Transnational China Project Sponsored Commentary:
"The New Chinese Empire:
And What It Means for the United States"

Dr. Ross Terrill,
Research Associate
Fairbanks Center for East Asian Research
Harvard University

Talk Given at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
Rice University
Houston, Texas

Co-Sponsored by the Asia Society of Texas

April 24, 2003

Richard Smith [Rice University]:

It is always a special pleasure to introduce a friend, and Ross Terrill is a friend indeed. So it brings me great joy to be able to welcome all of you--on behalf of both the Houston Center of the Asia Society and the Transnational China Project of Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy--to what will undoubtedly be a memorable lecture. (By the way, if you haven't seen the Transnational China Project's website, do take a look; it is really most interesting--the brainchild of Dr. Steven Lewis, Director of the Project).

Now let me tell you a little bit about our speaker. For part of the year Dr. Terrill serves as Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas, Austin, and for part of the year he is a Senior Research Associate at Harvard University's John King Fairbank Center for Asian Studies. The rest of the time he manages somehow to crank out book after book and article after article and review after review. You may notice, if you read the Houston Chronicle today, that there is a wonderful op-ed piece written by him, and I would like to know, Ross, how on earth did you find time to do that?

Ross is a native of Australia. He graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1964, and that summer, after making a series of pilgrimages to what were then known as the Communist Bloc countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, this wild-eyed, budding socialist decided on a whim to visit China, managing somehow to extract a visa from the Chinese embassy in Warsaw. He made the trip and the rest, as they say, is history. He instantly became entranced by the mysterious Middle Kingdom. In 1965 the young Mr. Terrill won a Frank Knox Scholarship to Harvard University, where, attracted by the exalted reputation of Professor John King Fairbank but not yet committed to him, Ross pursued his Ph.D. in political philosophy. In order to indulge his new found passion for China, he studied the Chinese language "on the side," as he put it rather modestly sometime later, and, "listened to Fairbank and others whenever I could". His dissertation on the philosophy of R.H. Tawney, which he turned into a first rate book in 1973, was awarded the Sumner Prize, but I suspect that Ross would say that the greatest gift Harvard gave him was the informal mentorship and then the abiding friendship of the late, great John King Fairbank.

Like Fairbank, Professor Terrill is a world renowned Sinologist. He has visited the People's Republic of China dozens of times since his first trip in the 60s, and to his great credit he has been thrown out of the PRC at least once. He is generally considered to be one of the most thoughtful and insightful observers of China today, combining scholarly training and academic rigor with a journalist eye for color, detail and drama. His books include-and I am just going to give you some of them here--The White Boned Demon, The Biography of Madam Mao, Mao: A Biography, The Future Of China After Mao, Flowers In An Iron Tree, Five Cities Of China, 800 Million: The Real China, and China In Our Times.

Perhaps my favorite of these books is China In Our Time, published by Simon and Schuster in 1992. It looks back on Professor Terrill's 30 years of direct and sustained contact with China and includes his absolutely spellbinding eyewitness account of the events of Tiananmen in 1989. He has acted as an informed channel between the Chinese and two governments and also produced some of the most important Western writing on China. Not surprisingly he has won a number of prestigious prizes, including the National Magazine Award for reporting excellence and the George Polk Memorial Award for outstanding magazine reporting. His most recent book, The New Chinese Empire And What It Means For The United States, has already received rave reviews.

Here is what a few of the top China specialists in the country have said about this book and its author. James Lily, former U.S. Ambassador to China writes, "There is much food for thought in this comprehensive study of China's view of the world. Any serious student of China, and certainly officials engaged in China policy, would benefit from its conclusions and analysis." Lucian Pye, Professor Emeritus at MIT, recently gave The New Chinese Empire an extremely positive review in the prestigious Journal of Foreign Affairs, complimenting the author for his "extensive knowledge of Chinese history", which, the reviewer remarks, Professor Terrill "imparts with graceful style and in fascinating detail". Professor Edward Friedman of the University of Wisconsin, one of the most aggressively critical and combative people I know, but also one of the best Sinologists around, writes, "This bold and broad range in work offers a powerful challenge to those with a too sanguine view of China's future and the impact of that China on our peace and prosperity."

Although I could go on and on with praise for Ross and his work, I won't. But before surrendering the podium--something we professor types find very difficult to do--I would like to read to you an excerpt from Ross' contribution to a wonderful volume titled Fairbank Remembered. This book was published shortly after John's death in 1991 and it contains tributes from his closest friends, colleagues, and former students, many of whom are privileged to be in all three categories, although usually not at the same time.

