Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Overreach in Beijing’s great power leap [The Age]


A sampling of the comments in response to John Garnut’s analysis of China over-stretching its power. A pertinent remark here – ”How do you deal toughly with your banker?” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

And here are what readers of the Age have to say…

The fundamental question is this. Does China have any reason to resent extenal influence? Less than 100 years ago China was carved up by Japan, UK, USA, Germany, Portugal, France who plundered the country. They stole cultural relics of which China’s constant pleas for them to be returned have been disappointingly denied. The Island dispute with Japan has is not new news its just that now people care because for the first time China can finally protect itself. History has shown China that Western Allies are NOT their allies.

Ken | Sydney – December 31, 2010, 9:33AM

When was the last time we saw a rapidly arming, highly populated, nationalistic, brutal autocracy talking up it’s greatness while banging on about historical grievances? Oh that’s right, it was Germany and Japan in the 30’s. The Germans even had an Olympics to flex their muscles, but that wasn’t enough. They hack with impugnity and employ people like Ciao to astroturf the party line. All militarised dictatorships are a threat to their neighbours. China has never stopped threatening to crush democratic Taiwan. Liberalisation and democracy is the best outcome, war is the worst; in the mean-time, containment is essential.

CityWorker | Melbourne – December 31, 2010, 10:43AM

– – –

Overreach in Beijing’s great power leap
John Garnut
Source – The Age, published December 31, 2010

It was only last year that China surprised itself as much as anyone else by discovering that it had arrived as a world power, years ahead of expectations.

The great leap in relative power was partly due to the Chinese Communist Party’s unique capacity and determination to pump up the local economy at a time when the developed world was being battered by the financial crisis.

”How do you deal toughly with your banker?” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, referring to China, asked then Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd in March 2009, according to US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

Party leaders were evidently pleased with what they described in their main annual meeting as China’s ”marked rise in international status and influence”. Beyond exploiting the domestic propaganda value, however, they struggled to find ways to put China’s new-found power to good use.

Throughout 2010, the leadership appeared to lurch from underestimating its power to overestimating it. The signs of overreach were most evident in the geopolitical realm. Beijing showed a new willingness to throw its weight around in pursuit of narrowly defined self-interest, which generated an acute sense of unease among many of China’s neighbours. Countries such as Japan, South Korea, India and Vietnam have responded by inviting the United States to re-establish its diplomatic and military primacy in the region, despite Chinese protests.

Only months ago Beijing had loudly railed at the mere possibility of a US aircraft carrier near its coastal waters. But, after sheltering its bellicose ally North Korea, Beijing now appears powerless to prevent the US from sending not just one aircraft carrier to the region, but three.

The Communist Party also showed signs of overreach in its efforts to silence domestic dissent, with increasingly heavy-handed methods across a widening range of citizens. The 11-year jail sentence handed down to intellectual Liu Xiaobo on December 25 last year immediately turned him into a rallying point for reformers across the country. It also led to Liu being awarded the Nobel peace prize in September, which led to a much broader crackdown against his supporters, raising Liu’s status even further.

”If we say we didn’t have a trademark in the past, then now we have a flag,” prominent civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang told The Age earlier this month, despite warnings not to speak to foreign journalists about Liu. ”My hope is that Liu’s prestige and resources will help provide a platform for truth and compromise when the Communist Party leviathan is bursting.”

Information technology and a rising sense of universal values are raising the political costs of oppression. Pu was one of dozens of Liu supporters who had been extralegally detained in the wake of Liu’s Nobel prize. He immediately recounted his ordeal on Twitter.

Last week another lawyer, Teng Biao, was released from a police station after supporters rallied to his aid after he managed to ”tweet” news of his illegal detention via his mobile phone.

Teng subsequently recounted the ordeal in an internet posting, including quoting a policeman who threatened to ”bury” him and another who claimed that the law did not count for much on ”Communist Party territory”.

And, on Saturday, what might once have remained a local story about a traffic accident in Zhejiang province became a national scandal about official corruption and brutality when photos of a land activist’s decapitated body – still under the tyre of a large truck – were posted all over the internet. In both international and domestic politics, the Communist Party is finding that its increased power has led to a commensurate increase in resistance to that power.

The question for 2011 is whether the party will respond to these challenges by retreating and compromising, or by flexing its muscles more strongly.

John Garnaut is China correspondent.

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Filed under: Australia, Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Environment, Influence, International Relations, military, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, The Age, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

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