September 30, 2019

China going for the communist duration record

Clampdown in Hong Kong
The Soviet Union lasted from December 30, 1922 until December 26, 1991. That's just a few days short of 69 years. Tomorrow, China will have reached 70 years of communist rule. Perhaps the Communist Party of China has some trepidation that there's a shelf life for communism beyond which the inevitable decay or overthrown of communism happens within a country. Frankly I've wondered that myself; how long can communism last? How long can a democracy or a representative republic last for that matter? But in china's case you can tell they have that sort of calamity in mind. Why else would they be so worried about the protests in Hong Kong? Sure it's a smear on their supposedly perfect rule, but the bigger picture has to be about maintaining communism. Xi Jinping has not only cracked down on drones, drinking or dissent but since his leadership, China's liberalization towards freedoms has been forced into a hard reverse.

China has made a lot of progress in the last 40 years, particularly since the late 1990's, but now they are reversing course because while they want the success, they also want iron fist rule:
The miraculous quality of China’s achievements makes what is happening in the country today especially tragic—and alarming. Under the guise of fighting corruption, President Xi Jinping is methodically dismantling virtually every one of the reforms that made China’s spectacular growth possible over the last four decades. In the place of a flawed but highly successful system, he is erecting a colossal cult of personality focused on him alone, concentrating more power in his hands than has any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

In the short term, Xi’s efforts may make China seem less corrupt and more stable. But by destroying many of the mechanisms that made the Chinese miracle possible, Xi risks reversing those gains and turning China into just another police state (think a gigantic, more open version of North Korea): inefficient, ineffective, brittle, and bellicose. And that should worry not just China’s 1.4 billion citizens but the rest of us as well.
There is no historical precedent for fascist rule and sustained economic success, the same is true for communism and sustained economic success.  China and Xi clearly believe not only that they are destined to become the sole superpower down the road, outlasting previous communist regimes by a very long time, but they also believe they can prove that oppressive rule and economic success can coexist. Make no mistake, if it's possible then China is the place it can be done.  But it's not possible really.

What has kept China going is a series of blunders by the West. 

  • 1971 -The U.N. United Nations recognized the People’s Republic of China, giving it the permanent Security Council seat formerly held by Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China on Taiwan (since 1945).
  • 1972 - Richard Nixon visited China to improve relations, trying to leverage the rising nation to help offset the Soviet Union in Asia.
  • 1979 - Jimmy Carter granted China full diplomatic recognition, acknowledged mainland China's One China principle and severed normal ties with Taiwan.
  • 1984 - Ronald Reagan, while supporting the Taiwanese morally, agreed to sell weapons to China, following the Nixonian premise of countering Soviet Russia.
  • 1989 - George H.W. Bush witnesses the Chinese Tiananmen Square massacre and suspends sales of weapons to China but takes no further action.
  • 1993 - Bill Clinton launched a policy of “constructive engagement” with China.
  • 2000 - Bill Clinton commited one of the most egregious errors in China policy by granting China permanent, normal trade relations with the United States and setting the stage for China to join the WTO (World Trade Organization) the following year.
  • 2005 - George W. Bush recognized China as an emerging power and in the post 9/11 world, tried to leverage China to use its influence with rogue nations such as North Korea, Iran and Sudan into the international system. 
  • 2012- Barack Obama faced with China's unfair and often unlawful trade practices (including currency manipulation, intellectual property theft and destructive laws towards foreign companies who want to operate in China, it's protective moves towards rare earth metals) complained to the WTO but does nothing else. 
  • 2014 - Barack Obama in the face of Chinese hacking into U.S. government and business computers, had indictments against Chinese government hackers, but did nothing else, allowing China's communist government to continue hacking, despite the indictments. That same year, Obama signed a climate agreement with China, an agreement China was in no hurry to implement on their side.
  • 2015 - Barack Obama did nothing when China started construction of islands in the South China Sea, clearly intended for military use in the disputed waters.
  • 2017 - Donald Trump reaffirmed the nation's One China policy after flirting with recognizing Taiwan once again.

Every president since Nixon has made mistakes - strategic blunders in fact. But president Trump, despite softening on Taiwan in 2017, has since tried to reverse the nation's course, and fairly aggressively. It's not just the tariffs, it's also the 2018 announcement by VP Mike Pence that the United States will treat China as a competitor and not a partner and condemning the actions of China in the South China Sea and interference in American elections. Further in 2018, America's partner Canada arrested a Huawei executive for industrial espionage and the United States banned Huawei from the 5G developments in the United States because of potential spyware embedding. Just this August, 2019 has designated China a s a currency manipulator.

Make no mistake, communist China is a bad actor. They mistreat their own people, they lie to them. They cheat and lie to trade partners and are acting aggressively in the South China Sea, clearly with their eyes on Taiwan. They also have eyes on Africa and other nations with their insidious Belt and Road Initiative.  President Trump's approach is some unpleasant medicine, but it is completely necessary at this point, before China becomes unstoppable.  True they may not be able to sustain their iron fist communism long term, but they are trying to do just that.  Ignoring it is not an option because as I said before, if there is any country suited to despotism, communism and economic power simultaneously, China is it. 

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