Ross writes, "At his last lecture at Harvard John's message was the inseparability of China and the West and the need for history to be studied as world history, and yet what John instilled in me most was the wrongness of assuming that the Chinese were just like us. He was criticized for some excesses in this emphasis but his message was much needed in the 1950's and 60's by a still ethnocentric America." We could also say the 70's, 80's, 90's and 2000. "By insisting that the Chinese were different, John effectively counteracted the persistent tendency to find in China only what one seeks, and his approach was a spur to a curious mind like mine to research the detail of where Americans and Chinese were like and unlike each other. How grateful I am," he said, "for that stimulus."

And how grateful John was for the stimulus that Ross in turn provided. John once told me this himself and I might add that the ever self-reliant and supremely self-confident Fairbank didn't say these things about too many people.

The topic of tonight's lecture is the title of Professor Terrill's latest book, The New Chinese Empire and What it Means For The United States. You are in for a treat, for I can tell you on the basis of much personal experience that he speaks as brilliantly as he writes and that is bright indeed. So with great pleasure, Professor Ross Terrill.

Ross Terrill:

Thank you very much, Nancy [Nancy Hawes, Asia Society], and Richard Smith, Steve, and all of you for coming out today to think about this topic. I am a bit overwhelmed by Professor Smith's introduction; it brings so many memories. A great teacher like Fairbank is indeed an influence and Richard Smith is one such at Rice today. And with the Asia Society of Houston such a dynamic organization, I feel quite flattered to have these two organizations welcome me; and I will do my best to - I can't live up to Professor Smith's words, but we certainly have an important topic before us.

The Chinese State, why explore this topic? Isn't it obvious in Beijing and Shanghai that political authority has stepped back and Chinese society is simply told to go full throttle on making money? Isn't that where China is at? Well no, not really. There are different views of the Chinese State. To some it is now a normal Third World authoritarian state, to others it is still a Soviet model state. To others again it is a Red Dynasty. I think none of the three really capture the whole truth.

Then you could cut the cake differently. The capacity of the PRC state, is it strong? Is it on the threshold of bidding to be the world's number one power, which of course would mean eclipsing us. Or is it weak, with revenue problems at the center, a booming periphery in parts, and a troubled periphery in other parts? Some people even think there is questionable cohesion because of the large non-Chinese sections, so I think there is some confusion about the state.

And there is a plausible reason for this. Culture is destiny, it is widely said, and in recent years, certainly in the Clinton Presidency era, economics is destiny. These were common views. If culture is destiny, then we could say that Marxism in China or democracy if it comes to China would not be recognizable in their new cultural form. The economics first analysis tends to be very optimistic, confident that a commercialized society will painlessly throw up a modernized politics. In this book I think that politics will be destiny for the PRC in the near term. Ultimately culture as destiny and economics as destiny may well prove to have some truth to them.

I think understanding or clarifying what we think about the Chinese state helps us answer some important questions about China today. One is, will what happened to the Soviet Union happen to China? Another is, will China evolve away from its present system which we can define as a Communist party having a monopoly of political power? Will it be able to evolve away from that, or will there be some kind of crunch? Could democracy appear in this huge hierarchy-attuned, factionalism-inclined quasi-empire? And in foreign policy we have a very important question that hinges on the nature of the Chinese regime. Is China basically recovering still from modern history to recover something of what it enjoyed prior to the year of European expansion, or is China settling into a quite new role historically for China, of becoming part of the international community?

Richard Smith mentioned some of my other books, and though my fascination with the Chinese state began with me looking at the past -- a risky thing to do for a political scientist -- there was also a personal route or two. There normally is when you write a book. With Madame Mao I was really interested to find out was she as evil as her reputation? And with the book on Mao I found fascinating the combination of a man of action who was also a romantic about history and read history. I call Mao a semi-intellectual, not in any condescending way. So when you write a biography some kernel of passionate interest is necessary to propel you for the duration. With the Tawney book that Rich mentioned I was simply influenced by his social democratic ideas at the time and that provided the reason to write the book.

