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Shaun Rein: “How To Fix Western-Chinese Relations; Do it with the Nobel Peace Prize.”

December 15th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

This is a re-post of an article by Shaun Rein, “How To Fix Western-Chinese Relations; Do it with the Nobel Peace Prize,” where it first appeared on Forbes – with permission from the author.

“How To Fix Western-Chinese Relations”

Do it with the Nobel Peace Prize.
12.14.10, 10:50 AM EST

Tension between China and the West has been inching up over the past year. There have been disputes over everything from Google’s stand against censorship and protectionism to China’s trade surplus, the valuation of the yuan and the problem of North Korea’s thuggery. Bad relations do not help anyone, and they certainly don’t solve any of the very real economic problems the world faces. We need to have the West and China working together. Otherwise we could collapse into another Cold War.

I have an idea that could help get Western-Chinese relations back on track, improve human rights in China and make the Chinese government and people less suspicious about Western intentions. Next year the Nobel Prize committee should confer a special one-time-only double posthumous Nobel Peace Prize, on both Deng Xiaoping, the former Chinese paramount leader, and Mohandas Gandhi. Doing so would properly give due respect to Deng and Gandhi, both of whom helped billions of people, would right the wrong that Gandhi never won the Nobel and would rally Chinese support for continued reform.

Many Westerners see Deng as someone who ushered in economic reforms and got companies like Coca-Cola ( KO – news – people ), Nike ( NKE – news – people ) and Motorola ( MOT – news – people ) to invest in China, but he did far more that gets scant attention in the West. If the Tiananmen incident in 1989 hadn’t happened, Deng probably would have won the Nobel and would be viewed in the West with the kind of respect and love Gandhi enjoys around the world. That’s how much he is appreciated in China.

Here are reasons why Deng deserves to win next year’s Nobel Prize, despite what happened in 1989.

First, by the time Deng passed away in 1997, he had a total grip on power–not in the manic way of Mao Zedong, but rather from the respect he commanded because he had restored calm to the country.

I remember walking the streets when he died and seeing shopkeepers put out small empty bottles in their windows in mourning (in Chinese, Deng’s name sounds like” little bottle.”) Instead of hoarding power for himself and his family, like the Kims in North Korea, Deng had the great foresight to push through policies to prevent the offspring of cadres of the highest-ranking from rising above a certain level in government. The offspring of the most influential members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo may be influential, but they have never made it onto that Standing Committee.

How many times have you seen anyone with such absolute power put into law that his children could not maintain a generational grip on power?

Deng effectively created a healthy diffusion of power throughout the country. There may still be too much cronyism in China, but the situation is far better than if he had pushed his children into leadership positions. Today most offspring of government leaders go into business. Few grandchildren of the most powerful leaders from the late 1970s and ’80s are in government service.

Deng’s foresight also brought about China’s first peaceful transitions of power in the past century, from himself to Jiang Zemin and on to Hu Jintao and most likely next to Xi Jinping. Such peaceful transfers of power were unthinkable not very long before, when President Liu Shaoqi was tortured and died in prison, or when Mao’s heir apparent, Lin Biao, died in a mysterious plane crash.

Finally, Deng pushed for greater academic exchange and economic interdependence. In so doing he not only created a more stable and vibrant economy and way of life for ordinary Chinese, but also diminished the threat of military disputes spiraling out of control. More than a million Chinese have studied in the West in the last three decades. When they come back to China they bring back positive feelings for America. Perhaps surprising to many Americans, most of China’s leadership actually likes the American way of life. They are often exasperated at the way China, and they personally, are portrayed in the West.

A couple of years ago I went fishing with a very senior official who the Western press liked to attack for being evil and a thug. He seemed pained by the criticism, because he liked America and didn’t understand why reporters jumped to conclusions about him as he tried to do what was best for the Chinese people. Many of China’s up-and-coming leaders were educated in the U.S., for instance, Zhu Min, former vice governor of the People’s Bank of China, who studied at Princeton and Johns Hopkins.

Deng kept China from turning inward like North Korea or Myanmar and got it instead to push outward, to learn from the rest of the world and to minimize tensions and misunderstandings. Not only did he thereby create a more peaceful world, he also eroded some of the apprehension within China about the motives of the West.

2010 should have been a great year for China’s relations with the West, but it has instead been marked with tension and misunderstanding. The Nobel Prize committee should step up to help diffuse the situation by giving Deng and Gandhi the recognition they both deserve for doing so much for the Chinese and Indian people. That is something that Chinese would rally behind, and it would be a fitting tribute to two great leaders who did more for peace than anyone else in the last century.

Shaun Rein is the founder and managing director of the China Market Research Group, a strategic market intelligence firm. He writes for Forbes on leadership, marketing and China. Follow him on Twitter at @shaunrein.

  1. tc
    December 15th, 2010 at 12:50 | #1

    There’s no evidence I can see the western ruling elites are interested in fixing “Western-China relations”. In fact, they are constantly looking for opportunities to tear China apart. Chinese people should not be illusional.

  2. SilentChinese
    December 15th, 2010 at 13:33 | #2

    ” a special one-time-only double posthumous Nobel Peace Prize”

    But We know that nobel prize committee is a stickler to the rules and charters. they will never ever deviate from their charter.

  3. SilentChinese
    December 15th, 2010 at 13:41 | #3

    jokes aside, this is a good idea,

    But the aim is not to “win chinese support” etc. Chinese already knew Mr. Deng was a good man. (as indian already knew mr Gandhi was also a good man). it is a bit patronizing to half of humanity, when what they already knew to be true requires annointing by couple of narrow minded scandanavian politicans cooped up in the some cold northern european capital.

    The real aim, and it should be stated so, is to educate and win support amongst people of west, especially the sentimental middle class types, to the monumentus project of Rise of China and India.

