An Interview with John Kusumi,
May 26, 2004
An Interview with John Kusumi,
China Support Network Executive Director,
by Tomasz Pompowski, European journalist
Q. What is the mindset and worldview of average Chinese on imperialism?
A. I caution first that I am an observer, not a Chinese. But in my understanding, China's ancient history is as a bigger, richer, more powerful civilization than its neighbors. They would feel a cultural superiority, and look down upon their neighbors. China has also been called the "Middle Kingdom," and it is certainly the center of their world.
Then in modern history, China had trouble as it became backwards technologically. They were weak enough to be invaded and to witness the success of colonial powers and of Japan that occupied China in World War II. China became known as a "third world country." That hurt. China needed to make a comeback, and this idea was widely shared in China.
Does the Chinese Communist Party have ambitions of world domination? I believe, yes -- it is in the nature of totalitarian government to seek control and domination of everything. At one and the same time, the world grows more complex, and there is an information explosion that reveals more and more diversity. The trend is against totalitarian government. To dominate and control "everything" sounds ridiculous and preposterous on the face of it.
Now that the "fourth generation" of Chinese Communist leaders is in power, they might be more realistic. I understand that they are trained as engineers. They should know how to be realistic, but the culture of the Communist Party worships power. Also, the third leader, Jiang Zemin, is still in power as chief of the Central Military Commission. So, the fourth generation has factors that could drag it into military adventurism.
I apologize, you asked me about the average Chinese, and I started talking about the leadership. I think that average Chinese remain ambitious, want China to be strong, and think that super power status is plausible. They will probably follow their leadership about foreign policy. They have not much taste for war, but propaganda has prepared them to think about re-taking Taiwan.
Of course, average Chinese are also skeptical about their own government, seeing it as corrupt and not very believable, or discredited. Let's remember that average Chinese were supportive of the "June 4" movement in 1989, at the time when it occurred. Many are quietly waiting for a change in government. (Meaning, some Chinese would oppose war with Taiwan.)
Q. From one side one can hear about economic development (private car producers, private banks, McDonalds etc); from the other there is word of the tragic situation of political prisoners being exploited in Laogais. Where is the truth?
A. More than one thing can be true in China at the same time. Is there economic activity? Yes. At one and the same time, Jiang Zemin is being charged with genocide, in lawsuits filed around the world. Here is what I find to be true in America--
America's "mainstream corporate news media" looks at everything from a business market perspective, and so the corporate media (they run television, and they are all that most Americans see) has basically stopped talking about Chinese human rights abuses.
--To scratch the surface is like opening the gates of Auschwitz. Hellish nightmares are endured by political dissidents, religious believers, slave laborers, Tibetans, and Falun Gong practitioners. The state sponsored killing in China may make Hitler seem like a runner up by comparison.
Truly, a book of world records has to give the number one spot to China for mass murder. World War II killed 40 - 55 million people. Inside China, communism has killed 80 - 90 million people, plus they have a "one child" family planning policy that includes forced abortions. About 10 million baby girls are aborted per year. Multiply by 30 years -- that's 300 million. I believe that China's true number of dead is in the 400 million range. World War II was a picnic by comparison. (Not in Poland, I know. But the count of dead bodies of people is an objective measure of a dictatorship, and China has the higher body count.)
Q. What is the situation of average Chinese in China?
a) what is allowed, what is prohibited
b) what percentage of people work in Laogai
A. Economic reforms encouraged people to seek money. "To get rich is glorious," is one slogan in China. That is more allowed, but politics and religion are prohibited topics. The topic of corruption is a gray area. The government officially in its media is against corruption. But in truth, it is corrupt, and I bet that normal people are discouraged from talking about that topic. People who protest anything, even corruption, become arrested and treated like political dissidents.