With this new Chinese empire, I must say there were some incidents. The Tiananmen affair struck me as an extraordinary confrontation between a new society and economy and an old state; and for a while it could have gone either way, but the state effectively prevailed. I had reached Beijing the night before the confrontation and stayed on for a few weeks and talked to many people. One student came to see me. He is now a business man in Shenzhen, as many of the pro-democracy people are: not all in Shenzhen, but a lot of in business. Things have changed. He told me the story of how he saw a soldier shoot someone dead that night, and my friend picked up a cook's stirring stick and banged the soldier over the head and then ran away. And then he, this young man, said to me, "Ross, you Westerners will never understand the Chinese state, it's simply overwhelming." And the remark hung in my mind, which is not to say that the relation of the Chinese State to society in the economy today is like it was in 1989. I think it is not.

Let me sum up some of the themes from the past about the Chinese polity that I find illuminating for the present. The Chinese State was formed as a "them and us polity" in the Northern part of what we now know as China, where a literate elite ruled over farming communities; and it expended itself as a polity to Chinese dealings with non-Chinese peoples. Non-Chinese peoples for the early Chinese dynasties meant always the peoples of inner Asia. The maritime flank was not important, and the "them and us polity" within China of a literate elite using certain techniques of rule over a farming community gave extra potence to the Chinese court's relation to those in inner Asia that they were pleased to call barbarians. They didn't choose to encounter the non-Chinese peoples, but the non-Chinese peoples in inner Asia wanted things from the Chinese court. They wanted tea, silk and all sorts of things.

So for a long time the Chinese polity did not have a strong sense of boundaries. Actually, Professor Smith's work on maps has illumined this. So it was culture, it was a way of life, it was a cosmological way of thinking, not lines on a map that set the Chinese apart from nearby peoples. The history of China and the non-Chinese peoples was not one of what we would call international relations, and actually PRC historians today have read back into the past of what is actually Stalin's theory of minorities and you have phrases like "brotherly nationalities within our country" referring to the Han Dynasty's clashes with the Xiong Nu. Well, it wasn't "our country" then, it was actually international relations of the time.

The Chinese empire was possessed of a sense of superiority, but it was also quite passive at times, and there were Chinese dynasties and reigns where it was felt that the non-Chinese peoples weren't worth bothering about. China was not aggressive toward them when in that mood.

It was a state obsessed by doctrine; that is very important. There was nearly always orthodoxy and heterodoxy and you had to know the difference between them. And it was a state with a constant tendency to juggle the ideal and the real. I think it is a brilliant feature of Chinese tradition. Idealistic but capable of realist politics, and there was often a gap between the ideal and the real, which was explained by various fictions that were developed over time.

The barbarians really did love the Chinese emperor, it was said, even when they didn't. History was rewritten. Tamerlane, at the height of his power in today's Uzbekistan was said by the Ming to be paying tribute, which was a surprise to Tamerlane. In fact, in response Tamerlane set out for China to convert the Chinese emperor to Islam. He died on the way. Otherwise the Chinese court would certainly have got a surprise because the officials of the court had misrepresented Tamerlane to the previous Ming Emperor and misrepresented the meaning of his missions from Samarkand.

The Chinese polity was strong because Confucian ethics provided a sophisticated justification for an imposed political order. It was strong -- here is a major theme of the historical chapters in my book -- because it blended Confucianism with Legalism. Legalism is a law and order philosophy often thought to be antithetical to the reign of virtue of Confucianism. By itself Confucianism would call for very weak state because people would behave according to moral norms. Of course they don't. And on the other hand, for the Legalist authority is everything. Human nature is bleak, violence is necessary. Now Legalism needs Confucianism and Confucianism needs legalism. Legalism was concerned with the science of rule -- very brilliant, puts Machiavelli in the shade at times. The Confucians instructed the people on why and how subjects should obey the rulers. Of course these things are not entirely compatible, but the Chinese tradition has skillfully either alternated between a prior emphasis on one or the other or has combined them. In the Han Dynasty penal code -- the Han is considered a rather Confucianist dynasty -- there are 400 clauses calling for the death penalty.

In the Tang code there is a penalty for striking a parent, which is death. So the Confucian notion of filial piety is not unaccompanied by a penalty, a very severe penalty we would think, for striking a parent. So the superior men were often also authoritarian men. Confucian harmony and Legalist toughness are inseparable. Let me just quickly say here quickly I have a section in the book where I try to explain why the PRC so far has been divided into two completely different parts. The first half is Mao. The second, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, dismantled a great deal of Mao, but they didn't dismantle everything because Mao blended what I call neo-Confucianism and neo-legalism. I don't mean that in the sense of the content of Confucianism, but of the role of theory in the state, the need for a doctrine. And Deng and Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao also blend neo-Confucianism and neo-Legalism, but Mao put the emphasis on the neo-Confucianism.

