Hu's on first?

Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans flood (they are two separate, though related disasters) are undeniably worthy of all the media attention being lavished upon them. But world events hurtle forward, whether or not we care to glance in their direction. The progress toward a constitutional democracy continues in Iraq, rather successfully (is American media attention a prerequisite for suicide bombings there?). And China remains a thorny strategic challenge of vital importance to our future.

China's new leader Hu Jintao was supposed to hold summit talks with President Bush yesterday, providing a vital opportunity for plumbing his thinking and intentions in private face—to—face discussions. Significantly, President Bush suggested that the meeting take place at Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, though the Chinese regime preferred the pomp and ceremony of a state visit to Washington, DC, complete with 21 gun salute, to feed images of its new leader's importance to the public at home.

It is all moot for the moment, as the talks have had to be rescheduled   in the wake of Katrina's devastation. But the underlying question of China's role in Asia and the world remains a thorny open issue. Can we assume that China merely wants to trade, grow, and move up the existing ladder of national greatness as a peaceful member of the international community? Or should we take seriously the notion that China is smarting from the past couple of centuries of humiliation at the hands of the upstart Western Barbarians, ever since the Opium War, and that it aims to challenge America's 'hegemony' in Asia and the world? Signals emanating from China support both contradictory positions.

It has made no headlines on this side of the Pacific, but very quietly and almost obscurely from the standpoint of most Westerners, Hu Jintao has taken the sort of step Chinese leaders use to signal an emerging policy shift. In a surprise move, Hu has decided to rehabilitate a predecessor whose death sparked the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, according to well—placed independent sources. 

In April of 1989, the death of reformist leader Hu Yaobang (no relation) was a rare chance for thousands of Chinese across the country to express their frustration at the Communist regime over the slow pace political reform.

Accused by Communist hardliners of allowing "bourgeois liberalism" to spread, Hu Yaobang was forced to resign in 1987.  He was widely admired among the masses for his call for modest political reforms. 

Citing a report from Reuters in Beijing, the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong says (link by subscription only):

Hu Jintao decided recently that the party would officially mark the 90th anniversary of Hu Yaobang's birth on November 20 at the Great Hall of the People, said a source close to the family and another with knowledge of the commemorations.

But the party would not overturn its verdict that the Tiananmen protests were counter—revolutionary, said the sources.

It may be that precisely because the death in January of Zhao Ziyang passed without incident, that the regime is feeling secure enough to liberalize a step further. Zhao was toppled as party chief in 1989 and held under house arrest for 15 years, in the crackdown on liberalization and demands for the Goddess of Democracy to reign in China.

It may seem paradoxical to many Americans, but the more secure the autocrats of Beijing feel in their power, the more degrees of freedom they will allow to their countrymen. To a degree almost unfathomable to those unschooled in Chinese history, they fear a fall of their own Communist dynasty, and possible disintegration of a unified China. All Chinese are well aware that this pattern has happened repeatedly over the four millennia or so of China's recorded history.

Hurricane Katrina and the war with Islamofascism have allowed the public a vacation from worry over the looming potential confrontation with China. But vacations always end, and usually too soon. Keep your eye on China, for developments there directly affect our future in the most profound manner.

Brian Schwarz blogs from China. Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker

Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans flood (they are two separate, though related disasters) are undeniably worthy of all the media attention being lavished upon them. But world events hurtle forward, whether or not we care to glance in their direction. The progress toward a constitutional democracy continues in Iraq, rather successfully (is American media attention a prerequisite for suicide bombings there?). And China remains a thorny strategic challenge of vital importance to our future.

China's new leader Hu Jintao was supposed to hold summit talks with President Bush yesterday, providing a vital opportunity for plumbing his thinking and intentions in private face—to—face discussions. Significantly, President Bush suggested that the meeting take place at Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, though the Chinese regime preferred the pomp and ceremony of a state visit to Washington, DC, complete with 21 gun salute, to feed images of its new leader's importance to the public at home.

It is all moot for the moment, as the talks have had to be rescheduled   in the wake of Katrina's devastation. But the underlying question of China's role in Asia and the world remains a thorny open issue. Can we assume that China merely wants to trade, grow, and move up the existing ladder of national greatness as a peaceful member of the international community? Or should we take seriously the notion that China is smarting from the past couple of centuries of humiliation at the hands of the upstart Western Barbarians, ever since the Opium War, and that it aims to challenge America's 'hegemony' in Asia and the world? Signals emanating from China support both contradictory positions.

It has made no headlines on this side of the Pacific, but very quietly and almost obscurely from the standpoint of most Westerners, Hu Jintao has taken the sort of step Chinese leaders use to signal an emerging policy shift. In a surprise move, Hu has decided to rehabilitate a predecessor whose death sparked the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, according to well—placed independent sources. 

In April of 1989, the death of reformist leader Hu Yaobang (no relation) was a rare chance for thousands of Chinese across the country to express their frustration at the Communist regime over the slow pace political reform.

Accused by Communist hardliners of allowing "bourgeois liberalism" to spread, Hu Yaobang was forced to resign in 1987.  He was widely admired among the masses for his call for modest political reforms. 

Citing a report from Reuters in Beijing, the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong says (link by subscription only):

Hu Jintao decided recently that the party would officially mark the 90th anniversary of Hu Yaobang's birth on November 20 at the Great Hall of the People, said a source close to the family and another with knowledge of the commemorations.

But the party would not overturn its verdict that the Tiananmen protests were counter—revolutionary, said the sources.

It may be that precisely because the death in January of Zhao Ziyang passed without incident, that the regime is feeling secure enough to liberalize a step further. Zhao was toppled as party chief in 1989 and held under house arrest for 15 years, in the crackdown on liberalization and demands for the Goddess of Democracy to reign in China.

It may seem paradoxical to many Americans, but the more secure the autocrats of Beijing feel in their power, the more degrees of freedom they will allow to their countrymen. To a degree almost unfathomable to those unschooled in Chinese history, they fear a fall of their own Communist dynasty, and possible disintegration of a unified China. All Chinese are well aware that this pattern has happened repeatedly over the four millennia or so of China's recorded history.

Hurricane Katrina and the war with Islamofascism have allowed the public a vacation from worry over the looming potential confrontation with China. But vacations always end, and usually too soon. Keep your eye on China, for developments there directly affect our future in the most profound manner.

Brian Schwarz blogs from China. Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker