CHINA - THE SUN RISES IN THE EAST
The 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
The much anticipated 20th Congress of the CCP kicked off on Sunday, 16 October 2022 and has run for a week. Xi Jinping’s leadership has been confirmed for a third term, as expected (No, not for life!) Unsurprisingly, every word spoken at the Congress has been almost breathlessly reported by the global media.
In his opening speech, Xi presented his grand vision for China, promising “incomparable glory” and the rejuvenation of China by “charting our own path and not following the Western model of political party rotation”. Xi underscored the critical role of Hong Kong and sent a clear message regarding Taiwan saying that complete reunification of Taiwan with China must and will be realised. Beijing would “make the greatest efforts” to achieve reunification by peaceful means but, would not rule out the use of force as a last resort.
Only days earlier, the Biden administration unveiled the US National Security Strategy (NSS), referring to the threat of a rising China. The policy statement was described in the South China Morning Post as “intellectually incoherent and self-contradictory” and, in a scathing critique, Australia’s Mike Scrafton[i] points to the poverty and social and ethnic divisions in America contrasting this to China having raised the prosperity of hundreds of millions of its citizens. The NSS appears to accord some “mystical quality” to America’s leadership but according to Scrafton, it is on the path to war, blinded by a “religious-like commitment to America’s innate superiority”. Scrafton concludes, “It is a delusional dogma based in the belief that Biden’s Manichaean fantasies are shared by everyone”.
Al Jazeera talked of Biden making delusional assumptions about US world leadership when he said, “no nation is better positioned to lead with strength and purpose than the United States of America”. That may once have been true but not after three decades of failures and fiascos. The NSS speaks of the American desire to build a “free, open, prosperous, and secure international order”, but to achieve such objectives, the US spends more on its military than the next nine biggest spenders in the world.
Democracy with Chinese Characteristics
After President Biden’s Summit for Democracy in December 2021, China issued a White Paper in which it said that China had created its own model of “Democracy with Chinese characteristics” and what really defined democracy was not whether one person had one vote but whether the government fulfilled its promises. Sydney University’s, Politics Professor, John Keane suggests that “Democracy cannot be reduced to what Americans call liberal democracy” adding that the Chinese mode of government “contains democratic qualities that should not be dismissed”.
In September 2022, The Washington Post expressed the opinion that “authoritarian states” are inherently fragile, but it failed to note the fragility currently prevailing in the USA. There is room for more than one system of effective government, and the West can no longer nurture the absurd hope that “China will become like the West”. That should come as no surprise. What China sees is:
· In USA, Trump in 2017, Joe Biden in 2021, [Perhaps Donald Trump next?].
· In Britain, David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, and (fleetingly) Liz Truss.
· In Australia, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull, Morrison, Albanese.
Xi has seen them all come and go, but for China stability, experience and expertise come first. No one, least of all China, suggests that the West should be like it, but China has been willing to learn from the West and has adopted some of its best ideas. Perhaps the West could do the same.
China is expected to overtake the US and become the world’s largest economy before 2030. Xi Jinping has promised to “Make China Great Again”. This language is strikingly similar to the slogans later adopted by Donald Trump to “Make America Great Again” and Joe Biden’s “America is Back”. However, Xi has given meaning and purpose to his leadership with his “China Dream” and his Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). By 2035 China aims to achieve prosperity for all, so that the Chinese people will enjoy happier, safer, and healthier lives in cities with clean air and good quality water. The vast majority of Chinese people have never been better off.
The Western media speak darkly, perhaps gleefully of the headwinds facing China and it is true that China does face immense challenges, but it has successfully managed a country containing 20% of humanity with a performance like nothing ever witnessed before. Today, China has nation-spanning rail, road and air transport infrastructure, unmatched anywhere. Since 2012, it has constructed 40,000 km of high-speed rail, more than the rest of the world combined. It’s universities have entered the global top 50 and two of them are edging into the top 10.
As China emerges as the world’s number one economy - The world’s greatest capitalist will be a Communist-led country!
In the US, infrastructure is crumbling, homelessness is spreading, and the cost of living is skyrocketing. It experiences daily street crimes, hate crimes, and gun violence, with school children dying every day, while the US talks about liberating the Chinese from “oppression”! As one scribe puts it, “America, the emperor with no clothes, is telling the world to unsee what they have seen.” Despite Western propaganda, the CCP enjoys wide support within China as confirmed by a multi-year study by the Ash Centre of Harvard University showing that 93% of the Chinese people trust their government – a statistic which is unimaginable in the West.
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)
The 22nd meeting of the Heads of State of the SCO was held in Uzbekistan in September 2022. The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and security organisation founded in 2001 and closely linked to the BRI. There are currently eight member states, China, India, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan (with Iran about to become a permanent member). Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia are observer states while Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey are dialogue partners and Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are soon to become dialogue partners. Turkey has applied to becomes a full member and will be the first NATO member to join the China-led SCO. At present the SCO accounts for more than 40% of the world’s population, almost 20% of the world’s oil reserves and 44% of its natural gas, and its membership is growing.