The reign of virtue was preferred, but we saw at times, for instance in the Cultural Revolution, Mao turned on the idealistic Red Guards and then when they spiraled off into factionalism, in came the army. So Mao knew both traditions. Mao said of Deng Xiaoping, "That man has never been interested in Marxism." He had a point. But did Deng throw out the need for the state to have a theory? Not at all. Even Jiang Zemin came up with a theory three years ago, the Three Represents. The Chinese State has to have a doctrine. The continuity that managed to keep the thing afloat after Mao was achieved because of an update of this clever blend of what in the past was called Legalism and Confucianism. The Chinese system was also successful because the Son of Heaven was not a fanatic, this was not a theocracy, which was very important to the survival of the system. The interest of the ruler was typically in statecraft, not in the supernatural, and if you look at all the other ancient empires, which did not endure as long as the Chinese, most of them did tangle themselves up over religious struggles. Only Persia approached China in its what I call non-fanaticism. This seems to me one of the strengths.

For many reasons, some of which I have mentioned, the Chinese polity did not disappear until 1911. Of course there were terrible periods of disunity, but when the Han fell, unlike with the Roman Empire, that wasn't the end of the Chinese system, it reinvented itself after a period of disunity. The Roman Empire was gone for good, it left its legacy, but the Chinese system came back in the Tang. Now there were weaknesses. Again with an eye to the situation of the PRC, you see the two big weaknesses were legitimacy and the succession problem. Legitimacy was given by the Mandate of Heaven. But which is prior, the Mandate of Heaven or the quality of the person who occupies the top position?. If the mandate is from heaven, how can there be earthly contention, usurpation, which there was. This problem was never solved and actually the legitimacy problem in a quite different form is one of the PRC's problems because both regimes, the past one and the present, are legitimated from above only. In the past it was heaven that offered legitimacy, and for the Marxist state it is history. But in both cases it obviates the need to legitimate it from below, which makes the Chinese State an anachronism in today's world.

The problem of succession, I think, is quite well-known. In China there was a peculiarity that because there was no strict rule that it be the eldest son, there was no clarity very often as to who would. One Emperor complained he had 40 sons, all competing. When Mao died, the familiar problems of succession sprang out. Forged wills was one, then Jiang Qing lamented that she had no son; she thought if she had a son her chances against Deng Xiaoping would have been better.

How can one establish that the Chinese state of the past still matters today? Well, with Mao you can say he read the ancient books. The older he got the more he read them. Jiang Zemin also reads them sometimes. Hu Jintao, perhaps not, so if that's a test, we have some evidence on both sides. But the problems of governance in China have a continuity. I have dwelt in The Chinese Empire on the importance of the nature of the Chinese empire for the nature of the Chinese State. It was a land mass empire, not an overseas empire. So China didn't have an empire; it was an empire.

In this there were similarities with the Russians and it is important because there was no sharp difference between metropolis and empire. When the French obtained Tahiti or Senegal, it didn't affect their sense of France. The same was true with the British. But the interaction of these great civilizations -- Manchu and Han, Mongol and Han, Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples with Han, Tibetans with Han -- was the story intermittently of many periods of Chinese history. So this is not empire in the sense that we normally use it, and in fact it is worth noting that every time there is a new empire it takes a quite different form. The Chinese had an empire before the British and the French, but it was different. The Soviet Union had an empire. We, it may be said, are imperial now, but again in a quite fresh sense. And if the Chinese resume the imperial game after us it will be in yet again a fresh sense: different from the Chinese past, certainly different from the other kinds of empires. Now the tasks of the Chinese regime today -- the center and the periphery, the need for a doctrine to hold it all together - handling these are enduring tasks of governance, and the rivers and mountains of China are still there, the neighbors are still there. I mean China today has 14 land neighbors, and no other major power is in that complicated environment.

Why do I say a new Chinese empire? Well, in some particular respects the PRC is an empire. The three largest provinces of China are Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia, and they are essentially the territory of non-Chinese. So in that sense it is an empire, which was inevitable as it took over the boundaries of the Qing.

