China is a huge place, of that there is no doubt. With over 1.3 billion people it faces enormous pressures and challenges that only the people of Asia and the subcontinent can truly understand.
This was brought home to me again recently when talking to a Kazakh friend of mine in Shanghai about the Avarian “Bird” disease currently threatening China. All this very intelligent and educated man could offer as to the why’s and where’s was the intonation “too many people, too many people”
This ‘analysis” may sound simplistic to the scientists and medical experts who attempt to understand and contain the spread of this disease but, sometimes, simple analysis is best.
China has huge problems as a result of population pressure. People need to be fed, employed, clothed, warmed, transported and made to feel secure. As the P.R.C. officials have said on countless occasions, in part justification of it’s Human Rights record, is that the idea of widespread unrest and lawlessness in a country with the population the size of China’s is unthinkable.
China is starving for fuel, it is short of many resources, it is sinking in it’s own pollution, hygiene is poor and it’s environment and natural resources are being degraded at a rapid rate. The threat of Avarian disease, SARS or any number of untold other diseases is very, very real.
Add to this the challenge of having 56 ethnic groups within it’s boundaries and large representations of the major world religions, often than not, very different in ideology and outlook to each other.
The sum result is an unbelievable challenge for any government and, one that you can not help but think, would be beyond the capabilities of a totally democratic government in the Westminster style.
As commentators and analysts, especially those of us with a Human Rights bent, we can so easily fall into the trap of, for want of better words, “China Bashing”. That very comfortable zone where it is easy to provide criticism but rarely put forward solutions.
The P.R.C. say that we are witnessing the birth of a “New China”, a China that will take her place in the world as an equal and be able to hold her head high in the company of her peers.
Certainly her rhetoric is there and sometimes we must state our goals before they can be realised. There is a time delay between when we say “we are going to” and the time we can say “we have done”
I think we must accept that China does truly wish to evolve. Students of International Politics and followers of Machiavellian theories can and will offer arguments to the contrary, of that I am certain. As wise people we must listen to their arguments. It is certainly not unknown in history that nation states can say one thing and mean another, something Neville Chamberlain learnt to his eternal chagrin..
But if we work on the premise that this is a true and genuine intention on behalf of the P.R.C. then we must act differently. We must give the benefit of the doubt.
But like a New Years Resolution we sometimes need a little egging on or, even, not so gentle reminders as to our flagging resolve or lack of urgency.
Despite our being able to emphasise with China’s unique problems we must still maintain the pressure on China over human rights violations and remind her, as a friend would, of her resolutions and pronouncements.
Yes! China we understand your difficulties, we emphasise with the challenges you face and the difficulty of the job at hand. We realise that the Titanic can not be turned on a sixpence, that in many echelons below your Politburo there are people very set in their ways.
But China, you must sometimes give before you receive. You must be seen to be at least trying and unfortunately, in the area of Human Rights, you are still not seen to be.
We want to welcome you into our bosom but you can not expect to be received as an equal when you maintain your programmes of oppression, victimisation and worse against the likes of the Uygurs and the Tibetans.
China, how can you expect us to shake your hand as a friend when it continues to be sullied with the blood of your peoples?
Author is the publisher of http://uygurletter.blogspot.com