The People’s Republic of China is headed toward a similar fate as the former Soviet Union, and the United States should be prepared for the aftermath, a prominent China scholar said in a recent interview.
Speaking with Epoch Times senior editor Jan Jekielek on the program American Thought Leaders, Arthur Waldron, Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the eminent China historians in the United States, said that while the “[Communist] Party regime is tighter and better organized now than it was under Mao,” its political power is extremely fragile due to a mix of social and economic crises.
Waldron told Jelielek of a conversation he once had with someone he says was a close advisor to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
“He said to me: ‘Arthur, what the hell are we going to do? Everybody knows that this [political] system doesn’t work. We have reached a si hu tong [死胡同, dead end],’” Waldron quoted the advisor, whose identity he did not reveal, as saying.
Since 1980, China’s economy has shot up from being smaller than the GDP of Texas to the second-largest in the world by nominal figures and the largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). However, its economy has slowed to the lowest rate of growth in 27 years, a dip Waldron and other researchers say lies not just in the U.S.-China trade war, but that also results from the inherent inefficiency of Beijing’s excessive state interventionism.
The advisor continued, saying that China’s leadership had reached the point where “landmines were everywhere” and “any misstep could set off a “terrible explosion,” according to Waldron.
Xiang Songzuo, an economist with China’s Renmin University, has warned that China’s current GDP growth, rather than being 6 percent as claimed by the authorities, could be closer to 1 percent or even negative. U.S.-based Chinese economist He Qinglian, citing unofficial studies in China, wrote in a 2018 article that the country’s unemployment rate could be 20 percent.
According to economists cited by Reuters, the decline in Chinese growth may be attributed to weaknesses in export-related industries, particularly the manufacturing sector.
America should be as ‘hardline as possible’ on the Communist Party’s abuses
Waldron said that though the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) finds itself “in this stage of disintegration,” the process is “something you don’t see immediately.”
“This regime knows it’s in grave peril, domestically,” Waldron said, adding “so the real intellectual problem is ‘how do you [China] exit communism?’”
The professor turned to the Party’s atrocious record on human rights, highlighting China’s ongoing state-sponsored organ harvesting from religious prisoners, as well as its suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Since 2006, independent investigations have furnished mounting evidence that thousands of people, mostly Falun Gong practitioners and now China’s Muslims, have been surgically murdered for their organs in hospitals throughout the country each year since 2000. The Falun Gong spiritual practice had been banned by the CCP the previous year.
At present, an estimated 1-3 million Uyghurs are imprisoned in a network of concentration camps the CCP euphemistically terms vocational training centers. Former inmates have reported that torture, beatings, and rape by prison staff are common. Experts believe that the Party’s aim is a cultural genocide of the Muslim Uyghur population, which is native to northwest China and numbers around 10 million.
In light of such abuses, Waldron called the CCP the “most evil regime” since the Nazi Third Reich in World War II. He recommends that the United States be as “hardline as possible” in pressuring the People’s Republic of China to end its atrocities and take up political reforms.
Waldron blamed past U.S. foreign policy for having unwisely boosted the Chinese regime’s economic growth, giving it the strength and confidence needed to support its tyrannical system.
“I say that Kissinger’s China policy, and Nixon’s China policy, is the single greatest failure of American foreign policy,” Waldron said, referring to the prominent U.S. diplomat.
In 1971, after over 20 years of no official diplomatic ties between the People’s Republic and the United States, Kissinger, who was U.S. Secretary of State at the time, paved the way for restored relations when he visited Beijing. President Richard Nixon visited China the next year. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter controversially severed ties with the Republic of China in Taiwan and recognized the People’s Republic at the United Nations.
“At that time even [former communist leader] Mao Zedong himself felt that the Communist Party was going to collapse soon, but that visit from President Nixon and Kissinger saved the Communist Party,” pro-democracy activist Wei Jingsheng said of the developments.
Another step in the wrong direction came in 2001, when the U.S. government welcomed China into the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“We brought [China] in as a way of trying to somehow coax them to be what Nixon and Kissinger dreamed they would be, which is to say they would learn from America and they start democratizing, but they didn’t do that,” Waldron explained.
He said that now, U.S. trade and investment in China, including those from the pension funds, is what keeps the Party afloat. “If they had to live on what they can get from their state-owned enterprises, which lose money, and from taxation, it would be a completely different situation,” Waldron said.
On Nov. 6, a group of bipartisan U.S. lawmakers led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a bill aimed at blocking a federal retirement fund from investing in Chinese equities.
In terms of future US. foreign policy regarding China, Waldron said current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has a tough task at hand.
“I think perhaps the biggest challenge facing Pompeo and his people today is to realize that we have to start thinking about what happens when China comes to this dead end,” Waldron said. “They [Chinese leaders] have to decide what they’re going to do … we have to decide what we’re going to do in response.”
Turning point in Hong Kong?
The current unrest in Hong Kong could be the impetus for the collapse of the CCP, Waldron said, noting that “disastrous decision making by the communist authorities” had led to the pro-democracy movement, which are nearing their sixth month.
There is no end in sight to the protests, as continued police heavy-handed tactics and the refusal of the city government and Beijing to meet protesters’ demands have continued to fuel public anger.
“This 5 or 6 months has essentially made, taught everybody in Hong Kong that the Chinese communists are dangerous, odious, and absolutely not to be trusted,” Waldron said.
He explained that if Beijing had kept its promises made in 1997 and 1984, the only people who would be marching the streets in Hong Kong would be “those heading to a polling place to vote” every year or two.
Hong Kong, the former British colony, was handed over to Beijing in 1997, after the two sides inked the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The bilateral treaty was to guarantee that Hong Kong retain its liberal rule of law and a “high degree of autonomy” from CCP rule for 50 years.
Recent legislation passed by the United States could strip Hong Kong of its special economic status, dealing a potentially regime-ending blow to the CCP’s already-precarious financial system, Wadron said.