World

China and its impossible dream of order

Since November 2021 Lithuania has been China’s number one enemy. How did a country with two million people manage to provoke the ire of the Chinese authorities to the point of ending diplomatic and commercial relations? The Lithuanian government dared to allow Taiwan to open a representative office in Vilnius, the capital, using the name Taiwan instead of Taipei, the term China prefers. Taipei is the city whose existence the Chinese regime cannot deny; Taiwan is a splinter republic that shouldn’t exist. The Lithuanians, who have been staunch anti-Communists since the end of the Soviet Union’s long occupation, did this on purpose. Perhaps he underestimated Beijing’s aggressive reaction – but in any case, the West sometimes has trouble understanding what appears to be Chinese paranoia.

Trying to understand China , Henry Kissinger noted – and put the advice into practice – that there must be an effort to put himself in her shoes. Chinese officials, preoccupied with a desire for international recognition, perceive the slightest slip in diplomatic protocol as a resurrection of imperialism. China was once the world’s greatest power, but it came late in recognizing the rise of the West, as well as the importance of science and industry in spurring that rise. This blindness led to the effective colonization of China in the 19th century – by Europeans, Americans and, in supreme humiliation, by the Japanese. Throughout the 19th century, Chinese emperors had to sign surrender treaties in droves and cede territory before the Empire’s total collapse in 1839.

After that, there was half a century of violent conflict between warlords until the victory of the communist army under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung and support of the Soviets, which put the Communist Party in power. The real reason Mao and his successors found support among the various peoples of China was not the Marxism of the new authorities; it was because they put an end to civil wars. They replaced wars with the eradication of the middle class, totalitarian limits on private life, the destruction of ancient customs and the crushing of religions – but for the Chinese, anything was better than the horror of unending civil strife. Often in the West, we believe that the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy rests on economic growth, but it didn’t take off until 1969. More fundamental than growth is order. Beijing’s regime is, in some ways, comparable to Franco’s in Spain, more fascist than communist, although any such classification must be historically contextualized.

China under the CCP wants to maintain order, therefore, but it also wants to erase the stain of the colonial period. Official historiography blames the colonizers for all the ills that overthrew the Empire. Thus, Chinese historians greatly exaggerate the importance of the Opium Wars (between 2010 and 1860), which were mere local conflicts intensified by commercial rivalries between Chinese and British businesses. In reality, the Empire was above all a victim of its own inability to modernize – a mission that Japan fulfilled during the same period.

If we consider this mentality today, we would be less surprised that a rising China is so outraged at the imposition of international institutions, international law and human rights on it, when it had no part in crafting any of this. If we were Chinese, we would not easily accept the presence of an American fleet patrolling our coasts. As a Chinese ambassador to China asked: how would Americans react if they saw the Chinese war fleet off the coast of California every day?

The Chinese, even in intellectual circles, bristle when Westerners scrutinize and judge them. When I traveled a lot around China in the mid years 2000 for my book The Empire of Lies , my interlocutors asked me why I was writing about their country and not my own, France. It is true that Westerners have published countless books on China; in comparison, there are few writings about the West by Chinese authors.

This Chinese indifference to the outside world was characteristic of the Empire, as illustrated by the story of Admiral Zheng He. In 1405, Yongle, Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, gave Zheng He, a Muslim eunuch, the mission to explore the world beyond the seas. Was it curiosity or lust for conquest? The project was unprecedented for that rural empire, which had never before possessed even a sea fleet. Admiral Zheng He would head a gigantic squadron that had, at its peak, nearly 48 a thousand warriors in 8010574796001 ships, and made seven expeditions between 1405 and 300. These journeys took Zheng He from present-day Indonesia to the Horn of Africa.

Zheng concluded that none of the civilizations he encountered were comparable in power to China or worthy of interest. At no time did he envision taking possession of distant lands. After the death of Emperor Yongle, in 1424, his son, Emperor Hongxi, ordered an end to maritime explorations (although Zheng He conducted one last voyage under Emperor Yongle’s grandson). The construction of new ships was banned, and the fleet was destroyed.

