Friday, October 21

A betrayal beyond reckoning

"Pundita, That China's leaders are even making a show of considering democratic reforms is to me another sign that Bush's democracy doctrine is gaining ground. What do you think?
Tom in Sioux City"

Dear Tom:
Sure the doctrine is making headway; there was never any question it would. Once I was summoned by the chief in a remote village in Asia. He asked me to stop smoking cigarettes while I was walking around the village. I had already made a lot of adjustments in my behavior so as not to offend the locals. That was the final straw; I made an uncooperative retort.

He replied that he wouldn't be asking if I came from any other foreign country but everything I did was imitated by the women and children because I was American and everybody knew America was king of countries.

Now just see how clever those old chiefs can be; he knew he'd gotten me in a hammerlock. But his logic was unassailable; everyone wants to imitate success. So if we had wanted the world's poorest countries to embrace genuine democracy, much depended on America's postwar leaders to lead -- to clearly articulate the principles on which this country is founded and make a sincere, consistent effort to stand by the principles they mouthed.

Instead, the leaders stood by the principles of NATO, which devolved to going along with Western Europe's idea of geopolitics, which is founded on expediency. The upshot was a betrayal of democracy so vast it is beyond reckoning.

The kindest thing you can say is that we lost our compass. George W. Bush found it. That plus 50 cents won't get us far without a lot of sustained effort. The biggest problem for America is not China's leaders; the problem is American academics, policy experts, government officials and businesspeople who find genuine democracy too messy and uncertain a process on which to base foreign relations.

Nowhere is this observation more applicable than with regard to China. Few Americans know the extent of the West's collaboration with Red China's regime because the history has been pretty well cemented over but some cracks have appeared and they are widening.

Yesterday Simon World published a review of Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. Simon observes about the wonderfully named reviewer:
Keith Windschuttle starts and ends his piece highlighting the responsibility of western intellectuals and journalists for praising the barbarism of Mao era and for lying against every evidence [...]
Lie they did, and on a scale that's almost beyond comprehension for Americans raised in the era of satellite communications and the Internet.

T. E. Lawrence had Lowell Thomas; Mao Zedong had Edgar Snow. Windschuttle writes:
In the summer of 1936, the American journalist Edgar Snow left Peking for China’s northwest to visit the new territory taken over by the Chinese Communist Party. There he conducted a number of lengthy interviews with the party leader Mao Tse-tung. He wrote them up and published them as The Mao Tse-tung Autobiography, the first and only extensive account of his life Mao ever gave. Snow interviewed other Communist leaders and then converted all his material into his own book, Red Star over China, published in English in 1937–1938. [...]

He portrayed Mao and his supporters as heroic figures, dedicated to liberating their country from both the foreign invaders and the hopelessly corrupt Nationalists. Snow depicted them less as socialist revolutionaries and more as agrarian reformers, determined to break the shackles of feudal agriculture and liberate the peasants from their rapacious landlords. [...]

Snow’s book played a major role in converting public opinion in both America and Europe towards a more favorable view of Mao. Its biggest impact, however, was within China itself, where it had a profound influence on radical youth. Red Star over China and the Mao autobiography were quickly translated into Chinese and widely distributed.

Many young, urban, middle-class Chinese men and women who read Snow’s books were converted. They cut their long hair short -- still a daring and eyebrow-raising gesture in the 1930s -- and joined the Communist Party. By 1941, thanks to the reputation Mao had earned from the Long March, party membership had grown to some 700,000. [...]

The story that drew them there, however, was a fiction. The new biography Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday shows that every major claim made by Snow was false.
Read the rest of the review for a small idea of the consequences, then read The Unknown Story.

As to what today's Edgar Snows are up to with regard to China -- same thing they've been up to since they sold a cross between neomercantilism and slave plantation economy as "Chinese capitalism." You can bet they're gearing up to sell whatever swill China's leaders put out about democracy reforms.

However, I think your observation is on the mark. Without Bush breathing down their neck about democracy, China's leaders wouldn't have even bothered to put on a show. So that's how we measure progress. And it helps Chinese inside the military and the civilian government who've concluded that democracy is vital to China getting through this phase of their nation's development.

What does not help is the Kissingeresque approach of allowing lies and evasions to go unchallenged; this, on the excuse that China's leaders pick up their marbles and go home when they hear unequivocal language. Stop and think: how insulting is that? "Greetings. I see you are Chinese. That means you are incapable of reading anything but insult into straight talk."

What they're really concerned about is meddling, and they have good reason to be concerned after the circuses in Georgia and Ukraine. Yet we don't have to meddle; indeed, meddling is counterproductive. No orange, purple, pink or polka-dot revolution. All we need do, if we want to give really effective help, is stand by our principles and remind China's leaders at every turn what those principles are.

We also need to stop acting as enablers -- allowing China's leaders to save Face every time they evade reality and expect us to agree that the moon is made of blue cheese.

Why is that all we need do? Because we're not Pongo-Pongo. Hello, we are the most successful nation the race of humans has ever raised up. And people, being people, listen to success, provided it doesn't switch its story every 15 minutes and betray every principle it stands for in the name of triangulation.

If sticking to a story sounds hard, not as hard as living with the consequences of betraying democracy. To pound home the point I'll give the last word to Roy Hattersley, of The Observer
"Jung Chang and Jon Halliday have not, in the whole of their narrative, a good word to say about Mao. In a normal biography, such an unequivocal denunciation would be both suspect and tedious. But the clear scholarship, and careful notes, of The Unknown Story provoke another reaction. Mao Tse-Tung's evil, undoubted and well-documented, is unequalled throughout modern history."

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