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Thursday, October 1, 2009

60th Anniversary: What history teaches about toppled regimes — Ching Cheong

Quotable Quotes - "as long as the prairie (of discontent) is there, no one knows which spark can start the fire..."

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What history teaches about toppled regimes
Ching Cheong
Straits Times
Source - The Malaysian Insider

SEPT 29 — China’s leaders are pulling out all the stops to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Thursday.

No expense has been spared for a grand parade to showcase China to the world, just as no effort has been spared to keep the Chinese capital safe and secure from “all unstable elements”.

A “security moat” will bar undesirable or dubious characters from entering Beijing from neighbouring provinces and regions — Hebei, Liaoning, Shandong, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Tianjin.

The authorities’ concern is understandable, especially following the outbreaks of social and ethnic unrest in recent months. Indeed, in the run-up to Thursday, there had in fact been open discussion of the possibility that these events may portend the collapse of communist rule.

In July, the Guangdong-based Southern Metropolitan Daily ran an article on some common features in the collapse of dynasties.

One such feature, it said, involved emperors believing that they could survive any crisis so long as they controlled the army and therefore commanded force.

“Whenever this mentality emerged, the emperor’s days were numbered,” the article observed.

Another feature was that the fall of a dynasty was often triggered by an accidental incident or a seemingly inconsequential event. This was especially so whenever there was widespread public discontent.

Said the article: “In fact, numerous failures might have preceded some seemingly accidental incident succeeding in toppling a regime.

“In the people’s hearts, every effort counted. If it did not succeed here and now, it could succeed there and then.”

The Southern Metropolitan Daily article concluded by saying “as long as the prairie (of discontent) is there, no one knows which spark can start the fire”.

A month later, the Outlook magazine published by the official Xinhua news agency, ran an article by Zuo Fengrong, a research fellow at the Central Party School, entitled “Drawing Lessons From The 1977 Soviet Union”.

While Zuo did not explain why he picked 1977, it was the year that the then-Soviet Union celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Russian Revolution in October 1917. China will be marking its own 60th National Day on Thursday, in effect the culmination of the Chinese revolutions of the 20th century.

In his article, the researcher noted that the Soviet Union had attained a level of prosperity in 1977 that it had never seen before. Yet under the pretext of preserving stability, its leaders refused to undertake any reforms.

“Leonid Brezhnev thought everything was alright. He... never tolerated divergent views. Dissenters were locked up in psychiatric hospitals. High-handed ideological control and news censorship stifled innovation and the Soviets’ cultural and spiritual lives ground to a halt,” Zuo wrote.

He went on to point out that by 1977, the Soviet Communist Party had become the vehicle of a special privileged class. Instead of serving the people, Soviet officials ruled them instead. Corruption, nepotism and cronyism were the order of the day.

Needless to say, a similar culture of corruption, nepotism and cronyism also exists in today’s China.

Zuo concluded: “The 1970-80s were a rare stable and prosperous period in Soviet history. Yet it was only superficial. Stability turned into stagnation and the country lost its ability to re-invent itself. This finally led to the unexpected collapse of the Soviet empire.”

A week after Zuo’s article appeared, the Central Party School magazine Study Times published an article analysing the fate of the descendants of senior officials of the Tang Dynasty, which once gave China its golden age.

Essentially, the account showed that none of the descendants came to a good end. The writer concluded: “Even in feudal times, senior officials could not ensure that their descendants enjoyed ever-lasting prosperity, although they themselves had made great contributions to the country.”

“That is why (first-generation Chinese leader) Mao Zedong’s reminder to senior cadres that they should keep a close watch on their own children is so timely and important,” the author said.

There was no mention of modern-day China in this or any of the other articles. But the allusions were unmistakable. — The Straits Times

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