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The Chinese debate
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-03-11 09:03:40
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Amazingly, within just a couple of days of one another, we have two …interesting - that’s the best word I could come with - announcements from or regarding China. The first one came from the Chinese parliament chief Wu Bangguo who emphatically said that China will never adopt western style democracy with a multi party system and the other came from the Dalai Lama who described the life of the Tibetan people under the rule of the Chinese as “hell on earth.”

I’m not sure where I read it and must be quite a long time ago but somebody wrote that the new century will be a century of ethnicity conflicts with small ethnic minorities starting conflicts with uncontrollable results and that the writer was against what Tibetans want, he just expressed an opinion. Sometimes our society is the top example of contradiction, I mean we all want global peace and perhaps a ruling system that will respect our cultural differences – I know that I will upset some but I include religion in those cultural differences – but at the same time in a global effort to annihilate poverty, sickness, war and all those things that make people suffer. The very same time people are ready to lead the most violence acts in the name of emphasizing exactly those differences instead of trying to find the ones that unite us.

At the very same time one of the biggest nations on earth is telling us that say goodbye to all your dreams because we think that we are the best and we know what is right and what is wrong and giving the example they suppress more the people, they are violating basic human rights like freedom of speech, freedom of having opinion and expressing it, freedom of being and acting free. I mean in the case of Tibet, China even refuses the basic, to sit down and talk with the people and understand what they want. These people didn’t wake up one day and decide that they want to be independent - obviously this thing has a long way behind it and obviously their violence is a result of violence.

But let’s return to the Chinese parliamentarian chief and his speech to the National People’s Congress, China’s annual parliament session; only the fact that there is a parliament is a start that there is something that wants to lead to democracy and fine there are no other parties except the communist party but I suppose there will be different opinions, but again that’s what exactly what democracy is, different opinions. Different political parties don’t identify democracy but different opinions. The parties work as an intermediate between the people, their opinions and the system. The big question is if this opinion is heard and further more if it is allowed. You see the Chinese parliamentarian chief has to agree that despite the lack of parties and all the bureaucracy they bring with them the lack of opinion leads to one and only direction and that is universal, dictatorship! There is no western, eastern or northern style of dictatorship; they all the same and they all have the same colour, black!

In that sense China can have any system they like, in a world that enjoys freedom of opinion everybody is free to decide the ruling system, the system that drives the bureaucracy and helps things happen for the people’s peace and prosperity as long the people have this freedom! How you call this system in the end of the day is a detail. I mean look at Great Britain, it could not be more illogical than the way democracy works in UK, a democracy with a queen who holds the supreme office of the country with veto to any decision and her office is heritable! Think how illogic, contradictory and oxymoron this democracy is. So if Mr. Wu Bangguo wants a Chinese style of democracy following the demands of Chinese traditions and history this is totally fine, but if the people have no opinion and not their right to express this opinion, then there is any kind of democracy, there is even lack of the basic element of a communa – to use the roots of the ideology – the power starts for the people and is for the people! Then I repeat that there is only one political system that is identified and it is the same in the west, in the east, north or south; dictatorship!

Coming to the Tibetan people now, violence and suppression has lasted just too long and their demand for independence is the only logical step in their long struggle. And it is natural for them to turn to their religious leader and it is natural that their religious leader joins and becomes the loud voice abroad. And the Chinese government or better ruling party the only thing they manage to do is perpetuate the problem and the same time create martyrs and more violence. They like it or not in the end they are going to lose. They just have to be realists and save what they can from their dignity.

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Emanuel Paparella2009-03-11 13:56:28
Indeed, Thanos, that freedom of religion together with free speech is part of the cultural diversity of democracy is a given, at least here in the West. The fact that religion is still frowned upon in China is an unmistakable sign to us Westerners that the goal in China is not and will never be democracy but economic prosperity, period. That’s been clear since Mao asserted to the Dai La Lama that “religion is poison.” The silver lining here is that as Jefferson pointed out, those who give up their freedom for economic advantage deserve to lose both and eventually they do and then the people may wake up and do away with the shackles of Communism which in China has become an embarrassment to democratic socialism. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2009-03-11 13:57:00
I would however suggest that we Westerners are not blameless in the matter and that a better example needs to be given to the assorted dictatorships in the world. As Habermas has been pointing out lately, we in the West and in Europe in particular delude ourselves if we think that issues of religious freedom have been settled once and for all by relegating religion to the private sphere to be practiced in a church or synagogue or mosque. Quite often, those who practice it are considered retrograde redolent of medievalism, not quite modernized and ready for a modern democratic system, hence second grade citizens. Habermas has suggested, and I agree, that such a mind set does not constitute a respectful attitude toward religion and a readiness to a frank dialogue, and that a better much needed attitude, a first exemplary step so to speak, would be the simple acknowledgment that religion’s voice too, with all other cultural expressions, belongs in the public agora of a democratic society or the market place of ideas. So it turns out that the debate is not only Chinese but European too.

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