Defence

A dark lesson from shining China

For many of us in India — and, indeed, in the rest of the world — the Chinese economic story has been seen for what it is: a country determined by its leadership’s sheer will to lift its people first out of paddy fields

Jul 15, 2017
For many of us in India — and, indeed, in the rest of the world — the Chinese economic story has been seen for what it is: a country determined by its leadership’s sheer will to lift its people first out of paddy fields, then out of Dickensian factories, and finally into the First World, all in the span of almost a human lifespan. Such is the glow of this truly impressive progress, conducted in breakneck, monomaniacal speed, that the same ‘many of us’ may believe that the means to achieving such an end is worthwhile. Any means. This ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’ wisdom received a reality check with the news of the death of Chinese human rights activist, dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo on Thursday. Detained for almost a decade on the charge of “inciting subversion of state power”, Liu, not allowed to receive medical attention for his liver cancer available only abroad, died, under guard, in a Chinese hospital.
 
What was it that made the Chinese leadership want Liu behind bars? His words. “Hatred can rot a person’s wisdom and conscience. An enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation and inflame brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a country’s advance toward freedom and democracy.” This is just a sample of Liu’s criticism of a State in perpetual paranoia. He also advocated something that many of us in India still take for granted, “To kill free speech is to insult human rights, to stifle human nature and to suppress truth.”
 
In Liu’s example, both what he believed in and what he had to go through because of his beliefs, we can choose to learn two valuable lessons. One, bartering freedom of speech, and the human dignity that comes with it, is not necessary to push progress. China, one must remember these days, is not the only ‘rich nation’. And two, we should be aware — and thankful — that for all its discontents and inanities involving censorship of the most banal things, for all its Irom Sharmilas and Vinayak Sens, Indian democracy has not made brutality its default position. May we remember that India is not China in this aspect. And ensure it never does.
 
Economic Times, July 15, 2017

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