The Laogai concentration camps are a prison system. The government says "Reform Through Labor," but what this really means is slave labor, and the prison inmates are used to produce goods, including products for export to the West. Sporting goods, Christmas tree lights, plastic flowers, and more are produced there. The exact number of people in the Laogai system is not known, because official statistics are kept quiet as "state secrets." Estimates begin at 4 million and range up to 20 million. Either way, that's enough to be the entire population of some nations! They have a "nation within a nation," of slavery.
Q. Do you know particular stories of tortured or people who are in jail now?
A. The Falun Gong spiritual movement is that group which practices exercise with meditation, and they have become the targets of a crackdown, since 1999. They have confirmed around 1,000 deaths of Falun Gong members inside prisons in China. Torture is common, and they have spectacular photos of dead bodies, showing the marks of torture. See for example,
UGLY PICTURES OF THE SAME MAN:
If you need to mention more prisoners, the Chinese pro-democracy movement is trying to highlight the cases of Wang Bingzhang and Yang Jianli.
For the Wang Bingzhang story, see here--
For the Yang Jianli story, see here--
Q. How strong is opposition in China? What means do they use to fight with the regime?
a. Could you tell a story of people who are active now in opposition in the context of the earlier question?
A. The strength of Chinese opposition is hard to gauge. When the moment is right to strike, we may expect very wide participation like we saw in 1989 at the time of Tiananmen Square's control by Chinese college students. When the moment is not right, people are quiet and stay busy with their work.
The only place where opposition can work openly is overseas and on the internet. The other place for opposition is inside the Communist Party. Decision makers there know that many things are wrong, and not getting better by keeping the status quo. The people in power have been making decisions that are predictable like a comic book, but if they had any pride in their work, they would turn to being more virtuous. President Hu and Premier Wen are not showing the true nature of an engineer. Engineers would insist upon accurate information; today's Communist Party is still a wonder of propaganda. They admit that their economy has trouble, but the books and the statistics in China are cooked, or crooked.
My point is that "opposition" pressure must exist within the Communist Party as well. The overseas opposition will try to make a provisional government, so there is an alternative.
You ask for an opposition story, and I will tell you something from Lian Shengde. He was a Tiananmen Square student leader, and now leads the Free China Movement in Washington, DC, USA. He said, "If we look at the movement at a macro level, the movement is moving toward its first goal of ousting CCP totalitarian rule and establishing a constitutional democracy at the same time."
He listed efforts of the opposition, to establish new political parties like the China Democracy Party. (That was inside China as well as outside.) He observes China's "wide spread labor unrest," and the efforts to push for independent labor unions. He notes that dissidents join in China's village-level elections and form "Rights Protection Committees" locally, and more.
Q. How is the situation improved from 1989?
A. Inside China, the political situation has not improved since 1989, and we can say that events of 1989 were really a set back for political reform in China. (There were some reformers who lost power then, and the whole idea of reform became a forbidden topic.)
Effectively nothing has improved since 1989, but outside China, the pro-reform forces have at least been able to find each other, meet, and organize. China has been doing bad things that annoy people in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Tibet, and the Falun Gong crackdown is new since 1989. Those are not good things, but they mean a larger opposition outside China. Tibetans have come to support the Chinese pro-democracy movement, and Falun Gong has added more energy into the movement overseas.
I guess that, as China makes more victims, the opposition gets more members from the more persecuted groups. In a perverse way, as China gets worse for people, that adds some numbers and strength to the opposition.
Q. In Europe, among some people, there is fear that once China is free then Chinese people will be flooding Europe and they will think about invading other countries.
A. I should think not. Democracies are more mature and more respectful of the rights of people. Also, history is showing us mostly that democracies do not go to war with other democracies. Truly, freedom is a better hope for peace, and the safety of the world may depend upon the expansion of freedom.
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John Kusumi is Executive Director of the China Support Network, former teenage candidate for U.S. President (Ind., '84), Ronald Reagan's youngest opponent, and the first Gen X politician. He has also authored websites, books, and software.