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US Congressman Tom Tancredo on China
Presentation at "A Closer Look into China" Forum
Rep. Tom Tancredo
I remember when we had a debate in the Congress of the United States about Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with China and I was opposed to it, and I still am. We had a lot of people, a lot of my colleagues kept saying, “If we do this, if we provide this kind of economic basis for the Chinese people and if in fact their economy begins to move along and grow then that will in fact eventually lead to the demise of the communist government and there will be some sort of Jeffersonian democracy that will break out all over China because of this.” I thought that was odd that they would use that as a reason for passing PNTR because of course while we were being told by my colleagues, who were in favor of it, that this would be the demise of the government, the dictatorship; at the same time the government was here lobbying like crazy for PNTR. And there is some irony there, and I said to my colleagues at the time, “Who do you think knows more about China, the Chinese government or us, those of us here in the Congress of the United States who, I guess if you have a bill in front of you that has the word China in it, all of a sudden anyone who supports it becomes a China scholar. The fact is of course that there are benefits and there are hopes that arise out of the fact that the Chinese economy is prospering quickly but there are also some down sides and we’ll talk about that.
Now it’s true that this fifty-six year old death grip that the Chinese Communist Party holds on the levers of political power in China is one of the longest running of any political party in modern history. But like the National Party that preceded it and the communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the PRI of Mexico we may actually be able to say that the days of enjoying such a stranglehold are may be numbered. Because beneath the rosy reports of China’s rapidly growing economy, discontent among the Chinese people is also growing and the Chinese leaders know it. I was told that nothing was as ever frightening to the leaders in Beijing as the day they woke up and looked outside and saw 10,000 people in protest in Tiananmen Square and they could not figure out, this is of course in regard to the Falun Gong, and they could not imagine how this possibly could have happened in a country totally controlled by this dictatorship. And of course it’s a pretty scary thing in a country like China.
Protests that began on July 4th, some interesting irony there, have forced a halt to the production of a pharmaceutical plant just south of Shanghai, the showcase city in China. Protesters are fed up with the official corruption and lack of accountability from party officials. Now China has suffered a series of such protests in the vast, poor countryside, home to more than eight hundred million people, who have largely failed to share in the country’s economic boom. Protesters are beginning to complain more frequently about incompetent or corrupt local governments, the seizure of farmland for real estate development, pollution and other problems. Unfortunately we rarely read about these developments in Chinese state run media, or in the American business publications giddy with Chinese fever.
Of course it is encouraging to us all to see the seeds of democracy cropping up. It is doubtful that the Chinese government will emulate Taiwan’s government example and let the seeds grow. As was mentioned by Annette China’s newest tactic to deflect criticism is to fan the flames of Chinese nationalism. It is also a very good indicator, it seems to me, that they know they’ve got a problem and the problem is growing. We have watched recently as Chinese leadership has orchestrated violent anti-Japanese protests and passed the so called anti succession law, authorizing a military strike against Taiwan. Also as was mentioned by Stephen that the general of the People’s Liberation Army and the head of the national defense university told a group of reporters that China should consider a nuclear first strike against the United States. Shortly there after I did introduce a measure that the Chinese government repudiate the comments and the general be removed from his position, the amendment was added to the State Department reauthorization.
Many Americans are disturbed and surprised that such nationalistic saber rattling plays well in China. They fail to understand however that whereas despite China’s recent economic growth most Chinese people remain closed off from much of the Western world. American companies often assist the Chinese governments to keep it that way. And that’s what I was saying about the downside of this great economic boom and the PNTR because we have provided China with not only the market for the consumer goods that it produces but we have also provided China with the technology to control the population to a greater extent than it has ever been able to do so.