Secondly, we can call it an empire because China expects to get more territories, including Taiwan, a lot of islands in the South China Sea and further up North in the area of Japan and Taiwan, dozens of islands now unimportant to many people, but not necessarily unimportant in the future.

Thirdly, it is an empire because the State has imperial aspects. I have mentioned some of them. Consider the way the non-Chinese people are analyzed, you can't be a hyphenated person in China. Let's say I am an Australian-American, or someone else in the room is a Chinese-American. There is no term like that in China. The Tibetans are of the Tibetan nationality. The Koreans in the Northeast of China, they are the Korean nationality, but they are also Chinese people, they are citizens of the PRC. This is the building blocks approach to minorities. The national minorities, 50-odd in all, are building blocks of the polity; the individual makes no choice about his or her identity, the State designates them as building blocks of the empire.

Finally, I will just jump to a few points about the United States and China. The U.S. has had reasonably effective ties with Beijing for a quarter of a century, roughly, and since 9/11 they have got better. If you look at the past, the '50's Korean War, the epochal event of that decade, wouldn't have happened but for U.S.-China hostility. The '60's, the Vietnam War, again likewise the key event of the decade, would not have become a great conflagration but for U.S.-China hostility.

Since the end of the Vietnam War the U.S. has entered into no new major conflict in East Asia. This is a very important consequence of a changed U.S. China relationship. Moreover in this same period the U.S. has achieved something that for a hundred years and more was not possible, to be cordial with both Japan and China at the same time. And everyone who lives in East Asia, all the small countries including my native country Australia know that the crucial point about American leadership in the area is to prevent either China or Japan thinking it can be hegemon in the region, or worse, vying with each other violently to be so. So it is a very important relationship, and I am somewhat optimistic about it because I think China's problems are much more likely to be with Japan and Russia than with us.

But because of the nature of the Chinese State certain things have to be clear. We are a theoretical problem for the Chinese party state. An enemy is more or less required, especially as the legitimization of the Chinese State gets threadbare. You ask the workers in the Northeast if the PRC is a worker's state anymore, and you ask people if they believe in Jiang Zemin's Three Represents, and you realize that the theme of patriotism versus hegemony is terribly important to the Chinese State. Whatever the U.S. does in the present era, we will be a necessary enemy in the rhetoric of the situation, if not always in the practicalities of the situation.

Secondly on all the self-determination questions -- Taiwan of course is one but there are others, peoples who would prefer to rule themselves -- I think the U.S. has to be agnostic. It is not only that we should say, as we do with Taiwan, that any change should be peaceful. We should say it should depend on the will of the people involved.

Thirdly, everything that Americans do, more exchanges in the education realm, and in business, not least, will have fruit eventually in the China of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Without being simplistic about the comparison, Iraq is going to show us that what precedes the fall of an authoritarian system has a big influence on what can be done afterwards. And if you look at East Europe, what happened in the Czech Republic and Poland is different from what happened in Romania, it is different because there were differences beforehand. So all this economic development of China, the staggering role of Western educational institutions in educating the best and brightest of tomorrow's China, this is all going to be full of consequence.

In some ways we should do nothing about the new Chinese empire. We can't bring political change to China. We didn't have anything to do with the fall of the Qing. We didn't decide Mao's battle between Mao and Chiang Kai-shek. But America as a beacon and the influence of the United States in China is, I think, greater than many Americans realize, and to some extent this kind of non-governmental influence speaks for itself and works its own consequences.

But we should not misdiagnose the nature of the Chinese state. President Clinton said three times, it is a former Communist country. Well, it is not, and Hu Jintao, though neither a Chinese Gorbachev nor a Brezhnev, is closer to being a Brezhnev than he is to being a Gorbachev -- not only because in China the top nine people are all engineers and the Brezhnev era in the Soviet Union was an era of engineers. So the Chinese economy has enormous potential, and the interchange of America and China on the social personal level has been rich, but there is an anachronistic Chinese state. How will Beijing get beyond the reckoning with this political system and realize its future as a democratic federation, that is the challenge that I have discussed in this book. Thank you.

Question from the audience:

Do you think that the Chinese will pursue their claim on Okinawa any time in the future, and how will that play out?


Well, ask Kim Jong-il, because the future of Japan-China relations is greatly susceptible to what happens over North Korea, and of course if Japan is alarmed enough over the next six months it may develop nuclear weapons. They could do it very quickly and China would be in a new situation and the tacit compact that the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, that is to say the promise that Japan gets protection under our nuclear umbrella, obviating the need for them to have nuclear weapons, would change many things. Sometimes you wonder whether China realizes this danger. If Japan adds military muscle, many islands that I have briefly referred to, including what the Japanese call the Senkakyu Islands, would be in question.

