Beijing thinks democracy will lead to the break-up of the country and threaten eventual reunification with Taiwan, says a Chinese scholar
CHINA'S leaders are delaying full-scale democracy not because they are afraid of giving the Chinese more freedom but due to their fear that the process will lead to a total break-up of the country, a visiting scholar has noted.
Influenced by the experiences of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, the Chinese government opposes democratisation which they see as threatening its control of minority regions such as Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia, and more importantly, China's eventual reunification with Taiwan.
This is perhaps the single most important reason why establishing
democracy is so difficult in China currently, argued Dr He Baogang, a
senior visiting research fellow of the East Asian Institute (EAI), as
the impact of democratisation on secession and unification is
asymmetric, or at direct opposites to each other.
Explaining what he meant by the
asymmetric effect at an EAI
seminar on Friday attended by nearly 50 participants, the academic
said one of the arguments was that
it is the political autonomy of
"the people' rather than the reunification of "peoples' that is
presupposed by the notion of democracy.
In other words, inherent in the idea of democracy is a greater likelihood that it will facilitate independence or secession rather than unification.
Dr He, who is also an Associate Professor of the Department of
Government at the University of Tasmania, said this could be seen in
the case of Taiwan, where
democratisation has resulted in a virtual
abandonment of the project of reunification with China, and thus de
facto independence in the island.
People tend to use democracy to support their independence rather
than unification because democratisation creates favourable conditions
for the construction of new national identities, he explained.
Democratisation programmes, he added, have also empowered ethno-nationalism and contributed greatly to the cause of independence and secession, as could be witnessed from the example of the former USSR, which broke up shortly after its former leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced economic and democratic reforms in the 1980s.
China's fear of the disintegrating effects of democratisation has therefore resulted in resistance to democratic procedures in handling the issue of Tibet, he said.
Naturally, Beijing also considers a democratic solution to the Taiwan
issue unfeasible and undesirable. The government's rationale, he said,
Taiwan was an inalienable part of China, thus any
self-determination process that might result in permanent separation
was totally unacceptable.
when Beijing realises that, in effect, the logic of
democratisation favours Taiwan's independence, it will choose to push
for unification at the cost of democracy.
Because of these factors, he noted that state nationalism in China had been anti-democratic and refused to take a democratic path.
This is due partly to the fact that nationalists believe that
democratisation is likely to empower ethno-nationalism and thus
undermine state nationalism, he said.