    It is an exciting story in itself, but inorder to sell it better (to the masses) , It should be a human story, hopefully with the pre-requist exhibits, child hood story, actress reading their words, and poetry reading etc etc. so to rally the maximum support.

  4. December 15th, 2010 at 15:01 | #4

    Over and over in recent years, the growing self-confidence of China, especially in individual Chinese citizens and leaders is becoming ever more evident.

    Similarly, there is the shrinking self-confidence and growing uncertainty in the West, and the growing habitual need from more Westerners to gloat at the tiniest mistakes and misfortunes in China.

    All the last 2 decades of doom and gloom talks about China, seem more and more in vain.

    Some in the West have said China’s rise has repeatedly surprised and defied their imagination.

    That speaks much of the huge mistake in the fundamental Western Assumptions about China: That they still expect China to be something that is slow, inflexible, weak, slow, and even perhaps controllable or manageable by the West.

    No, the norm of China’s rise is that it is NORMAL for China, once a powerful nation, to quickly regain its former place in the world, and exert peaceful influence to all corners it can reach, just as it did for centuries.

    It is not a relationship that should be improved, but Western perceptions and assumptions.

    Frankly, how does anyone call themselves a “friend” to China, if they so consistently underestimate China?!

  5. December 15th, 2010 at 15:11 | #5

    I truly believe this is a good idea, because it will really bring China and the West closer.

  6. December 15th, 2010 at 15:42 | #6

    As I wrote privately to Shaun earlier:

    This is a nice piece. The only difference I would make if I were
    writing it is for the Nobel to shutdown for 10 years and then for
    their first prize after their hiatus – award Deng and Gandhi.

    But a bigger question is – what does “peace” mean? Does advocation of hegemony (military, ideological, or otherwise) constitute peace? Hegemony – after all – does ensure “peace” – however unjust it might be.

    Or does “peace” involve justice? If so – can you have peace when you have different, opposing world views / norms / sense of history?

  7. SilentChinese
    December 15th, 2010 at 16:27 | #7

    just stick to what Alfred wanted in his will to the trust. it is the legal thing to do.

  8. SilentChinese
    December 15th, 2010 at 16:41 | #8


    I am not sure that is possible under the current circumstances.
    not if west sees anything but a westernized, thus neutered china, a material threat to its domination of history.
    In end, this is very much an ideological battle. Strength of arms, or material superiority gives western world the moral superority of its chosen ideology (i.e the “universal value” etc espoused so elequotely by the nobel cmt chair) that it claims over rest of humanity. (this may be its greatest fault)

    The western intellectual elite will not allow china to negotiate with it on the contents of these said “universal values”. Not now, not at time of its vulnerability. They will impose them of rest of humanity. that’s their way.

    There is couple of way china can respond:
    1) In the interest of humanity (i.e. appeasement to the westernization demands), China can choose to adapt and accept. This would likely cause a set back turmoil in china. i.e. the negative externalities are all accepted by chinese and chinese alone.
    2) wasting time trying to convince the western intellectual elite that the idea that their way and only their way is “universal”. and resist. i.e. shoulder the negative externality fairly. but since western elites feels that their power is waning, they would more likely to dig in and unlikely to compromise in the short term.

    there is a third option however, that is:
    dig in and work hard, wait until the material superority of the chinese system makes the inferorities of the western ideological self-evident. a that point the choice is their’s, they will either compromise or be left in the dust bin of history.

    Whatever the out come is, one always negotiate from strength, not from weakness.

  9. December 16th, 2010 at 04:29 | #9

    “How many times have you seen anyone with such absolute power put into law that his children could not maintain a generational grip on power?”

    Whilst I’m open to the idea that I may just have missed this section of Deng’s biography, I have never heard of any law being enacted in the PRC preventing the children of the leadership rising to leadership positions. Asides from anything else, wouldn’t this be a block on Xi Jinping and Deng Pufang? Perhaps someone could enlighten me as to which law Rein is referring to?

  10. jxie
    December 16th, 2010 at 10:33 | #10

    *Sigh* Why? If NPP is given to Deng, which would never happen, in my mind it would be a desperate attempt to make it still relevant in this brave new century.

  11. December 16th, 2010 at 12:00 | #11

    It would be a responsible thing to do for a future generation of the NPP Committee. I cannot speak for Shaun. To me, this article also appeals to the rational minded Westerners to try to do something, and not let these Western institutions of high ideals be hijacked by dirty politics.

  12. December 16th, 2010 at 17:31 | #12


    I think you are spinning your interpretation of what was said:

    “his children could not maintain a generational grip on power” is not the same thing as “preventing the children of the leadership rising to leadership positions”.

    1st defines a dynastic succession system (e.g. “maintain” a generational grip), your broad interpretation implies that any time a leader’s children attains leadership position.

    Of course, Deng never suggested that his children should be legally banned from holding any public office. That would be silly.

    Indeed, many former CCP leaders’ children choose NOT to become public officials, but some do, and not necessarily in positions of high power.

    Mao’s grandson is in the Chinese military, but he’s content to make his career studying and teaching about his own grandfather. Unlikely he will ever go much higher than that.

  13. S. Rein
    December 17th, 2010 at 00:06 | #13

    Hi All, FOARP and several others have written criticisms of my piece. If you have not seen them…


    FOARP to his credit is reasonably professional in his criticisms, so I have no problem with them, even though I think his logic is off and he does not quite seem to understand my writing, but everyone has their own opinion. I don’t like that he remains anonymous and refuses to tell me his name.

    This other guy, Richard Burger, also has blogged about me repeatedly over the last year in a much more disrespectful manner that I do have a problem with (I welcome debate but it needs to be professional/ respectful in manner).

    In this post Richard Burger is calmer about my work but his past ones are much more vicious, frothing. I have been told by quite a few people who tried to post nice comments about my work that he censored them and only let critics post comments. I find it ironic that Richard Burger froths at China’s censorship but then does it on his own blog.

