JOANNE MYERS: I'm Joanne Myers, Director of Public Affairs Programs, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I would like to welcome our members and guests and to thank you for joining us.
It is a pleasure for me to welcome Guy Sorman here today. Several years ago when I first heard him speak, I was struck by his clarity, thoughtfulness, and general intellect. I am confident that you will come to the same conclusion after hearing him discuss his book, Empire of Lies: The Truth About China in the Twenty-First Century.
For most of us, what we know about China is what we read in the newspapers and magazines, or what we hear discussed on the news. To this extent, we have learned that China has experienced an awesome economic revolution and is taking its place as an important world power.
We also know that since 2001, when China won the bid to host the Olympics this summer, the Chinese government has been preparing for a spectacular display of modernity. Investments have been made to permanently improve the quality of life of the residents of Beijing, and the government, in a charm offensive, claims that the Chinese people as a whole will also benefit.
Yet, the reality of what is happening in this country is something very different. Because the Party seeks power and control more than it seeks social development and the advancement of human rights, huge swathes of territory are populated by people whose lives have benefited little or not at all from the new wealth and liberalization infusing the larger cities of the new China.
While it is true that Chinese policymakers have opened up the political processes to more diversified inputs, they have also firmly suppressed organized challenges to the Party itself. Although there may be many incentives for us to see the Chinese regime in the most favorable light, it seems clear that China, to the countless numbers who are oppressed, remains a strong Communist Party state—cruel, corrupt, and fully in control.
Problems such as political corruption and opposition, rural unrest, a growing wealth gap, exploited people, and severe pollution loom large. Some of these difficulties represent new policy challenges for Chinese leaders. Others are not new, but their magnitude and impact have only recently been recognized.
In Empire of Lies, our guest this morning writes with penetrating insight about the myth that he sees as China, contrasting what the Chinese want us to know with what is often concealed. He speaks out on behalf of the great masses who mostly suffer in silence; for example, those individuals who are thrown into exile for merely signing their names to political leaflets, or those pregnant women who are beaten for being pregnant without the authorization of the state.
Guy Sorman is a tireless traveler who has been visiting China for over four decades. Although he has written extensively about China before, including books about the economic and political reforms in Mainland China and Taiwan and the relations between China and her neighbors, for the purpose of this book he spent all of 2005 and 2006 traveling and listening to a few exceptional Chinese who have waged a valiant struggle against tyranny.
We are introduced to individuals like ourselves, hungry for civil and religious liberty and longing for a government that is responsive to their needs. He tells their stories in a vivid and compassionate way.
The question he leaves us with is: How to act in a way that fosters the development of the majority of the Chinese, not just the advancement of the Chinese army and technocrats?
If there is anything that can be done or said to promote a realistic form of democracy, I believe that Guy Sorman will be able to tell us how.
Please join me in welcoming our speaker today, Guy Sorman.
GUY SORMAN: Thank you, Joanne.
The book which is now being released in the United States was released in France nearly two years ago, so it is an updated version made for U.S. readers. There are many other versions in many languages in many countries.
The title is different in every country. The French version was L'Année du Coq (The Year of the Rooster) because it did coincide with the year I spent in China. But the Year of the Rooster is now far away. The Korean edition was called The Empire of Lies, and the U.S. publisher took the same title. The book is being released this week in Japan, where it is called The Empire of Illusion, which I also like.
To make things clear, I love China, I love the Chinese people, and I am extremely happy, after having visited China for more than 40 years, about the renaissance of China. I think it is a great joy, and it should be for all of us, that China is back. It is a great civilization which has nearly been destroyed by civil war, foreign wars, the Cultural Revolution. In the 1960s and the 1970s, you really thought that China as a civilization was nearly dead. Then the Chinese people were able to resurrect as a nation. When I go to China, when I criticize the Chinese regime (and I do that a lot), I never forget that millions of people were being killed in this country and that intellectual and religious leaders had been exterminated in the 1960s and the 1970s. This is no more the case.
Of course there are other problems. I tend to focus on problems and not on successes, because the Chinese successes have been so well covered by the media and by so many books and by the China propaganda machine. So it is not necessary for me to add anything about the Chinese successes, but I certainly do not deny them.
I think to write about China is meaningless. You can write about some Chinese people you meet, but a book about China is like a book about Western civilization. So I have not written a book about China. It is more than 1 billion people. It has a very long history. It is a very complex civilization. It is a very diversified country.
