More “Something must be done” bollocks about China from Matthew Parris in The Times today. I’m not personally particularly fond of blame apportionment but let’s be clear who is responsible for China’s place in the world today. Look in the mirror. I was in Tiananmen Square a couple of weeks before the Chinese murdered thousands of their own young people in 1989. It wasn’t my first visit to Peking – I’d been there several times pursuing my multinational employer’s interests. I got back safely to Hong Kong and eventually all my colleagues who were based in the capital did the same. Our MD had to be dragged away – his whole career seemed threatened if our grand ambition to profit mightily from China’s economic opening up was thwarted.
The evils of totalitarianism were for all to see well before the violent crackdown in 1989. The morality of seeking to do big business with the Chinese was rarely questioned in the western businesses pushing open the door to the market of well over a billion people. And not just a market either – a huge workforce resource. “China is Very Big” was the mantra of my MD. “China is an evil, repressive dictatorship” was not a message he wanted to hear.
The Chinese are famous for taking a long term view. “One Country Two Systems” was a comforting slogan for those negotiating the Hong Kong handover but the PRC was being artful and disingenuous. It would take a decade or two to turn China into by far the world’s largest manufactory as well as biggest market – fine, they said, we’ve got time on our hands.
Later in 1989 I presented to my management team colleagues the reputational risks of returning to China so soon after the massacre. I was told to get back in my box. It wasn’t too long before it was back to normal – Western bees around the Chinese honeypot.
The crackdown on Hong Kong didn’t happen until the economic dependency of the West on China was in place and not capable of being unravelled. The hand wringing now about Hong Kong and about the People’s Republic’s repression of the Uighurs or Tibet will not shift the Chinese one little bit. We in the West created this, without us the transformation of China into an economic powerhouse wouldn’t have happened. Look in the mirror.