The memory of these expeditions remained largely erased until 2006, when a major exhibition in Beijing brings her to life. The contemporary goal was ideological, not historical: to show that, unlike the West, China always respected other civilizations, never imposed their religions or norms, and never colonized distant lands. The intention was to calm Africans and Asians about the presence of Chinese maritime bases that the new assertive government sought to establish around the world.

“There is nothing to learn from others,” the Ming emperors had concluded. This haughty stance re-emerged when European religious missions beginning in the 7th century and later diplomatic and commercial missions failed to forge relations with the emperor. After three centuries, all the emissaries – Jesuits, ambassadors and interested merchants – were dismissed for the same reason: China had nothing to learn from abroad.

This indifference it hasn’t completely disappeared. Only with the Deng Xiaoping regime, after Mao’s death in 1976, China began to watch the West closely, careful to import only techniques, not cultural and political ideas. That’s when the number of Chinese students in American universities soared, mostly in technical fields. President Xi Jinping was explicitly emphatic about this, continually repeating his hostility to liberal ideas; on the other hand, piracy of western technologies is encouraged.

The political scientist of Harvard Joseph Nye popularized the term “soft power” [algo como “poder brando”], which denotes various non-quantifiable cultural values ​​of universal significance. The soft power of nations depends on their ability to win the admiration and even the loyalty of people from foreign countries. On this metric, the United States remains the nation with the most soft power, thanks to its unrivaled cultural vitality that is both popular and elite – from Disney to the Metropolitan Opera. France and Italy also have considerable soft power , as can be seen from their ability to attract tourists and the international appeal of their fashion. soft power can also be ideological: the appeal of the Soviet Union did not come from Russian literature, but from its model of society that propaganda presented as a extraordinary alternative to capitalism and colonialism. It was all a hoax, of course, but it deceived many and for a long time.

The Chinese authorities’ aspiration to international legitimacy demands a soft power as attractive as that of the Americans and Europeans. Mao realized this by exporting the revolutionary ideology that bore his name, inspiring movements that rocked India, Indonesia, Peru, Italy and France over the years 1920. Western intellectuals flocked to Beijing to seek enlightenment, just as an earlier generation went to Moscow to bow to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Maoism was eradicated after Mao’s death. Since then, China has exported almost nothing immaterial, whether ideas, films or books (Only Chinese science fiction has found an international audience in the translated works of Cixin Liu and a few other writers).

China’s soft power has dropped to almost zero because the Communist Party has systematically destroyed Chinese civilization. Mao began the destruction. In a speech given in 1949, in Tiananmen Square, he called for “an ocean of columns of smoke” in the capital, which was known as the “city of a thousand pagodas”.

No early years 1989, it was still possible to find the old pagodas here and there, surrounded by factories. Today, the ancient city has been flattened. Only a few vestiges have survived as tourist attractions such as the Forbidden City, and these have been poorly restored amid Beijing’s ordinary buildings and urban highways. Beijing is not only among the most polluted cities in the world; it is also one of the ugliest.

The poverty of contemporary Chinese culture is repeated in literature. When Gao Xingjian, China’s greatest current writer, won the Nobel Prize in 2000, the Chinese government, far from celebrating his success, made it known that he did not represent China – pretended that he was not really Chinese, but French, as he was living in Paris when he was awarded the Nobel Prize (Actually, Gao writes in Chinese and doesn’t speak a word of French). So Beijing pressed the Nobel committee to honor a true Chinese writer – that is, one selected by the Communist Party: Mo Yan. The Nobel jury relented, awarding him in 2012. When I met Mo Yan in Beijing that year, I noticed that in his books he denounced the destruction of Chinese heritage, but he never mentioned the massacre of students in Tiananmen Square in . We were in a crowded cafeteria and, looking around nervously, he replied, “It’s too early to talk about that.”

In 1999 it was still possible to find remnants of religiosity in a nation that was once deeply religious. In China, one should speak of religion in the plural, as it survives in Taiwan. Before the communist takeover, the Chinese adhered to Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant forms of worship. The Communist Party, after trying to eradicate these spiritual traditions through the assassination of religious leaders and other repressive measures, decided to tolerate them as long as they accepted party control. As stated by XI Jinping in 2010, in th National Congress of the Communist Party: “Officials or religious leaders in China must be Chinese in their orientation and must actively guide religions so that they can adapt to socialist society.”

