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The Mirror of China’s Failing State

Finally a few Western media have begun to look beyond the ravages of what the Chinese government falsely claimed to be a “once-in-60-years” rainstorm in Beijing and question how very fragile the infrastructure of the world’s number-two economy really is.

With the deafening global eulogies on China’s amazing economic development that will supposedly soon lead and even save the world, only something that descends from the sky may wake some people up to ask unpopular questions.

The Beijing rainstorm, however, is hardly the first such warning for China and for the world. We well remember the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, the 2008 snowstorm in Southern China, the 2003 SARS epidemic, the 2002 flood in Central China, and, as we speak, a menacing rainstorm above the Three Gorges Dam. In addition to these well-known examples, there are many more equally devastating but under reported disasters. These include a multi-year drought in many parts of China and the 2010 flood that killed over one thousand, with an economic loss of over two hundred billion yuan. And then there are disasters that are man-made, such as the high-speed train crash last year, the melamine milk scandal in 2008, and the AIDS epidemic that still remains hidden from public view.

There is more than one reason why these disasters have been under reported. The Chinese regime has issued strict guidelines on how Chinese media should report disasters because it understands very well how these disasters will expose the seamy underbelly of the façade that it has built around China’s amazing economic development. The Western media’s desire for China’s market has also resulted in their self-censorship when reporting something that displeases the Chinese regime.

Moreover the failing side and the amazing side come together to reveal the same mirror, an irresponsible regime wantonly spending China’s resources to build an international façade at the expense of internal necessities that include infrastructure, education, and healthcare. This ugly mirror cannot stand being exposed and that is why the Chinese regime vigorously punishes those who dare to question its accountability. The deprivation of human rights in China is, therefore, more than just textbook examples of violations of the rights of expression, association, or belief; it is the Chinese regime’s way of ensuring its tenure of irresponsible governance, a tenure that the regime refers to as “stability.”

This China mirror, exposed by various disasters in China, will hopefully spur the free world to re-examine its China policy that is primarily focused on economic interest, which, in turn, is largely based on the perceived attractiveness of China’s amazing economy. The free world has indeed derived significant economic benefits from the Chinese regime in exchange for its acquiescence to the suppression of human rights in China. It ought to be common sense to think of good governance as a pre-requisite to healthy economic development. So many brave Chinese have risked all to appeal to the world that good governance is precisely what is lacking in China. It is morally wrong to ignore the suffering of others in exchange for economic gain, but the shame will be much greater when the calculation is based on the wishful perception of a false façade and a blind rejection of warnings from those brave Chinese dissidents.

A wise emperor in the Tang Dynasty once said, “With bronze as a mirror we can tidy up our clothing; with a person as a mirror we can improve our own character; with history as mirror we can affirm our values.” The mirror of China’s failing state is not as pretty as that of the wise emperor’s, but let us hope that it serves to shine light on the free world’s moral failure in accepting the Chinese regime’s enticement.