China is not a democracy; at least not in the sense to which our western sensibility is acclimated. Starting in the 1980s (the period of opening up and reform), the government organized village elections in which several candidates would run. They labelled this “the New Democracy” or “Democracy with Chinese characteristics”.
Nevertheless, in practice each of the candidates was chosen or in the least “approved” by the single dominant Communist Party of China. Higher levels within the echelons of government are indirectly elected; with candidates, in essence, being vetted by high-rankers within government. Only the former British and Portuguese colonies of Hong Kong and Macau have been given the vote. But, as in the village elections, those who run for election are strictly and closely selected by the leadership of the Communist Party. It is for these reasons, and not unfairly, that China is deemed undemocratic. And there is little effort by the Party to deny this allegation. Quick to express scepticism over democracy in China, critics of this notion nominally tout the idea that China is better off because positions are assumed by people who are qualified by due merit as opposed to popularity, not to mention that traditional Chinese values are often said to be not in line with the idea and practice of liberal democracy (though in fairness, liberal democratic Taiwan, whom they claim is a part of China may serve as a rebuttal to this claim).
Following the death of Mao, Deng Xiaoping who was much less economically (not so much politically) conservative and much more pragmatic than Chairman Mao and his comrades, rolled out a number of reforms that were calculated to stimulate and modernise the Chinese economy. A privatisation scheme was unfolded and people were paid in differentiated amounts and according to how much they produced for the first time in the 1970s and special economic zones were created in some coastal cities where government involvement was not as pronounced as it had been under Chairman Mao. Soon a middle class (claimed to be the nominal force behind democratisation in the other wealthy countries in the region such as South Korea and Taiwan) began to take form – and this was greatly encouraged as it was a signpost that China was growing. But these reforms only went so far where political life was concerned – here there was to be no free market of values and ideas; the Communist Party was still in charge. It is indeed true that, unlike before, the people could disagree with the leader and could (though in a decidedly Chinese and respectful manner in which one could not go “too far”), criticise the government’s policies. This was a long way since the Hundred Flowers campaign in which dissenters were baited into voicing their opinions and then purged for doing so. But it still had its limits wedded into it. And there is no stauncher reminder of this than the infamous Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 1986 and subsequent demotion of reformist elements in the Party, most notably Hu Yaobang. The subsequent declaration of martial law and crackdown on people who seemingly were only guilty of wanting their state to politically open up and be more democratic was only more proof that the Chinese state, just three years before the Soviet Union and much of communist Eastern Europe would undergo their own largely successful conversions to democracy, was not willing to transform itself overnight into a democracy.
And in fact one could argue that the reforms necessitated an even less democratic China in that they reverted, in rhetoric and in ends at least, to the China of the Great Leap Forward. Consider the extent to which the planning is done from above and, necessarily, popular participation is seen as potentially opening a window for dissent and therefore a path towards distraction from the task at hand. So much of what China has achieved and hopes to achieve in the wake of the reforms and opening up is pinned to a particularly anti-democratic, anti-populist notion of the state and its constituent citizens.
This speaks to another reason as to why China will not democratise anytime soon. That of the outside world which China has been increasingly trading with since Deng took to opening up the republic and made it the ‘world’s factory’. While it would appear that in rhetoric at least, the United States and other ‘standard-bearers’ of liberal democracy are at odds with China over the country’s anti-democratic stance and its poor human rights record, in actual fact the outside world benefits greatly from a non-democratic China. These outside forces have been able to harness the fact that China’s citizens have tenuous standing and codified human rights and have used this to optimise their own costs of production. Knowing that the government wants more and more of the world to outsource manufacturing to it so that it may grow its economy by the close to 10% figure it desires and that it is willing and able to clampdown significant protests by the workers, many western multinational corporations have greatly outsourced their production to China in full confidence that the regime will remain stable and that the labour will remain cheap to compensate and with very few requirements to provide (air-conditioning, working hours cut off and even age restrictions). This essentially means then that outside “pressure” for China to democratise will be limited to Nobel Prize giving to the country’s would-be reformers, speeches at the United Nations, Amnesty International reports and little else. Indeed, many cower to even allow an aged religious leader a visa into its borders in fears that it might offend the hardliners in the Chinese government and therefore compromise its investments and manufacturing.
In any case, the Communist Party has very little actual opposition. The strongest challenge it has faced in way of democratisation may be said to be the Democracy Party of China which was established by former Tiananmen Square student protestors. In just 24 hours after the founders tried to unsuccessfully register the party, the central government cracked down on the organisation’s leaders. C Wong Donghai was quickly sentenced on December 21, 1998 to 11 years of imprisonment and three years of deprivation of political rights “for subversion of the tranquillity of the republic.” And on the very same day, another prominent member, Xu Wenli was sentenced to 13 years “for attempting to overthrow the Communist Party.” Many more were to suffer similar or close to similar fates. The only legally permitted pro-democracy party in China is the meagre, powerless 250,000-member China Democratic League which was founded in 1941 and quickly became absorbed into the United Front coalition led by the CCP.
The 2014 Yellow Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, the most recent episode in attempts by the citizens of that region to achieve concessions from Beijing achieved very little and in fact caused even more reaction on the part of the CCP – there were no changes in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress which the 100,000 protestors were calling for and the grip over entertainment, media and the press was tightened even more. The timing could not have been worse, for this movement coincided with President Xi Jinping’s policy of a crackdown on dissenters and factionalists. The incumbent President and Paramount Leader, touted by British leftist news magazine The NewStatesman as ‘Mini-Mao’ for supposedly being the most consolidated and powerful President of China since Mao, has launched a campaign under the banner of anti-corruption with the aim of purging elements that show themselves poised to threaten the status quo.
