Sunday 17 Oct 2021 | 06:32 | SYDNEY
Sunday 17 Oct 2021 | 06:32 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: The illegitimate CCP


Sam Roggeveen


20 July 2009 11:09

Last week I highlighted Paul Monk's comments on Lateline about the Stern Hu case. Harry Gelber had thoughts on that interview on Friday, to which Paul Monk offers this response:

Harry Gelber's observations about the CCP being the only glue holding the empire of China together merit comment. That China remains an empire and has never been a nation state is something its rulers have never been prepared to concede. That the desire to hold this empire together justifies violent repression of deeply discontented and openly restive populations in the imperial territories, most notably Tibet and Xinjiang, is surely a contentious proposition.

The Western empires, in the last century, faced such restiveness and the very idea of colonial empires came to be renounced after the 1950s. Why, then, concede legitimacy to Chinese efforts to maintain one by colonization and brute force? But even if one felt some sympathy for the Chinese empire, the fact that the Communist Party, with its appalling history of misrule, mass killing and lawlessness, should be entrusted with this task is surely a very dubious proposition indeed.

My own view, as set out in Thunder from the Silent Zone, is that the Communist Party, qua Communist Party, has no legitimacy and no warrant for holding onto power at all. Its only conceivable justification for doing so would be to prepare the way deliberately and as a matter of declaratory policy for the legitimization of political opposition and the genuine rule of law in China. It is not doing this, therefore, it does not merit sympathy or moral respect.

In the 1980s, while Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang tenuously held the reins of high office, under the watchful and arbitrary eye of the Party elders, such a political transformation seemed possible. In 1989, tens and hundreds of thousands of China's most educated and responsible citizens called for the Party to start down this road. It responded, against the better judgment of the late Zhao Ziyang, by declaring martial law unconstitutionally, sending in the tanks and killing thousands of innocent civilians. That shredded what was already a very doubtful legitimacy.

Since then, it has done nothing to gain legitimacy. The often repeated claim that it has accomplished great things in terms of economic development is systematically misleading. Such development has occurred just to the extent that the Communist Party has abandoned Marxist economics and allowed the international market to pour capital into the country and to create a huge demand for its exports. But the Party's determination to hang onto power has prevented the development of private capital in China, has made corruption rampant, while suppressing all the available means for exposing and checking it — a free press, a political opposition, an open civil society, an independent judiciary — and has created perverse incentives that have generated environmental devastation and acute social unrest across the country.

Does Harry Gelber seriously want us to believe that the CCP's arbitrary rule is, then, the remedy for all these things? It is the problem. Its arbitrary power must end and be replaced by responsible, law-constrained government. That has been the refrain from educated and eminent Chinese intellectuals at every opportunity they have had to speak out ever since the Hundred Flowers campaign in 1957. The CCP has crushed them again and again and again. We should not have any part in making excuses for it.

Let us, then, turn back to the Stern Hu case. Is it truly Professor Gelber's intention to deflect opprobrium from the CCP in this case by pointing out that its rule is endangered by unrest, when that unrest is a direct result of its ruthless and corrupt domination of Chinese society? The arbitrary arrest and detention of Stern Hu is an abuse of power, like countless others perpetrated by this gigantic mafia that battens on Chinese society. It demonstrates the contempt of the CCP for law and decency. That isn't news, but it is an outrage.

While the Australian government needs to exercise as much diplomatic restraint as it can muster to try to resolve the matter, we private citizens should be under no illusions that there is the slightest justification for what the CCP has done and is doing. Don't make noise, the CCP's Foreign Ministry demands of us. On the contrary, it's about time Austalian civil society, since it is (we are) at liberty and not under the CCP's yoke, made a great deal more noise about this. At the very least, we should now be systematically reviewing our links with China and exploring every avenue for denying the CCP the opportunity to perpetrate further outrages of this nature.

This is a passionate response. We should feel passionate about these matters. We have been supine for too long. I, for one, have run out of patience with the CCP and will no longer be pulling my punches in commenting on its rule. I wish the people of China well. I wish the Chinese Communist Party a speedy demise and an inglorious memorial in the pages of history.