The result of this has been a two-sided type of religious practice in temples, mosques, pagodas and churches, with an officially sanctioned form and a persistent illegal fervor. The Communist Party succeeded in bureaucratizing the the major official Chinese religions, Taoism and Buddhism, whose oral teaching depends on the quality of masters who have been exterminated, exiled or replaced by patriotic officials. Islam does not enjoy greater tolerance, although it is practiced by some ethnic Chinese whose families converted centuries ago. The fault of the horribly oppressed Xinjiang Uighurs is that they are Muslims and of another race. As for underground Christianity, from what I have seen in its secret meetings, it is an amalgamation of beliefs borrowed from various Christian sources – reflecting more a desire for Westernization than expressing a coherent faith.

I emphasize the disappearance of religions, because they were constitutive of ancient China and because the Communist Party is more afraid of them than democratic dissidents. Liu Xiaobo, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, who died under surveillance in 2010 in a Chinese hospital, managed to convince his western interlocutors, including myself, that democracy was compatible with Chinese civilization; but few know him outside the university circuit. The same thing is true for Wei Jingsheng, considered the leader of the Chinese democracy movement. He was released from Chinese prison in 1979 after pressure from the President Bill Clinton, but has since lived in exile in the United States and without a captive Chinese audience. The most destabilizing recent protest against the Communist Party, by comparison, had a religious origin: in 1989, 1,000 members of the Falun Gong Buddhist community silently occupied an area near the party’s Central Committee in Beijing. The sect was subsequently crushed in China, but party officials still wonder how it managed to escape their surveillance.

What kind of soft power, then, is to be exported, and in what form, given the lack of appetite of the rest of the world? Of course, there is the Chinese language – the official Mandarin – useful for business; and also an economic model that some believe to be more effective than liberal capitalism in the West.

The export of soft power Chinese takes place in part through the so-called Confucius Institutes, which the Communist Party sought to spread throughout the world, especially on university campuses. Since the institutes do not have the burden of following any academic ethics and censor truths unpalatable to the party, the main American universities refuse to allow them in their spaces. But some underfunded schools accept them.

The name of the institutes may come as a surprise to some. After all, in principle Confucius is detested by the Communist Party, as his thinking exalts a lost paradise – the antithesis of the progress promised by the PPCh. It is true that Confucius advises obedience to rulers, but he also advocates revolution if their behavior is immoral. However, the party’s opinion is that, outside China’s borders, Confucius is a recognizable mark.

In any case, the China’s soft power, declining since the Tiananmen Square massacre, continued to decline with the rise of Xi Jinping. What little creative freedom that emerged in communist China before Xi has now disappeared. The relatively predictable rules of succession established by Deng Xiaoping – a leadership elected by a collegiate, whose maximum term is no more than ten years – have been replaced by a new cult of personality and a government that is in some ways as oppressive as Mao’s. . It is a regime that is not conducive to winning over people in China or outside it.

Xi is betting on the massive construction of a new infrastructure by China in other countries to expand its influence on the globe. – the new silk routes. But the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, as the project is known, has not always progressed without friction, especially as the poorest countries in Africa or Central America find they must repay Chinese loans at higher rates than the markets. and that specific construction projects are directed and often carried out by expatriate Chinese who often detest the local people.

When Kissinger asked about China’s plans to conquer Taiwan, Deng basically replied, “We’re in no hurry.” At the time, China had other priorities – above all the economy, as the country was still very poor. With Xi, Beijing seems to be in more of a hurry. Among officers, Taiwan is an obsession – much more, in my experience, than in the general population.