So what I did basically is to write about the Chinese people I have met during all these years, focusing on some, as Joanne said, from my perspective, some extraordinary people, extraordinary through their courage, moral resilience, and ambition for their country. I have tried to give a voice to the voiceless people in China, because you hear a lot from the regime leaders, from the businesspeople, and they get a lot of coverage. But what about the poor people, the peasants and the poor workers, and the people in the remote areas, and the so-called minorities? What about people looking for political freedom or religious freedom? So I decided to focus more on these people you never hear about and to listen to them and to try to convey their message to fellow Chinese (the book has been translated into Chinese) and also to us.
Why would a French writer publish a book in the United States about China and come here? Well, we live in a global world. But also, I think there is a specific reason, which is the Alexis de Tocqueville tradition. What I did for China and what I did in other books I wrote, like the book I wrote on India, is try to follow the Tocqueville method.
The Tocqueville method requires a lot of time. It is not like being a journalist, where you spend a week somewhere, you write a paper, and the following day it is over and you change the subject. The Tocqueville method requires that you spend a lot of time with the people and listening to the people. Tocqueville, as you know, spent seven months in the United States and took four or five years to write his book.
The Tocqueville method can be applied to other countries—going there, staying there, and listening to individuals—and with this material trying maybe to generalize, to come to some general conclusions, which are meaningful to understand the country but also meaningful for all of us, some kind of general laws of evolution and of history.
So it is a bit ambitious to say that, but this book on China is very much inspired by the Tocquevillean method.
Now, after having said this, I want to get into some details, give you some views on what is going on in China as far as we can.
I think we could start from what is going on these days, the Tibetan protests. I think these protests are extremely revealing of what is going on in China, and not only in Tibet. I was answering some questions in the French media a couple of days ago. To make things short, I said, "There are not 6 million Tibetans in China; there are 1 billion Tibetans."
What I mean by that is if 1 billion Chinese, the people who are not concerned by the economic development, who are not the direct beneficiaries of the economic development, if they could express themselves, probably they would more or less say the same things as the Tibetans—not in the same way, maybe not with the same kind of aggressiveness. But there is no difference between the situation in Tibet and the situation in the rest of China.
If we try to understand the reasons for this Tibetan revolt, I will underline three factors which are true all over China:
The first reason, as you know, for the Tibetan protest is they resist the cultural unification of China. Their language, their culture, their religion, are being slowly suppressed in the name of national unification. The Chinese government calls the Tibetan protestors "splitists," they want to split apart from China. The Tibetans are maybe treated more harshly than other people in China, but everybody is more or less treated the same way.
China is in the unification process, which started a long time ago. China is a very diversified country. It is a huge country with many languages and many cultures and many cuisines. Sometimes I am asked, "What do you think about Chinese cuisine?" Well, I never had any Chinese cuisine. It all depends on what is the season and what is the region.
The Communist Party is trying to build a Chinese cuisine, which means the same culture, same language, same social norms for everybody in China. People resist that.
For example, as you probably know, except in the Guangzhou (Canton) region, the television in China is only in one language, which is Mandarin. This means that the people are, little by little, losing their cultural roots, their linguistic roots, and they have to forget about their language. When they watch television and the mass media and ffwhen they go to school in university, they have to shift from their original language to the national languagfe. This is a very new process in China.
It is a kind of unification process that we had in other European countries. I mean France was built by that in the 19th century, of course. But we are in a different time.
You take the Sichuanese people. You have 200 million people speaking Sichuanese. Little by little, they have to forget their language and shift to another language.
So the Tibetan situation as far as culture is concerned is not very different from other Chinese people.
The same with religion. Religion had been nearly destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Most of the Chinese people, like the Tibetans, would like to rebuild their religious traditions, which were extremely strong all over China.
A friend of mine, Kristofer Schipper, wrote a book about Beijing in 1900, and he called Beijing "the holy city," because there were 1,000 temples in Beijing in 1900. So China was a very religious country.
Buddhism, Taoism, local religions—all this has been destroyed. So people try to reconnect with this past. It is not easy, because it is authorized according to certain guidelines. You can be a Buddhist or a Taoist, but only if you join the official Buddhist church or the official Taoist church. This is not very exciting, as you can imagine.
The same for the Christians. For example, you can be a Catholic or a Protestant if you join the official Catholic or Protestant churches. The pastors would be also civil servants paid by the regime. So they are weird religions and people are not very much interested in that.
