Thursday, June 30, 2005

Government Relations 

We have a fascinating client who is an expert on China and has spent many months there since the 1980s. He knows people at every level of the government, and he has produced two books and a documentary on the country, all of which are essential for anyone who wants to understand China and its differences from Western Democracies.

What has come through in reading his work is relationship differences that divided China and Western Democracies for a long time and continue to isolate China in areas such as human rights, Tibet and Taiwan. The West sees issues of freedom that anyone should understand. The Chinese see issues of stability and culture.

If there is one thing the Chinese fear, it is chaos. The country suffered decades of turmoil during the 19th and 20th Centuries. Every leader in the country suffered during the Cultural Revolution, a terrible time for China. The one benefit of that disaster is that no one wants it to happen again.

But the West has never seen it that way and no matter how much Chinese leaders have tried to explain their position, the West hasn't listened. Talk about a government relations problem on a world level. There have been accommodations in recent years -- mostly from Chinese and Western leaders bending a bit toward one another. But, tens of thousands of citizens of Western Democracies, including expatriate Chinese, are not mollified.

The Chinese have a fascinating relationship challenge that they have been handling better in recent years. But, it took a long time for China's leaders to learn that they could no longer look only within and expect the rest of the world to understand.

China is moving rapidly to the forefront of world diplomacy. China's leaders understand their role and are trying hard to live up to it. It will be fascinating to watch how relationships between China and the West work out in the decades to come.


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