Inside sources

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 January, 2011, 12:00am

Judging by commentaries in the state media, China is entering the new year with a sense of purpose and conviction, while recognising that it is still a country beset by problems and is likely to encounter criticism from other world powers. A commentary in the online edition of the People's Daily, headlined 'People's Republic of China with new posture in 2011', recalled China's achievements in 2010, including the hosting of the successful World Expo in Shanghai and the Asian Games in Guangzhou.

Last year also saw China overtaking the US in developing the fastest supercomputer in the world. And, China successfully launched its second unmanned lunar probe, inaugurating the second phase of a three-step moon mission, which is meant to culminate in a landing on the moon.

However, the commentary also listed other statistics of which China may not be that proud, including the fact that workplace accidents had killed 33,876 people in the country during the first half of last year. But while calling this figure 'stunning and shocking', it pointed out that the toll is lower than that for previous years. 'This also represents a true China,' it said, 'one in the throes of transformation.'

But this acknowledgement of China's shortcomings was lost amid the general triumphal observations.

One commentary, published on New Year's Eve, underlines China's increasing economic importance, saying that China's GDP growth in 2010 represented 20 per cent of world growth.

In fact, it said, everyone wants to benefit from China's 'express train' but 'a small handful of people' want to ride the express while still launching fierce battles against China, including 'the Google event in late February and the Nobel Peace Prize farce on December 10'.

Another commentary, this one in Global Times, recalled the progress of the past decade, pointing out for example that 10 years ago China was not even a member of the World Trade Organisation. If China's development over the past 10 years 'made some Western countries uneasy', it exulted, 'it is hard to imagine these worries will fade in the coming decade. It is more likely that this unease will begin to be increasingly apparent in the policies of Western countries.'

While China is proud of its record and confident of the progress it will continue to make, it also believes that Western countries will continue to be critical. 'China has to get used to such adversity that will dog its rise,' the commentary said. 'The rapid development of such a big country will draw fire, but China must endure it gracefully.'

However, it also expressed the view that, as China grows more powerful, 'it will also become stronger in the face of pressures from abroad' and things that may upset China today may be easier to accept tomorrow.

These commentaries show that, while China is confident of its ability to deal with foreign pressures, it is still very sensitive to such criticism and goes out of its way to rebut it.

What is missing from these commentaries is any indication that the Chinese government is sensitive to domestic criticism or willingness to allow political freedoms that are guaranteed in the constitution.

Thus, Google's attempt to provide uncensored information to the Chinese public and the Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision to honour an intellectual who is serving an 11-year prison term for calling for democracy and human rights are both depicted as foreign attempts to interfere in China's domestic affairs.

There is no recognition that these are foreign responses to demands within China by members of the Chinese public for unfettered access to information, and for rights and freedoms that all Chinese citizens should possess.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the fall of the last imperial dynasty in China. Surely, it is time for all Chinese to be able to stand up and enjoy their full rights as citizens and human beings.

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator