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Lau Chung-ming and Jianfa Shen eds., China Review 2000
Decked out in ochre and purple, 100,000 people, both civilian and military, march in procession to the greater glory of the communist state; a 50-gun salute resounds across Tiananmen Square; the Peoples Republic of China celebrates its half century of existence. The 2000 edition of China Review opens with this almost outmoded image.
Yet, the first six contributions are not concerned with Chinas domestic affairs but with its foreign policy. If one had to recall only one thing about the year 2000, it would be the constant interaction between Chinas foreign and domestic policy. The high point of this phenomenon, one rarely observed since the launch of the reforms, was undoubtedly the signing, on November 15th 1999, of the bilateral Sino-US trade agreement, which removed one of the main obstacles to Chinas accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Who could have foreseen this healthy upturn in relations between Peking and Washington when, only six months before, NATO planes mistakenly bombed Chinas embassy in Belgrade and the Cox Report brought to light the reality behind Chinas spying activities in the United States (Wu Guoguang, pp. 27-59 and Peter Van Ness, pp. 61-75)?
China is indeed the prisoner of its own state-centric conception of international relations, whereby the sovereignty of the state is invested with absolute authority: accordingly, it could present to the world only one image, that of a nationalist, xenophobic and threatening regime, as is attested by numerous aspects of its relations with Taiwan (Jean-Pierre Cabestan, pp. 106-134 and Hu Weixing, pp. 135-156) and of its great power strategy within the Asian context (see Quansheng Zhao on the role of the Peking-Washington-Tokyo triangle, pp. 77-103). The excellent series of articles devoted to Chinese diplomacy constitutes without any doubt the main strength of China Review 2000.
The contributions relating to economic problems, certainly more heterogeneous and somewhat repetitive, are nevertheless of high quality. The space devoted to Chinas accession to the WTO is obviously very valuable, as is that set aside for the study of direct foreign investment, both from the institutional point of view (Lu Yuan and Terence Tsai, pp. 223-248 and Huang Yasheng, pp. 249-284) and from the point of view of their distribution across Chinese territory (François Gipouloux, pp. 285-305).
Moreover, one can only praise the decision to publish a certain number of articles on the rural areas, urbanisation, and the reforms in housing and education, bearing in mind that these essential social elements are all too often neglected.
The chronology is perhaps a little too dense to avoid leaving some impression of confusion, but it is nonetheless a tool that helps the overall image of this review, which is unique of its kind.
Strangely and incomprehensibly, not one article tackles the question of Chinas domestic policies. The revision of the Constitution, the promulgation of a series of laws on contracts, the growing dissension within the leadership of the Communist Party, the campaigns waged against smuggling, the tenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the suppression of the Falungong adherents: all these subjects are put aside, and treated as non-events.
While it is true that China Review 2000 was up against a huge challenge, having to put in perspective the main events of a crowded year, nothing can justify the absence of political analysis. Indeed, there are silences that speak eloquently of the temptation to support an illusory separation of politics from economics. 1949, 1989, 1999, fifty years and fifty million dead. Criminal acts threatening the security of the state have replaced counter-revolutionary activities, but the communist regime is incapable of offering a political alternative that can answer Chinese peoples aspirations.
China Review, vintage 2000, can thus only leave a bitter taste in the mouth, the arbitrary nature of Chinese power that some people still refuse to acknowledge.
Translated from French by Philip Liddell