So what goes for Tibet goes for the rest of China.
Another factor which explains the protest is what I would call the exploitation of the people. It is very easy. You read Marx. For the first time what Marx and Engels described for the United Kingdom in the 19th century—it didn't work that well to understand the United Kingdom in the 19th century, but it works to understand what is going on in China.
It is a capitalist system which is based on exploitation, which means the leading strata in the big cities, the Communist Party leaders and the military leaders and some entrepreneurs.
There are very few private entrepreneurs. Most of the entrepreneurs are in charge of the public sector, or half-public/half-private; you don't know. The entrepreneurs have the possibility in China to exploit, without any legal limit, their workforce in the poorest regions of China. The numbers are huge and the wages are very low.
We are not in a situation like Japan or Taiwan or Korea in the 1960s or 1970s, which were rather small countries, which means that after ten or twenty years everybody being exploited gets organized, they build trade unions, they go on strike, and their wages go up. This not the case in China. The human resources are so huge and people are so poor that the businesspeople have the possibility to exploit—using the Marxist concept—the people for a very long time and to keep the wages very low.
The Tibetans are exploited like the other Chinese. That means that some Tibetans are exploiting other Tibetans. The true division in China is not between Tibetans and the others; it is more between the people who are at the top and benefiting from the economic system and people underneath who are exploited by people at the top.
If you go to Tibet or other Tibetan regions, you will find some very wealthy Tibetans, Tibetan entrepreneurs, Tibetans connected with the Communist Party regime. These Tibetans would be part of the new bourgeoisie. So the division is not only between the Chinese regime and the Tibetans; it is within the Tibetans between the rich and the poor.
This division, based on capitalistic exploitation, is true all over China. So the economic and social division I think is a key explanation to understand the protests, maybe more than the cultural or religious explanation. Of course, in the case of Tibet they combine, I think, this Marxist vision. I am not a Marxist, so it is a bit bizarre that I use a Marxist tool, but it does work.
Also, people feel more exploited when they are less exploited. What do I mean by that?
Thirty years ago, everybody was poor and everybody was repressed. With the new economic policy of China, you have this economic growth, economic progress, that we all know about. This, as a consequence, creates rising expectations. It is because of rising expectations that people are more and more violent, aggressive, and hostile to the regime.
I mentioned Tocqueville before. Tocqueville gave that explanation to understand the French Revolution. The 18th century in France was a century of rising expectations. It is because of political progress and because of better education, a better economy, that the French people revolted against the king, because of expectations. The Chinese situation is very much the same.
And of course, for the Chinese regime it is sometimes difficult to understand, because when you talk with the Chinese leaders they say: "Well, but the economy is booming, people are better off, and China never had it so good. So why do people revolt?" But they will revolt more and more because the situation is improving.
So this is another explanation, not only for Tibet, but an explanation for all the revolts that you maybe have heard about in rural China. Thousands of revolts happen every day in China, everywhere. Usually, it is spontaneous revolt, spontaneous rebellion, against the corruption of the leaders. This happens everywhere in China.
We know more about Tibet because there are foreign tourists in Tibet and they were able to send us pictures. But you don't have tourists and visitors and journalists in the most remote parts of China. So we know there are revolts, but you very seldom get pictures. Sometimes we are informed because some people have a cell phone, so they make a photo with a cell phone, they send it to Hong Kong, and then it reaches the Western press. But it is not so well documented because the Communist Party controls the situation quite well as far as the media and information are concerned.
To add something about the exploitation as a key element to understand China, there is one aspect of the Chinese society which is not well known, and I must say it took me a lot of time to understand what was going on. It is a kind of legal apartheid. Legally, all the Chinese people do not have the same rights. Each Chinese has an identity card, an identity card which connects this person to the place where he was born. You don't have the same rights depending on the kind of identity card you have.
To give you a very simple example, if you come from a rural village—from Sichuan or Henan or I don't know where—you go to Beijing or to Shanghai to find work. You can find work, legally or illegally. But, not being a citizen of Shanghai or Beijing, you can't live there. You don't have access to public services. You cannot send your children to school in Beijing or Shanghai. You cannot get into a hospital. You don't get health care. Sometimes you can't take local transportation because you don't have the right identity card. This is called the Hukou system. So this is legal apartheid.
It goes very far. Sometimes it prevents weddings between people belonging to different places. For example, it is extremely difficult to become a Shanghai citizen if you were not born in Shanghai.
