Some Lessons to be Learnt from China


by Chandre Dharmawardana
in Canada

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was mandated to (a) learn why the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) failed, (b) to investigate humanrights abuses in the war, (c) recommend steps for national reconcilliation, preventing future conflict. Investigating (a) and (b) are fair. However, can the learned panelists, or anyone, recommend steps to ensure peace in the future?

The causes of aggression have been shrouded in myths about ‘civilising the heathen’, ‘class struggles’, ‘lack of democracy and humanrights’ in the developing world, etc. However, scientific studies of aggression, even in simpler species, have hardly commenced. Animals, be they Lions, Tigers or ants, are known to fight for territory and food. Laboratory mice deprived of proteins reproduce mightily and become aggressive. The numerous young fight each other, and get naturally culled.

Humans, and higher animals are guided not only by proteins and pheromones, but also by social memes of prestige, power and ‘arasu’. Unfortunately, most ‘social engineering’ leads to disastrous or unanticipated consequences. The LLRC recommendations for devolution, and the consequent favouring of ethnic differentiation could also breed unanticipated ‘black-swans’.

Post - 1977 social experiments

However, we can compare two social experiments that began in 1977. China under Den Xiaoping, and tiny Sri Lanka under J.R.Jayawardena (JRJ) jettisoned ‘planned economics’. JRJ believed in unbridled capitalism, welcomed even ‘robber barons’ and created a quasi-dictatorial presidency with a ‘democratic’ facade. In reality, Lanka fell under the financial conglomerates of the West. Housemaids and cheap garments became commodities, and the first flush of prosperity for business was in. Deep-pocketed NGOs set political agendas, and wealthy evangelists purchased poor Buddhists or Christians. Local businesses withered against foreign giants. Within a decade the JVP insurrection, and the SomaThera-inspired JHU took root. Meanwhile, the Tamil-Upper-caste Land-owning Faction (TULF), dazzled by Arasu could not join JRJ, and ‘business’ was impossible in the North. Perhaps JRJ hoped to ‘teach the TULF a lesson’ when he let the 1983 pogroms happen. That was  Prabhakaran’s plan too, to set the Sinhalese against the Tamils. But then, capitalism has better methods than pogroms. Why not buy Prabhakaran ?

Prabhakaran decimated dissent

Prabhakaran decimated dissent, mesmerised militants, and ran a mafia-like extortionist enterprise, promising Eelam. The CFA was the invoice prepared by the financial conglomerates for purchasing Prabhakaran. The CFA was to ignore the atrocious killings, terror, conscription of children, ‘crimes against humanity’, etc., and create a ‘de facto-state’ if Prabhakaran honoured the ‘market rules’.

At the XIth congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), 1977, Deng Xiaoping took command. The victims of the cultural revolution were restituted , the universities reopened, and the collectivized communes decommissioned. Family farms and business were resumed. In 1978 Deng introduced the single-child policy as he could not even feed the existing population. Threats from traditional Marxists and militarists were eliminated by sending them to war in Vietnam and purging them elsewhere. Establishing diplomatic relations with the US, Deng called for "Joint-Ventures" (JV) with western capitalists, but forbade pure ventures or foreign NGOs. From 1990 to 2001 China absorbed more than 45% of all foreign global investments. However, unlike in Lanka, nothing was up for sale. JVs in China were strictly mandated to transfer technology while providing cheap manufacturing. Unprecedented growth collapsed the indigenous soviet-style industries.

Large unemployed  floating populations

Large unemployed  floating populations appeared, and were partly deployed into massive infra-structure development. The Chinese army was diverted to manufacturing, construction, and even manning civilian trade outlets.

Increasing economic liberalization led to calls for ‘political freedom’ from a growing middle class. Washington began to fund clandestine groups, Fulang-dong, re-arm Taiwan, and deploy spy planes over China. Student uprisings coinciding with the fall of the Soviet Union began. When JRJ was suppressing the JVP in the 1990s, Deng was suppressing the Chinese-student uprisings. The CCP affirmed that economic liberation with controls is the only game allowed. Western capitalists found that China was not for sale, unlike Lanka under JRJ or Ranil. The CCP itself underwent changes, replacing ideologues with technocrats. Even the succession of a Premier, Chairman or President has become matters known an year in advance. If American ‘democracy’ is a pantomime representing financial lobbyists, Chinese politics is theater for mandarins and party men within the CCP. Nevertheless, at each annual congress of the CCP, as the education in the country increases, China  has become increasingly liberal. As the aspirations of the workers rise, their demands and strikes have also increased. But today China alone has the economic capacity to meet worker demands and also help western ‘joint-venture’ partners in trouble. The European Union and even Wall street are looking for Chinese credit!

Muslim areas of China, Tibet, and ethnic regions had spawned strong separatist uprisings. In each case the CCP answered forcefully, and followed up by developing communications and fast expressways into such areas. State incentives were given for new people migrating into entrenched ethnic or religious mono-cultures. Except perhaps in Tibet, China has completely controlled its separatists. A disintegrating nation in chaos under Maoist red guards has emerged in one piece, and stronger than ever!

Are there lessons that tiny Lanka, smaller than many Chinese cities, could learn from China?

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