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China has come of age
On 4 June, 1989, Chinese authorities crushed pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in Beijing killing many hundreds. The world outside feared that many more were killed but in reality fewer should have been killed. The causalities should have been lower; the crisis was over-projected by the then US President George H W Bush administration so as to increase the cost for the then Chinese government. Similarly, the reports of crackdowns on protesters following the incident should have been inflated.

The Chinese had to follow the diktat to continue secretive relations with the West, particularly with the US, both economically and diplomatically. The Bush administration had no option but to put sanctions on the Communist regime as demanded by the US Congress. They were later eased and subsequently effectively lifted by successive Clinton administrations.

The Chinese authorities crushed the protests ruthlessly without fearing the consequences of aftermath of the impending dissolution of the Soviet Union. Chinese government knew that it was impossible for the Americans to abandon China in the middle-to-long term; the world would not belong to Americans otherwise as they had great stakes in China and in the rest of East Asia. President Bush did not harm any liberal voice nor supported any suppression. The over-projections were necessary so as to warn China not to repeat the act. He by his actions made Chinese authorities more pragmatic, objective and malleable and they looking for more economic engagement with the West to continue its authoritarian system.

But now things have changed. On the 24th anniversary of the incident, there are not too many voices left. The pro-democracy supporters are a small negligible minority and as such they do not deserve to see their objectives getting fulfilled. China is basking in the glory of what is virtually impossibility in real time: G2; a world dominated by the US and China.

Non-economic inflation is very high in China but equally the fact is that China has matured into a great vibrant society. The West should follow a steady principle of ignoring negligible minorities and should support a group’s movement if it has support of at least 30% of the population. Chinese people, it seems, do not deserve to have a democracy as they fail to understand politics, inflations and international relations.

Moreover, a democratized China may result in its nationals becoming more chauvinist and nationalistic and therefore, more difficult to handle than now. This is altogether a different thing that any society in the world except with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia can embrace democracy, if granted or arranged. That is not going to happen in China anytime soon. The lingering issues of Tibet and Taiwan also make it difficult for Chinese authorities to grant some freedom to its people.

But don’t the Chinese people deserve better treatment from their governments? Don’t they deserve to get some rights if not the outright democracy and universal adult suffrage? The answers to these questions are vaguely yes though a lot is needed to know on the ground to make a correct assessment. The world is changing and it is changing very fast. It is very difficult for even the traditional Middle Eastern societies to continue with traditional forms of the governance. Arabs are demanding a kind of say in their daily matters. So would be Chinese someday.

But if one looks at the result of Arab Springs, Islamism has at least been sustained to pre-revolutions levels, if it has not increased. Chinese people in this era of increasing interaction cannot be said to remain aloof even though there is a lot of censorship on media in China. If movements for democracy increases the conflicting consciousness, puts pressure on sovereignty of China and brings down the economic achievements, then what is the point in trying that? As long as the Communist government is able to continue with the economic success story, Chinese people have no reason to think about democracy.

But that requires a more symbiotic relationship with the US-led West. What Chinese people can have is more of their say in their daily lives. Therefore, some voting-practice at the local level is already being tried in China and this could be further extended. The democracy and other egalitarian changes should come from within and with consensus. There is no need for Chinese people to look for revolutionary changes reactively and explicitly at this moment of time. Time may change and then the transformations could be smoother and more acceptable.

But if a section of the Chinese public continues to make an unusual demand for more liberty and freedom and even votes to choose Chinese Politburo members due to its increased interaction with the West for quite long in this high conscious era and the majority of the rest is supportive, neutral or passive, then there are not too many options left for Chinese government. The Tiananmen Square incident was so scary that it cannot be repeated in this high consciousness, high-technology dominated era.

This time even the local Chinese police may not take the orders of the Central government leave alone the People’s Liberation Army. It is the matter of choice left to Chinese public and if the support for democracy infects even up to 20% of the population then revolutions can take place. It would be a bad choice at this moment of time even though this may be one of the non-economic returns desired by the Western investors and their respective governments. But at the same time this could be one of the most undesirable consequences of economic engagement with the West and the Communist Party would resist the political conversions till end. The tensions could spoil the economic activity throughout Asia.

And it is not only political conversions that should bother Chinese political elites. The sexual choices, Anglicization, Westernization all are laced with the demands for democracy, human rights and rule of law. But consumerism cannot be stopped in China. Moreover, Chinese government has embarked on ambitious plan to form strong consumer base in China. That would be slightly risky but not attempting so could be destabilizing socially and economically. Interactions cannot be stopped in this high consciousness era but then all status-quoists have to be careful.

Therefore, what is the option for Chinese political elites? To adjust to reality and give limited votes to Chinese public either under one-party rule or by Bifurcating the Communist Party sooner or later. Chinese people may have option to directly choose their President or not but they would be able to definitely choose their representatives in middle-to-long term. Similarly, the increasing human rights issue and their fulfillments may narrow the gap between political options in the Russian Federation. All Russians may become the nationalist with most of them getting all kinds of freedom in a system which remotely matches with the West. A Freedom without the genuine democracy!

The best thing for both the US and China would be to look for more symbiotic engagement. Chinese government should not opt for initiating a cold war between China and the US just to delay meeting demands for requisite changes. The US on the other hand should think China more like a long-term market than a place to pursue its geopolitical objectives of promoting democracy, rule of law and human rights. Chinese government should start taking lead in transformation the society itself and should minimally grant freedom to practice religion and freedom to pursue one’s individual goals. It should promote transparency, individualism, competitiveness, rewards for talent and efficiency and should strive for a more accountable society.

The US and China should never engage in any predatory battle. They should avoid all kinds of war be they trade wars, protracted cold wars or direct military confrontations. They should look for inventing symbiotic space within the existing relationship and its projected extrapolation; linear and non-linear, so as to live peacefully respecting mutual concerns. On its part the Federal government should make its stand on Tibet and Taiwan very clear.

Tibet should be considered as an autonomous region within China with some place for migrant Han Chinese; initially up to 10% but if Chinese offers very liberal terms then that can be increased to up to 30%. Chinese government should in unequivocal term guarantee the full religious freedom to Buddhists there and they should diversify themselves learning the realpolitik in the process.

Dalai Lama should return to Tibet if he finds Chinese government’s actions conducive and the government offering to never arrest him. Taiwan can have indefinite separation from the mainland with ever-increasing economic engagement with it. China would not invade Taiwan and the latter would not formalize its separation. But in case China invades Taiwan then the US needs to fight a war with China.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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