renkou zengzhang wenti zhi quanti Gongchandangyuan Gongqing Tuanyuan de Gongkaixin (Open letter of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party to all Communist Party and Communist Youth League members on the question of controlling population growth in our country)," Sanzhongquanhui yilai zhongyao wenxian xuanbian (Selected important documents since the Third Plenum of the Party Central Committee ) (Beijing: Renmin Publishing House, 1982) 1, pp. 496-497; for a balanced briefing on China's population policy, see Colin Mackerras, Pradeep Taneja, and Graham Young, China Since 1978: Reform, Modernization and "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" (New York: Longman Cheshire, 1994) pp. 192-203. Back.
Note 6: In its official documents on population planning, the Chinese government has repeatedly emphasized economic rewards and punishments, as well as persuasion, as the proper means, explicitly prohibiting the use of violence in enforcement of the policy. Sanzhongquanhui yilai zhongyao wenxian xuanbian , pp. 496-97. Back.
Note 14: ibid ., pp. 24-34. Yu Quanyu, "Zhongmei Liangguo Renquan Zhuangkuang zhi Duibi (Comparison of Human Rights Practices in China and the United States)" in Xinhua wenzhai (Selected articles of the Xinhua News Agency ) 191 (November 1994) p. 19. Back.
Note 23: Zhengzhi Xueyuan Zhonggong Dangshi Jiaoyanshi (The Party History Teaching andResearch Section of the Politics College of the People's Liberation Army), comp., Zhongguo Gongchandang liushinian dashi jianjie (Brief introduction to major events in the sixty years of the Chinese Communist Party ) (Beijing: National Defense University Press, 1985) pp. 644-5. Back.
Note 25: On the question of China's entry of WTO, the U.S. government has demanded that China make immediate, drastic reductions in its tariffs and changes in its foreign trade administrative practices. While the Chinese government is committed to greater liberalization of foreign trade and has exerted itself in this area, it believes that the U.S. demands are excessive. It has expressed willingness to meet U.S. demands eventually, but wishes to have more time to prepare Chinese industries for international competition, as well as reform its foreign trade administration at an acceptable pace. Finally, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution opposing China's application to host the Olympics in the year 2000. Back.
Note 27: Liu Liandi and Wang Dawei, comps., Zhongmei guanxi de guiji: jianjiao yilai dashi zonglan (Development of Sino-American Relations: Major Events Since the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations Between the Two Countries ) (Beijing: Shishi Publishing House, 1995) p. 449. Back.