While Western nations delayed lockdowns with the onset of Covid-19 and hesitated to enforce the use of facemasks, transmission rates soared, and deaths rates climbed. Xi will not soften his war against Covid-19 despite the damage to the economy saying, “We put the people and their lives above all else and tenaciously pursue a Covid-zero policy and an all-out People’s war to stop the spread of the virus”. According to the John Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre, as at 21 October 2022 China has had 2,876,489 infections and 15,538 deaths, while the US with a population one quarter the size of China, had 97,150,292 infections and 1,067,190 deaths. If the US figures are multiplied by four (to represent population equivalence) the number of US infections would be about 388 million and the number of deaths would exceed 4,200,000. China no longer seeks growth at any price, and for now, growth has taken a back seat to the elimination of Covid.
Consequently, The World Bank in China reports that China’s GDP growth is expected to slow to 2.8% in 2022, down from 8.1% in 2021. Meanwhile, the Australian Financial Review reports that US inflation has soared to a 40 year high, and on 12 October 2022, The Conference Board (a New York-based think tank) forecast US GDP growth for 2022 at 1.5%, slowing to zero in 2023, with recession expected before the end of 2022.
The U.S. as Leader of the World’s Liberal Democracies
Foreign Affairs[ii] describes how competition with China consumes US foreign policy saying that without a clear sense of how the US should relate to the world, US foreign policy has become reactive, “spinning in circles rather than steering toward a desired destination”, with Washington falling into the trap of trying to counter Chinese efforts. Instead, the US should seek coexistence with China, finding a new basis for bilateral interaction rather than hoping to change China’s domestic system.
While the US is widely regarded as being in a state of “relative decline”, it remains the largest economy on the planet with the greatest military capability of any nation, and more than 750 foreign military bases spread across 80 nations. However, at the beginning of October 2022, America’s gross national debt exceeded US$31 trillion for the first time[iii]. Now, there is speculation of a repeat of the 2008 Financial Crisis. In his 2012 magnum opus, Martin Jacques[iv] describes how the 2008 financial crisis marked a fundamental shift in the relationship between China and the US exposing the huge levels of debt which have sustained the American economy, while China’s economy continued to expand, demonstrating the ability of its economy to withstand the worst Western financial crisis in seven decades.
Since taking office, President Biden has frequently affirmed the US commitment to defending Taiwan. Each time the White House has walked back his statement, insisting that there was no change to the US “One China” policy. Having engaged in more than 100 military interventions since 1991, the US is currently leading the proxy war against Russia. At the same time, it is increasingly engaged in challenging and threatening China over Taiwan. Should war break out in the Taiwan Straits, the US will be engaged in not one but two wars against the world’s other two military superpowers.
The South China Morning Post recently reported Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen calling on Beijing to work with Taipei to find a mutually agreeable arrangement to uphold cross-strait peace and stability, saying, “I want to make clear to the Beijing authorities that armed confrontation is absolutely not an option for our two sides”. Despite that, Australia remains embedded in the US Indo-Pacific command as the US continues to provoke war with China over Taiwan.
On 11 October 2022, former Democratic Party star, Tulsi Gabbard announced her exit from the Party saying, “I can no longer remain in today’s Democratic Party that is now under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers.” As Gabbard pursued her anti-war message during the 2020 presidential race, she was called a “traitor”, with the media describing her as a “Russian asset”.[v] She is not alone. In 2016, when Trump called for “friendly” relations with Russia he was referred to in the media as a “Kremlin client” and a “Putin Puppet”. The few American politicians who have the courage to raise questions about the Ukraine war are also called “traitors”.
Although Australia’s Labor government has adopted an improved “tone”, a change of tone is hardly a change of policy, and there has thus far been no departure from the fundamentals of the Morrison government. Australia’s Defence Minister Richard Marles refers to China as Australia’s “biggest security anxiety”, describing the acquisition of nuclear submarines as Australia’s “top defence priority”. Fear of China remains the main driving force in Australia’s strategic thinking.[vi] The Albanese government has been “wedged” by the former government and remains afraid of being seen as too soft on, or friendly with China.
However, Jocelyn Chey[vii] argues that Australia faces no military threat from China. If Australia is drawn into a military encounter with China it is because of its perceived obligations to the US and not because of China’s actions threatening Australia. Fifty years ago, when Gough Whitlam decided to recognise the People’s Republic of China he wrote, “We seek a relationship with China based on friendship, cooperation and mutual trust, comparable with that which we have, or seek, with other major powers.”
However, racial white supremacy goes back a long way in Australia and the “yellow peril” notion remains active in the Australian imagination even though the 2021 Census reported that there are 1,390,637 Australian residents who identify as having Chinese ancestry (5.5% of the population). John Menadue[viii] argues that despite Washington propaganda, China does not threaten Australia and he suggests that the “China threat” is partly due to Australia’s historical fear of the “yellow peril”.
“AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM” – HEAR THE OTHER SIDE!
[i] Pearls and Irritations 18 October 2022 [ii] The China Trap by Jessica Chen Weiss (Prof China and Asia-Pacific Studies at Cornell University) [iii] The New York Times, and also the Asia Times [iv] When China Rules the World, by Martin Jacques 2012 [v] Journalist Tony Cox reporting in RT 13 October 2022 [vi] Elena Collinson, ACRI 10 October 2022 [vii] Chey is a visiting Prof, Sydney University having formally held diplomatic posts in China & H.K [viii] Pearl and Irritations 19 September 2022