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Nepal Monitor: The National Online Journal

A Chinese Perspective of the Nepali Situation

The recent Nepali history appears to have repeated a good part of China’s recent history, but Nepal will not become red as China did more than 50 years ago, writes JUYAN ZHANG, a Chinese scholar of international affairs.

In 2000, a friend of mine in Beijing said she planned to take a tour that summer, either to Italy or to Nepal. She eventually chose Italy, because she said she learned that there was some unrest going on in Nepal.

At that time, I assumed that her imagination somehow exaggerated the situation in the serene country. I recalled that not long ago I had read a Time magazine story, which said that there had not been a single homicide case in the whole country for years. Nepal’s beautiful image was further reinforced in my mind, and via direct experience, following my acquaintance with Mr. Kishore Nepal, a Nepali journalist. We met in 1999 during a press tour of Germany. He said I would be welcome if I visited Nepal someday, which I very much want to do.

But five years later, the unrests in Nepal have grabbed the world’s attention, again and again.

For a Chinese who is familiar with China’s turbulent modern history, it is not difficult to understand what is happening in Nepal. The crisis in this neighboring Himalayan country appears to reflect a microcosm of China’s recent history. Here is a sketchy outline of the Chinese experience:

• In 1895, the attempts by some Chinese officials and intellectuals to establish a constitutional monarchy failed and the reformists were killed and exiled by the royal family.

• In 1911, the absolute monarchy, with the reigning emperor Pu Yi, was overthrown by an armed uprising led by the Chinese Nationalist Party, following which a Republic, featuring Western parliamentary democratic ideals, was founded, but it was soon torn apart by warlord conflicts

• Since 1927, the Chinese Nationalist Party and the Communist Party fought and fought and fought, until the Japanese massively invaded China in 1931.

• The Nationalist government, headed by Chiang Kai-shek, was overthrown and exiled to Taiwan in 1949 as a result of the Communists’ victory in battlefield and the protest movements in the region.

In Nepal, the parliamentary democracy was weakened by the rivaling parties and factions. The constitutional monarchy was replaced by absolute monarchy sometime after the June 2001 royal family killings. The Maoist Communists, who had begun their “People’s War” in 1996, intensified their armed conflict. Most recently, in April of 2006, the massive protest movement forced the King to return power to the Parliament. The United States of America, the world’s only superpower, stepped out and directly told the King that he should go.

In China, the Communist Party led by Mao Zedong had eventually grabbed the power in 1949, and China became a Communist country. Will the same thing happen in Nepal? If not, where is the Himalayan country headed?

The Maoists are perhaps familiar with what Karl Marx once wrote: “History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” The recent Nepali history appears to have repeated a good part of China’s recent history, but I don’t think it will become red as China did more than 50 years ago. Here are the principal reasons:

• There isn’t a worldwide socialist movement as decades ago. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the market capitalization of China officially concluded the one-century-old tragic experiment. Yes, there are sympathizers of the Nepali Maoist movement in China. But these intellectuals, who nurture the Maoist revolutionary romanticism, are a very limited in number. Apparently, armed revolution and communism have essentially lost their appeal worldwide, and the Nepali Maoist movement will very likely end up like being Dr. Abimael Guzman’s Shining Path in Peru.

• Neither neighboring China nor India officially supports the movement. The Chinese government has openly denounced the movement. The Maoists and Maoism are very much marginalized in China itself. The Chinese government even shut down the Maoist left-wing magazines several years ago. The publication had vehemently criticized the government’s reform policy, which was regarded as “revisionist” by many ultra-leftists in the world. The Indian government has also provided the Nepali government with aid to combat the Maoists. As to the many Maoist movements in India, they have not made any significant headway since the 1960s.

• This is an era in which the United States, as the only superpower, significantly shapes the world’s agendas. The U.S. Department of State still designates the Nepali Maoist party as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” organization. Either for the sake of its global anti-terrorism cause, or for any potential geopolitical opportunities in Nepal, the U.S. government, in the foreseeable future, will provide certain forms of assistance to the Nepali government to combat the Maoists.

• It is not impossible that the Maoist movement may become a chip in the hands of either China or India, when their geopolitical competition worsens. But the relations between the two countries have been continuously improving. Not long ago, in 2003, both countries signaled a major policy change by mutually recognizing for the first time that Tibet belongs to China and Sikkim to India.

So, it is my opinion that Nepal would not go red in the future.

But this does not mean the Maoists would simply fail. They are obviously becoming stronger than years ago. They might gain military victory in a short run, and there will be a long haul of conflict and negotiation between the Maoists and the government.

I think the new democratic government should learn from South Korea’s and Taiwan’s experience of land reform after WWII, since this seems to be the root cause of the turbulence in the rural area.

Since it will make things worse to simply confiscate the land from large owners, the governments need to seek aid from the United States, China, India, or international monetary organizations to purchase land and redistribute it to the poor, and in that process the pool of the Maoist movement would gradually dry out. The United States may find interest in this since such reform could be part of its global color revolution campaign that forcefully promotes democracy and freedom around the world. So would the Chinese government since it has geopolitical interests here. Of course, the new democratic government also needs to find ways to clean corruption.

Nepal is situated between China and India, the two fastest growing economies in the world. It would be a huge mistake for Nepal to miss the two trains. It should fully develop its unique cultural, religious, and tourist resources as the place where Buddha was born, and tightly connect its economy to the two fast-growing economies. The ultimate root of the Maoist movement is the poverty and inequality in rural areas, and this could only be resolved through economic development.

Juyan Zhang, Ph.D., teaches communication at Monmouth University, New Jersey, USA. He maintains interest in international affairs and has published a number of academic papers on international topics. Email:

Posted by Editor on June 4, 2006 2:25 PM