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Why China lacks "hawks"?

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热度1692票 时间:2009年3月15日 01:52
 

Beijing, China —

By Yang Hengjun
Guest Commentary

A Beijing scholar has complained that China needs more “hawks,” in an article published recently in the state-owned Global Times. While partially agreeing with this statement, I have a different view of the problem. In fact, there are neither hawks nor doves in Chinese politics. In my view, we need more of both.

The scholar, Wen Xu, pointed out in his article last Thursday that compared with the United States, Japan and India, China doesn’t have any hawkish representatives. But there are no dovish figures within the system, either. There is only one political voice in China, and it exactly accords with the state’s official spokesperson.

In Wen’s analysis, the reason China lacks hawks is because they would invite attacks from intellectuals and the Chinese public. They could easily be blamed for being irresponsible, for tarnishing China’s “peaceful rise” image, and for arousing irrational Chinese nationalism.

But Wen’s explanation is too far-fetched. In reality, doves or moderates face much more pressure and stronger attacks over their stance. For example, some Chinese leaders have received overwhelming criticism for displaying a moderate attitude even during trips to the United States. It is worse for those who are moderate about the United States in the long term. They almost all bear the label “traitor to China” or “U.S. flunky” in the eyes of their compatriots.

So let us consider the other side of the question: Why does China lack a dovish faction? This is related to the country’s attitude toward free speech, to the state’s principle that there are “no small matters in diplomacy,” and to the guideline dictating “high accordance with state ideology.”

As is widely known, U.S. soldiers must absolutely obey orders. Yet they still have comparative freedom of speech without being seen as leaking state secrets or jeopardizing the nation’s image. A soldier who is not an officer or a state spokesperson is free to express his own viewpoint, even concerning national policy.

The opinions of U.S. scholars may also be different from official state policy and can be expressed freely, which generates many hawks and doves.

In the case of China, however, every low-level official, expert or scholar is expected to speak like a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, even if he or she has nothing to do with state policy or the decision-making process.

Moreover, if such a person were to carelessly make a hawkish or dovish remark, it would most likely be a slip of the tongue due to a misunderstanding of state policy. In that situation, even if the person did not receive criticism from above, he or she would be too frightened to sleep well for several months.

This high degree of outward unity gives the world the impression that China has only one voice. It also has the effect of depriving the Chinese authorities of diplomatic flexibility.

More than once, I have witnessed an interesting scene: U.S. researchers would get very nervous over some Chinese leader’s statement and gather to study whether the Chinese government had changed its policy or whether there was an internal conflict among the top leadership.

Such U.S. researchers hold the understanding that Chinese officials never possess personal opinions. In other words, they consider that every statement a Chinese official makes must have been authorized by the Chinese government beforehand.

But this understanding is only partially true. Chinese officials and scholars within the official system surely do their own thinking, which is natural and realistic. In the modern civilized world there is no government that can force its people to hold exactly the same thoughts.

Frankly, if China allowed its officials and scholars to freely speak their minds, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. On the contrary, free speech would make their thoughts more active, instill more vitality into the government and create more space for mediation in the international community.

China requires not only hawks but also doves, as well as everything in between. As long as different views don’t interfere with reaching a consensus and implementing polices, the most important consensus the Chinese authorities need to reach is that every single person should be allowed to express his or her own unique opinion.

--

(Yang Hengjun is a well-known Internet critic on current affairs, author of political spy novels, and former researcher on international relations and politics for the Chinese government. This article is translated and edited from the Chinese by UPI Asia.com)

http://www.upiasia.com/Politics/2009/03/11/why_china_lacks_hawks/5371/


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