Friday 21 February 2020

China Immune To The Infection Of Democracy.

The Democracy Virus: China’s authoritarian political system enables a level of social surveillance and control that liberal democratic societies cannot match. The Chinese Government makes full use of the latest digital technology to both punish – and reward – its citizens. The plans it formulates cannot be challenged, or hindered. Where else could a million human-beings be “re-educated” into sullen obedience? Where else can whole cultures be rendered invisible? (ABC Image)

“A MINOR RELIGIOUS INFECTION”, no statement captures more succinctly China’s problem with world – or the world’s problem with China. The words themselves appear in a leaked document setting forth in grim detail the reasons for the detention of 300 Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s benighted Xinjiang province. Other justifications for incarcerating an estimated one million Uighurs in China’s very own “Vocational and Educational” archipelago include: “used to wear a long beard”; and, “used to wear a veil”. Tellingly, not even the past tense can save you in Xinjiang.

Does the Chinese Communist Party leadership in Beijing understand how poorly the idea that religious belief constitutes a form of “infection” is likely to be received by the overwhelming majority of human-beings belonging to one or the other of the world’s great faith communities? Reading these words in the context of China’s ongoing struggle against the COVID-19 viral epidemic is certain to amplify global displeasure.

When people of faith around the world discover that the Chinese authorities regard the guiding principles of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam as dangerous diseases, whose followers must be isolated from the uninfected population, restored to ideological health, and only then released; they will be dumbfounded. But, not for long. This news will generate rage and resentment on a scale no rational political regime would willingly countenance.

And yet, the Chinese Government remains adamant that its Uighur policy is not only fully justified, but also politically effective. It will not hear a word spoken against its Xinjiang strategy – or, at least, not by those whose opinions it is in a position to monitor – and contain. That this refusal to respond to world opinion might threaten such cherished Chinese initiatives as One Belt, One Road, does not appear to have occurred to those in charge of the Uighur policy. Nor has the mounting evidence of attitudes towards China hardening, all across the world, been sufficient to prompt a regime change of heart.

What is it, exactly, that Beijing fears? What is of more concern to them than the world’s increasingly negative opinion of the Chinese Government? The answer is brutally simple: what the Chinese Government fears most; and certainly much more than global public opinion; is losing control.

China has witnessed the extraordinary derangement of American politics which was set in motion by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Accordingly, it is determined to dry up the waters of religious extremism in which terrorist organisations like Al Qaida and ISIS floated.

They have also observed, in the EU countries and Britain, the dangerous socio-political pressures produced by mass immigration, along with the divisive multicultural policies it generates. In the People’s Republic, it is the Han Chinese who migrate en masse to the territories of their nation’s ethnic minorities – not the other way around. Cultural homogeneity is both the short and long term objective of the Chinese Government. China’s future is envisaged as monocultural, not multicultural. It is national unity that the Chinese Communist Party seeks – not cultural diversity.

These goals, like the Party’s militant and uncompromising atheism, sit uncomfortably with the expectations of Western elites. It was, for many years, their fond expectation that free trade and free-markets would set up the conditions in which China’s transition to liberal democracy became inevitable. Few now believe that such a transition is imminent. The Chinese looked on grimly as the former Soviet Union was stripped and humiliated by the West. If these were the consequences of embracing liberal democracy, then the West could keep it.

In truth, the Chinese Communist Party has made a high-stakes historical wager. It’s betting everything China has achieved since 1949 that liberal democratic excess will undermine the social, political and cultural cohesion of Western Capitalism long before it overturns “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”.

This is not as risky a wager as Westerners might think. China’s authoritarian political system enables a level of social surveillance and control that liberal democratic societies cannot match. The Chinese Government makes full use of the latest digital technology to both punish – and reward – its citizens. The plans it formulates cannot be challenged, or hindered. Where else could a million human-beings be “re-educated” into sullen obedience? Where else can whole cultures be rendered invisible?

Yes, all these policies put China off-side with the rest of the world. The thing is: China doesn’t care.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 21 February 2020.


John Hurley said...

Where else could a million human-beings be “re-educated” into sullen obedience?
Our pluralistic [multicultural] society demands "an institutionalisation of public discourse" and a new "superordinate national identity". Those who resist are rebels "white supremacists". Give them to a journalist; put them on national TV or RNZ and shame them?

The Social Psychology of Social (Dis)harmony: Implications for Political Leaders and Public Policy
Luisa Batalha, Katherine J. Reynolds & Emina Subasic
Australian National University

This work thus suggests that for multiculturalism to succeed identities need to be transformed. And, importantly, as Kymlicka suggests, this transformation applies not only to the minority but also to the majority. Indeed, perhaps the major identity transformation is required from members of the majority as their attributes are, as a rule, the same as the ones that define the national identity. Minorities need to be written into the self-definition of the national identity such as to imbue them with existential legitimacy as citizens in parity with the majority.
In a multiethnic/multicultural society, the shift from an exclusive to an inclusive definition of the national prototype requires the emergence of new and consistent discourses about who ‘we’ are (see Kymlicka, 1995). Discourses that do not appeal to ethnic heritage and traditions but to civic values. It is in this context that the role of political leadership comes into place in changing the discourse and creating a consensual view of the national prototype such that it becomes shared by the members of a polity (see Uberoi & Modood, 2013). Moreover, there needs to be an institutionalisation of the public discourse as in line with terms outlined by Parekh (2006).

David George said...

