I’ve sort of held off writing this article for a while now. But things have gone too far. I was triggered by an article in the Independent authored by Vince Cable last week on the topic of China and the west. I’m simplifying a lot here, but basically the former Lib Dem leader was saying Britain as the ex-colonial power should watch it when it comes to China. In fact, we should probably stay out of the Hong Kong debate altogether given our past sins.
This has been an emerging narrative on the western left for a while now. Partly it is a consequence of the modern day leftist formula which goes: is country x a friend or a foe of the United States of America? If it is a friend, let’s find some reason to hate it; if it’s a foe, let’s try and equivocate for all of its faults so we can still paint the country in question as one of the good guys. Example: is China really worse than any other power on Earth, when you stop and think about it? You know, that whole Uyghur prison camps things – what country doesn’t have to get a little rough on occasion, right? Hey, look at Israel – how can you defend what they’re doing and still attack China for what they do? And besides, the west shouldn’t get involved in all of this anyhow. We should keep to ourselves; anything else is neo-imperialism.
There are so many internal contradictions in the example I laid out above, it would take me 1,000 words to go through them all. I trust you’ve spotted most of them anyhow. This still hasn’t prevented a lot of the British left falling into two camps on China: one, China isn’t that bad and besides, it’s not really any of our business anyhow; two, China is an active force for good in the world, as it is nominally communist and is in the process of knocking the US off its mantle as the world’s lone superpower.
The worst thing for me about all this is the way the left can see China as being two totally opposite things at one and the same time. China is a victim of imperialism and a superpower still on the rise. When you look at modern day China’s own version of imperialism, this is dismissed through the light of the victimhood; victims can’t be oppressors in the left playbook. You are one or the other, that’s it. The plight of the Uyghurs doesn’t fit into this equation, which is why the topic is avoided as much as possible on the left. “The Uyghur prison camps? You want to bring that up when Palestinians are being murdered every day, you Tory scum?”
China really should scare the left a lot more than it does. At least Russia, for all its faults and the psychological warfare it has waged with the west with surprising success, is a fading power that is clinging on to relevancy. China is a genuine threat to the way things are. The left, in all their hatred of America, can’t understand that a new world order organised by the Chinese Communist Party would be a truly dreadful thing – by their own standards. LGBT rights? Shockingly bad. Right to peaceful protest? Yeah, right. Oh, but if we had a good government, we wouldn’t need to protest, would we? You might want to look up what happened to trade unions in the Soviet Union – or for that matter, how trade unions fare in China. There is only one legally acceptable trade union in China; it called the ACFTU and predictably, it is an arm of the Chinese Communist Party.
The western left will one day hopefully realise that it is all right to oppose laissez-faire capitalism and dictatorships that don’t like America at the same time. That you can fight for a better deal for those who are worse off in society without wanting to turn the world into North Korea. It seems stupid that this even needs to be said – welcome to 2020.
I have a book out now called “Politics is Murder”. It follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. There is also a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters thrown into the mix while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge, which now seems a charming echo of a more innocent time!
William Francis says
” I’m simplifying a lot here, but basically the former Lib Dem leader was saying Britain as the ex-colonial power should watch it when it comes to China. In fact, we should probably stay out of the Hong Kong debate altogether given our past sins.”
Seems we were reading two different articles.
Most of it was about contextualising the actions of the Chinese state with others states in rather disturbiningly realpolikique mindset.
I agree with William Francis, you have not read the article at all closely. Vince Cable explains political realities, not only about China but also the US (with whom Cable asserts that China feels it deserves parity).
The issue is that the UK has self-harmed and has lost international standing. Brexiters who cited a deal with China as key to future prosperity, now want to cut off China. Evidently there are reasons to distrust and criticise China (as there are for Russia and the US), however having snubbed easy trading with the EU, what do you propose? Perhaps for you, as for myself too, the best would be to re-embrace the Single Market, but what do Brexiters propose? They appear to be holding out for a Trump victory and a Congress that could not care about Ireland. Vince Cable makes the point that the US can already demand extradition of UK citizens who have never stepped foot in America; France does not allow this. Even discussion of a trade deal with the US involves restrictions imposed from Washington, any agreement will involve extensive further legal impositions.
There is a vacuous silence about Brexit and its consequences across UK politics, including, incredibly, in the Lib Dems and their leadership campaign. Are you part of this silence too?