Sunday, May 25, 2008

Daylight in China will spell the break-up of PRC

Daylight in China will spell the break-up of PRC: CPM chinatern jaalra-s to note.

I am posting this on this CPM blog because CPM is part of china-tern and consists of China patriots. Exposing PRC to the external world in the wake of an earthquake devastation may spell the beginning of the end -- the break-up of PRC as it happened with the erstwhile Soviet Union. Karats may have nowhere to go for their pseudo-commie ideology tutorials.


From Russia with love

New York Times

Posted online: Monday, May 26, 2008 at 0246 hrs IST

Two decades ago, Mikhail Gorbachev’s campaign to inject some daylight into Soviet society doubled back on him like a heat-seeking missile.

Now China’s leaders are playing with the same volatile political chemistry as they allow the world an unexpectedly vivid look at the earthquake devastation in the nation’s southwest regions. The rulers of cyclone-battered Myanmar, by contrast, are limiting access and even aid to the stricken delta region.

“When you start opening up and loosen controls, it becomes a slippery slope,” said Jack F. Matlock Jr., the American ambassador to Moscow during much of the Gorbachev period, as he watched the events in China. “You quickly become a target for everyone and before long, people go after the whole system.”

China has taken a different reform path from Russia, offering its people robust economic growth, in exchange for continued one-party rule. Playing up the response to the earthquake while restricting coverage of repression in Tibet, could prove a shrewd move, rather than one that cascades into instability.

Still, it is worth recalling a time when a little openness flew out of control.

As a correspondent and bureau chief for The New York Times in Moscow in the late 1980s, I had a ringside seat to observe the slow disintegration of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev. The collapse of the Soviet empire and dissolution of the Communist Party were not exactly what he had in mind when he took power in 1985 and launched his twin policies of glasnost (greater openness) and perestroika (political reform).

But he had no inkling of where his initiatives were headed when, shortly after taking office, he broke new ground for a Kremlin leader by mingling with citizens in Leningrad and giving unscripted interviews.

In those early days of glasnost, it was hard to tell whether the changes were purely superficial or the start of something more profound.

One day in late 1985, Allen Ginsberg, the American beat poet, unexpectedly turned up at the Moscow bureau of The Times, bearing a package from Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the Soviet poet. It was the text of a speech that Yevtushenko had given to the Writer’s Union.

Serge Schmemann, my colleague, described it in a front-page story: “The poet’s strong words against distortion of history, against censorship, self-flattery, silence and privilege in the world of letters were strikingly bold.”

As glasnost gathered force in the years that followed, it ripped away the layers of deceit that were the foundation of the Soviet state.

The explosion of a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in April 1986 shattered the Kremlin’s credibility — and gave a powerful impetus to glasnost. The Kremlin seemed paralysed by the accident. The first government announcement — an innocuous 44 words — came more than a day after the reactor meltdown, and hours after Sweden detected alarming levels of radiation in its air, 800 miles north of Chernobyl.

Gorbachev, embarrassed by the debacle, redoubled his efforts to make the government and party more transparent.

The truth about Stalin’s brutality, and even Lenin’s, was exposed. Newspapers and journals wrote honestly for the first time about government corruption and mismanagement. Artists, playwrights, filmmakers and writers looked unsparingly at the abuses of the Soviet system.

Unflinching coverage of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in Ogonyok, a spirited magazine, gave Russians their first glimpse of a ruinous conflict. It was not long before opposition to the war began to grow.

A striking moment of glasnost came with the killer earthquake in Armenia in December 1988. Faced with the deaths of tens of thousands of Soviet citizens, and desperate for outside aid, the Kremlin lifted restrictions on travel to Armenia. Foreign relief flights, including American military planes carrying food, water and medical supplies, were welcomed in Yerevan, the Armenian capital. Sounds a lot like China today.

Gorbachev wasn’t prepared for the assault of long-repressed political forces let loose by his reforms. The most potent was nationalism in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia; Armenia and Georgia; and throughout Eastern Europe.

Once uncorked, nationalism essentially overwhelmed Gorbachev. Within months, of the 1991 coup attempt, the Soviet Union dissolved and Mr. Gorbachev was out of work.

Russia today, despite Vladimir Putin autocratic ways, enjoys a degree of freedom inconceivable at the height of Communist rule. Glasnost helped make it that way.

China’s leaders may not take comfort in that thought.

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