1999 IN CHINA: a year of celebrations.

AuthorEvans, Mark

Mark Evans notes that the Chinese leadership has much to celebrate as the millennium ends.

As result of support from a Claude McCarthy research fellowship, I had the good fortune to welcome in the New Year while residing in the People's Republic of China. It was an opportunity to observe first hand the promulgated promises and plans of the Chinese leadership for 1999. Even more interesting was the reaction of the surrounding Chinese people as they watched, discussed and listened to the bold oratory.

Nineteen-ninety-nine is an important year, full of celebrations, for China. While there are many commemorative events, some of which are hardly cause for celebration, I have focused on those events that reflect the leadership's success and therefore have and will receive more widespread attention. Chief among these are the twentieth anniversary of the open door and economic reform policy, the twentieth anniversary of Sino-American diplomatic ties, the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China, and the return of Macao. Let us work through these events in reverse order and then attempt to make some summary conclusions about China's political disposition in 1999.

The return of Hong Kong to China and the events surrounding it are passing into the pages of history -- a ghost of the `Century of Shame' laid to rest. In December 1999 Macao will again be under Chinese administration. In 1887 Portuguese rule in Macao was confirmed by treaty with China. In 1987 a further agreement was signed by China and Portugal to return Macao to Chinese rule in 1999.

The return of Macao is accorded by some commentators a significance above and beyond the territory's relatively small size. This attributed significance is the result of a perspective which emphasises China as a potential threat. China is a rising power in the international system and it can be argued that it is a revolutionary or anti-status quo power. The `expansion' of China with the return of Hong Kong and soon Macao, as well as the existence of other outstanding territorial disputes, is taken as evidence of China's increasing power and threat to the status quo.

Admittedly, the Chinese leadership attaches quite some importance to the return of what it considers sovereign territory taken under duress. Pragmatically, the territorial issues, while similar in some respects, are still historically and otherwise dissimilar. They require independent examination, including...

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