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China in Hu’s Colours: Part VI

(In continuation of China in Hu’s Colours: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V)

In the Chinese perspective, a major success of China’s international relations during the first tenure of President Hu Jintao as the Party Secretary was the close relations established with African countries in order to tap their energy resources and markets for Chinese goods and the China-Africa summit held in 2006.

2. Two more international events of even greater significance in their eyes are scheduled to take place during his second tenure. The first will be the Beijing Olympics of August, 2008, and the second will be Expo–2010, an ambitious international trade fair, which is to be held in Shanghai in 2010. Presently, much of the energy of the Party and the Government is devoted to making the Olympics a spectacular success, which, they hope, will enhance the image of China in the eyes of the international community and the image of the party leadership in the eyes of their people. Any mishap in the handling of the Olympics could damage the standing of not only Mr.Hu and Mr.Wen Jiabo, the Prime Minister, but also the entire Standing Committee of the Party Politburo, which was elected at the recent 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

3. Even while working with determination for making a success of the Olympics, the Chinese have already started thinking of ways of making Expo 2010 an equally spectacular success. As they go ahead with the preparations for the Olympics, three concerns keep bothering them:

  1. Will Western human rights activists try to organise a boycott of the Olympics similar to the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics by the Western countries in protest over the intervention of Soviet troops in Afghanistan? It is in this context that the human rights situations in Darfur in Sudan and Myanmar keep worrying them, because of their close involvement in both countries. While there is little likelihood of the Darfur situation providing a handle to the critics of China in the Western world, if the situation in Myanmar deteriorates badly in the months before the Olympics, this would definitely provide a handle to the critics of China interested in spoiling the Olympics. The Chinese were rattled by the recent demonstration of Buddhist monk power in Myanmar and the dissemination of dramatic images of that power through the Internet and world TV channels. Worried over its possible copy-cat effect on the monks of Tibet, they quickly nudged the military junta in Myanmar to come out of its diplomatic isolation and be more responsive to the concerns of the international community. They should have been relieved when the Junta effectively closed its Internet servers and prevented images of monk power being flashed across the world. The Chinese would be closely monitoring the situation in Myanmar in order to make sure it does not come in the way of a grand Olympics of their dreams.

  2. Would there be threats to the Olympics not only from Al Qaeda and its associates, but also from the Tibetan activists, the Uighurs, the Falun Gong and others?

  3. Could China face a situation similar to what South Korea faced after the 1988 Seoul Olympics when the relaxation of restrictions on the political freedoms of the people by the then dictatorship set in motion a train of events, which led to the end of dictatorship?

4. The Chinese are very keen to avoid any frictions in their relations with the US in the months before the Olympics. The co-operation of the US would facilitate the success of the Olympics.The US has the equipment, technology and know-how to prevent any threats from terrorism. The Chinese are aware of the role played by the US and other NATO countries in ensuring the security of the Athens Olympics of 2004. The Americans are already fully co-operating with the organisers of the Olympics in this regard. The Chinese have also reportedly enlisted the services of big names in Hollywood to choreograph a spectacular closing function, which would bring the best of Hollywood before the eyes of the Chinese spectators.They would not like this co-operation from the US to be affected by any misunderstanding.

5. While the US Government and its security agencies have been helping the Chinese in whatever way they can, Beijing is worried over the possible machinations of die-hard anti-China elements among right-wing American intellectuals, Christian missionaries and others. The Chinese do not want to underestimate their capacity for a political sabotage of the Olympics.

6. For the present, the present leadership under Mr.Hu is confident that nothing can come in the way of a successful and spectacular Olympics. Will their confidence be belied? If it is, Mr.Hu could face serious embarrassment, if not trouble, in the party. (Continued in China in Hu’s Colours: Part VII and Last)

(The writer, Mr.B.Raman, is Additional secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies. e-mail: )

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