China: August 10, 2001

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China continues to arrest Chinese scholars who are currently residents of the United States. The visiting scholars are accused to espionage for Taiwan. Apparently, these arrests are not at the orders of the government, but rather an attempt by the security forces to improve their reputation. As with most countries, no politician wants to accuse the security forces of being over zealous. In the last year, the security services have been embarrassed by leaks and defections. But in China, the situation is worse. China is poor, and the major government departments and provincial governments have long been expected to raise money to pay for their operations. This is actually an ancient tradition. Indeed, it's only in the last century that the military became centralized. Before that, provincial governors were expected to raise troops to deal with local emergencies. If that didn't do it, the central government would solicit the other provinces to raise troops for the emergency. This often led to civil wars were local warlords defied the central government. The tradition of ignoring the central government lives on. It is traditional and no one sees it as unusual, or even a bad thing. The army, like other parts of the government, has to be treated like an organization that could go its own way under the right conditions. The Chinese communists tried to centralize government control, but were never able to pull it off. Thus the danger of regional independence and civil war remain a constant threat.


 

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