  14. December 17th, 2010 at 00:19 | #14

    A comment I recently came across here with the highest reader recommendations:

    zeroylly wrote: Dec 10th 2010 9:57 GMT

    i am an ordinary Chinese. I am 28, i am now studying in LSE [London School of Economics].

    I read lots of writings of this year’s nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo in Chinese.

    My impression is that he is highly critical of the Chinese government, and he speaks very highly of the US, which he considers to be a beautiful land of freedom.

    I think that is quite OK for an individual to think and write like him. I simply do not see anything that he wrote or did contributed to PEACE in whatsoever way. I think to win a Nobel PEACE Price, you must have done something at least remotely related to the topic of PEACE.

    In my personal opinion, I donot understand the decision of the price awarders.

    Last year’s Peace Award winner is also somewhat surprising to me. Although I am a personal fan of President Obama, I do not understand why he should be given the price on the ground that he “has strong willingness and determination to promote peace” ! Maybe the committee is so concerned with US presidents that they just want to preempt another US president from launching wars by burdening him with the title of a Nobel peace laureate?

  15. December 17th, 2010 at 00:48 | #15
  16. raffiaflower
    December 17th, 2010 at 01:22 | #16

    Kishore Mahbubani dean of public practice at LKY School of Public Policy of the NUS view on the Peace Prize, just before the choice of LXB was announced: Why Deng will never get the honour

    “We all respect the Nobel Peace Prize. Most winners deserve the prizes they get. Nobel Prizes by and large reflect the western world view. The winners in Asia are never leaders who brought great change. The man that did more good than anyone was Deng Xiaoping. When he came to power 800 million people were living on less than one dollar a day. Thirty years later on after the results of his reforms, 200 million lived on less than one dollar a day. Six hundred million people were lifted out of poverty.

    Will he ever get a Nobel Peace Prize? Never. Because of the western world view that the prize must be given to dissidents in Asia . Aung San Suu Kyii (Although she deserves it) The former leader of Korea . What has Obama brought? Where is the peace in Iraq ? In Afghanistan ? How can you give him a Nobel Peace Prize? He is a wonderful guy but he has achieved nothing. Deng Xiaoping saved 600 million people and he will never get a Nobel Peace Prize. That’s why it is important to step outside the western world view.”

  17. December 17th, 2010 at 01:24 | #17

    @Shaun – I know that having to deal with anonymous critics places you at a disadvantage, and I’m sorry for this. Having had more than a few threats thrown my way after exposing Chris Devonshire Ellis’s faked qualifications/legal experience, and having seen what happened to Ryan McLaughlin and Wang Jianshuo in connection with the same incident (i.e., threatened with being reported to the PSB as ‘illegal undercover journalists’ amongst other things), it has been wiser to stay anonymous.

    That said, I, and a lot of others, had, to say the least, difficulties with your column. Not least is that mentioned above – whilst it can perhaps be said that Deng did exercise some moral influence against the assent of the Princelings, I cannot for the life of me think what specific policies or legislation that Deng enacted you are referring to. Whilst I am quite willing to believe that I may have missed something, I have been unable to find any record of specific policies or legislation barring the children of the leadership themselves ascending to the leadership. Perhaps you could explain?

  18. S. Rein
    December 17th, 2010 at 02:05 | #18

    FOARP: The issue I have/ perhaps had with you is that someone sent me a comment you wrote earlier this year referring to me as something like “I think we found the next CDE” as if you were ready to make a call to arms against me.

    Whether you agree or disagree with my political, marketing views, it is not ok to trounce me in the way that people went after Chris. I have a company of employees and my own family to take care of and I was horrified at what happened to Chris (I don’t know him at all but while I do believe pointing out lies in a bio/ whatever are perfectly fine and questioning him, some of the things like the website construction attacking him went too far as it hurt not just Chris but all of his employees). You have to expect that if you go after someone like what was done against CDE, they will try to take legal action against you (that said I don’t know what threats you are referring to, alleged or whatever).

    The online world can go into cabal very quickly and unprofessionally. Last week Charlie Custer from China Geeks called me a Douche, nuts, and a variety of other things on Twitter, asked people to RT that, and Richard Burger has blasted me unprofessionally over and over and over and over and over again.

    If they want to criticize my views that is fine, but there is a line that should not be crossed since we are talking about my political views … not lying or some bad behaviour that should be exposed. Disagree all you want but professionally.

    If you criticize me the way that you have in your blog, then I am fine with that as it is professional and welcome debate. I won’t respond much because I do think it is only fair if someone criticizes me that I know their name and what they do. I receive nearly 1000 comments/ posts/ emails etc. a week and allocate 3 hours a week to respond. I just cant do it to people who don’t tell me their real name.

    But I love debate and discussion that is professional. It is the only way to improve society.

    What I would say about Deng is look at who has been in the Standing Committee of the Politburo (the real power) and look at how none of the truly high princelings has made it there. Many are obviously still influential but main thing is look at where Deng’s family is doing now. They are, at the 3rd generation, all out of politics for the most part and even the 2nd generation has little true official power. Much of that is how Deng pushed organization and disparate factions moving forward.

    I need to go but I am signing off and welcome your criticisms.

  19. December 17th, 2010 at 04:01 | #19

    @Shaun – Yeah, a mutual acquaintance contacted me about me comparing you to CDE after you had expressed concerns about that comment.

    All I can say is this: until he was exposed as having faked interviews with Chinese government officials, CDE made a roaring trade off peddling his supposed government connections to gullible foreign clients – even to the extent of offering to take up issues with government officials ‘confidentially’ in interviews which, according to the Chinese government, never happened. CDE also tried to play a double game of praising the CCP in their hearing and in articles on the internet whilst castigating them to foreign clients. CDE did these unprincipled things because he believed he would gain from them – and he did, right up until he got caught out.

