Courtesy Reuters

Coming Dilemmas for China's Leaders

There is no major political system today about which we have less data and fewer meaningful facts than that of Communist China. Yet decisions which will shape our diplomacy, and more concretely our military establishment, for years ahead must be made in the light of what we now surmise to be the Chinese people's character and dynamics. Inescapably we fall back upon abstractions and gross generalizations.

True, Peking's wall of secretiveness does not hide everything, and time does bring corrections as seasoned observers constantly reassess Chinese behavior over the years. One can glean much from the reports dispersed by Peking, from reading between the lines of the Chinese Communist press, and from interviewing people in Hong Kong with first-hand experience in different parts of the mainland. The danger is that such limited scraps of information may bulk too large in the interpretations we try to make of something as complex as Chinese Communism. In the end there is no escaping the fact that our perception of China must be distorted to some extent by the existence of the Bamboo Curtain.

Attempts to surmise the realities of Chinese political development are not limited only by a shortage of data; there is also the larger problem of trying to set appropriate standards for judging Chinese performance. Within what larger historical context should we place Communist China in our effort to get a clearer idea of the patterns in its current development? What assumptions can we safely make about its longer-range prospects? And in considering our own policy responses, how fatalistically should we observe the glacial movements of the Chinese as they advance from forming one-quarter of the world's population to being one-half, and from being weak and disorganized to being united and assertive?

Chinese realities might be viewed from one of several wide perspectives. Should we, for example, think of China as one of the developing countries of the Afro-Asian world in a transitional stage as it moves out of a traditional order

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