Who Rules China?
Chinese President Hu Jintao is in America to confer with President Obama. America’s economy is fragile. Washington has become hostage to Beijing due to its debt running into trillions. America to extricate itself from its predicament is left with no choice but to engage with Beijing and attempt to wean it towards democracy.
Corporate America entered into an unholy alliance with China dominated by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The PLA is the biggest exporter of low tech products to America which have helped finance its expansion and growth for decades. Americans thought that as the richer nation they were secure because for them money is power. They forgot that for the Chinese power flows from the barrel of a gun.
Now America leans on its allies to engage with Beijing more closely in order to persuade it to liberalize its regime. Perhaps that is one reason why the Indian government is pursuing its suicidal China policy of appeasement. India should ignore American advice on China. Unlike America, India is under no compulsion to engage with China. American policy towards China is unlikely to succeed. Washington does not even know who really calls the shots in Beijing.
For over a decade this scribe had been focusing on the visible divergence of policy between the Chinese civilian government and the PLA. In foreign policy the civilian government said things that were rubbished by foreign policy action dictated by the PLA. Of late more and more Americans are beginning to question the source of Beijing’s decision making. US think tanks are openly speculating about the real relationship between the Chinese government and the PLA. After his most recent China visit US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said there was “a disconnect” between the Chinese government and the PLA. It seems that President Hu was not even aware that China had tested a Stealth fighter jet! Earlier Chinese government officials interacting with American counterparts had betrayed similar ignorance about the PLA shooting a satellite. As Andrew Higgins for The Washington Post on the eve of President Hu’s current US visit pointed out: “Washington often has so much trouble figuring out who is making decisions in Beijing and why.” China is opaque. And even while President Obama confers with President Hu Jinatao currently in Washington he cannot be certain that he is speaking to China’s real boss.
The earlier assertion by this scribe that the PLA controls China may not be the entire truth. One needs to dig deeper. At risk of inviting extreme ridicule I offer a bizarre possibility. Could it be that China’s ultimate decision makers are faceless men who are part of a secret group comprising members of PLA, Communist Party and overseas Chinese? The positions these individuals may or may not occupy in public life may in no way indicate their real power. The world would not know the identity of these faceless individuals. More significantly, neither might most Chinese know of their existence. The following facts led me to speculate this.
China has a history of triads which were secret societies operating as powerful crime syndicates. The triads started as a resistance movement in the 1760s by Han Chinese against foreign Manchu rule during the Qing dynasty. The movement’s objective was to restore Han rule. The triads branched into several smaller groups that adopted the triangle as their emblem. Thus the term triad was coined by the British in colonial Hong Kong. After China’s Communists achieved power in 1949 Beijing forced triads to migrate to British ruled Hong Kong. Over time triads took to crimes ranging from extortion and money laundering to trafficking, drugs and prostitution. They participated in smuggling and counterfeiting manufacture.
Did Mao succeed in expelling triads from mainland China? It appears not. During the Cultural Revolution one fact that puzzled western journalists covering the event was how the Red Guards without any visible communication network succeeded in simultaneously executing its commands all over the country. Chinese media was not used. Neither was China’s Communist Party. Most victims of the Red Guards were party officials. Could not the Red Guards have been served by triads that remained in Mainland China? Secret societies may have had members too secret for the Chinese government to discover. The Red Guard-triad connection did surface after the Cultural Revolution.
Many Red Guards arrested and tortured after the Cultural Revolution fled overseas and joined or formed new triads. One such major gang was the Big Circle Gang known in Chinese as Tai Huen Chai. It was created in Hong Kong. It operates in several continents, mainly in Canada. The Big Circle Gang specializes in narcotics trade. The serious security threat posed by triads in Canada was investigated by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Security Service. In a joint report these institutions described how very rich Hong Kong Chinese tycoons close to Beijing for years, along with relatives of China's political leaders and the Chinese Intelligence Service, colluded with "financial ventures" in Canada that helped conceal criminal and intelligence activities.
Now consider this. Over 50 percent of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in China is by overseas Chinese of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. All three are claimed as part of mainland China. The overseas Chinese in the rest of Southeast Asia invest just a fraction of the amount invested by these three regions. Also, all the criminal subversive activity to promote the aims of the PLA is implemented by overseas Chinese and triads located outside China. Among such activities is the arms supply on behalf of the PLA to Islamist and other terrorists including those in India. This has been stated in a position paper submitted to US Congress by its former Director of the Task Force against Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Yossef Bodansky. Thereby the Chinese government keeps its hands clean.
So, who calls the shots in China? If American officials are flummoxed by the identity of the power centre in China, should not the possibility of a faceless, secret group, somewhat like the earlier triads, be also considered? As the biggest investors in China’s economy, as the biggest facilitators of PLA’s subversive designs in foreign lands, may not overseas Chinese exercise a much bigger clout than commonly perceived? Many western commentators speculate whether there could ever be war between China and America. They do not realize that war may have already started. It is a different kind of war. The PLA could be using Islamist terrorists as cannon fodder to demolish the west. The next phase of unconventional war could be terrorist attacks in the west by white Islamist terror recruits. Reports reveal 12 converted Canadians are currently undergoing militant training in North Waziristan. After all, the PLA’s published treatise “Unrestricted Warfare” describes precisely how economy, culture, subversion, sabotage, propaganda, indeed everything can be used to demolish the enemy. China’s acquisition of military might be just for deterrence. All other means are already being deployed to attain mastery over the world. One axiom enunciated by “Unrestricted Warfare” is that there is nothing in the world that cannot be used as a weapon. Does that not say it all?
This theory may appear too fanciful. But does it not merit consideration when even the redoubtable intelligence agencies of the west admit ignorance about the real source of power and policy making in China? Given its size, culture and talent China’s ambition to become the world’s premier superpower is understandable. China’s subversive and often criminal policy to achieve that is not. It betrays a paranoid and criminal mindset at sharp variance from the image of its leaders. Ironically, in the natural course China would rise peacefully to global pre-eminence. But there seem to be elements inside China harming its own image and political future.
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Dr. Rajinder Puri
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