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Monday, April 25, 2005

Yearning to be free!

This Michael Ledeen column highlights some key events not being played up in the press.
Not only are we participating in a global struggle against tyranny, but, if we look carefully enough, we can see the collapse of the conventional wisdom about the relationship between tyrannical rulers and their subjects.
Let's start with a thoughtful article in the April 19 Asia Times written by an Australian named Andrei Lankov ...."for the first time in some 50 years a large group of North Koreans, acting openly and in the presence of foreign journalists and camera crews, dared to challenge the representatives of authority..." Lankov believes that the demonstrations bespeak a significant erosion of the regime's ability to repress its subjects. That erosion has sapped the will of the soldiers and police, who are now "often ready to look the other way, especially when there is an opportunity for a small bribe."
Meanwhile, across the border in the People's Republic of China, there have been several demonstrations in recent months, ranging from peasant protests (shades of Mao!) in the hinterland (when Communist-party officials were caught stealing money that was supposed to go to dispossessed land owners) to worker's agitation in the big cities along the coast. Thomas Lifson, of American Thinker, suggests that the Chinese regime senses its own growing weakness. The regime has certainly intensified its repression of religious freedom, arresting the Catholic priest Zhao Kexun in Hebei Province, and continuing its mindless persecution of the Falun Gong. Luis Ramirez, the brilliant reporter of Voice of America, noted last fall that China was facing a most unexpected crisis: a shortage of qualified workers. And along with this manpower shortage, the brutal demographic consequences of the Communist-party's strict rule of "one child per couple" are beginning to take hold: The population is aging, the number of people retiring is higher than those entering the workforce, and retirement pension funds are drying up. Moreover, corruption is pandemic, and the recent National People's Congress provided the occasion for an anti-corruption campaign, with the usual showcase arrests and trials. But it is hard for a regime that claims sole authority to blame corruption on individual sinners.
As Janet Klinghoffer put it, "China is facing the same innovation roadblock the Soviets did." The Soviet Union could never match Western technological innovations, because Soviet citizens were never given the freedom to do so. Klinghoffer quotes a U.S.-embassy report from Beijing that suggests the Chinese are facing the same bleak future: "Recently a Chinese scholar remarked...that the lack of intellectual freedom and the extraordinary waste of resources severely handicap Chinese science. Both problems are rooted in the Communist Party's monopoly on power and in the socialist system...Nobody believes in Marxism, said the scholar, it is just a slogan..."

The importance of that freedom thang!!!

This is precisely the sort of thing we heard from Soviet citizens in the
years leading up to the great implosion of the Soviet Empire. The Russians had brilliant mathematicians, scientists, and engineers, but the rigidity and corruption of the system prevented them from translating their brilliance into high-quality products. The same is going on in China, with the same political results: The people are angry, and want fundamental change.
The same process is even further advanced in Iran, where near-constant demonstrations, protests, and even armed attacks against the institutions of the Islamic republic have raged.
The popular contempt for the regime is so blatant that the mullahs' usual pretense that all is well, has been openly discarded, and replaced with mounting repression. Like the North Koreans and Chinese, the Iranian leaders' greatest fear is that their own people will bring down the regime, and the mullahs have taken desperate action against the spread of ideas within the country.

Five hundred years ago Machiavelli insisted that tyranny is the most unstable form of government, and he warned that the most dangerous development for any tyrant was the contempt of his own people. That dramatic tipping point is now very close in China, Iran, and North Korea. All that is required to get there is a steady flow of the truth from outside their borders, guidance for those who undertake the struggle against the tyrants, and constant reminders — backed up with modest action — that we are with them.

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