The Times today has a good article about Xi Jinping , the dictator of the People’s (sic) Republic of China. China is not driven by ideology – Communist or any other sort. It is a totalitarian state without democracy , human rights or any significant freedoms. Such states, history tells us, have all-powerful figurehead leaders.
The origins of modern dictatorships were the divine right of kings monarchs and emporers of the past , a model that was not culturally dependent. Henry VIII, Louis XIV, Emporer Hirohito, the Tsars of Russia, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini…the historic norm was dictatorship everywhere. So it is not the pseudo-ideology of Communism that is at fault here, it is the iniquity of dictatorship.
China is not alone today in being governed by a despot. Even in Europe we have countries on the cusp of totalitarianism. Will Xi (or Putin) cede power? Why would they ? The young people of Tiannamen Square in 1989 tried – a more significant event than it is given credit for by some today. That brutal suppression of the flowering of freedoms went way beyond the tanks in the Square.
Similarly the rise to power of Putin was facilitated by terror – the method of dictators across history. Dictators fall but rarely is it to democrats. They usually are overthrown by another of their ilk or, like Mao or Stalin, die in harness.
For ultimate power to be replaced by a democratic system and legal freedoms takes time – though America managed it (partly at least) in 1776. And many of the nations released from the chains of being a Soviet Republic, like the Baltic states or Romania, have constructed admirable democratic systems. It can be done.
But the reality is that if you examine the world today you will see many countries (maybe a majority) with rulers more akin to Xi than to a Western elected leader. And if you look at the democracies you will see not a few with leaders with dictatorial tendencies and without adequate checks and balances. Our democracies, Britain included, are very fragile.
John Kennedy’s inauguration speech in 1960 said this: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” These ringing words were I’m sure well meant as well as eloquent. But in the sixty plus years since they have, I’m afraid, been shown to be empty rhetoric.
You do not need to search hard to find the failure of liberty – two of the worlds largest states, China and Russia, have none and in others like Brazil and India and Pakistan the democracy is fragile. In Europe there are troubling developments in EU member states like Hungary and Poland. Turkey is virtually a dictatorship and every country in the Middle East is an autocracy.
It is right to bemoan the Chinese dictatorship and it’s contempt for human rights and freedom. It’s right to deplore the threat the PRC poses to Hong Kong and Taiwan. In no way does the fact that there are many dictatorships elsewhere justify the obscenities of Xi and his band of pirates. But let’s be careful not to be sanctimonious. We have commercial alliances with the Chinese that are impossible to untangle. The factory in Shenzhen making Apple products, including the iPad on which I’m writing this blog, has 230,000 employees.
The modern world is based on a mutual interdependency between the consuming West and the manufacturing East. Much of the latter is in China where mammon has long since triumphed over the “success of liberty”. In the main the PRC is not a military threat to the West – they have no need for Lebensraum. But in what they see as their legitimate backyard, in Hong Kong, Tibet and the Uighur autonomous region in Xinjiang, no challenge to Chinese hegemony will be tolerated. And the threat to Taiwan is very real. This is the new world order – and we better get used to it.