This legal apartheid, which was created by Mao Zedong in the 1960s, is a way to facilitate the exploitation of people. An employer will employ you, but if you do not have the right identity card and you are a worker in a factory and you say, "I work 14 hours a day, this is too much," the employer will say, "Okay, you can go back to the town you come from." Of course, you cannot bring your children, you cannot bring your family; therefore, you are in permanent dependence vis-à-vis your employer. This is one of the explanations of the efficiency of the Chinese enterprises and the very low wages.
These characteristics do apply not only to the Tibetans but to any Chinese.
But I say it is common knowledge in China. The Chinese government mentions that very often. One of the products of the Chinese regime is that everything which I describe, injustice and so on, will be talked about by the Chinese leaders. They will say: "This is too bad. We have to correct this situation. We have to bring social harmony," and so on. So they make, as you say in the United States, all the right noises. But it never goes beyond noises. Why? Because why would the communist regime make any changes? The system is very good for them. So they know, they acknowledge, and they say, "This is very bad," but nothing changes.
Sometimes in discussion with the Chinese leaders in Beijing I said, "But you are not elected. You talk about social harmony and poverty and injustice and you say you are going to correct that. Why would you do it? What is the incentive?"
The most honest answer I've ever got from a Chinese official was when he told me: "Well, we fear the people, you know. Because we fear the people, maybe someday we will have to do something about the people." So fear of the people is a real incentive for the Chinese regime.
To get into more details, I mentioned revolt, rebellions. I use the term "rebellions or mutinies," because it is not an organized movement. There is no political opposition in China, it is impossible to get organized, so you only have spontaneous mutinies and spontaneous rebellions.
What do the people ask for usually?
Religious freedom is a very strong factor. Every foreign observer and Chinese observer are impressed by the fact that not only Tibetans but other people want more religious freedom.
Evangelical religion is making huge progress in China, more than the Catholic religion. The Catholic religion is too much organized for the Chinese people. They don't want another bureaucracy. So they prefer the evangelicals.
What people want and what they don't get is education. When you ask the poorest people in China, "What do you want?" they say, "Well, for us nothing, but for our children we want education." The problem is that you need money to send your children to schools. Schools are not free, or schools are free, but you have to pay for everything. You have to pay for the books, for the paper; you have to pay for the coal to warm the classroom, and so on. So if you don't have money, you cannot send your children to school. This is one of the major reasons why people tend to revolt and dislike the regime.
Another major problem is access to health care. Health care has to be paid for. There is no free health care in China. For the poorest people that means that any access to medical facilities has disappeared. The situation is worse than it was in the 1960s. It was not very good in the 1960s, but it was free. Now medical facilities are much better, but they are extremely expensive.
When you get into a Chinese hospital, which I wouldn't recommend, you have to pay up-front. After that you have to pay for the medical doctor and everything. But you have to pay something to get into the hospital. As a consequence, hundreds of millions of Chinese don't have access to health care, which is a major problem for them, but maybe for us too, because, as you remember, some epidemics started in China in recent years and spread around. There is a real risk, I think, which goes beyond China, that the absence of health care in the rural part of China could be a source of major epidemics. We talk about bird flu and these kinds of things. I see that as a really major threat.
So I have described more or less the situation of the poorest people in China, I would say 80 percent of the people, their rising expectations. I wouldn't deny that there is progress. Even in the most remote part of China, people now have electricity and transport and television and things that they didn't have. But once again, it is because of rising expectations that they are very unhappy.
Let's turn now to the other side of the coin, the leaders, the Communist Party. It is a very interesting organization, 60 million people.
One of the characteristics of the Party is, as President Hu Jintao said, there are nearly no women, no peasants, no workers.
According to official statistics, if I remember well, 14 percent of the members of the Party are women. So basically it is a male organization, and when you look at the leadership, you don't see any women. It is extremely rare. There are some women in charge of family planning, this kind of thing, but no women are really in charge. One governor is a woman, but she is an exception. So it is a male Party.
What about peasants? Three percent of the members of the Communist Party are peasants. Though this is a rural country, the rural people are just not represented in the Communist Party.
What about workers? I think it is less than 10 percent.
In one of his recent speeches, President Hu Jintao said, "Well, we should attract more workers, more women, and more peasants." Basically, the Party is a party of—I wouldn't say white males, because this is China—but yellow males, educated people, and it's a body of technocrats.