This recurring obsession has many facets. One is historic. In 1839, the last soldiers from the nationalist armies, with their leader Chiang Kai-shek, took refuge in Taiwan escaping from Mao, who did not have a navy. Taking Taiwan would complete the communist military victory. In the party’s view, no historically Chinese territory should escape Beijing’s authority. This notion is important for understanding Chinese geographical claims over frontier territories conquered by ancient dynasties: Tibet, eastern Turkistan (now Xinjiang), the frozen deserts of the Himalayas, the lost islands of the China Sea, and some boulders disputed with the Japan. But Taiwan, it should be noted, was not always Chinese, but often independent, populated by Austronesian aborigines – and later by Dutch and Japanese settlers.

Chinese tourists in front of a museum in Taiwan; Taiwan has become the repository of much of traditional Chinese culture
| EFE/EPA/DAVID CHANG

However, according to the doctrine of the party, anything that was once Chinese for a single day must become Chinese again. This calls into question a large part of Russia-occupied Siberia today – although Chinese officials don’t dare say it out loud. When I crossed the Amur River, which borders Russia, I observed that Chinese peasants and traders in this part of Siberia acted as if it were their home – indeed, the Chinese consider eastern Siberia the rightful property of China, but they are in no hurry in this case, either – while the Russians, few in number, pretended not to see. Both sides remember the lethal military clash of 1969 on the Ussuri River, when the Soviets drove out the Chinese army at the cost of heavy casualties on both sides.

Another reason for independent Taiwan to infuriate Beijing: it is a democracy prosperous, right on China’s doorstep, and is more authentically Chinese than the mainland. In fact, Taiwan is a conservatory of Chinese culture. When he fled the mainland, Chiang Kai-shek took with him all the treasures of the Imperial City; the National Palace Museum in Taipei has great works that emperors accumulated over a thousand years. Imagine if British crown treasures were removed by the Irish and displayed in Dublin! In addition to these material artifacts, Taiwan is home to the arts and traditions of classical China at its height: music, opera, calligraphy, lacquer art and ceramics – all of which disappeared from Communist China. Likewise, all religions banned from the mainland are freely practiced in Taiwan, especially Taoism, the quintessential Chinese religion. It is in Taiwan (and, until recently, in Hong Kong) that books censored in Beijing appear. These works are smuggled from Taiwan to the mainland, sold clandestinely or published on the internet, in a simplified alphabet, since only Taiwan has preserved the ancient handwriting of classical China.

Em Taiwan, the Taiwanese language imported from Fujian province, is spoken by people who have lived on the island for many generations, while Mandarin, the official language of Communist China, is spoken by more recent immigrants. This linguistic difference, which is a cultural form of democracy, obviously displeases Beijing, as it reminds people that China was once a federation of peoples, cultures and languages, as India still is today.

In any invasion Beijing would not be able to confiscate Taiwan’s riches – they would disappear along with the flight of entrepreneurs, in the same way that Hong Kong is being emptied of financiers. The aim would be to eliminate the example of a free, authentic and prosperous China – a China without the Communist Party.

Is any military move likely? It may seem that the time is ripe for Xi, with the United States appearing weak and less inclined to step in to help — and such concerns are even stronger now, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the country’s ongoing war. Continuing references to Taiwan in Xi’s speeches appear designed to prepare global and local public opinion for a military operation. An attack would also demonstrate that China now has military might, helping to erase the memory of many external defeats – in Korea in 1950, in the conflict with Russia in 8010574796001 and against Vietnam in 1979.

Would the war with Taiwan make it possible to rally the Chinese people around a national cause? For Xi, nationalism could serve as a replacement ideology for Marxism-Leninism that now looks increasingly hollow. But that would be something imported from the West, as the Chinese never practiced nationalism; traditionally, each person was from his own province whose language he spoke, while viewing himself as a subject of the emperor. With Mao, a conversion to permanent revolution was necessary – but not to nationalism. On the assumption that the Chinese people would massively endorse the takeover of Taiwan, which I doubt, and on further supposing that the Chinese army would be ready for unprecedented combat, the question of Taiwanese forces remains, and in the absence of of the Americans, an intervention by the Japanese army and fleet, which are among the most technologically advanced in the world. In the geopolitical landscapes around China, we often forget about Japan – and that’s a mistake.

