Friday, 24 October 2003

Hu's on Second?

After yesterday's visit by US President Bush, Chinese Premier Hu Jintao's speech to Parliament came as a bit on an anticlimax. Well, a lot of an anticlimax. All the CNN and Fox glitterati and Presidential camp-followers had departed for fresher fields and pastures new. Instead of Fighters loaded with live missiles overhead, we only had a few unarmed and mostly harmless observation helicopters.

But then again, China is not at war.

In any other circumstances, the visit by the leader of the world's most populous country, and the 21st Century's emerging Superpower would have been not just a big, but a huge deal. Especially for placid Canberra, stuck away as we are in the middle of nowhere-in-particular, just a useful rest-stop between Sydney and the Snow Fields. There would have been a Media Frenzy, we wouldn't have heard the last of it for months. But as it is, we've barely heard the first of it.

Going in to work today, there were a number of Chinese flags alongside Australian ones. A bit more helicopter air traffic than usual. But that was about it.

The Full Text of Premier Hu's speech (courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald is quite interesting. A few quotes:
Let me begin by expressing, on behalf of the Chinese government and people, my best wishes to you and, through you, to the courageous and hard-working Australian people.
Courageous? Hard-Working???!!! He really should visit here more often if he's under such misapprehensions...
Though located in different hemispheres and separated by high seas, the people of China and Australia enjoy a friendly exchange that dates back centuries.

The Chinese people have all along cherished amicable feelings about the Australian people.

Back in the 1420s, the expeditionary fleets of China's Ming Dynasty reached Australian shores.
A Ha! They do remember Zheng He! (See previous post)

For centuries, the Chinese sailed across vast seas and settled down in what they called Southern Land, or today's Australia.

They brought Chinese culture to this land and lived harmoniously with the local people, contributing their proud share to Australia's economy, society and its thriving pluralistic culture.
Harumph. Conveniently swept under the carpet is Australia's shameful record of mistreatment of Chinese immigrants in the 19th century - and the almost equally shameful "White Australia Policy" of the first half of the 20th. He should have mentioned it, as we're going to politely enquire when China's going to stop the cultural genocide in Tibet. And the harvesting of prisoners' organs. And the jails which are slave labour factories. True Friends should be able to criticise each other - without emnity.
How should countries go about their relations with one another in this complicated and diverse world?

It is a question that is on the minds of many people.

We are of the view that for a smooth conduct of state-to-state relations and for lasting peace and common prosperity, all countries should act in compliance with the following principles:

First, politically, they should respect each other, seek common ground while putting aside differences and endeavour to expand areas of agreement.
And not be so impolite as to mention Tibet in public. OK, no mention in public. Private is another matter - we would like some deeds, we're not out to score points.
Our world is a diverse place like a rainbow of many colours.

Civilisations, social systems, development models, as different as they may be, should nonetheless respect one another, learning from each other's strong points to make up for one's own weakness amid competition and comparison and achieving common development by seeking common ground while shelving differences.

By mutual respect politically, we mean that the political system and path of political development chosen by the people of each country should be respected.
Really don't mention any of this 'Human Rights' stuff, OK?
We have stepped up the building of rule of law in China, making sure that there are laws to go by, that the laws must be observed and strictly enforced and that violators must be dealt with.
This is one of China's great advances, though they still have a very long way to go. Until quite recently, the Law was basically whatever the local Communist party cadre said it was. In 20th Century China. 18th Century Russia, 17th Century France and 13th Century England, the whim of the local Aristocracy held the ultimate power over people's lives. This is now changing, and changing fast. In no more than a few decades, the Communist Party and the Guomintang in Taiwan will be indistinguishable from one another, if the rate of progress continues to accelerate. (Few people realise just exactly how Marxist the Guomintang is, and always was. Taiwan is not exactly "free" by contemporary standrads, even now).
As China-Australia relations prove, so long as they understand and treat each other as equals and respect their respective national conditions and circumstances, countries with different social systems may very well become partners of friendly cooperation with constantly increased common ground.
Let's not let Tibet come between us, OK? Fair enough - as I said, Australians don't wish to embarress China. Just see some justice done, with whatever face-saving is needed. And he's right - with increased contact comes increased understanding. This can lead to increased friction, when we understand exactly how different our societies are. But it can also lead to one or both partners deciding to change themselves for the better.

Having studied Chinese history, especially the Tai-Ping rebellion ( a civil war with a Loony Christian Sect which slew over 100 million people in the 19th century) - I can understand the repression of the Falun gong. To understand is not neccessarily to condone, but I'll be darned if I can think of a way of preventing a recurrence of Crackpot Religious Cult-ism without such an evil policy. I'm glad I'm not Hu, to have so much power over so many people scares the fertiliser out of me. I'd probably be far worse.

Anyway, I'd recommend people read the whole speech.

The reason I haven't commented on Bush's speech of the day before is because the whole thing should reaaly be read first. And unlike speeches by Chinese politicians, where nuance and indirection is everything, it's a speech by a Texan. Bush may not always speak plainly, but he has of neccessity to give that impression. Whatever the reason, his speech should also be read in full, and I'll be commenting on that later.

A thought has crossed my mind though: how better to arrange a China-US "understanding" about dealing with North Korea except by using a mutually trusted go-between who has a personal interest in seeing a solution formulated? Sorry, I've done some data analysis in the past - usually diagnosing bugs in complex systems - and getting such "hunches" on very tenuous evidence is a habit. As is being right worryingly often, maybe once in ten times. Pure speculation on my part, anyway.

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