Skip to content

On Bush’s Asia Trip and the Bush-Hu Jintao Meeting: An Interview with Hu Ping

Renowned political commentator discusses the implications of Bush’s China trip.

The U.S. president, George W. Bush, completed a week-long trip to four Asian countries in November. During his visit to Beijing, Bush openly raised freedom of belief and democracy as discussion topics. He called for more political and religious freedom for the Chinese people. These are believed to have been the most positive aspects of Bush’s Asia visit. Mr. Hu Ping, a famous political writer and chief editor of Beijing Spring discussed the implications of Bush’s Asia trip and his meeting with Hu Jintao during an interview with a reporter from The Epoch Times newspaper. Below are excerpts from the interview.

Question (Q): Bush visited temples in Japan and Korea. He went to a church in Beijing. What message does he want to send?

Hu: Bush is a devoted Christian. He wanted to convey the message that he regards freedom of belief and religion very highly. After he became president, he raised these subjects several times in his meetings with Hu Jintao.

There are several noticeable points in Bush’s visit to China. First, he openly talked to Hu Jintao about the issues of democracy, and freedom of belief and religion.

Bush raised the question of freedom of belief in particular. I believe this has to do with the Falun Gong issue. More and more people realize that the persecution of Falun Gong was a terrible mistake. Although many individuals within the communist government circle also believe this, it’s very difficult for them to rectify the mistake due to the limitations of the CCP[Chinese Communist Party]’s system.

Falun Gong is an especially striking example of the CCP’s suppression of freedom of belief. The CCP also harshly attacks family churches and other religious groups. The world is paying more and more attention to this problem. Therefore, I believe it is with this background that Bush places freedom of belief in such a special position.

Bush Could Have Done Better and More

In addition, Bush also raised the issue of human rights to Hu Jintao, who also expressed his opinion. We don’t know what Hu’s opinion was. Bush said in the press conference that Hu’s views on human rights are interesting, and that the Chinese communist leaders couldn’t possibly have said the same words ten years ago.

Due to international pressure and the Chinese people’s ever increasing human rights awareness, the CCP today no longer takes the attitude of complete refusal to talk about human rights. Instead they give it a completely different connotation in their argument. This demonstrates that the CCP continues to deny the issue of human rights. Under this circumstance, I believe as the leader of the free world, President Bush should take further steps to criticize the CCP’s twisting of human rights concepts.
This time although the U.S. government asked that China publish President Bush’s speech without any changes, the CCP still deleted the parts about belief, freedom, democracy, and human rights. During Bush’s visit, China also put some dissidents under house arrest. The U.S. government should strongly protest such conduct and request a stop to this type of behavior.

I think that the U.S. government should have done more. Back when Bush senior was the president, he invited Fang Lizhi to a banquet during his visit to China. President Bush could have invited some political dissidents such as Mr. Liu Xiaobo and others. That would have shown his support for Chinese dissidents and for the democracy movement.

During his visit, Bush also asked the CCP to have an open dialogue with the Dalai Lama. He emphasized that the Dalai Lama does not seek independence; he only requires a high degree of autonomy. The CCP had no interest in Bush’s proposal. In the past, the CCP always said that the Dalai Lama was seeking Tibetan independence. In fact, the Dalai Lama always says that he doesn’t seek independence. The CCP thus has no excuse to refuse to meet with the Dalai Lama, so they play the trick of saying nothing. The CCP is good at making excuses. The international society should pay attention to this point.

Using Taiwan as a Model, Bush Says Freedom and Democracy Also Apply to China

Q: During his speech in Japan, Bush emphasized that a free society fits China’s greatest interests. What do you think?

Hu: In his speech to Japan, Bush particularly pointed out that Taiwan is a model for freedom and democracy. His reference to Taiwan had a twofold purpose. After Bush was re-elected, he repeatedly mentioned his plan to promote freedom and democracy in the world. His Japan speech exemplified his strategy on this matter. Bush specifically discussed China. The CCP is always opposed to freedom and democracy, using China’s special situation and unique features as an excuse. For Bush to use Taiwan as a living example demonstrates that freedom and democracy apply very well to China. In my opinion, Bush’s praise of Taiwanese democracy is a strong criticism of the CCP. It is a clear statement that the foundation of U.S. policy on China-Taiwan relations is freedom and democracy.

Q: Can you please tell us about these two scenarios: the rise of a free China and the rise of Communist China, and their implications for the world?