    Until then, however, he was not ‘trounced’ by me or anyone. Quite the reverse – he was fêted, called on as an expert by magazines, radio and TV, and invited to high-flying conferences. When people raised doubts about his qualifications or government contacts, he silenced them through threats against them and their livelihoods – and it was this which drew me to act as I did.

    As far as I can see though, you have nothing to worry about on this front – unlike CDE (whose columns giving legal advice even stretched to advising people to carry out criminal acts such as bribery) according to those in the know your columns on marketing are the straight goods. Even Richard Burger, your characterisation of whom I do not agree with, says so. Unlike CDE, I have no reason to think that your regular claims to having contacts high in the Chinese government aren’t genuine, and there is no direct evidence that you’ve been trying to peddle influence to foreign clients.

    @Raffiaflower – I look at it from this perspective – there are many leaders who brought about great changes, and who on balance did great works, but who cannot possibly be considered eligible for a peace-prize.

    Winston Churchill is a hero to tens, if not hundreds of millions throughout the world, but I would laugh if anyone tried to say that he should have received a peace prize, because what good he acheived (not forgetting the bad – like his opposition to Gandhi) he acheived through violent means. I would argue that much of the violence was unavoidable, but this is besides the point.

    Margaret Thatcher also wrought great, and I would say good, changes in British society, and did contribute to the end of the cold war – but I would never say that she should have won the peace prize. Her great acts (the Falklands war, the Miner’s strike, privatisation) were either acheived through violence or were essentially economic reforms. With the possible exception of the Lancaster House agreement (which was far more the work of the Zimbabweans) I cannot think of any peace agreement that she presided over.

    Deng, of all China’s communist leaders except Hua Guofeng (who never exercised enough power to be effective one way or the other), is the one who I would criticise the least. Reform and Opening was an undoubtedly good policy, the repression of Jiang Qing’s clique was certainly a justified act – but what great work of peace did he do? What great change did he achieve through peaceful means? What sacrifice did he make for peace? I can find none.

    The return of Hong Kong was over-shadowed by military threats. The futile Strafexpedition against Vietnam was an avowed work of aggression (“Children who don’t listen have to be spanked.”). There have been many arguments on this site as to the character of the Tiananmen “incident”, but I don’t think anyone has disputed that the government’s actions on the 4th of June, 1989 were not peaceful. Even “Reform and Opening” required the repression of Jiang Qing’s clique.

    Is Deng the best leader Communist China has ever had? On balance, yes – but this does not make him worthy of a Nobel. A Confucius Award perhaps, but not the Nobel!

    As I’ve said before, if I had to pick a Chinese leader for a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize, it would be a joint prize to Jiang Jingguo and the Dangwai movement for the peaceful transfer to democracy in Taiwan. The prize would be marred, however, by the Gaoxiong incident, particularly the massacre of the Lin family, and the repression and imprisonment of various Dangwai members following it, Shi Mingde included. I’d much rather just give it to the surviving Dangwai members.

    All this said, people have received the award who did not, in my opinion, deserve it: Barack Obama being the most obvious case.

  20. December 17th, 2010 at 16:08 | #20


    Read again what Mahbubani said, which raffiaflower quoted in comment #16 above:

    Deng Xiaoping saved 600 million people and he will never get a Nobel Peace Prize. That’s why it is important to step outside the western world view.

    Deng was also responsible for reversing the disastrous policies of Mao and embarking China on capitalistic reforms which brought substantial material wealth to China, enabling the 600 million to climb out of abject poverty.

    The condition then fostered other reforms enabling China to move towards a law based society.

    Deng also ushered an era of pragmatism and opening up which enabled China to integrate with world institutions established by the West. That allowed the broadening of relationship between China and the West as we see today.

    Look, the “democracy” types pretty much prefer June 4th to escalate into a collapse of the Chinese government and destabilize the reforms already in place – which we see today resulted in a much less poor China. You have no idea how thinly veiled their politics are. Don’t insult peoples intelligence.

    Your interpretation will always about Chinese threat to Hong Kong during the handover. How ridiculous. Why would China invade her own people when the handover is imminent. That logic is retarded.

    During the 1997 Hong Kong hand-over, your British media really did not teach the lessons of imperialism and did not atone to the past atrocities. What a shame.

    If anything, Deng and Thatcher deserve credit for returning the territory peacefully and no blood shed between the two countries.

  21. December 17th, 2010 at 16:44 | #21

    Jiang Jingguo?! You have got to be kidding me.

    Oh yes, “marred”, as far as the Nobel peace prize goes. It is at least consistent in its “marred-ness” and inconsistency.

    I have a more consistent suggestion for Nobel Committee: How about just NOT award the Peace Prize, if you can’t find anyone worthy?! Why must you hand out a peace prize at regular intervals?

    Are Saints and Peace-makers born at some predictable periods?!

    It just all point to the stupidity of the annual selection process.

  22. December 17th, 2010 at 23:23 | #22

    @Shaun, #13

    I’ve just read a bit of the link you cited. The criticism there is pretty retarded.

  23. December 17th, 2010 at 23:29 | #23

    @r v

    That’s a really good point. Cracked me up. But I am hopeful someday the Norwegians wake up and realize what a precious thing they have and that they should work to restore the prestige Nobel intended.

  24. S. Rein
    December 18th, 2010 at 01:35 | #24

    yinyang: Keep reading Richard Burger’s criticisms of me if you want to be amused seeing someone get really worked up… as there are a lot. I can’t access his site from here but people keep sending his posts to me. Never realized my columns could get someone so boiled up. I imagine him as if he has a cartoon face turning red with smoke coming out of his ears every time he reads one of my pieces.

    He frothed a lot more as the months go by (he was fairly calm in that first one in the link I posted) until a couple months ago when many many many people asked him to stop, cool down. He then calmed down and has been reasonably professional lately as debates should be.

    At this point, Burger has ranted so much that most objective folks take him with a grain of salt, especially since he only has 2-3 years actually in mainland China and he seems to criticize my youth and credibility more than anything.

