This week China aggressively marked 100 years of Communism and its leader warned the World against threatening China.
But China has threatened Taiwan, and rolled back human rights in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
China is to many other nations becoming a risk, and there are concerns about a showdown with America.
On this Back Story Dana Lewis discusses leadership of China under Xi Jinping and what does the future hold for China and the rest of the World.
We interview Steve Tsang is professor of Chinese Studies and director of the SOAS China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and form Human Rights Watch Maya Wang.
The Chinese people will never allow any foreign forces to bully oppress or enslave themSpeaker 2:
Anyone trying to do so will most certainly face blood sheds in front of a great wall of steel built by more than 1.4 billion Chinese.Speaker 3:
Hi everyone. And welcome to another edition of backstory. I'm Dana Lewis, that was Chinese leader, sheathing pink beating China's celebrations of a hundred years of communist rule and make no mistake. His comments were listened to globally by countries that view China with concern. And in some cases, fear, the growth of China has been phenomenal. We all know that , but more recently the growth has been more than just economic, but also the firepower of its military is raising fears of confrontation with America over issues like Taiwan's independence. And she warned other nations against trying to bully China on this backstory. Where is China heading? And what should we worry aboutSpeaker 2:
Joining me now from London is Steve saying he is professor of Chinese studies and the director at the SOA S China Institute at the school of Oriental and African studies in London. I professor, hi, look what a week, a hundred years of communism, you know, it's huge parade , uh, choreograph , television pictures , uh, but some say that the communist party maybe isn't as strong in China as it likes to appear to be.Speaker 4:
Well, I think it is both. It is both very, very strong and powerful. And at the same time aware of his own vulnerability, which is why should Jinping is so focused on internal security and you're making sure the party functions very effectively as they land in his instrument and engaging with the general public to make sure that they all happy reasons to Bally steep party as school patriotic, Chinese citizens are supposed to do.Speaker 2:
What does the Chinese communist party fear?Speaker 4:
Well, the communist party of China fears first and foremost is on people because they are the only people who can actually bring it down . They fear internal divisions because it is only with a division within the communist party that they see Wesley puts their capacities to govern at risk. They are a bit concerned about the outside , uh , from their perspective led by the United States, attempting some kind of a conspiracy, which they call Haida a peaceful evolution or more recently color revolutions,Speaker 2:
Color revolutions, like the ones that took place in Georgia and Ukraine, that kind of color revolution.Speaker 4:
That is exactly why they were concerned about. And they felt that , um, the Americans and others may well be intending that the ultimate kind of revolution would be in China itself. And therefore they re in each don't want that to even , uh, raise its head in China. And if it's also why everywhere in the world, where there are the equivalent of a color of evolution , I mean, you would have the Arab spring loop sample it , that decade go coming up. They were put in , uh , quite to respond to that, to make sure that they were contained and couldn't spread. Let's talk about the threat from within if there is one, some people have written that China in terms of economic growth , um, has stalled in a way that you've seen, you know , this tremendous growth, especially in the last 50 years, but in terms of different classes within China, some of them have kind of hit the glass ceiling as well . And that, that presents the economic problem presents more of a threat to China than any well gait economy always matter. Um, I think the slowing down of growth is a process that happens in all countries going through that stage of economic takeoff . I think once you move from a , uh , fast growing developing economy into a developed economy, you're always slowed down in terms of the growth. Uh , so I don't think that there's something inherently that cannot be managed with a slowing down of growth, but in the case of China, I think there are , um, three main challenges that are particular to China. One is the middle income trap. Now it is not in a sense or they're completely , uh , specific to China because countries moving into the middle income category, we will have to break food in middle income group to become admitted income trapped, to become a high income country. Yes , historically in, since the end of the second world war , uh, or the countries that have successfully. And so w but democracies and also countries that have a high percentage of their population graduated from high school. Now, China is neither. It doesn't it's that China can not be this super miracle and get that done, but that is a , uh, extraordinary achievement that China will have to deliver. His second challenge is the shift from China benefiting from it, demographic onus to a demographic deficit, which certainly will be happeningSpeaker 2:
Is this the aging population problem,Speaker 4:
