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Democracy or war?
On the one hand, the newly-refurbished democracy movement has surged. The Nine Commentaries and the Epoch Times have made an unprecedented sweep throughout the world and even through China's mainland, while the Communist Party withdrawal movement has racked up millions of signatures. New Tang Dynasty Television broadcasts real news into Chinese homes. Protests within China have continued to grow. This is a good time for the movement.
However, China's Communist leaders still exercise their complete power and control over the population. Moreover, the tyrants enjoy almost universal support from the world's governments for the Party's policies and politics. They are wined and dined by the gullible leaders of free nations, who speak in favor of the One China Policy and praise China's progress. They have a growing arsenal of weaponry enriched with foreign technology. With the help of Western corporations, they are able to keep the lid on information and free speech on the internet, while censorship and control in media and daily life continues. The Western media presents a softened view of China's government that is quite positive when compared to the real thing. Finally, the enormous global trade continually pours money into the CCP's pockets. These bad boys are not hard up for cash.
In the democracy movement and among those who support it, I believe the latter advantages of the regime may be underestimated and overlooked as we celebrate the triumphs of the dissidents. We continually hear rhetoric about the imminent fall of the Communist Party. We say "goodbye" to the totalitarian government and hear it described as a weakened structure that will crumble at any moment. We cheer on the events and milestones in our movement and confidently expect a new flag to fly over China soon.
It's only natural to cheer our cause and look forward expectantly to victory. But are we still careful in taking the best approach? Could we be celebrating our victory too soon? Are we covering all the bases and continuing to assess all the needs that must be met and considerations that must be taken into account in order to ensure the outcome of this mission?
In fact, looking objectively at the two sides, I would be forced to admit that the CCP has about as many things in its favor as it has stacked against it. Global political support, continued firm control over the population, ever-increasing military abilities, economic growth with a huge infusion of cash, space excursions aided by Western investors--none of these are trifling matters to be ignored. While the recent achievements of the democracy movement have been outstanding and we have great reason for hope, there is still the other side of the scale to be considered, and the weight on that other side is significant.
As you know, the Communist Party has at least one more card up its sleeve. That is war, which helps to divert the attention of the population to outside enemies rather than the oppression at home. The Party has invested enormous effort and expense into preparing for war. It has created legislation justifying an invasion of Taiwan. It has focused on asymmetrical tactics and technology upgrades in order to face off with America's military might, so that Assassin's Mace and Unrestricted War are now part of our vocabulary. Even leaked documents, if genuine, confirm that war is important for maintaining power and that serious war plans are currently underway. Chinese officials have repeatedly made threatening statements about Taiwan and the U.S., and China's media have also carefully maintained a high level of anti-Japanese hostility in the population.
From all indications, war is a very real possibility. It seems that if the CCP continues in power, one could reasonably suppose that conflict is just a matter of time, depending on the Communist Party's sense of need and readiness. If we accept this assumption, then ultimately we are faced with the question of democracy or war. Which will happen first? That's the million-dollar question.
There are a number of possible scenarios for a war between China, Taiwan, and the United States. Some are worse than others. But in any case, whether conflict is more limited or more widespread, it's beyond doubt that such a war would be very costly. The Communist Party is prepared to sacrifice many more lives to reach its objectives than the level of casualties which Western powers would deem acceptable. China's military will choose the time and place of conflict. And it has recently acquired technologies and tactics which may prove challenging for an opposing force. Perhaps the Chinese leaders overestimate their own abilities, and perhaps not. Either way, if they undertake a war it will not end without a great loss of life and expense, or a great loss for freedom, or both.
Added to the very high cost of the military action itself are the future consequences for the Chinese people if war succeeds in strengthening and prolonging Party rule, as the Communists hope. Of course it's a gamble, but tyrants are willing to take risks because the stakes are high--they have everything to gain and nothing to lose, since democratization could expose them to criminal charges and take away their wealth and power. If they succeed, how many more decades will China's people live without freedom? What impact will this have on the rest of the world? Will tyranny diminish in this century, or will it grow? Such possibilities don't bear thinking about, and we tend to shrink away from even considering them, but we must keep them in mind, because they are real dangers.
To the democracy movement and to the people of China who desire freedom, I pose this unhappy truth: China must have democracy, or we will bear the cost and uncertain outcome of war. Which will prevail? I urge this movement and the Chinese people to redouble their efforts for the peaceful liberation of the world's most populous nation. We must not become complacent and trust that our current efforts and strategies are sufficient and that victory is assured. That could be a fatal mistake. I hope to see new, innovative, and far-reaching strategies and efforts as people realize the extreme urgency of the times. The struggle for freedom must rise to an even higher level if it is to succeed.
To struggle for success implies a negative possibility, but let me say it clearly and explicitly: we could fail. The efforts for freedom, as spectacular as they are, could fall short, and tyranny could continue in China while a war is waged with terrible consequences. No one can afford to blindly believe that winning is assured. We must face the reality that this current situation could still lead to a tragic outcome if intervention is not sufficient, and we can't allow that to happen. It will require the utmost efforts within our ability to ensure the success of this cause. Nothing less will suffice. All those who support freedom in China should renew the struggle with every bit of ingenuity and strength they can muster.
*Curry Kenworthy is executive director of China Support Network. http://www.chinasupport.net/
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