Microsoft’s new web portal MSN spaces is suppose to give people in China an online outlet for expressing themselves. But the Chinese version blocks words and subjects that Beijing considers subversive and this is something we helped them produce. Cisco Systems, Cisco producing technology that will allow a way for the Chinese government to more carefully and effectively monitor the actions of its people. And why not, it’s a big contract. After all won’t we all prosper by that; won’t these corporations do well and as a result the United States will do well and as a result pretty soon we’ll all be holding hands watching Oprah and singing “kum bai ah.” I don’t know how that translates some people get it I guess. In that MSN software the user tries to post a message that includes words such as democracy, freedom, Taiwan, Falun Gong or human rights and an automatic message pops up warning the person not to use prohibited language.
The communist party in China is also making major investments in military build ups in fact the Pentagon released it’s latest assessment of the military build up; it includes advanced aircraft, submarines and 700 short range ballistic missiles. Far more than China needs to subdue Taiwan. China is clearly gearing up for a military conflict and of course we are paying for it. We are providing them with the economic ability to create a military that will threaten us and certainly threatened Taiwan and can prove to be the ultimate distraction for us. I also believe China’s as I say gearing up for a military conflict designed to achieve its geopolitical objectives and these are objectives I believe extend beyond Taiwan; designed to help the CCP avoid domestic criticism. Like the growing phenomena protesting and petitioning in China, reports of Chinese officials quitting the communist party are certainly good news; and members of the party throughout China quitting the party. The proponents of democracy in China need help from friends of freedom around the world people who stand for a democratic Taiwan and people who stand for human rights. Perhaps most importantly like the writers of The Epoch Times who report the abuses of the communist party and the Beijing regime to the people of China and the world; those are the folks that are necessary. As I sat here listening to the Nine Commentaries, it stuck me and I’m sure I’m not the only person in here to be struck by the fact that this may very well be similar to a document that was written a couple of hundred years ago, here in the United States. A document at the time, a certainly I think the author was even surprised how quickly and readily it was accepted and that was called “Common Sense” and that was written by a gentleman by the name of Thomas Paine. And many people believed that it was the intellectual and underpinning for the Revolution in the United States, the Revolution against Great Britain. It was incredible the number of copies sold in a very short time and it did give people hope. I think when they read those statements, I think that the colonists looked at it and said, “You know here in one place somebody willing to say the things that needed to be said, willing to lay out in an inequivocal fashion what are our grievances and what is the solution.” And because it was just as the title said common sense, people connected to it in a way that I think eventually again led to some of the greatest events the world has ever known. Certainly the “Nine Commentaries” I think have that possibility. They lay things out in a truthful manner for people to see and they set out a path for people to take.
I believe with all my heart that one of the most dangerous games we can play in the world in a foreign policy arena are those games that encourage and are based on ambiguity; so that no one really knows what your intentions are, no one would know what you would do under any particular circumstances, the United States or anyone else. I think that this is dangerous. I think it leads to other countries testing, constantly testing, constantly pushing, constantly messaging, and trying to figure out just how far they can go and that’s a dangerous thing. And I think the common sense approach is to be quite clear in our foreign policy with China and the rest of the world as to exactly what we would do; there was no ambiguity in the mutually destruction policy that we operated on for 40 years. We said without hesitation, “If you do this, if you launch a military strike against the United States, this will be the consequence, we will launch a strike against Russia. That mutually assured destruction concept kept us safe I believe for 40 years. It stopped the missiles from flying; the thousands of missiles that were pointed at each other. It was a common sense thing in a way. Scary, true but there was no ambiguity there. I believe that it is important for the United States to clearly set out what its goals are and what its position is vis-a-vis Taiwan; what we would do should not be ambiguous. Will we come to their aid if they are attacked? If the president is to be taken at his word, he said at his inauguration, you may recall, “That wherever people stand for liberty we will stand with them.” And we are going to test the principle that ideas do have power because if ideas can actually have power and overrule the power that is placed against them by the government of China, if ideas can prosper in a way as to force a change in China then that is the ultimate test of that theory that ideas have power. And I believe they do. I believe that this is our greatest hope. It is not just the threat of some sort of military action that will keep us safe, it is the threat of that action, the promise that we will defend the ability for that idea to grow. Because the idea is the thing with power; the idea of freedom and personal liberties. That does move people, people all over the world, people in every culture and from every background.