Which is the aging population and the shrinking population. So you have a increasing aging population being supported by a shrinking working population. And that is going to require a complete economic transformation for China to sustain its growth and to achieve with activity. Now, the third issue is that the economic miracle of the PLC in the last 40 plus years was contributed partly by the stability in China, partly by the entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese people, but also very significantly by the unanimous contributions and investments from the outside world in 1980s, it was Hong Kong. There was an economic locomotive pulling the Chinese economy along in the period of the opening and reform. 1990s was the transfer of Taiwan's globally well networked economy and manufacturing capacity, and the global supply chain from Taiwan to China. And it was with Hong Kong and Taiwan, his help that China was able to attract, you know , most amount of , uh , investments from the west, north America and Europe and those investments and the readiness to transfer technology to China hugely helped that economic miracle in China,Speaker 2:
Right? And now you start mixing in some of the adversarial , uh, fear from some of the Western countries that , that up until now saw China as this great pool of, of cheap manufacturing and, and , uh, uh , you know, a workforce that was very affordable. And if they're pulled back from China, then what happens?Speaker 4:
I think that is exactly the point. I don't think we're going to see a flu , uh, economic, a coupling between China and the external economies, but a limited version of the coupling is almost certain aqueous to happen. Um, the question is how fast and how far that process will go and would that for the Chinese economies to continue to maintain a sufficiently high level of growth is a lot more challenging than that economic miracle that was being delivered in a previous 40 years. Were you surprised by some of the comments by she's jumping this week that , you know, China's not going to allow itself to be bullied. Those who try to face who try, will face broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron great wall at 1.4 billion Chinese people, I mean, who was bullying China and how seriously did you think he is one month? Well, when we looked at Chinese foreign policy , um, I think we have to bear in mind that first and foremost, it is about domestic politics. Um, I wrote a paper last year called potty state realism , which underlies the importance that when we , uh , try to understand Chinese foreign policy, we have to understand that first and foremost, the calculation of national interest is the interest of the party. And this is exactly what it was happening. Uh , she shouldn't ping was not addressing the international community. He was addressing the domestic audience. If the international community genuinely reacted negatively to his very aggressive tone, the domestic audience approach , they thought, yes, it is the man who makes China strong. That is the man who makes China powerful. That is the men cool cows . They follow the straight. And that is exactly what should you want to project to him for the hundredth year anniversary of the communist party, he was going to project that moule was the man who make China's Xi. Jinping is the man that make China strong, powerful, and proud, and he will take China to the next stage. He's not a man looking backward, he's looking forward. Does that mean he'll take Taiwan? Yes . I think he will teach Taiwan question is when and how, and whether he will be allowed to do so.Speaker 2:
That's a pretty bold prediction and you seem very certain and that's a major disaster in the south China sea.Speaker 4:
Well, I certainly hope that's , uh, it does not happened in reality where you believe it might well , in terms of his ambition is very, very clear. He wants to create a single strong United and powerful China having defined Taiwan as Chinese territory.Speaker 2:
There's a risk in doing that because if there's a war there , uh, wars, don't always go according to plan and do they, oh ,Speaker 4:
It would not always go to plant. And in fact, I would go even further to say that , uh, even if you are not wanting a wall, but if you take actions that can unwittingly escalate into a wall, the risk of that unwitting escalation is very real. And we need to take that very, very seriously. But at the moment you have a , uh , uh , political environment and policymaking situations in which nobody within the upper echelon of the communist party can tell Xi Jinping that with a good case of respect. So you can't do this, she changed, or are we just really seeing more and more of who she using thing really is. I don't think Xi Jinping has changed really . Um, and I think we have already seen a huge amount of what he really is by the 19th party Congress in 2017. He already outlined what his , uh, vision for China would be. That basically by 2035 , China would be a very strong , uh , very rich, quite powerful, but by 20 49, 20 50, these , after this intenerate of the funding of the POC, the image was projecting for China. That would be the China will be second to none. And you can't really expect , um, such a vision to be achieved without China. From his perspective, we covering the most important lost territory. And that happens to be Taiwan. Will you just talk to me very quickly in closing about the west and how