The level of education within the Communist Party is much higher than the rest of the population. It is a Party of educated people who see themselves as the former mandarins in charge of leading China toward modernity and progress.
They see themselves as enlightened people. Seeing themselves as enlightened people, they do not understand the protests and the rebellions, and they do not understand what those uneducated Tibetans want. You clearly can read these days that the Chinese regime doesn't understand what is going on in Tibet.
They are absolutely persuaded, honestly persuaded, that they brought civilization to Tibet. So why are people not happy about that? If they are not happy, they must be manipulated by some foreign organization, by "splitists." So because these people are educated, they do not understand their own crowd.
When you speak with the rural people, people in small towns and villages—and they complain a lot—when you say, "Why don't you talk to the Party representative who is in change of your village?" they would say: "Well, this Party representative wouldn't listen to us. You know, those are educated people. They speak only Mandarin, so we have no way to communicate."
The Party is completely cut from the masses, which is another paradox of the Communist Party.
But, if you are a member of the Party, your family, or if you have connection to the Party, you never had it so good, because you have the political power, you have a lot of money, you can travel abroad, you can send your family abroad, you can buy an apartment in the United States for your second or your third wife, which is proof of your success in China. So the Party is perfect, it is a perfect situation.
This is why I am very skeptical on the prospects for changes and reform in China, because as I said before, except for the fear factor, I don't see very much incentive for change.
What does the Party want? That is a big mystery. I do make a distinction between China as a nation and the Party as a political organization.
Does the Party have an agenda? Probably yes. Probably the agenda is not so much the development of China as to build a powerful China, which is not the same.
I have written a book on India, and in it I explain that the Indian government is looking for the development of India. They have no choice, because they are elected. So development is on their agenda.
China is different. The leaders are not elected, so development is less urgent maybe than to build a powerful China—powerful which means a dominant China in her part of the world. They don't want to take over the world, this is ridiculous, but they would like to be in Asia, let's say, the equivalent of what the United States is in the Western world, to share power—economic power, cultural influence, and military power—to be a dominant force in Asia. The problem is that they have some powerful neighbors, starting with Japan. So it is not that easy.
So I think there is a kind of an agenda of the Party which is different from the agenda for the nation, because of the undemocratic nature of the regime.
How should we behave? Do we have as Westerners any influence on this process? We have to be very modest. The Western influence exists, but it is limited.
I think the big mistake would be to intrude too much in domestic affairs in China because it would provoke some kind of a patriotic or nationalistic reaction among the Chinese people. So we have to respect the spirit of independence which is prevailing in China.
This is one of the reasons why I am totally opposed to a boycott of the Olympic Games. This would be a big mistake. It would be resented by the Chinese people. Most of the Chinese people, including the human rights activists and the religious activists, are not advocating any boycott of the Olympic Games because they are proud of the Chinese renaissance. So if we went against the Olympic Games, it would be heavily resented and it would play into the hands of the Communist Party. The Communist Party would say: "You see? The world doesn't like us because they hate the renaissance of China, they fear us."
This will reunite the people around the Communist Party. So a boycott would be a big mistake. It is not by accident that the Dalai Lama himself is not advocating the boycott of the Olympic Games.
And the same with trade. I think trade is good. Trade is good for the development of China. I would disagree with some Democratic candidates in the Untied States. I think trade is good for the United States. Protectionism would play against us and it would play against the Chinese. So I think trade is good. I am not advocating a limitation on trade with China. I think everybody is a beneficiary of Chinese development. We have to adapt. This is another story.
Just one comment on Chinese development. China is not on the verge of taking over the economic leadership. It is a very poor country and they are so behind the West. In terms of innovation, for example, there is no real innovation in China, they are followers, and they are really far, far behind. So all those things that I read about China taking over, I really don't know where it comes from, but it is totally absurd when you know the level of the Chinese industry or the poor level of the Chinese universities.
But while I don't advocate any boycott of the Olympic Games or any boycott of trade with China, I do advocate that we should support more actively than we have done until now the remarkable individuals who in China are telling the truth, people who have the courage to ask for liberty, for democracy, and for human rights. We should support them the same way as we did vis-à-vis the Soviet dissidents in the 1970s. There are in China the equivalent of Sokolov and Solzhenitsyn. I can give you the names.
We should support them. These individuals have remarkable courage. To go against the Communist Party, even to write a blog advocating democracy in China, requires an incredible moral and intellectual and physical courage.
