By Nathan Barton
What do Chinese Communists fear?
The Hill some weeks ago published an opinion piece about how Red China fears democracy. Since this, of course, China and its economy, the US trade war, and the situation in Hong Kong have been in the news daily, and the article is far from stale.
Seth Cropsey’s article makes a raft of really good points, and is one of many recent compositions that exposes the frailty, the weakness, and the vulnerabilities of the Beijing regime. Seth (a Hudson Institute type, with a Navy background) makes a good presentation. And he recognizes the weaknesses of China itself, not just its regime.
But Seth also (and typical for the political class here in the Fifty States, of which The Hill is an integral part) does not properly distinguish between forms of government, and what the regime in China (and elsewhere) fears. (I learned better as a young Army lieutenant, but I know the Navy raises its officers much, much differently.)
In reality, it is NOT democracy that China should fear. It is republicanism. (Note, NO capital.) That is, a republican form of government. Government that is limited, government that is treated as (and is) a servant which must be carefully contained.
“Democracy” is actually what Chinese rulers want. Because democracy is so easily manipulated by the bureaucracy, the powers-that-be (the “Deep State”), and the elite. We see this done routinely in the Fifty States and also in the European Union. It is the way that the real rulers can hide the fact that they are controlling everything of any importance, while the people are deluded into thinking that “We, the People” are running the show. Indeed, the Chinese Communists should be trying mightily to imitate what we find here in the Fifty States with the “rivalry” between Democrats and Republicans (forged, admittedly, after the War Between the States and the Occupation of the South (Reconstruction). It breaks down sometimes (like right now, with the wild card Trump in power), but overall, it has kept the “Deep State” regime in power since at least the time of Roosevelt I. It could do the same for the Chinese autocrats.
At the same time, The Hill is correct that China fears very greatly the other side of the coin: true Capitalism (actually, Free Markets). Despite claims by many that China has developed a capitalist economy to pair with its totalitarian government system, it really is not. It is rather a mixture of state capitalism (where the state owns and runs most industry and much business) and crony capitalism. Like most Communist and Socialist governments (whether “Fascist” or not), it is who you know and who you are that makes the difference.
So it is no wonder that Beijing fears both Hong Kong and Taiwan. And no surprise to find that is a major reason for their fear of the Republic of Korea, Empire of Japan, and Republic of the Philippines. And Singapore. Of these, perhaps the greatest fear is of Singapore, where much of the population and many of the businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators are ethnic Chinese. They demonstrate that (perhaps unlike Russia) there is nothing about Chinese society or cultural mindsets that makes them immune to the benefits of republican government and free markets. Thus reinforcing the lessons being taught daily by Taiwan and Hong Kong. And even raising the specter of human liberty: of people who are actually able to make their own decisions for themselves, and endure (or enjoy) the consequences of those decisions.
But I suspect that what Beijing’s rulers fear the worst is the can of worms they opened by allowing even a defective simulacrum of free markets into China itself. Free markets, republics (or similarly, republican-style constitutional monarchies), and liberty seem to go together.
So let me take a more extreme position. Ultimately, it is not “democracy” nor even a “republic” or “real capitalism” or “free markets” that China’s rulers fear. Or that the rulers in the rest of the world fear.
They fear liberty.
They fear the right and power of the people – individuals and small families and voluntary associations – to be free. To make their own decisions and act on them, with the only constraint being the consequences of those actions. Self-government. Personal responsibility.
- Democracy DOES NOT EQUAL Freedom.
- Democracy DOES NOT EQUAL Liberty.
- Republican government DOES NOT EQUAL Freedom.
- Democracy DOES NOT EQUAL Liberty.
If they are not already tyrannies, democracies quickly deteriorate into such, as liberty is voted away and as freedom is traded for security and safety. And even republics, with limited government powers, can still be places with little or no liberty. Where freedom is claimed and proclaimed to exist, but really does not.
But conversely, it would be possible to have freedom, to enjoy liberty, in a system where the form of government was a tyranny. Such would be much less likely than to have such in a republic, but it can happen. (Although, if such a place is made up on humans, it would require more than just saints – it would require perfection indeed.)
China’s rulers in Beijing, and most of the rulers of this world, fear liberty. They do not want freedom, and will do anything and everything they can to deny liberty to those they control. Even though they, and the powers-that-be in DC and London and Paris and Moscow and elsewhere, refuse to admit or recognize it.