As China once again is in the news – thanks to the coronavirus and the recent Phase I trade deal – let us look at that empire a bit more.
China is increasingly becoming THE bugbear of American politicians and brass-hats (Pentagon political “soldiers”). Dozens of specialty news outlets, and a few mainstream media outlets, push the threat that China presents to the FedGov, the Fifty States, and world economy and peace.
I have, for years, viewed China as an evolving but still Marxist state, molded by the murders and tyranny of Mao and his successors. Together with traditional Chinese culture and morals, and with a surprising amount of ingenuity, it has survived nearly three decades longer than its parent, the Soviet Union.
But now, I wonder… and my understanding is changing.
The impetus for this comes from several scholars and writers. One is Peter Zeihen, a geopolitical observer and student of history. The other is George Gilder, a “future guru” and now with Agora (and Laissez Faire).
I’ll talk about George Gilder first. He offers an interesting view of Red China, at least economically. He believes that the Beijing Regime pays lip-service to Communism and Marxism, making it a part of Chinese national unity, but in reality has increasingly become a capitalist, free market economy. One with massive amounts of innovation, economic freedom, and a growing economy that is incompatible with any version of Communism. I understand his logic and reasoning, but I am not convinced he is accurate: what he describes could just as easily be a mixed economy that is “national socialist” in orientation and really the same as classical fascism (as found in Italy, Spain, Argentina, and yes, the Dritte Reich of Germany).
He does not address personal freedom directly, but refers to the rapid growth of Christianity as impacting China as much as the growth of Capitalism. In this, he is no doubt right. A situation in which there are “economic rights” but not individual “personal” rights and liberties has always proved to be very unstable.
And there is much more found in China that characterizes it as continuing to be Communist. Perhaps a distinct Chinese form as contrasted to the “pure” Marxist-Leninist version supposedly followed in the Soviet Union. The brutal actions against Uighurs and repression in Tibet, the crackdown on religion, the party hierarchy, the corruption, and the lack of personal liberty are all evidence. As is the imposition of cultural uniformity.
Peter Zeihan points out that China is in a box, as seen in the map below. This is galling for an imperial power.
However, it is the psychological box around the Middle Kingdom that is more an issue. China is viewed with suspicion, alarm, and fear by its near neighbors and by people in far lands.
An example of the anti-Chinese bias among many of us can be found in this news story: Black Death Plague just reappeared in China. This was news several months ago, long before the present coronavirus crisis. Two patients were apparently diagnosed (and are being treated) for the pneumonic form of bubonic plague, which is believed to be the cause of depopulating a third of Europe centuries ago. But anyone who knows even a little bit about public health and the American Southwest knows that Plague is endemic in the deserts of the Four Corners, that there are usually several dozen people a year who contract it, and that one of its forms is the pneumonic version.
At the same time, China also faces incredible internal stresses, both economic and cultural. The Han of Northern China (and not all of that) have imposed their rule over dozens of ethnic Chinese groups in the South, the Northeast (Manchuria) and of course, the West (Singiang and Tibet, and elsewhere). China has frequently fragmented in the past, and there is no reason to expect that to change. The current Communist regime is just another, somewhat different, dynasty. It will faller – and it is like that will be sooner than later.
The love of liberty and freedom seen in modern Tibet, Taiwan, even Sinkiang, and especially Hong Kong and nations like Singapore with large Chinese ethnic populations can only grow. And will ultimately win! And one more empire will (again) fall.
These two views are of great contrast to each other, and the advice each scholar offers is very different. But trying to imitate China in business and technological development does not seem a wise idea for lovers of liberty – or even the FedGov. Live and let live, and make sure that we offer as little opportunity for China to interfere in our own society and economy seems by far the better course to follow.