OxBlog

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

# Posted 12:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH WHISPERS TO HU: Joe Malchow has some very sharp comments about Bush's handling of a Falun Gong supporter's effort to shout down Hu Jintao at the White House. (Hat tip: SS)

Strangely, the official White House transcript of the event reduces the entire speech by the protester to just two words: "--audience interruption--".

On a related note, I thought Hu gave a rather surprising response to a reporter's question in the Oval Office to the effect of: "When will China become a democracy with free elections?" Here's what Hu said:
PRESIDENT HU: I don't know -- what do you mean by a democracy? What I can tell you is that we've always believed in China that if there is no democracy, there will be no modernization, which means that ever since China's reform and opening up in the late 1970s, China, on the one hand, has vigorously promoted economic reform, and on the other, China has also been actively, properly, and appropriately moved forward the political restructuring process, and we have always been expanding the democracy and freedoms for the Chinese citizens.

In the future, we will, in the light of China's own national conditions and the will of the Chinese people, continue to move ahead the political restructuring and to develop a socialist democracy, and we will further expand the orderly participation of the Chinese citizens in political affairs so that the Chinese citizens will be in a better position to exercise their democratic rights in terms of democratic supervision, democratic management, and the democratic decision-making.
If China were a totalitarian state, one could dismiss this kind of rhetoric as the same old doubletalk that came out of East Germany and the Soviet Union. But I have found that in semi-authoritarian states, the leadership may eventually pay a price for admitting that the people have "democratic rights" and that "if there is no democracy, there will be no modernization".

One can be fairly confident that Hu didn't make any of these statements by accident. But one can only speculate about whether he understands that his Chinese audience may be listening far more closely than he wants to believe.

UPDATE: According to Rich Lowry, who was filling in for David Brooks on PBS, President Bush was livid about the interruption by the Falun Gong supporter, and especially about the failure of the Secret Service to get to her more quickly. If so, I think that Joe M.'s interpretation of Bush's response is no longer tenable.
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Comments:
Some say that with states like these rhetoric matters. The people start expecting it.
 
This is typical Chinese Communist Boiler Plate. The inevitability of Democracy is never questioned, just the time frame, which always stretches out of the lifetime of anyone leading the party right now.

The problem with taking a positive view of this is that it ignores the history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In the 1930s the Kuomintang (the Nationalists) who were also a Leninist party and often backed by Stalin over the CCP spoke of their cadres as a vanguard that would educate the Chinese people in Democracy, but not right away it would take time. The CCP often used this as an argument for the Kuomintang's illegitamacy, but since they did not intend democracy either they said socialism had to be achieved before democracy, and that the CCP's cadres were the vanguard of Socialism.

When the CCP came to powere the theoreticians and Mao were at odds, this was one of the reasons for the Cultural Revolution. When Deng Xiao Ping returned to power in the late 1970s, this rhetoric was revived with a time limit of usually 50 years, and such things as village elections and the Hong Kong Basic Law were premised upon this. It was moving this period of "tutelage by the party" forward that was the chief issue for the intellectuals in 1989 at the time of the Tiananmen uprising. What the intellectuals and elite students wanted was more democracy in the party, not the end of the rule by the party.
 
"Semi-authoritarian"? I assume you mean mid-way between authoritarian and totalitarian, in as much as they're hardly midway between authoritarian and free. Perhaps "semi-totalitarian" would have been a more accurate description.
 
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