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SARS, Red China, and the future

By Alan Caruba
web posted April 28, 2003

The first cases of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome showed up in China in November of last year. Until this lethal mutating virus escaped the vast borders of that ancient nation, the response of the Communist Party was to say nothing. Not even to their own people.

This tells you everything you need to know about those who rule Red China. This is not a nation that savors a free press, freedom of speech, or even what Westerners would think would be a normal response to a serious internal health threat. Not until it began to kill people in other nations did China's new Mandarins admit they had a problem. If a reporter for a Red China newspaper had written a word about SARS, he would have been jailed. Their solution has been to fire the health minister and the mayor of Beijing. Now they have a full-blown health crisis on their hands. Their first response was to protect their political grip.

From its emergence some six months ago in Guangdong Province, home to Hong Kong, SARS has rapidly spread to almost thirty other nations, infecting thousands of people and killing, as of this writing, over two hundred that we know about. China's leaders initially tried to prevent the World Health Organization from visiting.

As word began to get out, I was reading Ross Terrill's book, The New Chinese Empire and what it means for the United States ($30.00, Basic Books). I highly recommend this book if you want to understand both the history of China and how Mao Zedong became its emperor in the last century. He may have been called "Chairman", but he was in every way the latest in the long line of emperors who had ruled China.

Like the mutated virus called SARS, the Chinese form of Communism was a Mao mutant of Soviet Marxist-Leninist Communism. It need hardly be said that it failed in Russia and that it will fail in China. The only question is when? Until then, America had best be careful to avoid any snares the Red Chinese put in our path, nor should we cease to insure we remain the most powerful nation militarily. And, until then, the US will have to work with the Red Chinese on common problems such as the North Koreans.

Chinese President Hu Jintao talks with medical workers during his inspection tour of the Disease Prevention and Control Center in Guangzhou, the capital of south China's Guangdong Province on April 14
Chinese President Hu Jintao talks with medical workers during his inspection tour of the Disease Prevention and Control Center in Guangzhou, the capital of south China's Guangdong Province on April 14

Who is China's new emperor? He is President Hu Jintao, someone virtually no one knows much about. He succeeded former President Jiang Zemin, but it is Zemin who has retained control over the military. Up to now, all power has been concentrated in the hands of whoever was in charge of the Central Party apparatus. This was the way Mao ran China and it continued under Deng Xiaoping. It would have been the way Chiang Kai-shek would have ruled had he and his followers not been driven out from mainland China by Mao. Chiang took over Taiwan. It has, ironically, became a jewel of capitalism in the China Sea and a mote in the eye of the imperialist Peoples Republic of China.

Much has been said of the reforms Deng introduced after the death of Mao. There was a flowering of Red China's economy as he jettisoned much of the Communist baggage such as many State-run industries. What did not change, though, was the total commitment to the "Four Absolutes" the Party asserted. They are the socialist road, the proletarian dictatorship, the Communist Party's leadership, and Marxist-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. This garbage rules the lives of more than 1.2 billion Chinese and other ethnic groups under the control of Beijing.

What has not changed in China for centuries reaching back to the earliest dynasties is its autocratic tradition. Just as the emperors were the living embodiment of Heaven (unless murdered to make room for a new successor or overthrown by a new dynasty), the handful of men who run the Communist Party are above the law because they are the law.

Terrill says, "China is not on the way to capitalism; it is building a new genus of ‘market socialism'" He predicts that "This Chinese formula for prosperity under authoritarianism will be Beijing's springboard to world leadership." I respectfully disagree. By virtue of its size and huge population China has a place among the world's great nations, but it has no place at the table in terms of human rights, the participation of citizens in the rule of their nation, free speech, freedom of the press, and the other accoutrements of a modern society.

Red China is a Potemkin village that looks modern from a distance, but it has a very shaky financial and social infrastructure.

The SARS outbreak has jumped the Great Wall of secrecy that surrounds Red China. It has let the world peer into a society that, if it opened its doors, would see its citizens flood outward to anywhere else. Chinese people want to be Chinese, but, given the choice, they would not willingly be Red Chinese.

Alan Caruba is the author of "Warning Signs", just published by Merril Press. His weekly column is posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center © Alan Caruba, 2003

Other related stories: (open in a new window)

  • The SARS hoopla by Carol Devine-Molin (April 14, 2003)
    Carol Devine-Molin says there are some big questions about the SARS virus that people need to be answered but we shouldn't think of its outbreak as the end of the world

Buy The New Chinese Empire: Beijing's Political Dilemma and What It Means for the United States at Amazon.com for only $21 (30% off)

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