Hu Jintao’s Baggage Comes to the White House

When China’s paramount leader Hu Jintao meets with President Obama in the White House on Wednesday, he brings with him a lot of baggage.
Hu Jintao’s Baggage Comes to the White House
Matthew Robertson
[xtypo_dropcap]W[/xtypo_dropcap]hen China’s paramount leader Hu Jintao meets with President Obama in the White House on Wednesday, he brings with him a lot of baggage. Under Hu’s watch, the Chinese regime has become more repressive, unstable, aggressive, and imperialistic.

Human rights abuses in China have worsened. Hu Jintao’s rule has seen the explosion of “black jails” used to detain citizens who travel to the capital seeking justice; large-scale, violent crackdowns against Tibetans and Uyghurs, which have included arbitrary arrests and torture; and the silencing of numerous grassroots, everyday “activists.” The word “activist” should be put in scare quotes here, because such people only need to begin collecting the names of those harmed in a politically sensitive incident to be labeled such.

For example, Zhao Lianhai was the father of a “kidney-stone baby,” a sad name that refers to infants who were poisoned by melamine in their milk powder. The 2008 melamine-in-the-milk scandal was covered up by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities and only brought to light after a New Zealand partner company went public. Thousands of children were harmed in the intervening time.

Zhao attempted to document affected children and gain compensation. He’s now in jail. A similar story can be told for the parents of schoolchildren who were crushed to death by the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008. School buildings crumbled while Communist Party buildings stayed standing. Parents naturally wanted to know why. The answer, of course, was corruption in the building process, but parent groups were infiltrated by government spies, disbanded, and investigations barred.

Hu’s rule also saw the continuation, and sometimes escalation, of the extensive persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. During Hu’s tenure, reports of organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners emerged. The battery of damning evidence for the organ harvesting stands unrefuted by third parties and unanswered entirely by Hu’s regime. A three-year campaign to brainwash two-thirds of all known practitioners was launched and labor camps and jails continued to devise and share the most savage techniques of torture to bring about the “ideological transformation” of Falun Gong captives.

Hu’s China is increasingly unstable due to mass protests, many triggered by land seizures driven by corruption. In 1994, for example, there were about 10,000 mass protests with a total of 730,000 participants; in 2004 there were 74,000 that involved about 3.7 million people. In 2005 there were 87,000. By 2006 the Chinese Ministry of Public Security was beginning to redefine what counted as a mass protest, and then stopped publishing statistics entirely. Professor Xia Yeliang of Beijing University said in a Radio Free Asia interview that, according to the statistics from the CCP’s Political and Legal Committee, the number of group protests in 2009 rose to 230,000. Incidents where tens of thousands of infuriated citizens storm the local Party headquarters, set it ablaze, and overturn police cars, happen periodically.

Under Hu’s reign there have been heightened attempts to control the Internet and ever more sophisticated ways to control the media. Propaganda officials send journalists SMS messages telling them what they can or cannot report, and give daily briefings about which stories are off limits and which are to be reported from the regime’s perspective. Courageous journalists and editors may be dismissed from their posts or jailed. Google left China last year because of cyberattacks and censorship.

China’s military has rapidly developed larger, more lethal, and more high-tech forces whose weaponry is aimed at pushing the U.S. Navy out of East Asia and being able to overwhelm Taiwan. The People’s Liberation Army continues to work on missiles that aim to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers or space infrastructure.

The CCP is buying resources around the world, often amid accusations of exploitative conditions, particularly in third world nations. These governments are happy to accept large sums that go directly into the bank accounts of officials, bypassing the country’s treasury. The Chinese regime sends in masses of Chinese workers to extract resources, shipping them back to China and folding them into the economy. This happens most notably in Africa, and also in some small Southeast Asian nations (like Papua New Guinea).

The CCP continues to give steadfast support for tyrannies around the world, such as North Korea, Sudan, Burma, Iran, and Zimbabwe. In these cases there is always a practical outcome, such as resource deals (oil from Sudan and Iran, platinum from Zimbabwe), access (Burma has been colonized for the purposes of building a tunnel through it), or recondite political reasons (North Korea would be more problematic as a democracy than its current autocracy). These relationships also are meant to demonstrate that there is a “China model” of one-party-state authoritarianism that works.

Most of the above policies are necessary parts of CCP rule. Given that the Party’s priority is to remain in power at all costs, cadres will continue to devise ever more creative ways of quelling dissent, persuading and coercing the populace, building up their arms, and cavorting with pariah states for naked economic gain.

It is unclear how Hu or any successor, saddled with all this baggage, intends to resolve the problems the regime faces. If domestic pressures continue to build against the CCP, it is anyone’s guess as to how the leaders will respond. An external military confrontation would quickly arouse the people’s loyalty, and advanced weaponry is not built to sit in a warehouse. As analyst Richard Fisher said, “in Hu Jintao the PLA has a leader who is not afraid to use force.”
Matthew Robertson is the former China news editor for The Epoch Times. He was previously a reporter for the newspaper in Washington, D.C. In 2013 he was awarded the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi award for coverage of the Chinese regime's forced organ harvesting of prisoners of conscience.
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