Actually a parallel point over expansion pertains with Russia. It is not at all clear that China-Russia relations are going to be smooth, and one reason for it is this vast landmass area they share. Mao said in 1964, "The Russians took a million and a half square kilometers from us and we haven't presented the account for this yet." Then suddenly in 1973, talking to Henry Kissinger, he repeated this remark, except he added a few hundred thousand kilometers. The same party-state that rules in Beijing today, in the 1970's said a big slab of today's Kazakhstan is Chinese territory.

The balance of power normally determines the outcome in these territorial disputes. It did after World War II, that is why China got Manchuria and Stalin agreed to leave. Mao didn't get Mongolia, which he wanted because he did a deal with Stalin and got an agreement that Stalin wouldn't back Chiang Kai-Shek to the death against Mao, which was more important. So that is the context in which I view the Okinawa question.


Could the collapse of the Soviet Union cause China to be a superpower? How eager is China to fill the vacuum?


They are not ready, that is the main point. China takes a very long view and China knows it can't do many things. It certainly can't effectively take Taiwan while the U.S., President Bush's terms, is ready to do whatever it takes to help Taiwan stop this. The first Gulf War made a big impact in Beijing, especially the effectiveness of American military. The Chinese dictatorship is a very rational one. We have seen a lot of irrational dictatorships, and they are different. But the question of whether China aims to be number one, I find a very difficult question to answer; maybe we should turn to the historians with a longer view. I do think that up till now China doesn't really believe in the international community. I think it believes in its own interests. Many nations do, but the notion -- a little bit condescending, I think -- that we are helping China come into the international community is something we have to be cautious about. Beijing is much more conscious of power balance than that, and in the present era they are definitely conscious that the United States is much more powerful than they are. So in a certain sense we don't know what will happen when they think they have become equal to anyone else. It is not on the horizon.


When you talked about the legitimacy being a little bit threadbare, I was wondering if the spectacular way that they have dealt with SARS in terms of lying to everyone would affect the people's willingness to continued to be ruled in this way. Would it affect the legitimacy for the Chinese themselves?


Before 1997, Hong Kong was very worried. They thought the PLA might be stationed there, or Beijing might pick up the phone and appoint people, and that didn't happen. The overt interference has not occurred, to Beijing's credit, but indirectly the flaws of the dictatorship have unleashed this virus further than it should ever have gotten. The flaw concerned is an obsession with secrecy and an assumption that you don't tell the public things as a matter of course. In this case you only tell them when it is forced out of you. And according to the medical people this has been very costly.

But China is in a transitional state. If you look at earlier medical or physical disasters, you will see that they have improved. In 1976, in the City of Tangshan, just east of Beijing, there was an earthquake. In Imperial China an earthquake, or even a falling meteor, or an epidemic was considered a possible sign that the emperor was in trouble.

Mao knew he was sinking. China essentially covered up the Tangshan earthquake. The U.S. offered aid, the U.N. offered aid, and it was all refused. There was no information on casualties, and years later Beijing said 242,000 people died. So how many of the corpses that were pulled out of the rubble, weeks and months later, if assistance had have been greater, would not have been corpses? Well, we will never know. But the veil over that enormous event, they couldn't do that today. Things have advanced enormously.

I remember in 1990 going to an exhibit on AIDS in Beijing. It was neibu [internal], but I was tipped off about it. It was not meant for foreigners and it had exhibits of U.S. soldiers misbehaving and gays frolicking in San Francisco and dirty bathrooms and so on. AIDS was portrayed as a Western disease let loose on the world. This was not long after Tiananmen. Now jump ahead a few years and AIDS has become a big problem in China, not because of promiscuous tourists from the West so much as because of the poppy growing area of Southwestern China near the border of Burma, with blood selling in the villages aggravating a drug-related explosion of AIDS.

Now China's impulse on AIDS was exactly like its first impulse on SARS: blame non-Chinese where possible, understate the cases and just suppress the information. Well if the last week is any indication, Beijing has made some progress, but the immediate neighbors of China, including Hong Kong, have received a jolt that may last for a while. Hopefully the virus is not going to be a big one.

Richard Smith:

Thank you very much, Ross.