  25. December 18th, 2010 at 05:45 | #25


    It’s well known that Deng threatened to use military force to take Hong Kong if no agreement were forthcoming. Now, you can say what you like about the return of Hong Kong, but to argue that it was acheived entirely through peaceful means to the exclusion of the threat of violence would be wrong.

    “I’ve just read a bit of the link you cited. The criticism there is pretty retarded.”

    Is this the tradition of politeness and modesty of which you often speak? Apart from anything else, so much of what Shaun wrote (Deng “putting into law” legislation and “pushing through” policies preventing his children rising to the top, the figures given) was just plain wrong – factually wrong, not as a point of argument.

  26. December 18th, 2010 at 07:11 | #26

    @FOARP #25,

    Would you provide some references to your assertions? Very rarely have you demonstrated to me your capability to read things in context … so I’m just curious about this one.

    China – as successor of the Qing – did not recognize the unfair and unequal treaties, hence did not recognize UK sovereignty over HK.

    Nevertheless, Deng pushed patiently for formal negotiations of HK and peaceful transfer of power there.

    If Britain had persisted in holding onto a colonial possession it had never justly acquired, then yes – there could be justification for war. Deng understood that. Fortunately, Deng was able to steer toward negotiated peace despite the heavy hands of injustice.

    This is called negotiating with principle – with a bandit if necessary … for the sake of peace.

  27. December 18th, 2010 at 07:52 | #27


    I presume you are referring to Deng’s threat to use military action? You van call it “negotiating for the sake of peace”, but that does not make it peaceful. World war one was famously fought to “end war”, but this did not make it peaceful.

    Here’s an interview with Margaret Thatcher on the subject of the return of Hong Kong –


    Money quote:

    [QUESTION SUMMARY: Things better for Hong Kong if chemistry had been better between you and Deng Xiaoping? During 1982 talks, Deng said of you “that woman should be bombarded out of her obstinacy.”]

    Well, that is what he’d want to say, wouldn’t he? If you had argued with him you are obstinate. He was obstinate – he argued with me. But I didn’t complain about that. We survive on argument, that is how come to the right conclusions. Yes, I was obstinate and because of that at any rate we didn’t get a good agreement because of dependent detail. Because he knew we produced prosperity and he didn’t and he started to change. Why? Of course, I am obstinate in defending our liberties and our law. That is why I carry a big handbag.

    [QUESTION SUMMARY: Following Falklands War, did hubris make you think that you could persuade Chinese that Britain should continue running Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty umbrella?]

    No, there was no hubris in Falklands, only a fantastic relief that our people were once again free and we were not going to have an aggressor taking over British land and British people. And we don’t like aggression anywhere in the world, that is why we believe in strong defence.

    [QUESTION SUMMARY: Sir Percy Cradock, Britain’s Ambassador to China said you had to be persuaded there was no way Britain was going to run Hong Kong with the Chinese titular sovereigns.]

    Well, that Deng Xiaoping told me. I’ll tell you what he told me. I have written it. I said that we have done so well for Hong Kong, for Hong Kong people, that can we not have another lease say for another 50 years? He reacted very quickly. He said no. I said can we not have another lease? I said we have done so well on a territory which I know will eventually return to you. Wouldn’t you really let us have…it would be an act of sovereignty to give us a management contract?

    [QUESTION SUMMARY: Chinese outraged. Is that when Deng told you Chinese could walk right in and take Hong Kong?]

    Oh yes he said he could. But I know that I didn’t need to be told. That is why I had to ask him. But, he said to me, which really rather shook me I would rather recover Hong Kong poverty stricken than let the British have another period of administration over Hong Kong. Now, that shows you the communist mind- not concerned about the prosperity, about the well being of the people.

    [QUESTION SUMMARY: You don’t trust Deng?]

    I don’t trust a communist, do you?”

    Neither do I, Mags, neither do I. Here’s what Percy Craddock’s obituary says about it:

    “Cradock concluded that there would be a reversion of the whole territory to China in 1997 – and that what mattered was the terms of the reversion.

    Rather to his surprise, he found in Margaret Thatcher a leader after his own heart. Despite her initial hostility to the idea of negotiating over Hong Kong with a regime she abhorred, she became convinced that it was necessary; on a visit to China in September 1982, she tried to sell the idea of retaining British administration while ceding sovereignty to China.

    It quickly became apparent, though, that the Chinese were not interested in anything which fell short of full sovereignty. During a heated exchange of views, the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping threatened an earlier takeover. “

    You can read the rest here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/politics-obituaries/7096109/Sir-Percy-Cradock.html

    At least according to the British side of the negotiations, it’s clear that Deng threatened to impose Chinese rule on Hong Kong by force. Now, you can say that he was right to do this, but in these negotiations the threat of force was used – you cannot say they were entirely peaceful, or that both sides were committed to a peaceful solution.

    As for which of us has difficulty “reading things in context”, or even “reading things” full stop, it is not I who endorsed an essay which drops clangers like saying that Deng deserves a Nobel because he “pushed through policies” and “put into law” legislation to prevent his children taking power when in fact he did no such thing. The career of Deng Pufang (laudable as it is that he should find success after his injuries received at the hands of Mao’s Red Guards) is proof that this is not the case. There is no such law, there were no such explicit policies. At the very least, Xi Jinping would not be front-runner for the leadership if there were a bar on the offspring of the 1st generation leadership rising to the highest positions.

    Now, it is possible that Deng did dissuade nepotism in his government – but legislation? Explicit policies? No – and you should know better than to overlook that in your praise for Shaun Rein’s piece.

  28. December 18th, 2010 at 08:03 | #28

    @ S. Rein #24,

    I can’t believe the attacks (mostly personal) you’ve been getting! Wow, I guess that’s what you get for being publishing successful, even I thought your perspective expressed is pretty mellow.