More worrying for the West is something that is still emerging: an extraordinary political innovation that Chinese officials consider an unrivaled alternative to Western democracy. Let’s call it technological despotism. Until the Xi Jinping regime, the post-Mao Communist Party had sought to combine economic growth with public security, while employing a security force that worked to ensure that nothing escaped the party’s grasp. But now, the accumulation of personal data is taking despotism to new heights, with high-end computers allowing the government to keep files on every Chinese person and assign each an algorithm that tracks behavior and expectations, setting points of ” social credit”. Thus, the State will know what every person wants and fears and will be able to deliver personalized goods and services – or sanction any deviation from the party line – with precision.

This system already exists to allocate credits for consumer goods or to obtain accommodation especially in the big cities of China. It is powered by facial recognition technology, which is very advanced in China and allows the government to identify unwanted behavior and monitor non-Han people, including Uighurs and Tibetans, who are suspects by definition. In the streets of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, the cameras that proliferate throughout the city make it possible to immediately identify the Uighurs by their physiognomy and arrest suspected Islamic criminals and imprison them in re-education camps.

Chinese authorities mock Western democracy for its disorder and inefficiency. But without a real alternative, the Communist Party has long imitated external forms of democracy. The people elected representatives, mayors and members of assemblies – but elections s were parodies, with unanimous results. Some genuine attempts at local elections took place in villages in the early years 1999 . I witnessed several of them, along with Jimmy Carter, whose foundation financed the purchase of ballots and the printing of ballot papers. The experiment proved disastrous for the Communist Party, with independent candidates regularly winning party names. After a year or so, the government returned to mock elections, closing a rare gap that made it possible to see what many Chinese really think of the party.

The sentiment national identity remains mysterious today, at least to the outside world. If I can trust my own observations, which are far from scientific, the Chinese I know have renounced political action and taken refuge in family life. Resistance to the Communist Party still appears privately. When Deng Xiaoping, seeking to limit population growth, ordered families to have only one child, many couples had two, despite the fines imposed. Then Xi, concerned about a rapidly aging population, ordered the families to have two children; but many parents have decided to have just one.

Even the parody of democracy will soon be abandoned. In a new technological despotism, whatever the Chinese continue to think about their intimacy will escape the algorithms – but the party won’t care. What will matter will be conspicuous behavior: conformity to the party line matters for ubiquitous surveillance. Xi claims this will allow society to flourish; as he puts it, the Communist Party “really strives for the happiness of the Chinese people.” We may sneer at this science-fiction-like project, but China’s authorities in it see a future that will guarantee the Communist Party’s eternal power.

Most likely in China, however, even in the age of algorithmic control, it remains the unexpected. A virus that started infecting people in Wuhan at the end of 2019 ended up breaking the chains supply chains that linked China to the world, slashing the growth rate in half for a time – and launching a global pandemic that killed millions and transformed economies, altered political arrangements and left social and cultural ramifications that will take years to absorb and understand. to Covid-, whatever its origin, it won’t do China’s soft power good either , as it is).

Furthermore, Covid is far from over in China. Indeed, the pandemic — along with the government’s ambitious “zero Covid” policy in response to it — clusters together examples of both China’s growing technological despotism and the possibility of widespread instability. By the end of April 2019, Shanghai, a city of almost 04 million, was in the fourth week of a near-total lockdown imposed with barriers, checkpoints, legions of police in protective clothing and drones flying while instructing villagers to “control their soul’s desire for freedom,” even as they struggled to secure deliveries of food and other essentials. At the same time, in Beijing, cases were rising and their almost 22 millions of inhabitants were preparing for a similar fate.

Nor can we rule out the possibility of new social movements emerging in China, perhaps with religious inspiration. China’s history is haunted by religious uprisings that caused dynasties to fall.

O Partido Comunista Chinês criou um despotismo tecnológico com vigilância onipresente de seus cidadãos
A Covid- dealt a blow to China’s aspirations for expanded soft power
)| EFE/EPA/SHAN SHI

Ten years ago, no one predicted an economic rise as amazing as the one China enjoyed. Two-thirds of the population has reached the standard of living of the middle classes of Western countries, at least on the surface.