To conclude, I just will quote one of these persons we should support, Madam Ding Zilin. She is 78. She was a professor at Beijing University. In June 1989, her child Jiang was fourteen. He was living in the center of Beijing. He went to Tiananmen Square just to have a look, to see what was going on. During the night, after the Tiananmen massacre, the police brought back the body of her son. The guy was killed. She never knew why. She never knew how.
Since 1989, Madam Ding Zilin has been trying to do something very simple: to build a list of the people who had been killed in Tiananmen. Nobody knows. It is forbidden to talk about the Tiananmen event in China. It is not to be mentioned.
According to the Red Cross, 3,000 people had been killed by the Chinese Army. Madam Ding Zilin is trying to just have the list of the 3,000 people so that funerals could take place according to the Chinese tradition.
When she started to build this list, she lost her job at Beijing University. Then her husband, also a professor, lost his job at Beijing University. She has been harassed, she has been arrested, she has been put into jail. So far she has been able to gather only 300 names. Why is it? Because as soon as she tries to verify the names, the police would go to the other family and say, "Don't give the name. Nothing happened to your son. Nothing happened to your daughter or sister or brother or father."
I think we should support Madam Ding Zilin so she could be able to complete the list and organize a funeral for her son and for the other people who have been killed.
Also, I think we should support my dear friend Hu Jia. Hu Jia is 35. He is in prison for three and a half years. What did Hu Jia do? He brought medicines to people tainted with AIDS in Henan Province. AIDS was not supposed to exist in China. It was supposed to be a Western sickness. Millions of people have been infected and are dying from AIDS in China, especially in the Henan region. Hu Jia was bringing medicine to these people.
Also he has a blog. Everybody in the United States has a blog, but in China when you have a blog, which Hu Jia did, and you are indicted, and you are put into jail—he was indicted a week ago. He has criticized the Communist Party, and criticizing the Communist Party takes you into jail for three and a half years.
So I think we should support Madam Ding Zilin, we should support Hu Jia, and we should make the distinction between the Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party. We should trade with China, but we should also say that the Chinese people deserve the same kind of freedom that we do have in the Western countries.
Questions and Answers
QUESTION: Thank you for being so enlightening. Maybe we will reach nirvana with your help.
Since you brought up the French Revolution—and, of course, you know much more than I, as a true Frenchman—wasn't a lot of the forward movement coming from the younger sons of the aristocracy, the people who didn't have all the privileges at the top and were aspiring to it? Would it be possible for, let's say, children of the Communist leaders, who have all the privileges and come to the States and have this great life and see what it is to have more freedom—is it possible that there could be change from within the mandarin class?
The other thing is, since you brought up the situation for women, what can be done to improve it so that women can attain what they deserve in terms of merit?
GUY SORMAN: Of course, it is very difficult to compare the French Revolution in the 18th century with what is going on in China.
But on your specific question—is there a kind of a movement within the Party among the younger generation, educated in the United States, for example, to be more open to a free society?—so far, strangely enough, we don't see any movement of that kind. The Chinese students who are educated here usually belong to the most wealthy and powerful families, of course. They don't come from rural areas.
When they go back to China—not all of them go back to China; approximately half of them go back to China—their tendency is to take advantage of the system. We don't see any trends so far of these people saying, "Let's change the way things are done." We don't see any of that, maybe because the people who are more democracy-oriented or more individualistic choose not to return to China.
On the women situation, the women situation is very bad in China, except in the big cities of course, where there is kind of a Westernization process, in the new bourgeoisie. But in the rural areas, of course it is traditional China, it is very conservative, women are oppressed.
But I will insist that one of the most dramatic aspects of the Chinese situation for women is forced family planning, the One Child Policy. I describe in my book—it has been described also in the media—the forced abortion and forced sterilization of women. Agents of the family planning organization are kidnapping women. You have forced abortion and forced sterilization everywhere in China.
Some of the human rights leaders who are protesting against this situation right now are in jail. In Beijing I had a talk with a woman in charge of family planning. I said, "How can you permit that? It is absolutely intolerable and it is not legal." She told me: "Yes, you are right."
But these local civil servants are not very well educated. They do not understand that they should educate the people and not be violent. The women will be severely punished. And of course they are never punished.
Those who are punished are the human rights leaders, who are put into prison because they attract our attention to this. So what we can do is show some solidarity to the human rights activists in China who are leading this good fight.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask a follow-on question on what the lady had just asked in terms of your answer. Comparing China and the Soviet Union, one thing is that in the Soviet Union the Communist Party didn't give any property rights to its members, which was a very powerful incentive for a combination of dissidents, on the one hand, and the Party elite, on the other, because they had no property rights. They wanted property for themselves and to pass on to their children.