    For what it’s worth, there are lots of out-of-work lawyers / activists / religious fanatics out there.

    Someone gave me this allegory before:

    Instructor shows to class a glass box and fills box entirely with ping pong balls and asks class if it is full.

    Most nod.

    Instructor than brings in a box of sand and empties a whole bag of sand into the box, filling the space between the ping pong balls and asks if now the box is full.

    Most nod again.

    Instructors walks in with a gallon of water and empties gallon into the box…

    Moral of story: fill your life with what’s important. If ping pong balls are important, fill your box with ping pong first – then with the less important things – such as the sand and water. If you start with water, your box will not have space for the sand … or ping pong balls.

    Life is too precious to be bothered with ignoramus attacks.

  29. December 18th, 2010 at 08:12 | #29

    @FOARP #23,

    I fail to see the threat. At most, Thatcher recalled her interpretation of Deng’s portrayal of reality on the ground.

    As you know, all negotiations are undertaken under the shadow of reality. Negotiations are most productive when all sides are on the same page with respect to the best alternative to a negotiated agreement.

    When the West negotiates in the shadow of its might across the world – many consider that restraint. But when China allegedly does it in a specific context where it has some leverage – it is considered belligerent?

    The “money quote” to your “money quote” is this:

    [QUESTION SUMMARY: You don’t trust Deng?]

    I don’t trust a communist, do you?”

    It’s good fodder for psychologists in the future who study the psychologies of Western leaders during and in the immediate aftermath of the cold-war.

    One thing I do have to commend the Brits. Regardless of my sense of equity, justice, and my views on British Imperialism, Hong Kong today is a first-class city – in part to British administration.

    And the British – despite still tremendous political and military clout – did quickly, according to Percy Craddock’s obituary you quoted, come around to seeing that a reversion of HK to Chinese sovereignty is the right thing to do.

  30. December 18th, 2010 at 09:08 | #30


    There is a difference between having a military advantage and threatening to use it. The US has a military advantage over Canada, but, when engaged in negotiation with Canada over, say, fisheries, I have not heard of a US negotiator saying that the US could walk right in and take what it wanted. I think, were a US negotiator to say such a thing, people would rightly say that he was making a threat.

    Hong Kong – well, it’s fortunate that it didn’t have to go through the turmoil which the people of mainland China were subjected to. Indeed, the greatest engine driving the success of Hong Kong, other than the hard work of its people, was the relative failure of mainland China before 1978. British administration merely provided the correct environment for such growth to take place.

    However, from a position of strict justice, and without the advantage of hind-sight, it may have been better to have returned control of Hong Kong at the same time as Weihaiwei, the Nanjing concession, the Tianjin concession and the concession in Shanghai etc. were returned to CKS’s government.

    I agree with you that Hong Kong is nowadays still a fine city both to do business in and to live in. I do not agree with the doom-mongers who say that it will rapidly be overtaken by cities on the mainland – although this may be possible at some point in the more distant future. I will, however, say that 2017 is a crunch dead-line both for Hong Kong and for the rest of the PRC. Either the PRC will honour its promise to deliver universal suffrage and risk a back-lash on the mainland from people wondering when such rights will be extended to them, or they will further delay universal suffrage and incur great wrath in Hong Kong. It is a pity that such reforms were not implemented before ’97, and have not been implemented since then.

  31. December 18th, 2010 at 09:27 | #31


    the distinction would depend on WHAT is being “negotiated”.

    Obviously, negotiating over “fisheries” would hope that one does not have to bring the military into it. That would be simply silly.

    But negotiating over sovereign territories, I think it is always implicit that military advantage will be part of the negotiation.

    By your distinction, when has any nation negotiated over “territory” without an implicit threat to use military force?

    As US always say, “Force is always an option”.

    (Speaking of which, using gun boats to open China up for illegal drug trade. Now, that was over kill. Britain might as well have used military to negotiate over “fisheries”.)

  32. December 18th, 2010 at 09:48 | #32


    Isn’t it implicit that Britain took HK with threat of force, then wouldn’t it be logical that the “negotiation” to return HK to China might required an implicit threat of force?

    Logically, you are merely projecting what UK did onto what you thought China was doing.

    But obviously, Deng did not even need to use threat. HK rightfully belongs to China, because Britain took it illegally, with force.

    If Deng did use threat, it would be a threat to defend oneself, to right a wrong.

  33. December 18th, 2010 at 10:09 | #33


    I would say that the transfer of the Panama canal zone from the US to Panama would be one example of a transfer in which neither government made threats either implicit or explicit – particularly as Panama had by 1999 already forsaken the maintenance of armed forces of any kind. Other examples would include the recent territory swaps along China’s border with Russia (neither side had a clear military advantage, no threats were made) and the return of Weihaiwei to the R.O.C. (Britain’s advantage over the R.O.C. in 1930 was considerable, yet the transfer was unconditional and no threats were made by the R.O.C.).

    This said, my point was not whether Deng’s threat was necessary or not, but whether it was peaceful. Even if an implicit threat did exist, to explicitly threaten the use of force cannot be called a peaceful act. You can agree with his actions, you can say that he did them to achieve a peaceful outcome, but the methods he used to achieve his purpose were not peaceful.

  34. December 18th, 2010 at 10:10 | #34

    @FOARP #30,

    You wrote:

    I will, however, say that 2017 is a crunch dead-line both for Hong Kong and for the rest of the PRC. Either the PRC will honour its promise to deliver universal suffrage and risk a back-lash on the mainland from people wondering when such rights will be extended to them, or they will further delay universal suffrage and incur great wrath in Hong Kong.

    I wonder what your perspective is that Britain has HK for almost 200 years and never delivered “universal suffrage” to the people of HK – demand it only as part of a negotiated exit … when G Britain can’t be said to lack capacity to deliver such rights since its citizens back home alleged had enjoyed it for some time…

  35. December 18th, 2010 at 10:38 | #35


    I rather think you over thought Deng’s advantage.