you feel that the west is engaging China? Now, there are certainly governments that are distancing themselves from China and, you know , from America to the United Kingdom to NATO countries are talking about China, it's on their agenda at the last summit. Do you think that there is folly in confronting China and trying to contain China? Or do you feel that that is something that the west should be? I think I will with China will be a softer for if human race, because you were looking at a well , we looking at you and other states and China , uh, on the opposite side with analyze being drawn into it , uh, potentially with nuclear weapons at risk of being used. So such a scenario, I think it should be preempted at all costs . And now you've , that is the starting premise. I think it's important that whatever Washington and other capitals may think about Beijing and Beijing's intentions, they must continue to engage with Beijing diplomacy is needed the most when one is dealing with adversaries or potential threats, if diplomacy becomes the Cyrus , but dispensable among friends and the increase intentioned is the reason why we must intensify the diplomatic engagement in order to try to get our Chinese friends, to understand that pushing in that direction really is not in the interests of anybody and that , uh , United States and other countries, democratic countries will in fact respond. I think Xi Jinping is a risk taker, but he is not reckless. Um, when we look at potentially tutoring , a Chinese military efforts to take Taiwan, we should look beyond the military angle. And it is the only way that we could potentially , uh, ditto and persuade China, not to embark on such a course of action. I mean , and thatSpeaker 2:
Takes us probably in closing and wrapping this up. That takes us back to where we started. If the Chinese communist party has a threat, it is really from division within , um, and by confronting , uh, you know, world powers that creates economic instability and it increases the internal threat. So that, that is the stick rather than the carrot.Speaker 4:
I think that is , that is right. And that is exactly where that , uh, um, more effective deterrence will have to come from, because if she jumping should start a war over Taiwan, and should he not then succeed in that war, that may well be the end oxygen pink as the leader of China, that unity , uh , rally would crumble. And in the systems that he has built, the top leader is either the top leader or the top leader is going to be in huge amount of trouble. There is no middle ground for him and did is what we need to persuade him. That it is just a risk not worth taking the risk while we're thinking Steve saying the director of essay , sorry, China Institute of the school of Oriental and African studies in London, really a privilege to talk to you. And thank you so much. Pleasure.Speaker 2:
All right . Maya Wang is a senior China researcher in the Asia division at human rights watch, and she's written and written and researched extensively on the use of torture, arbitrary detention and human rights in China. Hi Maya, thank you for talking to us. Is it concerning to report on human rights in China and your ability to do so?Speaker 5:
Uh , well, I think it is fair to say that the Chinese government has always been hostile , uh, towards , uh , the concept of human rights since it came to power, not before. Um, and that , uh, it has remained , uh, it has prosecuted human rights, activists, particularly domestic activists, and have borrowed access of those , uh , international investigators, including , um, uh, experts to investigate the human rights abuses that has taken place in China. Could you go to ChinaSpeaker 2:
10 years ago or five years ago?Speaker 5:
Um, I would say that's , um , the human rights situation in China has substantially deteriorated since Susan pink came to power in 2013. Um, although of course, like I said, I think there's really staffing that has to be very hostile to , uh, human rights activism , uh , for a , for a long time. But I guess if you say 10 years ago, that would be a pre-existing thing. And 10 years ago, I think Y uh , I think some people would still feel comfortable , uh , doing that. Uh, I don't think so , uh, that , you know, I think that's , uh, right now, I think with the environment in China, I think there is , um, uh , quite a high probability of detention and imprisonment, detentionSpeaker 2:
And imprisonment. So how do human rights groups just not human rights watch document what's going on? It must be coming. It must be a very large challenge now.Speaker 5:
Yes, it is. Um, I think not many people have realized that I think that , um, the , the environment of human rights in China , um, uh , has moved so far to , uh , towards kind of the negative , um , direction in the last 10 years or so. Um, so what we do, if you , if you think about some of the work we do around the world as a human rights, watch our global human rights organizations, actually not many countries are entirely kind of , uh, essentially does not allow , uh , human rights investigators inside or that it would pose so much risk to human rights investigators. So that they're closed off to such an investigation. There are only very few and China is that one of them , uh, along with like countries like North Korea or Iran , um, at least two US-based groups , um, and , uh, how we do at work includes, for example , uh , we of course still talk with people inside the