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Useful Idiots

Paying homage to the People's Republic in New York City.

12:00 PM, Oct 2, 2009 • By JOSEPH LOCONTE
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Ever since the triumph of China's communist revolution--sixty years ago yesterday--left-leaning intellectuals have convinced themselves of cheerful falsehoods about the regime. Visitors to China, even during the heyday of Mao Tse-tung's ruinous economic policies, saw a "uniquely creative" and "profoundly ethical" political system. "Life in China today," claimed Simone de Beauvoir, "is exceptionally pleasant." English clergyman Hewlett Johnson perceived in Mao "an obvious preoccupation with the needs of others."

The delusional narrative of China's brave progressivism dominated the skyline of New York City earlier this week: The Empire State Building paid homage to China's revolution with a display of red and yellow lights, the colors of the People's Republic of China. Despite protests from human rights groups, the lights burned brightly until early yesterday morning. Asked to explain the multi-megawatt celebration, the Empire State Building's management told reporters it "doesn't discuss the intricacies of the lighting approval process."

The management philosophy of corporate quislings does not concern us here. What needs explaining is what America's premier city of tolerance and diversity finds honorable about a dictatorship famous for its political repression and ideological conformity.

To this day, the political left will not allow the facts about China's rancid experiments on hundreds of millions of human beings to intrude upon their sensibilities. Robert Scheer, a contributing editor at The Nation, complained this week about the "demonology" and "unrelenting hostility" that has driven U.S. foreign policy toward China. Scheer managed to ignore any hint of anything amiss--anything at all--with the record of Chinese communism. The leaders in Beijing, he claims, have always been "nationalists, first and foremost."

It was not nationalism that caused China to instigate an unprovoked war of aggression in the Korean peninsula, leaving in its wake a concentration camp--North Korea--masquerading as a sovereign country. It was not nationalism that inspired Mao's "Great Leap Forward," a massive collectivization program and man-made famine that obliterated an estimated 36 million people. Neither was it nationalism that produced the Cultural Revolution, which set loose the Red Guards in a killing spree that claimed another 400,000 lives. Likewise, the rulers who ordered the 1989 massacre at Tienanmen Square--when Red Army tanks and infantry murdered 2,600 student demonstrators--were not "nationalists, first and foremost." No, in each case, the policies that created this inventory of human suffering resulted from a political theology: communist, totalitarian, utopian, and atheistic.

China's recent experiment in capitalism--it now boasts the world's third largest economy--supposedly makes all of this irrelevant. Beijing pursues a "generally cooperative and pragmatic foreign policy" that embraces globalization, according to Minxin Pei of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. At home, the government relies on economic growth, rising living standards and "selective" measures of repression. "Needless to say," Pei writes, "the party's strategy of staying in power has changed almost completely during this period."

Needless to say, this chirpy narrative of China's good manners doesn't sit well with human rights groups, political dissidents, religious leaders, and other victims of the regime.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintains an unrivaled grip on power. The 3,000-member National People's Congress is a slavish, symbolic tool of the party. Even supposedly competitive local elections are rife with fraud, corruption, violence, and attacks on independent candidates. Opposition groups, such as the China Democratic Party, face harassment and the constant threat of arrest.