Perhaps of more immediate concern is the covert takeover of our near neighbours in the Pacific and influence within our institutions here - the Universities and our National party in particular.
I was, on a recent visit, horrified at the goings on in Tonga, effectively now run from Beijing. The new port (paid for with debt to the Tongan people) complete with electrified perimeter fencing and guard towers is, in reality, a naval base while the massive, heavily fortified "embassy" is clearly a military fort. Where will we stand when the situation can no longer be ignored? With the Tongan people?
You can't negotiate from a position of weakness, the position of Tonga is hopeless but are we really in any better position to draw a line in the sand?
China is completely ignoring the ruling over it's takeover a militarisation of the South China seas islands so good luck getting them to comply with international law.
Here is a very good discussion of the strategy and implications of the rise of China and an explanation of it's use of "barbarian management".

David Stone said...

China has an enormous population to manage. It is pretty hard to see how democracy could be very effective in a state that size. The way it is being subverted in the world's prime example of "the land of the free must be an ever growing argument that totalitarianism is not such a bad thing. At least most of the population has had an astounding improvement in their standard of living at the cost of their independence and individual freedoms. They seem to be able to buy up NZ without any difficulty. And the rest of the world has been happy to turn a blind eye to the organ harvesting and minority treatment so long as they keep buying our milk powder. Would you rather be ruled by a nationalist or by money. Cause it is money that determines all the major decisions of our government.


Anonymous said...

China's contemporary politics are much more a continuation of the historical Imperial China than the communist republic. President Xi Jinping has recently changed the Party's rules to enable him to effectively be declared Emperor for life.

David George said...

Anonymous: with recent developments (leader for life, imperialism, state imposed racism, militarisation and suppression of religion, free speech and personal freedom etc.) that China is clearly a fascist state though many of those attributes have proven to be the eventual consequences of the implementation of Marxist ideology.

David Stone: before we get too laudatory about the (relatively recent) rise in Chinese living standards it's wise to compare with the far greater improvements in countries that followed a different path from a similar base. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan etc.

BTW the worlds largest democracy is India, the USA is not a democracy, it's a republic with authority based on their magnificent constitution (which cannot be altered by government) and the people via the individual states. It works well and has done for approaching 250 years.

sumsuch said...

Well, at least we need to keep our trade with China to 20 % at max.

The cynicism of the tyrannies is pretty close to reality. I'd say different but the democracies have been bourne on the wave of the Industrial Revolution. Apparantly our WW 2 idealism requires the regular jolt of catastrophe caused by realpolitik selfishness, followed by plenty.

The only comfort is vile conduct and bad politics deliver these guys to the flames. So not Pol Pot.

China relies on trade, but is willing to go by that for continued Communist domination. Or, go by their only legitimacy -- producing plenty for the folk. Doesn't work out. They'd have to to

RedLogix said...

The Chinese economy, and the CCP's dominance that is dependent on it, is more brittle than people imagine. Some bullet points in no particular order:

Their demographics are terrible, there is a big shortage of young people. Labour is becoming expensive.

Their geography is limiting, resource poor and highly dependent of global shipping lanes with multiple choke points they cannot control. Their economy is highly exposed to many fragile trade relationships.

It is the most ridiculously over leveraged economy in history, the credit bubble is beyond all reason. The rampant hypersubsidisation will not be ignored by the rest of the world forever.

The intellectual property theft, arbitrary rulings and legal system mean that in the long run everyone who does business in China regrets it. It remains a very low trust, highly authoritarian society. Fundamentally inefficient.

This corona virus event will prompt many large organisations to factor in the massive supply chain risk of having so much manufacturing in one country. Vietnam is rapidly developing as a more attractive, less troublesome alternative.

As Xi Xinping's CCP inevitably doubles down on it's fascist micro-control of the population it will generate increasing reluctance of outside entities to be involved and resentment from it's own peoples. We've already seen huge resistance in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The increasing 'Middle Kingdom' nationalism and frank racial superiority themes we're already seeing out of China will only become more blatant, raising more resistance. The Chinese neo-colonisation of Africa will inevitably shift from a benignly framed 'investment' phase into one of frank exploitation. This is the pattern of all merchantile empires, it just takes a while to become obvious.

There are of course many positives that counterbalance this list; but all too often these get presented as if the rise of China is both inexorable and inevitable. The Chinese people of course will play a great role in the future of humanity, but first they have to prise themselves free of the CCP.

Trev1 said...

China's "Barbarian management" strategy has proven remarkably successful so far. It plays at being the good international citizen while pursuing an authoritarian nationalism. It has successfully suborned politicians and even entire political parties in western countries, most notably New Zealand which sold itself cheaply as a virtual satellite - too easy. Only Donald Trump has called their bluff, but he is reviled as a "populist" by globalist elites in the West.

sumsuch said...

Messaging function ceased up for my last 'contribution'. I'm sure the CCP would use its reserves of trade profits to fight for its existence no matter what. Precious little ideology
left after 'whatever traps the mouse', just the lesson of power is everything no matter the means. Hence Xi's expansive nationalism. Quite an accomplishment to irritate all your neighbours who aren't similar short-termed autocracies.

Patricia said...

Isn’t it amazing how the MSM can get people to express the same view in so many many different ways. It is no wonder that wars are waged. The people can be made to believe anything. .

Odysseus said...

It seems the Chinese authorities either through their Embassy here or Australia-based operatives are trying to intimidate people who express views critical of the PRC on social media, especially Twitter. This usually takes the form of swarms of automatically generated phone calls at all hours. The numbers keep changing as you try to block them, like a game of whack-a-mole. I know of several recent cases, besides my own. It's outrageous behaviour, but par for the course for this ugly totalitarian regime. Does our government care?