country to the extent that we can , um , of course, to the extent we do not harm the people inside. So , uh, we also understand that lots of people, we cannot talk to. Uh , the interesting thing about covering China is also the amount of documentation that the Chinese government actually puts out about this phone abuses. Um, and that is why we have done a lot of work on that. We have been able to do a lot of work on Cynthia is that Chinese government documents itself , um, describes that the existence of the practices of , uh, putting weekers and other Turkic Muslims in political education camps , uh, and the reason for , uh, such abuses , uh, which is to indoctrinate them , uh, and , uh, the conditions of the abuses are often in the official documents as well, along with other kind of unconventional investigation techniques, like the use of satellite imagery, or , uh, for some hole that we've done , um, reverse engineering, a policing app, to understand the workings of policing systems. I know you'veSpeaker 2:
Written a lot about electronic surveillance for human rights watch and , uh, you know, it's mind boggling the extent of it in China. Um , and even in 2008, when I was covering the Olympics there for American television, I mean, we did stories on electronic surveillance people, and it certainly increased dramatically, but would you say right now the biggest human rights concern are the weekers and the imprisonment of what over a million people?Speaker 5:
Yeah. I mean, I think that's seems yeah . Where west, Northwest to China, where we used to make up , uh , you know, a slight majority , um, is one of the most repressive parts of China. And it has been for some time , uh, although I think that's , um, and , and we're talking about, like you said , um, not only the detention arbitrary detention, but also the arbitrary imprisonment , um , weekers , uh, for essentially not having committed any crimes. We're talking about the presentment of , um , 25 years of a person who has gone to Turkey to study for something that is having contact abroad is considered a crime. Um, so this tells you a little bit, and this is a very typical case. Um, and we have , uh, the people who are held in political education camps, and we also have lots of people being held in prisons. Um, and , uh, the, the overall human rights environment it's in days particularly , uh, poor with the use of mass surveillance technologies. Um, but these abuses are also symptomatic of the broader deterioration of human rights throughout China. So it's not just Cynthia , we had talking about Tibet and the deterioration of Hong Kong. Yeah. I mean, Hong Hong Kong, I mean ,Speaker 4:
You've raised Hong Kong and let's just talk about it for a minute, because if there was an island , uh, of freedom really w you know, still a democracy theme , still open debate , still free press. I mean, depressingly, that has evaporated. And even in the last couple of weeks with the closing of apple news. Yes.Speaker 5:
Um, I think those , the deterioration of Hong Kong, we just put out a report about that , um, which describes the environment of the last year since the imposition of the draconian national security law , uh, by the Chinese government , uh, last year. Um, and the, the changes are both comprehensive and at a disappointment as a dizzying speed. Um, and the attempt is to completely dismantle a free society. Uh, and for those people who have been to Hong Kong, or haven't been, you know, Hong Kong, it's a lot like, you know , London and New York people are in the streets where they can talk about politics. They've never had to fear. Um, and now even just talking about politics , uh, people, people have stopped, I think, doing that on Indian public for fear of arrest.Speaker 2:
What price has Xi Jinping paid for any of this?Speaker 5:
Um, I think, I think that's the world's perception of the Chinese government has changed quite a lot in the last few years , uh, because of what's happened in Cynthiana and Hong Kong. Um, however, I think this is , uh , I would say is probably most accurate with regard to the west or developed countries. Um, I think you have seen a recent pew poll that shows how , uh, the perception of China in these countries and developed countries that aren't have a very negative because of the right hemorrhoids abuses. But then , um, I think in developing countries where actually inspect them has poured a lot of resources into is one of them , well, one belt, one road initiative. I think the situation is very different. Um, and also where the Chinese government essentially controls I'll have a strong influence over the local media. Um, so we do have two different kind of segments of the world are very different perceptions of what China is. Um, and to one , um , to develop world as you know , Chinese government's , um, motto is , uh, increasingly , uh, being rejected. Uh, but I think to developing countries, I think the Chinese government pose a strong , uh, some strong appeal, especially to the leaders who , uh , wish money and investment is appealingSpeaker 4:
To governments that are thirsty for it, but there's a price tag at the end of it.Speaker 5:
