When Joseph Stalin died, Western newspapers carried stories about the sorrow that was supposed to have gripped the Soviet people and how they would miss him.
Now things are different. The Chinese people are deliciously casual about the death of the man who headed the Communist dictatorship so long. The mourning about Deng Xiaoping comes from the West.
A cortege of chiefs of state, diplomats and journalists tell us how much he will be missed and how they hope the next resident dictator will match up to him.
Deng Xiaoping was a killer. Does it matter?
He was a leader flexible enough to remodel the economic system becoming dangerous to his party, but keep intact the police-rule system on which it depends to rule, also to stay alive.
Deng’s flexibility, and the West’s frantic desire to cash in on it, created economic growth for some parts of China and sections of the population.
But he was also a killer. Does it matter? It was Deng who ordered the shooting of the students in Tiananmen Square in 1989. It was he who then ordered more police terrorism to make sure everybody understood. More dissidents died under prison torture or by execution.
By then he had long experience. Throughout his regime the hideous brutalities of the laogai, the Chinese gulag, had killed thousands of prisoners and everlastingly marked with pain the lives of millions.
He ordered and guided a massacre of a nation and people. He directed the occupation of Tibet in 1949 and the slaughter of its people and civilization, continuing today. So murderously did he hammer Tibet’s society and Buddhist religion that even Mao Tse-tung, then his chief, asked him to go easier, for a bit. He did not.
It was a quintessential colonial ethnic cleansing: Occupy, make rebellion inevitable, wipe it out, move Tibetans out of their land, move Chinese in.
Here’s a letter from Wei Jingsheng published in the West. He is a hero. Sentenced to 14 years for dissident writings, he wrote a letter to Deng that got him 14 more. It was about what had befallen Tibet: “The orchestrator of this tragedy is no other than you, Deng Xiaoping.”
Is there a statute of limitations for the killings? The West has decided it does not matter. Trade profits, even the hope of them, that’s what counts.
What the leaders, business executives and journalists who mourn Deng are saying is this:
Westerners are sophisticated enough to handle food and freedom at the same time. Chinese are not. Under Communist direction we will help China build its economy; freedom is not our product. Hong Kong? The people will accept destruction of their freedom. Chinese troops and local financiers will see to that beginning July l. Forget Tibet. How much money can we make out of Tibetans? It’s a laugh.
Thus speaks our brave new West - “freedom is important to us, but those Orientals would rather have VCRs and stability. We can’t shape their country in our political image or try to contain it.”
The arguments amount to double-standard racism and are fraudulent.
Historically the great economic progress has been created in free countries, not tyrannies.
No fighter for human rights suggests that China copy any other country - just let its people talk, write and worship without fear of torture or death.
Struggling for human rights - beyond the release of a few prisoners - does not “contain” China but gives it the only chance for a genuine opening to the world’s mind, not just its cash register. It is the only hope of preventing Beijing from drumming up a nationalism that will bring explosions with neighbors or other targets.
“Foreign investors will find themselves in an ever more hazardous and unpredictable environment as central authority declines, corruption spreads and each locality makes its own rules,” writes the journalist James Miles in “The Legacy of Tiananmen: China in Disarray” (University of Michigan Press).
But Wei Jingsheng will live on in the mind and love of good people, long after the moneymotivated apologists for Communist China’s terrorist rule have gone on to richly deserved obscurity.
“No other than you, Deng Xiaoping.” He was a killer, and yes, it matters.