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How today's nervous emperors cope

HONG KONG, China -- Call it National Wall Defense. The term was first used by Vice Premier Qian Qichen last month to describe how, 2000-odd years ago, China's nervous emperors were obsessed with developing an early version of America's National Missile Defense (NMD).

Qian's point, made in Washington before an American audience of diplomats and businessmen, was that like Emperor Qin's Great Wall of China, President George W. Bush's NMD would prove to be an expensive failure.

From another perspective, however, Beijing is erecting a taller, costlier, and ever more sophisticated Great Wall to preserve the ruling Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) mandate of heaven.

For top cadres such as President Jiang Zemin, the slings and arrows come from within and without.

Foremost are efforts by "neo-imperialists" to infiltrate China in a bid to turn the socialist Middle Kingdom into a "vassal of capitalism" through a process called peaceful evolution.

Beijing also sees a collusion among the hegemonistic West, pro-independence elements in Taiwan and Tibet, as well as the Falun Gong and underground political parties in the country.

Then there is the swelling tide of discontent among workers and peasants. Manifestations of these grievances have ranged from labor unrest and rural riots to the series of explosions and bombing incidents that have rocked most provinces.

And the CCP leadership is convinced infiltration from abroad and domestic unrest will worsen after China's expected entry to the World Trade Organization later this year.

Beijing's counter-infiltration strategy

Will Beijing be able to keep the proverbial "wild torrents and fierce beasts" at bay? Let us first examine its counter-infiltration strategy.

CCP authorities seem determined to do something about the leakage of classified documents -- some of which became parts of the best-selling Tiananmen Papers -- and the defection of military intelligence personnel to the U.S.

A Beijing-based security source quoted a Politburo member as saying: "If party documents can be stolen -- and intelligence officers lured to the U.S. -- so easily, how can the party maintain its long reign and perennial stability?"

The source said the recent spate of detentions of ethnic Chinese scholars such as Drs Gao Zhan and Li Shaomin were an effort by the state security establishment to "scare the monkey by killing the chicken."

Who then dares bring into China the Chinese-language version of Tiananmen Papers, due out in a week or so?

"The Ministry of State Security has earned Jiang's praise for its tough tactics against the 'spies' and the Falun Gong," said the source. "It will likely be rewarded with a bigger budget."

Policing the Net

Operation Great Wall is also behind re-doubled attempts to police the Net, seen as a major weapon of the marauding neo-imperialists.

The pro-Chinese Hong Kong daily, Wen Wei Po, reported last week that cyber-police forces had been set up in more than 20 provinces.

Apart from putting up firewalls against hostile websites, these net nannies snoop around Internet cafes and give ideological lessons in schools.

Wen Wei Po quoted the Vice Governor of Anhui Province Jiang Zuojun as saying: "The [forthcoming] Internet legislation should state that all Net users, particularly youths, should receive education in morals, ethics and the law."

The Liberation Army Daily has reported that army officers have been told to observe 10 no-nos when surfing the net.

Foremost among the taboos: never click on anything featuring the Falun Gong or Hong Kong and Taiwan newspaper articles.

The 'Strike Hard' crusade

After the series of explosions in Hebei province last month that killed more than 100 people, Jiang and his security aides launched a 90-day Strike Hard campaign against hard-core criminals and underground gangs.

The party's highest organ on law enforcement, the Commission on Political and Legal Affairs, has authorized the police, procurator's offices and courts to speed up the arrests of suspects as well as processes for incrimination and sentencing.

Since the motto of the Strike Hard exercise is to "nip all de-stabilizing agents in the bud," its goal is more than just hitting felons or miscreants such as Hebei's Jin Ruchao, who allegedly let off the explosives to avenge some wrongs done by his neighbors.

"Many bombings are the work of destitute, jobless workers who have no other way to vent their wrath," said a Western diplomat.

He added the Strike Hard crusade was meant to strike fear in the hearts of "rabble-rousers" such as wild-cat trade unionists and underground political activists who might take advantage of unemployment and other social woes to stir up trouble for the leadership.

Thus the cannons and missiles of China's National Wall Defense are aimed both ways, at the "hostile foreign forces" as well as the seeds of rebellion at home.

Rural pacification

The leadership has recently kicked off one of the most extensive rural pacification movements since the times of Chairman Mao Tse-tung.

Efforts to mollify the restive peasantry have sprung out of Jiang's belief that the CCP's ruling status will not be jeopardized so long as it can secure the acquiescence if not the allegiance of farmers.

After all, more than 70 per cent of China's 1.3 billion people live in rural areas, far away from decadent websites and other sugar-coated bullets of capitalism.

Last month, regional cadres starting with party secretaries and governors were asked to go to the villages and spend time working and talking with peasants.

For example, Guangxi party boss Cao Bochun, a Jiang loyalist, dispatched a few hundred thousand officials -- fully one-third of the province's staff establishment -- on an unprecedented rustication crusade.

"The cadres lived in peasants' homes, worked and ate with peasants, heard what they had to say, and helped them shed poverty and get rich," reported the semi-official China News Service.

The People's Daily last week quoted Politburo member Wei Jianxing, who was supervising the rustication campaign in Hainan Island, as telling rural cadres "not to use their power to seek private gains, and not to hurt the interests of farmers."

But what if the peasants, who last year staged thousands of demonstrations to protest heavy taxes and meager government procurement prices, are not pacified by these elaborate exercises?

The CCP leadership can always rely on the control apparatus, including the People's Liberation Army, to maintain order.

It is not for nothing that late patriarch Deng Xiaoping liked to call the PLA the "steel Great Wall that protects the party."

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