Um, I think that's, yes, I think definitely money play a very high corn row in the relationship between developing governments and , uh, to, to Chinese government as well. Um, but , um, at the same time, I think there is certainly , um, uh, that the Chinese government has been solid essentially is a model of saying , um, you, you, you could do this without giving people freedom and democracy or human rights while still being very functional. Um, so that is something that I think in ordinary people in, in many countries , uh, when they see that very dysfunctional governments, for example, in dealing with COVID , uh, they pause a little bit and think, well, maybe the China model is not, it is pretty good.Speaker 2:
If you look at his ability to do what he wants really with Wiggers and then with Hong Kong, do you not fear what he's able to do with Taiwan?Speaker 5:
Um, I don't have kind of expertise with regard to military affairs, so I can't speak to certain whether or not to Chinese governments , increasingly nationalistic and very , uh, aggressive posturing in rhetoric at both in terms of widespread nationalism in the country , uh, would actually translate to , uh, military action across to , uh , Taiwan. I think there is a debate among Canada, China studies community , uh , about the possibility or how imminent, the possibility of such talk , um, the reunification quote unquote or forceful taking of Taiwan has been an aspiration of the Chinese government for a very long time. Um, um, the, and this kind of , uh, escalation of rhetoric , um, serves a domestic purpose, right? It's about shoring up support for the Chinese communist party. Um,Speaker 4:
And that's an important point, right? That you , you have to take, you have to kind of dissect some of this. Some of it is played for nationalistic reads and some, in some cases, he is speaking to the outside world and warning the outside world. And , you know, on the hundredth anniversary of communism this week , um, you know, you have these very bold quotes from shisha green directed at China will not allow itself to be bullied. Those who try to face , um, those who try will face broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron great wall of 1.4 billion, Chinese people. I mean, who is bullying China?Speaker 5:
Well, the Chinese government , um, propagates the idea that , um, everyone is going to believe China , um, the , the developed countries are , uh, and that comes from, and , and that's not totally , um, China did suffer , uh, you know , um, the innovation of , uh, you know, the British army and , uh, and , and various other countries, the Japanese and patients , um, during the second world war was a painful, painful experience. Um, and that re is very well remembered until today. Um, and , uh, so they have a basis to, to speak about , uh , self-determination like many countries, of course are , and they have reasons to guard against imperialism. Uh, however, what is problematic is that this language and this history is being manipulated , uh, to , uh, conveniently erase the fact that the Chinese government itself is an aggressive, abusive power with , um, ambitions beyond its own borders , um , in addition to bullying his own people. Um, so this language is to , uh , it's totally along the lines of what it has said in the past that the Chinese communist party is your protector. It is a domestic , um, it is for the domestic audience , um, that's , uh , without us, you would not get, you would be , uh , invaded essentially. So it's a , it's mostly a domestic message, but it's also an internationalSpeaker 4:
One . Do your criticisms, the reports that you write and that many other organizations have written on Tibet on, on the weekends , on Hong Kong,Speaker 2:
Do they in any way serve to moderate the actions of the Chinese government, or do you feel that , um, they fall on deaf ears within China?Speaker 5:
Um , I, you know, history is a very long process and we're talking about many people involved in the crafting of decisions in China while we do see the last , uh, since 2013, or excuse me , is a centralization of powers , uh, under one man. Um, and the retreats of people who have more progressive values. Um, what we write about are about universal human rights. It's about universal values, which I believe are received well by many people in China , um, and including government officials. The problem is people who are reasonable are now very intimidated. They cannot speak on social media with Saudis and fear to their lives. Um, and so in that, in, in this current environment, it was, seemed very hopeless, but , um, I think that there are plenty of people who share our values, who are , um , seeing the developments in China today with , uh, as much concern and when the opportunity arises. And that is what repression lifts only slightly. And we have seen that in history. Um, there will be, again, I think a blossoming of opinion and movements and policies that could be moving to country to voice about our position, but I'm not optimistic. I'm not saying that would happen. I'm just saying that , um, this is , this is how it works. Uh, sometimes we are in a very difficult position and this is the time that is very , uh, dark right now. This is a timeSpeaker 2:
It's very dark. Now my awaiting from human rights watch. Great to talk to you. Yeah . Thank you. Have a good day. Taiwan.Speaker 3:
Meantime has said it's prepared for war. If that's what's coming, us remains a supporter of Taiwan, but is intentionally unclear on how prepared America is to engage force to come to Taiwan's defense. If war loom, that's how we're backstory on China this week. Please share this podcast and subscribe. If you haven't already. I'm Dana Lewis. Thanks for listening. And I'll talk to you again soon.