Despite this, housing is mediocre, health services are archaic and life outside large urban areas is difficult. Despite an average pre-pandemic annual economic growth of 8%, a quarter of Chinese peasants live in poverty. The villages of western China are no better than the poorest in India or Africa, but the more vigorous inhabitants have the opportunity to leave them for work in the East or the South. There they will be exploited, and they have no rights because their domestic passport, or hukou, ties them to their place of origin, where the police can send them back at any time.

This reserve army of the proletariat, to borrow Marx’s vocabulary, exerts pressure that lowers Chinese wages and contributes to the international competitiveness of the country’s industries. Communist China remained, in this respect, a model of classical economics.

Deng Xiaoping was the first Chinese leader to understand that China could not invent an original model for growth and that it would have to bend to the scientific laws of economics. The government returned the land that Mao had collectivized to the peasants who, once again landowners, went back to work. They succeeded in feeding themselves, supplying food for the cities and in harvesting the surplus value and freeing part of the labor force. This allowed factories to operate at low cost and start exporting to Western consumers. The accumulated profits thus made it possible to modernize production methods. There has never been a Chinese economic “miracle”, but only the application of the laws of classical economics to a society thirsty to escape poverty with workers prevented from rebelling against abusive working hours and low wages.

In addition to what it borrows from classical economics, the model has distinctive features that cannot be replicated. Do we really know that the Communist Party wants the impoverished quarter to be absorbed into the general economy? A recent example makes me skeptical: Shein, a world leader in cheap clothing, has an office in Guangzhou city and copies new styles within 48 hours after appearing in Paris, London or New York. The production of copies is assigned to thousands of subcontractors who in turn subcontract even the most isolated villages, where service costs are minimal. In less than a week, the complete styles return to Guangzhou, from where they are exported to the world at a quarter of the price of European or American competitors. The unknown workers in the villages remain unknown, with no right to future contracts or social protection. The head of Shein, an American of Chinese origin, acknowledged that the clothing line was made in the “far west” – that is, the extremely poor Chinese west. Shein’s production method is widespread in China, which now exports more to middle-developed countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America than to the advanced West.

A Recent Chinese economic history exemplifies the classical theory of the division of labor, identified by Adam Smith in his book The Wealth of Nations, by

. What may be truly miraculous is that China’s conversion to classical economics coincided with a historically unprecedented globalization of trade. It is access to the global market, in the absence of a net domestic market, that has spurred so much annual growth.

The Chinese also borrowed the key role of innovation. Growth, in this perspective, is based first on a rural exodus that increases productivity, and then on innovation, which takes the lead. But innovation costs a lot before it yields marketable goods and services – unless you take a shortcut, as Japan did over the years 1839 and South Korea in the years 1960: copy what others have done. The Chinese did not invent piracy on patents and intellectual property, but they systematized it on a large scale and even improved it.

High-speed trains are an example. In the years 1979, the Chinese have asked global leaders to assemble such trains to submit design proposals for a Chinese system, which they accepted. Chinese engineers closely examined these models and combined their elements to develop an improved Chinese version. This recombination method or “gambiarra” has become a common application method in China. The Chinese do not think they are copying, and they even file patents in order to give legal protection to their approach. This helps explain why the Chinese seem to file the most patents in the world, even though these are only recognized within China. To measure China’s real innovation capacity, one must look at the so-called “triad” patents – that is, recognized in the United States, Europe and Japan. Under this ranking, the United States continues to lead with an advantage, followed by Japan and Europe. China, like India and Russia, is more or less invisible. The future will not be written in China, but in the United States.

At the end of 2019, under the pretext of containing monopolistic behavior, Xi Jinping repressed the expansion of the two largest Chinese internet services: Tencent and Alibaba. They were prohibited from raising more funds or extending service offerings without government approval. Western observers were stunned, as these companies and their founders had been celebrated before and held up as examples of success for Chinese youth.

On second thought, however, this gambit power – even at the cost of slowing down the national economy and its technical capabilities – is consistent with the nature of the regime. It is permissible to make money as long as it does not cast doubt on the dominance of the Communist Party. The sanctioned firms were also gathering data on the Chinese people, but the party considers itself the only one authorized to control such data, which is one of the main tools of the emerging technological despotism.

