Sunday, October 23, 2005

Lee Speech
Lee Teng-hui gave a hell of a speech in LA Friday evening. Here's the full text in English. Lee gave the speech in Taiwanese.

Usually when Taiwanese politicians give speeches, they try to say as little as possible while pushing the correct buttons. This speech worked in reverse: Lee said a lot, but his rhetoric was pitched in a cold war register that will make tough for US Democrats and other people on the left to hear what he is actually saying. That's unfortunate because Taiwan would attract more sympathy and support from a wider slice of the American political spectrum if would stop pandering to its supposed friends in the Neocon movement.

I also wish he would stop calling the Chinese government 'communist' when they have obviously abandoned Marxism and replaced it with a form of nationalist authoritarianism. Despite its extensive labor camps, China is also not a 'slave state', as Lee claims, any more than Taiwan was in the 1960s and 1970s when Taiwan developed without paying much attention to labor conditions. Lee is trying to say that China is a new Soviet Union just as baby boomers in the US keep insisting that Iraq is another Vietnam.

While his comparison to the Soviet Union is misguided, Lee is absolutely correct in his central theme which he states forcefully: China is a major threat to freedom. He also makes some excellent points about why people don't see this. Lee argues that the West applies a double standard to China when it is assumed that China is not 'ready' for democracy or human rights. He also right about the way China presents two faces to the world rather than the simple face of intimidation that the Soviet Union showed.

I think perhaps he might have also added the war against terrorism to this list. People in the US don't see China as a problem because they are so worried about terrorism. It's hard to worry about two problems at once, but because China is a state commited to modernity (unlike the Islamic mullahs who are resisting modernity), we tend to overlook its threat to freedom.

1 comment:

Rank Beginner said...

From the translation:

"People in the West believed that Soviet human rights violations and threats to neighboring countries should be stopped. But they believe that China's violations of human rights and threats to neighboring countries are 'special Chinese characteristics' that can be tolerated."

The special Asian characteristics referred to by Lee Kuan-yew are about democracy rather than a tendency to violate human rights (I think). But Lee's assertion that there is tolerance for China's atrocious human rights record on the "special characteristics" basis does ring true.