Thứ Ba, 3 tháng 6, 2014

Tiananmen Square, 25 years on: Chinese dictatorship rewriting history as it ...

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Zhao didn’t think the Communist Party could endure. The “Western parliamentary system is the one that has demonstrated the most vitality”, he wrote in his memoir. He thought China’s repressive system would vanish into history. He was wrong.

After an initial burst of indignation, the great nations of the West quietly let lapse their sanctions against Beijing. Instead of shunning China, countries everywhere got on with the business of selling to it. Bill Clinton denounced China’s leaders as “the butchers of Beijing” in the 1992 election campaign. A year later, the US president visited Beijing and shook hands with them. China proved too big, too powerful, too profitable to shut out.

“In just a single generation, the party elite has been transformed from a mirthless band of Mao-suited, ideological thugs to a wealthy, besuited and business-friendly ruling class,” says Australian journalist Richard McGregor in his book The Party. The party’s success is so overwhelming that, in the West, today it’s considered poor form to even mention the Tiananmen Square massacre in any mainstream business conference.

So it’s no real surprise that the party is confident it can pull off another brazen use of force to get its way. Week by week, push by shove, China is muscling its neighbours aside to assert ownership of large tracts of ocean. What other nations regard as disputed seas, China’s propagandists call “our blue national soil”. By ignoring international norms and laws in intimidating one country after another, China is asserting itself according to the precept set out by its former foreign affairs minister, Yang Jiechi, in 2010.

“China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact,” he told his counterpart from Asia’s smallest country, Singapore.

In 2009, China lodged with the United Nations a new claim to 90 per cent of the South China Sea. The claim is marked by the much-contested “nine-dash line” on the map. It’s in the shape of a giant scoop, dipping southwards from China to collect territories also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. China also has overlapping claims to islets and rocks administered by Japan in the East China Sea.

When China towed a massive oil rig into the middle of waters claimed by Vietnam last month, the Vietnamese sent 20 to 30 ships to try to interfere. But Beijing sent 80. It put a protective ring around the rig.

China’s coast guard vessels used water cannon on the Vietnamese and rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat.

“We cannot accept the coercion,” complained Vietnam’s foreign affairs minister, Nuguyen Quoc Cuong. But the rig is now in place.

China is rewriting history. The leaders of two of the nations in dispute with China, Benigno Aquino of the Philippines and Shinzo Abe of Japan, have likened China’s assertiveness to that of Germany under Hitler and warned against appeasing a bully. Senior political figures from the US and Japan spoke the obvious at a big defence conference on the weekend, the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Abe said that China was destabilising the region.

But the most senior Chinese military officer at the conference reacted angrily. China’s deputy chief of the general staff, Lieutenant-General Wang Guanzhong, rejected the speeches by Hagel and Abe as “unacceptable”. Hagel’s speech, he said, was “full of words of threat and intimidation” and part of “a provocative challenge against China”. But Wang knows that China is safe from any imminent challenge from the US. That’s one of the reasons China is pressing its case for territorial aggrandisement so insistently now – it assesses the US to be weak-willed.

President Barack Obama disappointed observers in the capitals of the US’s Asia-Pacific allies last week with a speech on foreign policy. It was generally judged to signal no serious intention to try to rein in China’s behaviour. And American relative power is only growing weaker with each passing year.

“If China expands its submarine fleet to 78 by 2020 as planned, it will be on par with the US navy’s undersea fleet in quantity,” writes an American expert, Robert Kaplan of Stratfor.

But China has the advantage that its diesel-electric subs are quieter than the US nuclear-powered fleet.

“At some point,” Kaplan says, “China is likely to, in effect, be able to deny the US navy unimpeded access to parts of the South China Sea.”

There is much for Tony Abbott to discuss with Obama when they meet next week. As it did 25 years ago in a very different situation, China is using force, rewriting history and getting away with it.

Peter Hartcher is the international editor.

57 comments so far

  • And yet how the Chinese love to preach about “history” and so-called “aggression”.

    It would seem their Ministry of Propaganda is not without a sense of irony.

