Germany Versus China (III)

BERLIN/BEIJING | | china

BERLIN/BEIJING (Own report) - On the eve of the announcement of this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, German media have declared a Chinese "dissident" to be their favorite candidate. According to the German press, "it would be a courageous signal", if the Nobel Committee awards the prize to Liu Xiaobo, the Honorary President of the Chinese Pen Center. Liu has been calling, among other things, for the far reaching privatization of state property in China, including the land that had been reapportioned to small farmers under the land reform. Since the beginning of the 1990s, German government circles, party foundations and NGOs have increasingly been using the so-called dissidents as a means of applying pressure on Beijing. Regardless of their concrete political demands, "dissidents" are presented to the German public as "human rights activists" to stir up anti-Beijing sentiments. Even though they currently have no influence in their country, these "dissidents" are being kept at the ready, as potential cooperation partners for the case of a change of system in China. In this third part of the series on Germany's strategy towards China, german-foreign-policy.com describes the Chinese "dissidents'" role in Berlin's foreign policy.

Change China

On October 8th, the Norwegian Nobel Committee will announce this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Several "dissidents" from the People's Republic of China have been named as candidates, including the lawyer Gao Zhisheng and Rebiya Kadeer, an Uyghur separatist, living in exile in the USA, but receiving also quite a bit of attention in Germany.[1] But in the German press, the writer Liu Xiaobo is being named as "favorite".[2] The political activist, who is also Honorary President of the Chinese Pen Center, is celebrated in Germany as China's "public enemy Nr. 1".[3] In the West, Liu Xiaobo is known as the leading author of an appeal for a complete reorganization of the People's Republic of China. He has been convicted for "agitation aimed at subverting the government" - a criminal offense under Chinese law. He is currently serving an eleven year prison sentence. German NGOs are hoping that the Chinese dissident would receive more public attention, if he were awarded the Nobel Prize. 21 years after the Dalai Lama was awarded the prize, "five members of the Chinese opposition and a Uyghur from China's Xinjiang province" have "good chances of winning the Nobel Peace Prize this year", announced the Society for threatened Peoples (GfbV).[4] Since many years, the GfbV has been maintaining excellent contacts not only to the Dalai Lama's exile community and Uyghur separatists. Support for Han Chinese "dissidents'" demands is also among the GfbV's objectives.

Dynamite for Peace

The "Charter 08", co-authored by Liu, shows the real intentions behind the Nobel Peace Prize candidate's remodeling plans, celebrated in Germany usually as "democratization plans". In this Charter, the writer and political activist, who had already played a leading role in the Tiananmen Square riots in 1989, is also pleading for a fundamental transformation of the Chinese constitution, the radical privatization of state and public property and the abrogation of the land reform through privatization - following the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, large land owners and warlords had been expropriated in China. In contrast to the usual petitions of members of the Chinese opposition, the "Charter 08" is therefore aiming not at individual reforms, such as a more comprehensive liberty of expression, but in fact at the overthrow of the People's Republic. Liu's "Charter 08" therefore states that "the victory over Japan in 1945 offered one more chance for China to move toward modern government,"[5] but "the Communist defeat of the Nationalists" - the Kuomintang - "during the civil war, thrust the nation into the abyss of totalitarianism."

Backfired

Chinese "dissidents," such as Liu Xiaobo only play a marginal role in their own country, even more marginal than "dissidents" played during the Cold War. Many Chinese consider them henchmen of foreign powers, seeking to destroy China - like they wanted to do in the 19th and 20th century. The West is imputing a much more important role on a number of these Chinese "dissidents," than they play in reality: Often these dissidents have been living for decades in exile and are far away from the discussions currently taking place in China. Some if these "opposition groups," who had been praised for a while, have been not only exposed as sectarian but even criminal. One example is the polit-religion Falun Gong, which had, for a long time, even in Germany, been considered an ally against the Chinese government. German politicians had repeatedly demanded the legalization of this sect, which had been banned in 1999 in China, after thousands of its members had died under strange circumstances. Finally the media had to back-peddle. "The Chinese government produced a list of deaths: the sect is reported to have driven 1,660 people to their deaths," reported the German weekly Die Zeit in 2001. "239 members of the sect are reported to have committed suicide; the others were sick but refused treatment because of the theories held by their master and finally died. There is no indication that these accusations have been fabricated."[6] In 2004, the District Court in Leipzig ruled that Falun Gong can be called a "psycho-sect" in Germany.[7] The organization that had become completely irrelevant in China a long time ago, is playing no role in Germany today.

Provocations

The Frankfurt Book Fair in 2009 is but one example of how the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses Chinese "dissidents" to create public animosity toward the People's Republic. China had been chosen to be honorary guest nation at the fair, to show reverence to the country that is so significant to the German economy. Yet Beijing was humiliated with a scene caused by two Chinese exile authors, known for their anti-People's Republic positions. The two authors, who had already provoked a hefty political dispute before the book fair even opened, Frankfurt's Mayor, Petra Roth, received them with the comment that she had "on several occasions also greeted the Dalai Lama" (another prominent opponent of Beijing).[8] The entire Chinese delegation, and all Chinese authors present, walked out in protest. According to the Frankfurt Book Fair's own claims, it is a venue for an international cultural exchange to promote the convergence of nations.

Our Man in Beijing

Even if programs, such as "Charter 08" reflect quite well, the growing need to politically help with the configuration of the Chinese private enterprise, which is growing stronger, the splintered dissident movement in China has no roots strong enough to implement the transformations that Germany would like to see (privatization, land reform). The fear of political chaos, such as in the period previous to the establishment of the People's Republic, is too deeply rooted in China. But the "dissidents" can be effectively used for scare tactics and to create animosity toward Beijing in Germany. Besides, in the West they are considered possible cooperation partners, to be kept in reserve for the future, in case a - currently improbable - radical transformation in the direction of the proposals in the "Charter 08" actually takes place. Their role-models are the "dissidents" in the eastern and southeastern European socialist countries of the 80s, some of whom came to office after the transformations of the 1990s - very much in the interests of the Western powers.

[1] see also Strategies of Attrition (IV) and The Future of "East-Turkestan"
[2] Chinesischer Dissident Favorit für Friedensnobelpreis; Welt Online 05.10.2010
[3] Elf Jahre Haft für Chinas Staatsfeind Nummer eins; Welt Online 25.12.2009
[4] Friedensnobelpreis 2010: Sechs chinesische Dissidenten unter den aussichtsreichsten Kandidaten - China droht und übt Selbstkritik, um Auszeichnung von Regimekritikern abzuwenden; www.gfbv.de 30.09.2010
[5] Die "Charter 08" ist in englischer Übersetzung leicht im Internet zugänglich: www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/jan/15/chinas-charter-08/
[6] Die Zeit 16/2001
[7] Urteil des Landgerichts Leipzig, AZ 10 O 3919/04
[8] Eröffnungsrede von OB Petra Roth zur Frankfurter Buchmesse 2009