Mar 15, 2006

Gordon Chang on North Korea and China

I heard Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and Nuclear Showdown : North Korea Takes On the World, speak at the Bookworm in Beijing. His talk focused on the North Korean nuclear problem, China's role in it, as well as his predictions about the Chinese regime.

Fearlessly criticising them in their own backyard
This week, Howard Stern went on the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS and ripped apart that network's own chairman. It seemed fitting that the following day I listen to Gordon Chang critiquing the Chinese government while in that very country's capital city. Given that Chang was speaking in Beijing, I had initially thought he would omit his criticisms of the Chinese government, but he seemed totally unrestrained. My take on that is that the Chinese government imposes almost no restrictions on foreigners interacting with other foreigners. As long as you're not "corrupting" Chinese citizens or disrupting "social harmony", they'll give a lot of leeway. As an example, take the gang of African drug dealers rampant in Sanlitun, a popular expat bar area in Beijing. The local police turn a blind eye, and no doubt accept some bribes, because the drugs are being sold to the teenage children of diplomats and other foreigners in Beijing. The day the drug dealers start targeting Chinese youths, the police would surely execute a few of them and incarcerate or deport the rest. The situation is the same for political talks given in China. If Gordon Chang gave the same talk through an interpreter to a Chinese audience at Beijing University, he would have been deported that very day.

Chang's prepared speech was well-delivered, and at times seemed a bit extreme, but it made things more entertaining. Chang doesn't come across as a Michael Moore crazy-eyed liberal nor as a Bill O'Reilly Christian conservative. His political leanings weren't a big part of his talk, and it made him seem a more credible speaker.

The speech
The major interesting points that Chang made during his speech were:

  • Modernization, which of course China is now experiencing at full-throttle, is the greatest enemy of the one-party state, hence Chang's pridiction of the downfall of the current Chinese regime.
  • Chang's first book was published in 2001, and at that time he estimated the CCP's downfall would occur within 10 years. By his estimation that will still occur prior to 2011.
  • Chang predicts that Chinese revolt and the dissolution of the current regime will occur after the 2008 Olympics due to Chinese citizens' unified desire to not draw undue attention while under the spotlight of the international media.
  • The current situation in China mirrors that preceding the French Revolution, and the result is predicted to be the same.
  • China aided Pakistan's nuclear weapons program to keep their most populous and geographically closest enemy, India, at bay. Pakistan subsequently transferred nuclear weapons technology to North Korea and continues to provide assistance.
  • America has a relatively low percentage of the world's population, a disproportionately high percentage of the world's GDP, and an even higher percentage of the world's nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapons on the US submarine fleet alone constitutes the world's third largest nuclear power. As the world economy becomes more evenly distributed, over the long term American GDP will fall in line with its population percentage. At this point, international pressure will no longer allow America to maintain its disproportionate number of nuclear weapons. America has enough nuclear power to destroy all humanity on earth 17 times over. Reducing the American nuclear arsenal as a sign of good faith and as an example to other nuclear nations may encourage other nations to reduce stockpiles while not significantly impact US national security.
  • The current system of America and a few other nations acting as the world's police force is necessary. Equalization of power is sure to result in the situations preceding the first and second world wars.

At the conclusion of Chang's talk, there was an open question and answer period. Most people were interested in the North Korean issue, with a few questions related to his predictions about China.

The Bookworm
As a bookstore and lending library, the Bookworm seems a bit overrated. It's billed as a book lover's oasis, but the selection is quite small. Some backpacker hostels have twice the selection. In the photo above, there is a tall bookshelf behind the woman to the left of Gordon Chang. The Bookworm's inventory apparently consists of no more than 15 to 20 of those shelves.


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