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MAINLAND CHINESE 'EMPIRE' WILL COLLAPSE SOONER OR LATER: PRESIDENT

2004-04-20 15:52:20

    Taipei, April 20 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian quoted a long-time China-hand from the United States Tuesday, saying that Communist China, a reproduction of an ancient Chinese imperial dynasties, will collapse sooner or later.

    Chen met with Ross Terrill, author of numerous books on mainland China and head researcher at Harvard University's Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, at the Presidential Office and echoed some of Terrill's perspectives about mainland China in his book, "The New Chinese Empire, " that is a nominee this year for the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

    Mainland China is not a modern state and it has been unable to escape its heritage of empire and authoritarian political systems, Chen said, adding that the "new Chinese empire" will certainly crash some day just like its imperial predecessors.

    Meanwhile, Chen said that writing a new constitution for the Republic of China is an undertaking in line with democratic processes, but by no means represents a timetable for Taiwan independence.

    He said Beijing's assumption that a new constitution is a move toward independence is immoral and irresponsible, and that the constitutional move will not be postponed because of Beijing's opposition.

    The so-called "one China" principle is just a political myth that Beijing fabricated to consolidate the power of its authoritarian empire, Chen said.

    In his book, Terrill says that the end of the Chinese party-state is at hand. He points to a number of conditions that might lead to the collapse of mainland China, some of which played key roles in the fall of earlier dynasties, such as the Chinese polity's inability to handle succession and legitimacy issues; a revolt by farmers, especially in the peripheral provinces; and the emperor's misjudgment of the power of outsiders.

    Terrill says that since the collapse of 3,000 years of Confucian monarchy in 1911, mainland China has neither established a successful political system nor adjusted to being a nation-state. Today, it stands as the most contradictory of major powers, hovering between an unsustainable tradition and a yet-to-be-born political form that would support its new society and economy, he adds.

    Hanging in the balance are the prospects for freedom within mainland China, the future of America's relations with the mainland, and the security of mainland China's neighbors, he notes.

    Calling China a "semi-terrorist outfit, " Terrill, also a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, argues that if malcontented minorities on mainland China's periphery don't tear apart the communist regime, then a faltering Chinese economy will.

    One symptom of the coming collapse identified by Terrill relates to a yawning gap in income among workers and the fact that 1 percent of Chinese own 40 percent of the country's wealth.

    Terrill was previously regarded as a pro-Beijing scholar, but his views on mainland China changed fundamentally after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which Beijing used tanks to crush a student-led pro-democracy demonstration. Terrill then wrote the book, "The New Chinese Empire, and What It Means for the United States."

(By Deborah Kuo)

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