Monday, June 2, 2014


President Xi Jinping likes to refer to the "Chinese Dream".  This is paradoxical since he speaks for an amnesic country,  deprived of dreams since the fateful 4th of June 1989.  In crushing the Tiananmen democracy movement, Deng Xiaoping committed murder by proxy.  At the same time he initiated a memory loss and he has achieved his goal beyond expectation. The young Chinese are oblivious of the tragedy and those who do remember have been able to enter into a transaction wherein memory or guilt (if there ever was such a thing) are exchanged for a narrative which favors omission over repentance. The syndrome has spread and yesterday's universal reading of good governance, human rights, international "correctness"is in retreat all over the world.

Meanwhile Deng is, rightly so, mostly remembered for his economical foresight and is seen, in and out of China, not as the executor of democracy but as the great blameless visionary who "opened" China.  Here again choice overtakes facts.  That Deng was also a bold visionary is a fact. That he set in motion a bloody repression is equally beyond doubt. The moral choice between the former or the latter is self evident.  Hence, China is becoming an unloved, increasingly aggressive success story, which most envy while at the same time rejecting its robotic Orwellian consequences. North Korea might be the Hermit Kingdom but Beijing remains a lonely capital as well, with more suitors who visit out of self-interest than out of spontaneous affection.  This Albert Speer urban mass always impresses, never seduces. 

The economic sanctions which followed the bloodshed did not withstand the pressure to come to business terms with the Middle Kingdom. Only certain military outdated symbolic sanctions remain in place.  After Tiananmen, the West was soon back in its best denial mode and all was soon almost forgotten.  The global amnesia set in like some Lars von Trier scenario.  The United States and the Europeans excel in cherry-picking with regard to human rights. They whitewash for convenience, as when they divide the good Sharia addicts from the undesirable ones. They gloss over military coups which fit their interests, while being indignant over unwelcome ones. They indulge in photo-ops and short-lived aid  in "photogenic" Africa campaigns which generally benefit movie stars en manque of a cause rather than the victims en manque of the essential to survive.
Political correctness forbids bringing up unpleasant realities. The sexual predators of the Catholic church can be mentioned but the structural horror of radical Islam (not of the believers) remains mostly off limits.  Venezuela or Bolivia are easier targets but the gloves are on if the Saudis, Egypt or the Gulf States risk being indisposed.

Obviously China has no time to gloss-over such sophisms. The economical progress and the military projection are awesome.  So is the culture of self- and state-censorship. What the future will hold in Xinjang, Gansu, Tibet, not to mention  for the ominous imbalance between the coastal and rural areas, remains uncertain at least. Most of the countirs around China have an ambiguous attitude, wanting the benefits but rejecting the arrogance. Modern China follows a path which is not that different from the one chosen by President Putin. Both are pursuing a new policy rooted in old memory, choosing to relate to better, albeit undemocratic, times:  the autocrat Tsar Alexander III or the more glorious Chinese dynasties are more en vogue than the reformers Alexander II or Sun Yat-sen.  Mao still dominates Tiananmen and the ghost of Stalin still roams the walls of the Kremlin. It is hard to get rid of history's relics, especially when they suit the Zeitgeist.

Some argue that we find ourselves in an Asian vortex which will marginalize the post-World War II order.  Undoubtedly universal decision-making structures have to be made more representative. It also has to be said that the Chinese or the Russians are reformist or indignant a la carte.  Go and tell the permanent members of the Security Council that they have to make equal room for others and you will see how far reformist generosity goes!  Demagogy rules "supreme" and it feeds on revanchist neurosis, self-interest and Realpolitik.  Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt might have been cynical with maps but there was also an idealist element in their intellectual fabric. Today all is Neue Sachligkeit  (New Objectivity) as I suggested in an earlier blog.  One could also go back to the Bard's "measure for measure", but Shakespeare's genius feels out of place in this new world where the pragmatic has dislodged the ideal.

No comments:

Post a Comment