    When Deng proposed negotiation with UK, He hasn’t used force against UK prior.

    Nor is there a “clear military advantage” against UK, which had modern military forces in HK, and could easily boost its military presence. (both had NUKES, let’s not forget!)

    The ONLY military advantage Deng had against UK, was that HK was closer to China, and China could wage a war of attrition that UK might not be able to withstand.

    But the point is, Deng had no more “clear military advantage” against UK, than China had against Russia (from your own example).

  36. December 18th, 2010 at 11:42 | #36

    I think that was sufficiently covered by my statement that it was a pity – that is, the sentence at the end of the paragraph you’ve just quoted which you omitted for some reason. The only thing I have to add to that is that is was not just a pity, but a great pity.

    Now, were we to go into the reasons why democracy was not introduced in Hong Kong as it was in, say, Singapore in the 50’s, we should have to cover the racist policies of the pre and immediate post-war era, the Japanese occupation, the post-war emergency, the wave of communist terror attacks and assassinations during the 60’s, the opposition of Hong Kong’s tycoons who worried that it might lead to a welfare state, concerns that democratisation might lead to conflict between KMT and the CCP supporters among the many refugees from the mainland, and the refusal of the Chinese government to countenance universal suffrage or anything which might lead to independence for Hong Kong. Sheer apathy and a relative lack of interest in politics among some in the population also played an undoubted role.

    This said, democratic reforms of a kind were introduced before 1984 – most notably the Urban Council elections, which were gradually expanded until the majority of Hong Kong’s population were allowed to vote in 1983. That the fully elected LegCo of 1995 was not allowed to stay in place was also a travesty.

    Whilst looking into this I found a set of scanned and searchable copies of the Singapore Straits Times, a good resource for research on the post-war period in Asia, including Hong Kong. As an example, here’s an interesting piece on the 1963 Hong Kong Urban Council Elections:


  37. December 18th, 2010 at 11:53 | #37


    Here we have the difference between the implicit and the explicit threat. Yes, Russia has no military advantage over China, but had Vladimir Putin said “we can walk in and take the territory any time we like” this would have been seen as a threat whatever the balance of power was.

    As to the rest, both Deng and Thatcher seemed to think that, if it came to conflict, China had the upper hand. I certainly haven’t seen anyone say otherwise. The only thing that might have changed that would have been a resort to nuclear weapons. Whilst the UK had sought to bluff that the US might retaliate against an attack on Hong Kong using nuclear weapons during the 1960’s emergency period, by the 1980’s this was known to be a bluff – there was absolutely no-one who supported their use. NO-one seriosuly believed that either side would resort to nuclear weapons if conflict broke out.

  38. December 18th, 2010 at 15:42 | #38

    @FOARP #36,

    You seek to find colonialism, injustice, lack of freedom, slavery in the weirdest croonies and do not see them when handed to you on a plater. (I repeat http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2010/12/nobel-peace-prize-award-and-reactions-from-russia/#comment-38979 )

    I’m done wasting time for now…

  39. December 18th, 2010 at 16:03 | #39

    The depressing thing about watching the way Fool’s Mountain and then this site developed has been the degree to which some of the commenters have become radicalised. And you’re right, I have no idea what you are talking about – it’s not like I support colonialism, or have failed to denounce it.

    In fact, were I forced to say which of us has problems in this area, I might find this statement of yours instructive:

    “Parts of what is Vietnam today was part of China before – but so have part of present day China been part of Vietnam. One might say that former territories has been conqured – colonied – by China – just as one might argue the latter had been colonized – conquered – by Vietnam. Many parts of what is Vietnam today has also only recently been incorporated under one Vietnmese – conquered if you must – Vietnamese polity. All those territories can be considered colonies of Vietnam under your definition of colonization.

    The coming and goings of polities – the changing of the boundaries of polities – do not amount to colonization as we see it in the last 500 years.”

    As in: “I recognise colonialism only when other countries do it, when China does it there is no sophistry to which I will not stoop to to disguise it.”.

    Put simply, when a country invades another, imposes governance from outside, imposes its culture and language, as Britain did in Hong Kong, and as China did in Vietnam, this is colonialism. I do not think this is a difficult concept to understand.

  40. December 18th, 2010 at 19:13 | #40

    “As to the rest, both Deng and Thatcher seemed to think that, if it came to conflict, China had the upper hand.”

    I don’t think you can prove that Deng was telepathic enough to project a “thought” as a threat to Thatcher.

    As far as what he said: “Shaw
    [QUESTION SUMMARY: Chinese outraged. Is that when Deng told you Chinese could walk right in and take Hong Kong?]”

    I don’t think “walk right in and take HK” was a threat of force. It is simply assert rightful sovereignty.

    “It was mine. It is mine. And I’m taking it.”

    We call that REPOSSESSION. REPO men do it all the time, without any use or threat of force. These are simple statements of intent.

  41. December 18th, 2010 at 19:24 | #41

    “Put simply, when a country invades another, imposes governance from outside, imposes its culture and language, as Britain did in Hong Kong, and as China did in Vietnam, this is colonialism. I do not think this is a difficult concept to understand.”


    You do not understand. China and Vietnam had at most “border disputes”, with each having some losses and victories.

    And they mutually influenced each other in culture and language. There are parts of China, where the local dialect sound more Vietnamese than Chinese.

    *In short, your comparison is clearly off the scale. China did not sail thousands of miles to impose any thing on Vietnam.

    When you have Chinese people and Vietnamese people live that close to each other for centuries, there are always mutual conflicts and mutual influences. That was what Allen was talking about.

  42. December 18th, 2010 at 19:32 | #42

    You might as well say France was a colony of England.

  43. December 18th, 2010 at 23:41 | #43

    @FOARP #39,

    Let’s leave it here now. Is Western colonialism something unique or another normal human event / interaction? Is genocide something unique or just mere something unique or another normal human event / interaction?

