[NOTEBOOK]China is weak from withinThere is a Chinese saying: “When you meet a good friend, a thousand drinks are not enough.”
That is what the world is like today. Everyone is busy pouring a drink for China. It is not just the case with Asian countries that are in China’s neighborhood. It is also the case with the United States and other Western countries.
A journalist who has been to Washington recently said, “All I did was study a lot about China while I was in the United States,” because so many academic seminars and new books were about China.
Let’s take a look at France. In January 2004, the secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party, Hu Jintao, visited Paris for four days. The welcome for him was pretty elaborate. First, they designated September 2003 through June 2004 “The Year of Chinese Culture” and organized many events and exhibitions with a Chinese theme.
The Paris municipal authority blocked off the Champs Elysee, the main avenue, for a Chinese New Year event and put in red lights at the Eiffel Tower, the symbol of Paris, during the Chinese New Year holidays.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has visited China almost every year since he was inaugurated in September 1998, until the end of last year. He visited Korea only once.
From large countries like Brazil and India to relatively smaller countries like Zimbabwe, they have their own way of expressing their friendly feelings toward China.
At the six-party talks in Beijing, it was China, not North and South Korea or the United States, that seemed to be playing the leading role. This is how the great China looks like when it is seen from outside.
Then, what is China’s internal situation like? There is another old Chinese saying: “If the meaning isn’t getting through, half a word is too much.” This best describes the relationship between the Chinese government and its people. Let’s take a look inside China.
“Daishe” means “waiting for snow.” As snow covers and surrounds everything, there is also another meaning in “daishe,” “waiting until the grudges and grievances are relieved.” Right now, China is covered with “daishe.” All cities and villages of China are full of distressing stories.
There is a “solicitation” village in the capital, Beijing. It is a place where people with sad stories come and wait for the day when they can meet with a government official.
An old woman who has lived there for a year stands on the street with a sign that reads, “Solve our grievances,” around her neck. They run into their homes when the police come out and glare at them, but they soon return to the street and stand there like statues.
The old woman’s family left their hometown of Pungje, near the Three Gorges Dam, three years ago and was forced to go to Fujian Province for the construction of the dam. The government promised jobs for her family members at a factory there and gave compensation of 9 yuan ($1) per square meter of their land.
However, when they arrived at the new land a thousand miles away from their home, all they found was a broken hut and desolated field. There was no factory, and the price of land there was 300 yuan per square meter.
In the end, the old woman’s son blocked the road together with other farmers and asked for a meeting with government officials. Soldiers were dispatched to the scene right away and the old woman’s son was sentenced to five years in prison for agitating an anti-revolutionary activity. He is currently serving his jail term.
Even scholars have sorrowful stories to tell. Lee Baikwang, a human rights lawyer, went to Fujou in December last year to defend farmers who wanted compensation for their land. He was arrested by the security police at the airport.
The charge against him was agitation of an illegal assembly and a violation of law and order. Another lawyer, Ju Juhu, who worked day and night to help investors fighting against the government to get their investment money back, was arrested at his hiding place in the early morning on May 26. This is how depressing it is inside China nowadays.
The theory of the “China threat” is gaining strength nowadays. A population of 1.3 billion is definitely intimidating. But if the majority of Chinese people are unhappy like this, the power of China is hollow. There is no telling when it will hit an obstacle and sputter.
Two twigs of a tree sometimes come together to become one. It is a beautiful union. I wonder when the Chinese government and people will join together to become one. Only when this happens will China rightly receive the treatment of a “good friend of the world village.”
* The writer is a deputy Asia news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Jin Se-keun