Founded in 1921, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) established the People’s Republic of China in 1949 after driving out the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). The 100-year-old CCP has shown little appreciation for democracy, human rights or civilized behavior in world affairs.
Instead, sad stories of inhumanity abound, such as those that occurred during the Cultural Revolution. Its latest irresponsible act is to deny, delay and deceive about the origin of COVID-19 and risk of human-to-human transmission, leading to the deaths of more than 5 million people worldwide, including about 115,000 health workers.
Moreover, as China amasses wealth, military strength, and legitimacy in the UN and other global organizations, the world’s safety net has been compromised by the irresponsible acts of this autocratic government.
The brutal oppression of the Hong Kong democracy movement, the crimes against humanity targeting Uighur and other Turkic Muslims, the aggressive diplomatic and military actions toward neighboring countries, such as India and Australia, and in the South China Sea, and the continual military incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone are just a few examples of China’s untamed, uncivilized and unfortunate character.
The world has awoken to Chinese military confrontation, economic warfare, cyberespionage, cultural onslaught, political maneuvering and many more offenses that have grown even more serious as China’s GDP increased. Faced with China’s expanding nuclear arsenal, naval fleet and space war capabilities, the world will have a hard time stopping Chinese aggression with any military might.
A military war with China would be the last resort of all options considered, although it must remain one. On the other hand, the ongoing economic warfare invoked by China’s rejection of coal, lobsters, wine and red meat from Australia, and pineapples and other fruits from Taiwan, and to monopolize rare earth metals, are the acts of a spoiled child that no parent can tackle but must tolerate.
As Sun Tzu (孫子) wrote in The Art of War: “Those who are victorious in all battles are not the best of the best warriors. The best defeat their enemies without a fight.”
The world’s alliance of democratic and free countries must rethink how to tame an awakened Asian giant for the benefit of humanity, without firing a shot. The best way is to make China democratic and civil as a means to alleviating war in the greater Asian region.
However, a fundamental principle in physics is that an internal force does no work on the rigid body. The CCP has a tight grip on China in which there is virtually no external force that can counter its control.
Moreover, lacking freedom of information, speech, media, gathering and demonstration, a homegrown democracy remains improbable if not impossible.
As this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa said: “If you have no facts, you can’t have truths, you can’t have trust. If you don’t have any of these, you don’t have a democracy.”
Unless the world’s democratic and free countries exert a determined and constant push on China to democratize, it is hard to imagine that it could transform into anything agreeable anytime soon.
The transformation of Germany and Japan from war offenders to outstanding partners in the free world after World War II is legendary, albeit they were occupied by the Allies after their defeat. Without military occupation or unconditional surrender, can the free world ever force China to comply with civilized codes?
A basic political fact is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. To ensure that checks and balances work in China, the second red generation who aspires to democracy and freedom instead of “birthright” privileges should be encouraged to form an opposing party. This strategy of divide and conquer would not materialize without help from the international community, given Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) ego and totalitarian hold on power.
Inasmuch as many talented entrepreneurs in China “died by accident,” “disappeared,” or “were under house arrest,” it is clear that an autocratic communist party and a free-market capitalist economy are a mismatch at best, and dire at worst.
Thus, if a great recession — high unemployment, high inflation and depleted foreign currency reserves — were to hit China, there would be an opportunity for pro-free enterprise elites and tycoons to oppose giving Xi’s administration another term by calling for open and fair elections of local and central government officials. At such time, the free world could demand a reform in Chinese government before any financial aid is provided.
Beijing is sure to continue being a nuisance and to ignore its international obligations. Every irresponsible act by China should be met with a restraining order on the Chinese government, such as protection of journalists and release of human rights activists from jail.
The WHO, Europe and the US have been seeking the origin of COVID-19, and are investigating how it spread in the first 100 days of the pandemic. To reinforce the world’s health net and to avoid a similar event from happening again, irresponsible acts need to be severely penalized, as millions of lives and trillions of US dollars in the world’s economy were lost. The causality principle says that any effect must have a justified cause.
The COVID-19 pandemic could not have just occurred without one or more irresponsible institutions ignoring the seriousness of the disease, covering it up swiftly in hopes it would disappear, or naively adopting official propaganda without carefully carrying out the institutional duty to investigate the matter for the sake of warning the world.
All evidence points to the military-related research at the Wuhan lab. Health is a human right. China has violated human rights on a pandemic scale. To demand justice by administering punishment to fit the crime, when the hard evidence has been identified, could be the rightful opportunity to demand serious concessions from Beijing.
If China is unwilling to pay compensation for trillions of US dollars of damage to the global economy, and trillions more for the deceased, the world should demand Xi’s resignation, and a new constitution to ensure democracy in China and that its officials are elected by the people.
Education is important to awaken the public and push them to demand their rights. Democracy should start locally, and challenging the CCP at the local level could root democracy firmly in the country. The UN and democratic nations need to play a more active role in promoting democracy and human rights everywhere, and in China in particular, just for its immense population and gross neglect of humanity.
The global condemnation of Chinese government abuses in Xinjiang by 43 nations is a step in the right direction. Overseas Chinese and KMT members in Taiwan who have deep affections for China should take the CCP’s threat to world peace seriously and reject its poor record of human rights by helping the democracy movement in China whenever and wherever possible. Taiwan is a shining example of transformation from a dictatorship to a vibrant world-class democracy. Taiwan can help in this important task of returning one-sixth of the world’s population to civilization.
On the other hand, the crackdown on high-tech companies, social media censorship, disinformation campaign, pervasive facial recognition surveillance and many more repressive policies from the CCP offer an opportunity for the young elite to come out and demand change.
A good example is the Chinese Revolution of 1911. History will repeat itself when a repressive regime goes too far. Civil rebellion due to corrupt and repressive officials occurred in China once every few hundred years, which could still be another scenario in which China could democratize, with help from the international community. This time, the separation of powers should be forged into the constitutional DNA.
Next year could be a make-or-break moment for China to become truly a people’s republic.
James J. Y. Hsu is a retired National Cheng Kung University physics professor, and a member and former president of the North America Taiwanese Professors’ Association.
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