    Hasegawa Yoshimichi



    Date and time

    June 02, 2014, 10:34PM

    • Australian governments should be very careful in its dealings with Chinese state owned company investments, it could easily find future claims and demands being made by Beijing that impact directly on Australian resource assets and sovereign territory.



      Date and time

      June 03, 2014, 5:11AM

    • @SteveH Totally agree, I can see Chinese owned land and resources in Australia as being an excuse to either bully or annex parts of Australia one day.



      Date and time

      June 03, 2014, 6:59AM

    • The TianAnMen incident was an internal affair of a country, unlike Japanese trans-border aggression that was heinous and atrocious that massacred millions, committed rapes, experiments on humans, etc. Japan had their own internal affair in the 19th century and the US too had their own that killed millions.



      Date and time

      June 03, 2014, 7:51AM

    • Seem like you two have china phobia. If you follow the news and historical events. You would know that their claims are about. these disputes by those nation have been around for years it’s only in recent months this had become more in the spot light.

      freedom of speech

      Date and time

      June 03, 2014, 8:09AM

    • This article is trying to pull together two completely different issues. Tiananmen square massacre and China sea disputes. One is internal issue of China the other is China’s dispute with other countries. First Tiananmen square massacre was horrible and I always wonder if that hadn’t happened what China will be like today better becoming a vibrant democracy or worse failed democracy like Russia. I think either outcome would change the attitude towards the second issue this article is mentioning most Chinese people believe genuinely those disputed territories are China’s because at it’s peak before western colonialism took over Asia. China was the undisputed power and had virtual control on those areas. But I think it’s a bit rich for Australia or US to criticise China when the Aborigines and native American Indians were slaughtered and their land taken away from them during western colonisation. Will Australia and US return all the lands taken from these people and give them their country back I don’t think so. So if you apply the same principle if China decides to aggressively take land or sea by force then hold on to it for 200yrs then it would be ok.



      Date and time

      June 03, 2014, 11:03AM

  • China is agressive, hostile, dangerous. They want to deny unimpeded US access to the South China Sea! America’s God-given right, its manifest destiny! Call in a nuclear strike before it’s too late!
    Meanwhile America is peacefully operating massive military bases in Japan and its former colony the Philippines, spending billions of taxpayer dollars while near 20% of its population live in poverty. All too peacefully, I might add. Obama needs to harden up and keep the Asians in their place.
    Of course, Tianamen was a tragedy, but let’s not show “such poor form as to even mention” Fallujah, My Lai or Kent State.
    The world according to Hartcher. America, our benevolent ally, spying on us constantly because they love us, always ready to protect us from the Asian hordes to the north and price our farmers out of the market with subsidised Monsanto grain, because they care.




    Date and time

    June 02, 2014, 11:51PM

    • Sure, but you really think the world is going to be a better place if China takes over as “world’s policeman”??



      Date and time

      June 03, 2014, 4:05AM

    • Spot on CT. Not to mention the Vietnam fiasco, which I was unfortunate enough to witness first hand. And what about ‘weapons of mass destruction’, Afghanistan etc. Sure Chinese leaders are no Angels, but let’s get this in prospective, it’s a clear situation where people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

      Simply unbelievable how in the 21st century humans are still killing each other over territory, just like animals in the wild. We still don’t have enough intelligence to be able to negotiate a win win outcome with our own species. We don’t even have the intelligence to be able to slow down population growth so there is no need to go to war over diminishing territories. Interesting to note that the Chinese are the only race to have acted on over population.



      Date and time

      June 03, 2014, 6:42AM

    • The US record is horrific, yet whenever pressed on its support for dictators and torturers it has always claimed that it is defending its victims against something worse. It “saved” the Caribbean and the Philippines from the Spanish Empire and it “saved” Latin America from the Soviet Union, in doing so creating some of the worst human rights disasters in history. Look up the Central American Dirty Wars or Operation Condor.
      So let’s wait and see what China actually does before we jump on the bandwagon for a pre-emptive strike to halt their supposed plans for an evil world empire.




      Date and time

      June 03, 2014, 7:04AM

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