Now, the Chinese Communist Party has probably learned from that and has actually, as you assert, given in some form the possibility to own property, enormous property, both within China and abroad, to the elite and to their children, thereby wiping out the possibility of a change from above. In that sense, probably, in spite of the technocratic nature of both the parties, there is little possibility of a Chinese transformation motivated or impelled by the same factors that existed within the Soviet Union. What would you say to that?
GUY SORMAN: This is a very important observation. It doesn't apply to all Chinese people. It does apply to the elite, let's say the 100 million people at the top in the Chinese society.
To avoid any attempt to split the Party, the Party is buying out its own members. So if you are a faithful member of the Party, you will be able to own some real estate and to own many, many things. So you have a strong incentive to be faithful to the Party.
If you don't belong to the Party, there are no real property rights in China. For 80 percent of the people who are farmers, they do not own their land.
So there is a distinction once again between the upper strata and the lower strata. The upper strata has a kind of property right and a strong incentive to remain together and not to criticize the Party which is so good for them. At the lower strata, the fact that you don't own the land keeps you in dependence vis-à-vis the Party, because you can lose your land or you can be prevented from transmitting the land to your children if you don't follow Party orders.
QUESTION: My question is about child rights. We know there is no polio, for instance, in China. China hosted the Fourth Conference on the Status of Women in Beijing in 1995, which was very significant for them and for the world.
My question is: Has China moved further on child rights? They ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United States and Somalia are the only ones that haven't ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. So in that sense they are ahead of us, but of course in other senses they are way behind. Would you comment on that?
GUY SORMAN: The Chinese government is clever enough to know how the Western nations work and what is important to us. To ratify treaties, they know that is something to be done. This tends to be rather cosmetic.
In the case of children's rights, we discover from time to time that children are exploited by Chinese factories and that certain forms of slavery are discovered by the regime itself. On one hand, they will ratify an international treaty, but on the other hand the economic incentive to exploit the people without any limit is stronger than any piece of paper that they would sign.
They also ratified all the treaties on global warming, but this is really to please us. It has no consequence in the way they do their policy.
Once again, it is difficult to read China because, as I said before, they always make the right noises. So when you discuss with the Chinese leaders, they say, "Of course, you are absolutely right, we should protect the children, and the status of women should be improved. We will have a big meeting on that." They send abroad very educated and skillful diplomats who will explain in your language, in perfect French or perfect English, that we are absolutely right and the situation in China is not just and the government is doing many things to improve the situation.
By the way, to follow up on your question and my remarks, Joanne asked me how this books was received in China. I think it is quite significant. The book has been translated into Chinese in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and from there it has been smuggled into Mainland China. So it is not difficult to find this book in Chinese. And you can find it and read it on the Web.
I got a review in a Chinese newspaper, a kind of official newspaper. I like the review. It is a very good review. It say: "All the facts in this book is right, everything is true, so we respect the work of the author. But of course we didn't need a French writer to explain to us what China is about. All these facts are true, but we know about them. Of course there is injustice and these problems, and apartheid. We know about it and the Communist Party knows about it. The Communist Party is doing its best to improve the situation and to bring social harmony. So the big mistake of the French writer is that he doesn't trust the Communist Party. If he trusted the Communist Party, he would be completely right."
I had a discussion with a member of the Chinese government two months ago. I said, "I read the review. I totally agree, the facts are right. It's true I don't trust the Communist Party." So I don't trust the Communist Party.
QUESTION: I wonder if you could address the crunch on certain basic resources and how it would affect both the elite and the masses of the people. By basic resources I mean water, energy sources, and other critical commodities.
GUY SORMAN: The crunch of resources, specifically in the case of water, is very revealing of what is going on in China. Water resources are brought to the most developed part of China. The shortage of water will impact the poorest people in China and it will aggravate the gap between the most developed part of China and the less developed part of China.
When you look at the way the water is brought to Beijing and the Fujian regions, you can see that all the water is diverted toward the most wealthy part of China, and the rural parts are more and more deprived of water and also drinking water. So there is an aggravation because of this shortage in basic resources.
