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Hu Jintao is starting to show his true colors
Paul Lin

At the sixth plenum of the Central Committee of the 16th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) National Congress last September, Chinese President Hu Jintao succeeded Jiang Zemin as chairman of China's Central Military Commission (CMC), thereby concentrating party, government and military power in his own hands. As a result, people around the world began to see Hu's true face. His outward sympathy is in fact craftiness, and his reserve, coldness.

Last month's issue of the Hong Kong publication Kaifang revealed that Hu's succession speech included the following text:

"Enemy forces always use public opinion to build a propaganda base. International monopoly-capitalist groups led by the US relied on ideology to bring down the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party was absolutely not a defeat of Marxism and socialism. In the final analysis, it was the result of a gradual distancing from, turning the back on, and betrayal of Marxism, socialism and the fundamental interests of the people. Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev is the culprit behind the great changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and a betrayer of socialism. He is absolutely not a meritorious statesman, and anyone who says he is does not stand on the side of the Soviet people and human progress."

On Sept. 29, the CCP's publicity department, in the spirit of the fourth plenum, called a meeting for all the nation's media at which it distributed a document containing 29 articles stipulating issues the media is forbidden to report on. At the meeting, the deputy head of the department, Ji Bingxuan, read Hu's comments on the document: "When managing ideology, we have to learn from Cuba and North Korea. Although North Korea has encountered temporary economic problems, its policies are consistently correct."

The reliability of this information has not been refuted by the CCP, and, what's more, it is reflected in the party's statements and actions.

First, the introductions to the meeting given in the Fourth Plenum Communique and Zeng Qinghong of the CCP Political Bureau's Standing Committee both mentioned the lessons to be learned from the collapse of the Soviet Union, although neither detailed what those lessons were.

Second, just prior to the meeting, in the middle of September, Li Changchun, the member of the Political Bureau's Standing Committee in charge of ideology, visited North Korea "to gather experience."

Third, following his participation in the APEC summit in Chile, Hu visited Cuba, where he donated goods and materials to a value of more than US$10 million, and signed a 16-item agreement on political, economic and cultural cooperation. Hu and Cuban President Fidel Castro even met twice during the visit.

Fourth, the "rectification" of newspapers and the closing down of Web sites this winter have led to arrests of dissidents. Some have been given prison sentences, while others were released after being given a warning. These dissidents include the well known Internet authors Liu Xiaobo, Yu Jie, Shi Tao and Yang Tianshui. The CCP has gradually expanded its arrests of Internet-based dissidents ever since Hu took over as secretary-general.

At the time, however, Hu seemed to have relied on the expectations about the "new politics of Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao" to deceive the outside world, which seemingly blames this wave of arrests on Jiang, who was in love with his power and very unwilling to let go of the CMC chairmanship.

Hu's waving of the Mao Zedong banner just after he took over the presidency and the party chairmanship was interpreted as a strategy for wresting power from the hands of Jiang. Judging from his current statements and actions, however, he indeed seems to want a return to the days of Mao.

In order to consolidate his hold on power and play up to the hawkish faction, Hu must make nationalism a big issue.

Not only did he bring forward the anti-secession law, which will unilaterally change the cross-strait status quo, he also -- unscrupulously and in a threatening move -- sent ships into Japan's territorial waters. In early November, Chinese submarines circled the important US naval base at Guam. These openly provocative actions, in conjunction with Hu's recently increased efforts to oppose Japan, should result in the US and Japan, and in particular US President George W. Bush, re-assessing their view of Hu.

The democratic system in Western countries developed from opposition to the totalitarian systems in Europe during the middle ages, survived 20th century fascism in Germany, Italy and Japan, and flourished during the struggle with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

But the West never understood the totalitarian dictatorship of the CCP -- and even to a certain extent sympathized with it -- because of a failure to understand the hypocrisy, deceit and plotting that has been going on during 2,000 years of Chinese totalitarianism. US opposition against China throughout modern and contemporary history has often failed or ended in a draw.

If we want to deal with the CCP, we must learn from the last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten. While serving in Hong Kong, he was in constant contact with the CCP. Five years of trials and tribulations turned him into a true "China hand."

Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.

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