WASHINGTON—The Chinese Communist Party is heading toward collapse, and the United States had better get its act together in its dealings with the country, emphasizing a stronger relationship with the citizens of China rather than simply its communist government. That was the clear message that came out of a forum here on Thursday.
There are signs that the Chinese leadership is splintering as the regime prepares for the once-in-a-decade leadership transition that the Communist Party is currently undertaking, says Gordon Chang, author of the 2001 book The Coming Collapse of China. Chang was keynote speaker at the panel sponsored by The Epoch Times. The event was held at a congressional office building.
Besides a leadership rift, Chang says the authority of the central government is eroding, the military is breaking free of civilian control, and “Chinese people, from one end of the country to the other, are taking to the streets in protest.
“The wheels are coming off China, and we don’t know where that country is heading,” he said.
The Chinese economy, the engine of economic growth in the Asia Pacific, is also in trouble, Chang said. He cited average monthly increases in electricity production over the last six months as an example. The reported 1.5 percent growth in electricity production probably indicates an overall economic growth rate of zero, he said. “China may already be in recession.”
Dr. Li Ding, the editor of Chinascope, an English language website that specializes in translations of primary-source Communist Party political information, propaganda, and academic and media reports not usually accessible to Westerners, concurred with Chang.
According to the best statistics, there are hundreds of thousands of mass protests in China each year, and the level of distrust of the Chinese leadership is now palpable.
Ding said the flow of information can be divided into two streams: the official Communist Party line, which no one believes, and the personal accounts, anecdotes, opinions, and rumors that fly around online and from which Chinese people draw their own understanding.
“The propaganda machine is no longer effective,” Ding said.
Ding says the United States needs to engage more with civil society, grassroots groups, and ordinary citizens in China as the Communist Party faces unprecedented challenges—many from the Chinese people, who want a fairer country—that may end its rule.
Chang says engagement may not be enough. He believes the U.S. policy of bringing the Chinese communist leadership into the “liberal system” through engagement over the last 40 years has failed.
By compromising on values for the sake of engagement, he says that America has unwittingly “reinforced the worst tendency of the Communist Party’s authoritarian system,” rewarding ” irresponsible conduct” with more efforts by the United States to engage.
Nowhere was that more obvious than in Matthew Robertson’s testimony.
Investigative reporter for The Epoch Times, Robertson detailed the story of Falun Gong in China, its popular rise, the perceived ideological threat it posed to former regime leader Jiang Zemin, and the persecution Jiang initiated.
Security forces were required to implement the persecution—the largest security mobilization upheaval since the Mao era, he said—at enormous cost. Jiang Zemin also built his own power structure to implement the campaign, which later began a destabilizing force in China.
The fall from grace of former Politburo member and Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai and the attempted defection of his right-hand man and former Chongqing chief of police Wang Lijun to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu in February, was a direct result of that power structure. The two were heavily implicated in both the persecution of the Falun Gong and the harvesting of organs from its adherents.
David Matas, one of the panelists, is a human rights lawyer who has won several awards for his work and co-authored the seminal text about harvesting organs from Falun Gong practitioners: Bloody Harvest.
Matas divided figures in the regime into broad categories: the “reformers” like Wen Jiabao and former premier Zhu Rongji, who, it appears, would like to see a stop to the persecution and atrocities against Falun Gong; the “harmonizers” like Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, who are keen to do what it takes to maintain the status quo; and the “hardliners” like Jiang Zemin and Bo Xilai.
In that context, the United States should push for change in Chinese organ-sourcing practices, Matas said. He proposed that the State Department release information that Wang Lijun may have given about organ harvesting, that Congress enact legislation to combat transplant abuse, that compulsory reporting be instituted around transplant tourism, and that health insurance on the matter be tightened up.
In short, Matas said the United States should do more.
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