Now, on the global scale, the Western economies are now in competition with the Indian economy and the Chinese economy for rare resources, and the price will go up. But this is the rule of the game. It means that we will have to improve our productivity. This is the way the West became rich. We tend to forget that the West became rich by increasing our productivity. So we have more competitors, and the incentives to improve our productivity are stronger than it ever was.
QUESTION: A couple of comments.
One, it is constantly said in the West that the Communist Party doesn't matter anymore in China, but based on what you are saying, it really does.
The second thing that is often said is that the Internet will do a great deal to weaken the control of the Party over China. Has it?
From our perspective in the intelligence community, China maintains a huge espionage establishment, and particularly with those who come here and everywhere else in the West to study. There is a certain expectation on the part of those who study here that they will go back and give that information to the Chinese military and other aspects of things. Can you discuss that a little bit more?
GUY SORMAN: Not only is the Communist Party extremely important but it is still Communist. There is a tendency to think that the Party is disappearing and that private entrepreneurs are in competition with the Party. It is not true.
The number of real private entrepreneurs, people whose business doesn't depend on political connection, is very small. You have some real private entrepreneurs, but that would be restaurants, services, small-scale businesses.
But when you get into the real economy, the real big business, maybe the company looks private, but it is not. It has connection with the Party. The best way to become an entrepreneur and to become a millionaire is still to be a member of the Party, to have connection with the Party, or with the army. The military, the army as such, is also a political and an economic power.
When I say it is still communist, it all depends on what you mean by that. There is a very strong homogeneous ideology. People are constantly trained and retrained. They have to spend time in the Party schools at least once a year to be retrained in Communist ideology. So it is a mishmash of Marxism, economic efficiency, and political discourse, but there is a unifying ideology in the Party on top of economic self-interest.
The Internet is changing a lot. Why? People in China are now extremely well informed about what is going on in their country. Before the Internet, people wouldn't know what was going on in the next town. Now they know. They know what is going on in China and they know what is going on all over the world.
You can be very sure that today, if we were in a small Chinese village, they would know about the protests in London, Paris, and maybe today San Francisco, against the Olympic Games. They would know. Through the Internet and cell phones, information is now quite open.
But the Internet as a political instrument to mobilize people and to organize things is very much under control. Because the Internet is so well controlled, any attempt to use the Internet to organize any kind of demonstration or rebellion is immediately crushed.
If you go to China and try to meet some human rights dissidents, you will not understand why or how, but you will not be able to meet that guy, because the society is really under heavy control, and cell phones are controlled and the Internet is controlled.
So I make the distinction between the Internet as a media to get informed; as a media it works. As a media to shift to political mobilization, it doesn't work.
As far as espionage is concerned, you probably know better than I do. But it is very true that some of the Chinese who come to the United States to study are paid to bring back some Western technologies and so on. The Japanese did the same and the Koreans did the same.
I am not a fan of intellectual property anyway. Lawyers defend intellectual property. I am a trained economist, and economists don't like so much intellectual property, because we are much more in favor of incentives. So we are in favor of what we call "soft" intellectual property.
QUESTION: What is the impact of one child per family in terms of they always save the boy first? Are you having too many boys in China for safety or for the economy?
GUY SORMAN: This is one of the most dramatic aspects of the Chinese society. It never happened before. Because of the One Child policy, there are two consequences.
The first consequence is there are many more boys than girls. The gap is enormous. It has no equivalent. It is quite big in India as well, but it is much bigger in China. That means that probably 20 percent of the boys will not be able to marry and they will remain bachelors. This will have tremendous social consequences that we cannot evaluate because it never happened before.
By the way, sorry to mention this, but prostitution is a huge business in China. One of the reasons is the gender gap. This gender gap is one of the reasons why it is such a big business. So many bachelors will not be able to marry.
Another consequence is that in the Chinese tradition, like in any traditional country—this applies to India also—the children will take care of their parents when the parents get older. But it is not the case anymore, because there is only one child, and the child will leave the rural area and work in the city and forget about his parents. Therefore, when parents get older in China, they don't have children's support anymore.
Of course, the country is too poor to have retirement houses. Nothing has been done for the elderly people except in the bourgeoisie and in the public sector.
So you have two dramatic consequences. There is another consequence which is very often mentioned by sociologists working on China, about the social behavior of the boys. The boys are called the "young emperors" in the family. Very disruptive behavior in schools, in social life.
So it is a whole new world which is being opened by this family planning policy, not to mention the violence against the women.
JOANNE MYERS: Thank you so much for opening the window onto China for us. That was extraordinary. Thank you.