November 15, 2002

Jiang's Theory Is a Smokescreen

I, along with many other columnists and reporters, have had a good time poking fun at Jiang and his New Theory in the past few months. Jiangís own bluster plus the solemn, blatant propaganda churned out by the Chinese media has kept us all laughing. A few have taken the theory seriously and tried hard to bring the innovations therein to the Western masses.

Chinese are laughing, too. At least the ones walking the streets and shouldering the burdens of the newest class of CCP members, the Characteristically Capitalist Socialists that roam the countryside in search of profits, connections and powerónot unlike the railroad barons of the Wild West, no matter what Jiang calls them. Many of the workers and small-timers of China have been CCP members for a long time, or their parents were. Or brothers, uncles, roommates ... The good it has brought them pales in comparison with the reapings of the long-time corrupt, violent, morally dubious wholehearted devotees to Western Liberalism: the CCS.

What must an old blue-suit wearing veteran of marches, wars, starvations, criticism sessions, and revolutions think when he sees that which he fought, was told to despise and root out has become the eminent power in China? The barons of modern China have forced the abdication of the Last Emperor and inserted themselves into the seat of power. Not that this is a new development in China or elsewhere. The rich and connected tend to rule. But for the last 50 years in China, millions of people died to keep "the people" in control.

The Three Represents Theory is being sold as the next step on the path called "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics." Jiang Zeminís great success in the international area and in the economic sphere (where the rich and powerful dwell) is the foundation upon which support for the theory must be based. China, in order to modernize, must be internationally active, as well as having rising GDPs and FDIs, improving export-import ratios and Big Games in which Chinese Big Stars are playing.

Private enterprise is the engine that drives international acclaim and economic growth, so it only makes sense to include those with private property in the Grand Party. They are doing so much for China and Chinese ...

Jiangís theory has actually done (and probably will continue to do) nothing. He has stated the obvious and attempted to take credit: "We have lost power, but we wanted it to happen." Just as international success and Big Games diverts attention from domestic hardship, so Jiangís self-congratulations divert attention from a capitalist reality to a socialist-Chinese illusion.

It All Comes Together ...

Jiang takes credit for economic development, increased freedom and international standing and defends the coup of the capitalists with a Theory meant to usher the Party into a new era, an era in which every man is for himself and still represented by the Party. He then steps down. If enough people believe him, they might even believe his theory and hope for an even greater increase in the standard of living with the businessmen leading the way, dropping crumbs for the masses as they strut.

Power is decentralized and the institution of Emperor is gradully dissolved. Even if Jiang rules from behind a curtain, he cannot match the stature and power of his predecessors, therefore he will also not gain an equal amount of glory, or suffer an equal amount of blame when ...

The House of Cards comes falling down on "Who" Jintao who steps into a weaker position than his mentors vis-à-vis the Provinces, the Rich and The People. The first two will try to use and manipulate him and the last one doesnít respect or believe him, yet.

"Who" does have some cards up his sleeve. First, the fact that little is known about him leaves him with a vast array of options to choose from. Second, he was first mentored by Hu Yaobang: Hero of the People, The Mourned One, Mentor of Zhao Ziyang, who himself may yet become a martyr in his old age. Third, Deng himself appointed the man. That means a lot.

Who was also tutored by Song Ping and Jiang Zeming, both conservatives at heart. He spent time in backward provinces like Gansu and Tibet. This may give him insight into dealing with unemployed, dirt poor, angry Chinese when the time comes. He has a little experience in putting down rebellions (Tibet 1988-89), which is good for any Chinese Premier to have. Who knows what connections Who has in the inland Provinces where the most people with the least money live?

So the Great Theory is a smokescreen. China may yet dodge domestic turmoil by keeping the police as busy as they are now, letting the Black Hands and businessmen do their thing (maybe even enlisting them in a few suppression operations) and keeping the commoners happy with a bit of dance and game, more construction to marvel at, a few extra RMB in the pocket and of course an earful of propaganda to tune out.

What Who will not survive is international trouble. And this, unfortunately for him, is very likely. The US doesnít seem too interested in letting bygones be bygones and letting the Iraqi people live without explosions for a while. And a war in Iraq hurts everybody who depends on oil. Which means basically everybody.

Letís say the war goes quick. And no terrorists rear their heads at all. And the Arab world just prays their way through Ramadan.

Who will be in the best position to grab the oil resources of Iraq? The US, with its army, most likely. With Turkey, The Balkans, The Central -stans and then Iraq under its sway, the US would just about link all the resources in the Asian landmass together. Not a happy scenario for Russia and China who have big money in Iraq and big projects that are unfinished, or unstarted. Encirclement, Pacification, Occupation, Development, Profit. Might just work.

Now. Letís say the war takes a couple of months. Americans die, oilfields burn, Muslims let out a collective "Allah Akbar" and the Middle East and/or World goes up in flames. Terrorists bomb anything they can.

China imports 2 million barrels of oil a day. Russia canít afford to dig into Siberian ice and can really not afford to lose Middle East oil. These two may have to choose between Uncle Samís Folly and their own political and economic lives. What will Who do?

-Sascha Matuszak

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Sascha Matuszak is a teacher living and working in China. His articles have appeared in the South China Morning Post, the Minnesota Daily, and elsewhere. His exclusive Antiwar.com column (usually) appears Fridays.

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