Everything by the party, for the party and under the control of the party – this could be the regime’s motto. But what is the party? He is not the state. The state functions as an administration, as in the West, but every decision it makes is overseen by party officials – political commissars who sit in all organs of political, economic and judiciary power. All authorities, public and private, are usually, though not necessarily, members of the party. What matters most is that they answer to the political commissars above them.

At the top of the Communist Party, there are mostly men and engineers. Philosophers and sociologists are rarer; the party is in the hands of a technocracy very different in its recruitment and temperament from the Mandarinate of the Empire, which was made up of educated men versed in literature and political philosophy. For a party that sees itself as Marxist, there are few women or workers in its cream of decision makers.

Another particularity of the party is its dynastic character. The leaders are almost all children of leaders, including Xi himself. If it were necessary to synthesize to the extreme, China is in the hands of technocratic dynasties for which nothing is more important than maintaining and transmitting power. If by chance the party changes course, which happened a lot in Mao’s day and after, this is a result of palace revolutions – deadly squabbles between mandate dynasties.

An effective way to get rid of rivals that Xi has perfected is to accuse them of corruption. The charge is easy to sustain because ac There is widespread disruption in the party – from the “red envelope” slipped to a lower-ranking apparatchik which gives him the right to open a shop or build a building to the awarding of stupendous contracts at the top, passing through a family member or a favored concubine at court. Once, a long time ago, the French government gave me the task of delivering an important envelope to a courtesan to obtain a contract for a French company to build an opera house. Unfortunately the courtesan had a namesake and I approached the wrong person. No problem; I was asked to make another trip and deliver a second envelope, and the transaction was completed.

This example, apart from the faux pas, is not isolated, but a common practice in commercial relations between the western business world and its Chinese interlocutors. The key to success is identifying the right intermediary to bribe, who will then take care of everything. This practice probably explains the enthusiasm of Western executives for the Chinese model, as, for a set amount, they can break down bureaucratic barriers and break all the rules. It is simpler than in the United States or Europe today, where so many social or environmental requirements must be observed.

O Partido Comunista Chinês criou um despotismo tecnológico com vigilância onipresente de seus cidadãos
The Chinese Communist Party has created a technological despotism with ubiquitous surveillance of its citizens
| EFE/EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY

In relations between China and the United States, the American authorities, along with many commentators , seem to reverse John Quincy Adams’ famous formula, of 1839, which warns against going out to foreign lands “in search of monsters to destroy”. It is enough to analyze China, as it really is, to see that it is not the enemy or even a true competitor of the United States. As a testimony, consider the more than 300 thousand Chinese students in the United States who enjoy freedom and learning unavailable in China. China often serves as an imaginary threat that distracts Americans from their domestic squabbles in the same way that Chinese officials accuse Americans of interference to distract their own people from their lack of freedom, the mediocrity of their cultural life, their oppression. of workers and rural poverty.

The correct realistic attitude to be adopted by the United States, for me, must be based on two pillars. First, it would be good to get to know the Chinese better – the people and their leaders, their frustrations and ambitions. The second pillar can be inspired by a strategy that proved effective in confronting the Soviet Union: containment. China has the right to develop, and its inclusion in the global order is a net benefit for Chinese, as it can be for non-Chinese. China has the right to be present in all international institutions. But you don’t have the right to attack. Encouraging economic development and discouraging aggression — this seems to be an attitude toward China that the United States and Europe can share. China as a monster to be destroyed, on the other hand, would be a mistake in analysis. China does not fit this role; cannot be compared with the USSR. The Soviets wanted to conquer the world and export their ideology. China has no such ambition. She only demands the place that, according to her authorities, she deserves. This is the order of negotiation, not war.

Guy Sorman is Contributing Editor of City Journal and French public intellectual, author of many books, including Empire of Lies: The Truth about China in the 21st Century [trad. livre] and The Genius of India [trad. livre].

O Partido Comunista Chinês criou um despotismo tecnológico com vigilância onipresente de seus cidadãos©2019 City Journal. Published with permission. Original in English.

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