By Ren Zhiqiang, published: October 3, 2015
Dissent keeps rolling in, not only from “dissidents.” Over the week-long National Day holidays in China, Ren Zhiqiang (任志強), a high-profile real estate mogul who has earned the nickname “the Cannon” online for his provocative opinions, took aim at the notion of the “New China.” To a global audience, Ren’s argument may seem obvious, but not to the hundreds of millions Chinese who have been indoctrinated, unthinkingly, with the Party’s “New China.” — The Editors
On this day [October 1] 66 years ago, the central people’s government of the People’s Republic of China was established. But did this day declare to the world that a new country had emerged, or that a new regime was established to replace the old one?
From the perspective of traditional Chinese culture and international law, China is still the same China. China’s culture, national borders, and treaties signed with other countries in the past—none of these underwent any change. All that happened was the government of the Republic of China under the Nationalists (国民党) lost more and more of the area under its control, and the Chinese Communist Party, who said it was representing the interests of the broad masses of the Chinese people, and its People’s Republic of China government, came to control the principle area of mainland China. They announced that they had replaced the Republic of China in governing China, and began to exercise national sovereignty.
Indeed, if the People’s Republic of China is a new country, then it would have no way to carry on the original country’s culture, history, national boundaries, international protocols and diplomatic relations—and in particular, its status in the United Nations and other international organizations would differ.
The so-called “New China” indicated precisely that it wanted to take over everything of the existing country, but also believed that they had established a new country.
If it’s a new country, then it must have all countries in the world recognize anew its place in the international order, reestablishing their diplomatic ties with the new country. If it’s a new regime, then it needs to contest with the old regime for its international place and relations with other countries—the original international relations don’t change because the regime does. At the same time that the new regime is recognized, it also inherits the former country’s international rights and duties.
The government established on October 1 was only truly recognized by the international community, and had the right to represent China, when Deng Xiaoping walked in the United Nations representing PRC, replacing the Republic of China in the UN and the UN Security Council. Before then, it was the Republic of China government representing China on the world stage.
Before that the PRC government was only recognized by, and had diplomatic relations with, a small number of countries. It’s not that other countries didn’t recognize there was a China, or never thought there could be two Chinas, but that they didn’t recognize that the People’s Republic of China government could represent China—they only recognized that the Republic of China represented China.
From the configuration of permanent member states in the United Nations Security Council, it can be seen that the world didn’t see the People’s Republic of China as a newly established country—they simply looked at whether the new government could represent China. What the PRC inherited was the position of China in the United Nations—the position established during World War II, through the great achievements of the war of resistance against Japan (反法西斯战争)—formerly represented by the Republic of China government.
It’s just as, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new government of Russia represented the international place formerly occupied by the Soviet Union. Russia isn’t a newly established country—it simply inherited the Soviet Union’s international position and diplomatic relations, including the international agreements signed by the Soviet Union. And the former Soviet Union satellite states, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, each reestablished their respective diplomatic relations and positions in the UN.
It’s precisely because the People’s Republic of China was the sole representative of China’s sovereignty that the Republic of China could no longer represent China in the United Nations or in relations with other countries. It was only with the permission of the People’s Republic of China that it was allowed to enter these organizations, and participate in international events, under the name of Chinese Taipei.
Even till today, many people living in mainland China still harbor a misunderstanding that October 1 was the birth of a new country. They think that the homeland just had its 66th birthday. But this ancient nation of China has a history of thousands of years. All the changes of dynasty in this country are merely the changes in rulers (or changes in governments who say they represent China’s sovereignty)—they’re not changes of the actual nation.
China is still that nation with a history of thousands of years of traditional culture. Every change in ruler is just a part of the nation’s history—it’s the continuation of history, not a new start.
If you think this is a country with just 66 years of history, then how could there be a 70th anniversary celebration of the war of resistance against Japan? How could there be the successive dynasties of rulers and the teachings of Confucius and Mencius?
When you’re shouting fervent patriotic slogans, please don’t think that the country you love is merely the People’s Republic of China established in 1949, and don’t think that the People’s Republic of China is a newly founded country.
This ancestral land of ours, this nation, also includes all of the history before 1949, and it includes the territory not under the control of the People’s Republic of China, but still under the administration of the Republic of China. You absolutely can’t say that loving Taiwan isn’t loving the homeland, or isn’t loving China.
It’s just like how the people and government of the Republic of China will never acknowledge that the People’s Republic of China is a new country, and have believed all along that there’s only one China—just as how the PRC has never recognized Taiwanese independence, and only recognizes one China. Therefore, we must acknowledge that what was established in 1949 was a new government, not a new country. (If it was a new country, then it would have no right to take as its own a region that it had neither occupied nor exercised administration control over—whereas as a successor state, it could.)
The new government was established by the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, on September 21, 1949, by electing the Central People’s Government.
Thus at the rostrum overlooking Tiananmen Square on October 1, Mao Zedong announced that “the Central People’s Government has been established.” What was originally planned for the big ceremony held on October 1 was not for the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, but the ceremony celebrating the establishment of the Central Government.
Every Chinese person must know that on October 1, 1949, what was established was not a new China. China established a new Central People’s Government through the process of consultation and election by multiple political parties! This holiday is not that of the birth of a new country, but the creation of a new government.
When the whole of China celebrates this great holiday, be sure not to forget its original historical aspiration. This holiday does not signify the establishment of a new country, but of China establishing a new central government! Today is not the 66th birthday of our homeland, but the anniversary of a new government.
I hope this new government can abide by the initial promises it made, and actually realize the “common platform” it held up when coming to power: bestow the citizens their rights, and bestow them the united front of a democratic system.
Ren Zhiqiang was the chairman of the Hua Yuan Real Estate Group until late 2014 when he retired and one of the most well-known, and well compensated, executives in China. His regular, biting social commentary on current affairs has attracted over one million followers on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
China Is Not A Normal Country, by Chang Ping, December 2014.