Hu: The difference is huge. People are talking about the rise of China. The question is, under what social form will China become a world power? Will it rise under a totalitarian party or will it rise as a democratic, free nation? This question not only affects the Chinese people; it has a big impact on the peace and security of all the people in the world. One simply cannot emphasize this enough.
The Success in Mongolia Suggests That the Economy Is Not the Predicator of Democratic Change

Q: Bush also visited Mongolia. He praised Mongolia for setting up a model to the world in their effort to remove communist rule. What do you think?

Hu: Mongolia transformed their country into a democracy 15 years ago. The success of Mongolia proves the following theory wrong: The transformation to democracy must be built on a market economy and a middle class, among other conditions. In actuality, the East European countries and Mongolia all successfully transformed into a democracy without a market economy and without a middle class.

Bush’s speech, to some degree, still has an element of the theory that the economy determines social change. In his words, a free economy will give birth to a free society, and economic freedom will lead to democracy. In my opinion, this conclusion is wrong.

The economic determinism theory is popular among Western politicians and academics. In my opinion, this viewpoint hinders their understanding of China.

Like I have mentioned many times before, the so- called economic reform and privatization under the communist dictatorship is in fact just powerful interest groups protected by violent government agencies robbing all of the Chinese people of their property. The more deeply this reform is carried out, the less likely it will lead to freedom and democracy. On the contrary, economic reform in China is actually a roadblock to political reform.

The CCP’s White Paper Indicates It Has No Intention to Move Toward Democracy

We don’t know the details of the Bush-Hu meeting. As Bush expressed in a press conference, Hu is trying to make changes in a very prudent way.

I believe that will be the case. Recently, the Chinese government published a white paper on China’s democracy. The paper insists on a one-party dictatorship. It did not accept the universally adopted standard and definition of democracy. It also failed to provide an agenda for China’s democratization. The white paper is in fact a non-democracy or anti-democracy white paper. We all know that even if the CCP wrote something in their official documents, they might never follow it. Clearly, they don’t even want to put it in writing.

After President Bush repeatedly raised his concern for China’s democracy, the CCP’s foreign minister Li Zhaoxing said, "China doesn’t listen to other’s irresponsible comments." Li’s comment shows that China could not find any reason to counter-attack Bush’s appeal. According to Hu, China has its own agenda and will not follow the U.S. agenda. Of course, the problem is that the CCP has never had any agenda (for democracy).
The West Lacks Knowledge of Chinese Society

People in the West, including government officials and academics, don’t have a clear understanding of China. This lack of understanding was partially due to the fact that Chinese society is a very abnormal one. In a certain respect, it doesn’t look like a communist country, nor does it resemble a free country. It is neither a state-owned, planned economy, nor is it a market economy. Therefore, an analysis of China’s current affairs and its future direction is the key to understanding China.

Q: Talking about the CCP’s future, the persecution of Falun Gong is a striking example. Before the persecution began, many people didn’t believe the CCP would do so. They reasoned that if [the CCP] arrested the old men and women who meditate in the parks, it would be a most ridiculous joke. But the CCP did so.

Hu: What they did was unthinkable. Their tactics are so dirty and cruel. From our private contacts with the CCP officials, we know that many of them disagree with the persecution. Take Hu Jintao as example; he is not the one who launched the persecution of Falun Gong. After he assumed the top job, why didn’t he correct the mistake? That way he could win people’s support. But he could not find a way to correct this obvious mistake. This example says a lot about China. It really helps people to deepen their understanding of the CCP system.

The Resemblance and Discrepancies Between Terrorism and Communism

Q: Bush said in Mongolia that the ideology of terrorism and communism are the same. Can you tell us in what way they are the same?

Hu: Terrorism and communism are the same in one regard, because both are evil, and are heading to extinction. Communism, however, is different in that it is more deceptive and therefore it has spread to half of the world.

Bin Laden’s terrorism is elusive; they hide in the dark. Cracking down on this group is difficult, but Bin Laden’s terrorism is easier to recognize. Compared to communism and fascism, terrorism’s damage and development are unlikely to be as widespread. They are like bandits. Although very bad, their evil nature is different from that of a bad communist regime.

Communism used to be adopted as official ideology in many countries. They were state terrorists, openly persecuting dissidents and religious believers using the police, the military, and other state apparatuses. This kind of state terrorism is much more damaging to humanity than Bin Laden’s. Fortunately, communism as a banner for people to follow has completely lost its luster in the world.

Translation by CHINASCOPE