    I have argued that what is often called genocide is merely normal casualty of war and that one can’t define any large scale killing that can be correlated with some component of ethnicity result from war to be genocide (Hiroshima would be a genocide by such accounts). We are trivializing genocide for political convenience.

    I contend it’s the same with colonialism. People are trivializing colonialism for political convenience.

    But I suppose it’s possible that colonialism is indeed something non unique – that peoples have always tried to influence others to be like themselves or conquer them – that colonialism have been occuring as a routine part of history since the dawn of time – that the only thing unique about it is the scale of the impact – but the impact was not intentional, it was merely a product of the times (guns, germs, steel).

    As discussed inthis comment, if take colonialism merely to be any human interaction, then any country today can be considered a colony – if you slice history right, Britain from some orginal British tribe, France from some original French tribe, Germany from some original French tribe, China from…

    I still think you trivialize Western colonialism, but let’s leave it, and allow me to write a post on it some time later.

  44. December 19th, 2010 at 00:59 | #44

    Allen, #38, RV #40 – indeed. I think it is illuminating for our readers to see what unfolded, and the energy went into the discussion was worth it.

    From the Thatcher conversation, it was clear she thought the Brits were entitled to rule Hong Kong further – yet another example of what’s wrong with people like that; their inability to grasp what is right and what is wrong.

  45. December 19th, 2010 at 02:08 | #45

    @Reventhorn –

    If you don’t think repossession is a violent thing, then you have never seen repo men in action. At any rate the clue is in “I’m taking it”, as in, I’m going to take it by force.

    @YinYang – Again, I’m not debating the right or wrong of the transfer, the only thing I am saying is that Deng threatened Thatcher with taking the colony by force during the negotiations.


  46. December 19th, 2010 at 08:58 | #46

    REPOSSESSION only gets violent, when the illegal holder of property use force.

    Most Repo-men don’t even have any weapons of any kind.

    The clue is also the Chinese will “march in”, as in, just MARCHING in. No force is mentioned. No “throwing out” is mentioned either.

    The Chinese authority could easily set up a government in HK in 1980’s. The British government in HK will simply become irrelevant.

    (Unless of course, the British cracks down on the REAL Chinese government in HK with force, as it did in the 1960’s on the Communists in HK).

    *Speaking of “force”, let’s not discount the amount of FORCE UK had to use from 1950 to 1980 to just maintain its rule in HK, ie. locking up Chinese dissidents in HK fed up with British illegal rule.

    No, Deng didn’t say anything about “force”, UK was continuously using force to maintain its illegal rule in HK.

    By comparison, Deng’s words are far more PEACEFUL than the UK’s rule in HK.

  47. December 20th, 2010 at 17:17 | #47

    I think it is fair to say that UK’s continuous use of force to maintain its illegal rule in HK for all those decades is more an open continuous threat against all of China.

  48. slim
    December 21st, 2010 at 15:05 | #48

    The needless killings at Tiananmen (perhaps a taboo subject on Hidden Harmonies) kill DXP’s chance at the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s worth noting that European dissidents have also received the NPP.

  49. December 21st, 2010 at 15:22 | #49

    Definitely not a taboo subject. Btw, you can search for it. We get tons of Chinese readers coming here too from their searches on baidu.com and google.com.

    We have said it a million times – many Westerners cannot shed their Western-centric view of the world.

  50. December 21st, 2010 at 18:09 | #50

    Needless revolutions have killed many more people in the history of humanity.

  51. February 21st, 2011 at 16:30 | #51

    Dan just wrote a pretty scathing review of Shaun’s article (http://www.chinalawblog.com/2011/02/chinacurrency.html) at China Law Blog.

    I left a short comment there on his blog. Hopefully it will show up soon.

  52. r v
    February 21st, 2011 at 16:46 | #52

    It’s getting too personal between them.

  53. February 21st, 2011 at 16:48 | #53

    My comment can be found here: http://www.chinalawblog.com/2011/02/chinacurrency.html#25878


    I feel you are nit-picking what Shaun wrote and have blinded yourself from not seeing the tree from the forest. Most of the questions you pose can be easily debunked as not relevant or as something that I can easily come up with an answer, if you just allow yourself to see the bigger picture of what Shaun is writing about.

    I don’t have time to respond point to point to your (in my opinion false) accusations…

    But I’d like to briefly touch on the issue of IP, as I think it will loom large in the future (if it has not already) of the relationship between U.S. and China. The American side unfortunately almost exclusively see IP as a win-lose proposition. Every IP China gets from America for free is an asset and revenue stream lost. When China uses IP from others without paying, China is stealing ideas and jobs to build its own economy at others expense. It never ceases to amaze me how we as a society got to such zero-sum thinking on the use of ideas when the reason we even have IP (as a policy) is because ideas are non-rivalrous and non-exclusive to start with!

    A cursory search of Internet also give you these two reports.

    http://www.economicpopulist.org/content/if-you-cant-build-economy-steal-one (If You Can’t Build an Economy, Steal One)

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5006911 (U.S. Attache: Piracy in China Hurts Growth)

    There are many others. I don’t think Shaun’s quote about IP is that far off at all.

    Anyways – I’m hoping that we get to meet in person soon – not to talk about these, but to get to know each other better. Remember to call me up when you are in the Bay Area.



  54. r v
    February 21st, 2011 at 16:53 | #54

    It looks like SKC has found home on Pekingduck.org.

  55. February 21st, 2011 at 16:55 | #55

    @r v #54, Why is it relevant here?

  56. jiang
    March 4th, 2011 at 18:26 | #56


  57. hehe
    March 5th, 2011 at 01:14 | #57

    @S. Rein

    Spot on!

    I used to be around his roast duck place now and again, but not anymore since it has bascially become an one-sided ranting platform, thanks to Richard’s willingness of pressing the censorship button.

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