So we can devise foreign policy, place our hope in the power of ideas and we can of course pray for a peaceful world in which those ideas can bring prosperity to everyone and peace. So I want to thank you very much for the opportunity you’ve given me share a few thoughts about China and to look at China from a Westerners point of view and again thank you very much for having me here.
Question: Congressman I’ve just returned from Beijing working for the World Bank on trying to create a viable capital market, I think you should change your word the DAYS may be numbered to the YEARS may be numbered for all the reasons that you gave.
Tencredo: That’s good advice.
Question continues: There are six countries that have gone from underdeveloped countries to developed countries and all six started under dictatorships; Spain, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and most recently Chile. And they say that the communist party will be removed from power is by creating a middle class society. So I’m all in favor frankly with trade with China. I’m in favor of economic development with China because as a middle class society eventually develops. They will throw communism out and they will insist on a rule of law and they will have A form of democracy, probably not like ours, but a form of democracy and I think that’s frankly what the State council fears most in China is the development, and they’re caught betwixt and between because they can’t stop the development but they know it will eventually cost their jobs. Thank you sir.
Answer: Thank you for those observations. I know that that is certainly a point of view that is held by a lot of folks and you may certainly be right, I would tell you however that it is my belief that it is much more difficult to achieve that goal, that goal of throwing off a dictator, it’s much more difficult when that dictator has provided an economic base of support for their people when in fact things are pretty good. You know you’re not really thinking so much about the desire to end this horrible situation that you’ve got when you’ve got three square meals a day, roof over your head and a job that’s secure. The reason that the Chinese government was here lobbying for it, I believe, is that they knew it was absolutely imperative to achieve that kind of thing in order to actually stabilize their control over the people.
I think it would have been much more frightening for them if they were not able to move in that direction and the lack of prosperity, the poverty that would be endemic, would encourage then some instability, would be a destabilizing factor I’ll put it that way, a destabilizing factor. I just can’t imagine that they are just so out of tune with what their own people are all about so as to say, please let’s do this for them, let’s give this middle class economy so they can throw us out. I just can’t believe it, it doesn’t seem rational to me. And I also recognize that there is this sort of enormous desire in us all, especially in the West to assume that this economic power would translate into democracy. We all want to think so because if for nothing else we’re all going to make a lot of money out of this. We’re just… “This will all work out, we’ll have a little over a billion and a half consumers for our products of course we do not make.”
But the enticement of course for PNTR and this constant sort of economic pressure for rapprochement (French for “to bring closer or be closer with”) with the communist government, the enticement there is to have a base of cheap labor someplace where you can make the stuff that you’re then going to export to the United States and find this huge market place. Now I understand that need, I understand the need of the business world to identify the cheapest sources of labor you can find and then they think everybody prospers by that but there are political ramifications to that. They only think about it from the bottom line; what’s the bottom lime, how much am I going to make, how much am I going to return to my stockholders? That’s okay, that’s okay. That’s exactly what corporations should do how to figure out how to improve the bottom line. That’s not my job.
My job is to do what I think I need to do, what I have to do to assure the preservation of this society and the security of the nation I represent, one little part of I guess I should say. And so I must tell you that in this case that I do not believe those things meet… that what is best for the corporations is not necessarily best for our freedom and security in this country. Anyway once again I sincerely appreciate the opportunity, because really as I listen I learn more I assure you than you can learn from what I say. I’m positive on a thing like this; that is generally the case with most of the things I do anymore, it seems like I can learn more than I can contribute. Thank you for allowing me to learn with you. Bye-bye.
* This talk was given by Rep. Tom Tancredo at the forum "A Closer Look into China: Nine Commentaries Triggers Mass Resignations from the CCP" held Friday, July 22 at the National Press Club at Washington, D.C. Rep. Tancredo is a member of both the House International Relations and Resources Committees. He is also the chairman of the 82-member bipartisan House Immigration Reform Caucus.
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