September 2, 2008

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to China. Historian Mart Helme writes about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, whose 40th anniversary was widely commemorated in the Western media in May – but not so in China itself, where an honest discussion of recent history and the crimes of Communism is all but nonexistent.

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to China. Historian Mart Helme writes about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, whose 40th anniversary was widely commemorated in the Western media in May – but not so in China itself, where an honest discussion of recent history and the crimes of Communism is all but nonexistent.

English summary

This issue of Diplomaatia is devoted to China. Historian Mart Helme writes about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, whose 40th anniversary was widely commemorated in the Western media in May – but not so in China itself, where an honest discussion of recent history and the crimes of Communism is all but nonexistent.
Helme argues that although the Cultural Revolution might appear as just violent madness to the Western observer, there are also rational explanations for what transpired. These come to light when one looks more closely at the domestic power struggles rampant in China of that period. Namely, Chairman Mao Zedong looked set to be sidelined by the newer and more pragmatic Chinese elites, many of whom had been educated in the Soviet Union and, as a result, saw in the USSR a desirable model for China, especially as regards the Soviet experience of industrialisation and transformation into a military superpower. Mao was of a different opinion. In his view, the Soviet Union represented a bureaucratisation of the party, a transformation that in the long run could only lead to stagnation and loss of revolutionary fervour. According to Mao’s argument, this same process of bureaucratisation had effectively shut out the Soviet people from participating in the state’s development. Mao believed, however, that the key to his own tenure as a real, not just symbolic, head of state lay in creating exactly the opposite conditions. This meant sidelining the pragmatic wing of the party, stimulating the direct political participation and maintaining society’s raw revolutionary energy. To achieve all that, a new campaign was the logical next step.
In an article that has earlier been published in the Washington Post, the political analyst Robert Kagan discusses what he calls “an illusion of managing the rise of China.”
“The phrase itself is soothing, implying gradualism, predictability and time,” Kagan writes: “Time enough to think and prepare, to take measurements of China’s trajectory and adjust as necessary. If China eventually emerges as a clear threat, there will be time to react.”
However, according to Kagan, this calculus may turn out to be a mere illusion: “The history of rising powers…and their attempted ‘management’ by established powers provides little reason for confidence or comfort. Rarely have rising powers risen without sparking a major war that reshaped the international system to reflect new realities of power. (—) Isn’t it possible that China does not want to be integrated into a political and security system that it had no part in shaping and that conforms neither to its ambitions nor to its own autocratic and hierarchical principles of rule? Might not China, like all rising powers of the past, including the United States, want to reshape the international system to suit its own purposes, commensurate with its new power, and to make the world safe for its autocracy?” 
Mark Leonard of the Centre for European Reform, a London think tank, challenges Kagan’s conclusions in his article on what EU’s China policy should look like. Leonard notes that “China’s potential clash with the West stems from its conservatism, rather than its activism. For Beijing, being a responsible global player means accepting the status-quo: not invading other countries, not trying to overthrow regimes, and above all not interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign states. European policymakers, on the other hand, influenced by genocide in Rwanda, terrorist camps in Afghanistan, and nuclear proliferation in Iran, feel a responsibility to intervene in countries that threaten human rights and international security.”
From Leonard’s point of view, there is much the EU could do to induce China to act more in concert with the liberal world: “While Beijing bristles at attempts to change its domestic politics, it is surprisingly susceptible to outside pressure on foreign policy,” Leonard recalls, suggests four steps the EU should take in order to influence China more effectively than hitherto.
The first challenge for the EU is to develop a common approach to China. The second strand of an EU policy should be to support more strongly China’s integration into global institutions, so that China has a stake in making those institutions work more effectively. Third, the EU should systematically raise those aspects of China’s foreign policy that it finds problematic – in private during visits, and in public within international organisations. And fourth, EU governments must be careful not to undermine their strategy by applying double standards, for example by speaking of a rule-based economic order, but then imposing restrictions on Chinese imports.
Märt Läänemets, a scholar of East Asian studies at Tartu University, discusses Taiwan’s political realities and prospects in a lengthy interview with Cho Hui-Wan, a professor of international relations at the Chung-Hsing University in Taiwan.
Cho explains that although no major world powers recognize Taiwan as an independent country, a fact which complicates the conduct of international relations for Taiwan, much can still be done through interactions within the international organizations where Taiwan is a member or an observer, such as the WTO: “When a foreign government is not willing to deal with the Taiwanese government directly, it can interact with Taiwan on a member-to-member basis in the WTO. (— ) That is why it is important for other functional international organizations to include Taiwan so that problems of common concern can be resolved.”
In recent years, more and more Taiwanese political leaders have abandoned the position of seeing Taiwan as “the real China” and instead have begun considering pursuing de iure independence. For Cho, this is unrealistic: “I do not think China will ever become soft on the Taiwan issue. When Beijing says it will use force if necessary, I think Beijing means it. The world should pay attention to this Chinese policy because a war in the Taiwan Strait would affect not only Taiwan and China, but also peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region, and even the world economy in total.”
It seems there are no quick fixes to Taiwan’s less-than-convenient international situation; given this reality, only diplomacy aimed at crafting carefully worded documents on the sensitive issues can help maintain the peace between China and Taiwan.

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