Furthermore, there is also the controversial notion that the people of China would not benefit from transparency. The Chinese practice of ‘guangxi’ which is characterised by usage of one’s connections for self-advancement in dealings is widely used by hundreds of millions of Chinese people from social settings to business and government transactions; from small villages to megacities. Instilling democracy with its appendage of total transparency would uproot the way of life for a vast majority of China’s population and would likely meet opposition no matter how minimal. And while it is difficult to generalise, China is after all home to over a billion people, it has been suggested that a large number of citizens are abject to revolutions which tend to be costly and bring their lives to a grinding halt. For not only would democracy be a change in the way of government, but also the character of social life to which the people of China have become acclimated.
When the officials of China look at the democratic world, there is not much that indicates to them that democracy breeds national unity – much the opposite. In England there is the Scottish question, in Spain there is Catalonia, in Belgium there is Wallonia, in Canada there is Quebec, and close to home in India there is Kashmir (over whom in any case, the Chinese seek to assert their claim). To them, therefore, and not at all without reason, the creation of a democratic system would only serve to stoke and fuel the flames of secessionism. Already, they are constantly having to show a firm hand and cold prison cells for those who wish to carve out of China a series of separate, independent states. Not only are there disputes with neighbours over island territories, and Taiwan over its sovereignty, but China is already having to deal with these elements in its mainland provinces. There is, most famously, the issue of Tibet and then there is that of the province of Xinjiang. The province is mostly populated by a Muslim Uygur population which sees itself as more Turkic than (Han) Chinese and who seek independence along the lines of Mongolia or even a union with one of the adjoining majority Muslim, Turkic states of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan. And this has been in spite of constant intimidation and express firmness by the Chinese state. How much more of the likelihood that they would seek independence if China becomes a democracy? How much more so when the instrument of the referendum is at the disposal? Would they attempt to use it for the purposes of breaking away from the government of Beijing which, it is at least alleged, mistreats and violates their rights on account of their linguistic idiosyncrasies, ethnicity and Muslim faith which they stridently cling on to despite incentives to the contrary by the overwhelmingly atheist, Marxist government? Handing them the referendum would only be a blank cheque for them to rip from China the one-and-a-half-million square-kilometre, oil-laden and natural gas haven (the province being the largest producer of the substance in China). Democracy would stand to be a setback therefore to not only China’s territorial integrity but, ultimately, to its economic prospects and explicit aims. An article by Horowitz in Quartz in 2016 detailed the extent to which China may have actually been further less incentivised towards democracy by the recent results of Brexit for the removal of Britain from the European Union.
The manner in which China’s government is run also makes it unlikely that the state will, voluntarily at least, become democratic. First of all, the Paramount leader wears the three hats of President of the People’s Republic of China, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Committee. This makes dissent from either structures very unlikely – and this is by design. In addition to this, the Politburo is garnered from a selection process by the current Politburo membership who closely vet and select their successors and colleagues accordingly those whom they deem to be most likely continue the party’s line of tight control over the Chinese society. In addition to this, the party has well over 80 million card-carrying members (making it the largest political party in the world) – and has a tight grip over China’s other “major” political force, the eight-party coalition, the United Front (allowed to exist, in any case, for the lack of political threat it poses).
So, will China become a democracy? It depends. As historians and Communist Party leadership alike will recall (and they most certainly do recall) the simultaneous coalition of factors, and little else, was the deciding force which made it possible to answer to the affirmative, for the most part in any case, when the question was posed on whether “could China become a one-party, communist people’s republic?” We should not anticipate a democratic overhaul in China anytime soon, but likewise we should not be too surprised if it occurs.
Deeper meanings of the Hong Kong protests: Is China a gamechanger or yet another winner?
Does our history only appear overheated, while it is essentially calmly predetermined? Is it directional or conceivable, dialectic and eclectic or cyclical, and therefore cynical? Surely, our history warns. Does it also provide for a hope? Hence, what is in front of us: destiny or future?
Theory loves to teach us that extensive debates on what kind of economic system is most conductive to human wellbeing is what consumed most of our civilizational vertical. However, our history has a different say: It seems that the manipulation of the global political economy – far more than the introduction of ideologies – is the dominant and arguably more durable way that human elites usually conspired to build or break civilizations, as planned projects. Somewhere down the process, it deceived us, becoming the self-entrapment. How?
One of the biggest (nearly schizophrenic) dilemmas of liberalism, ever since David Hume and Adam Smith, was an insight into reality: Whether the world is essentially Hobbesian or Kantian. As postulated, the main task of any liberal state is to enable and maintain wealth of its nation, which of course rests upon wealthy individuals inhabiting the particular state. That imperative brought about another dilemma: if wealthy individual, the state will rob you, but in absence of it, the pauperized masses will mob you.
The invisible hand of Smith’s followers have found the satisfactory answer – sovereign debt. That ‘invention’ meant: relatively strong central government of the state. Instead of popular control through the democratic checks-&-balance mechanism, such a state should be rather heavily indebted. Debt – firstly to local merchants, than to foreigners – is a far more powerful deterrent, as it resides outside the popular check domain.
With such a mixed blessing, no empire can easily demonetize its legitimacy, and abandon its hierarchical but invisible and unconstitutional controls. This is how a debtor empire was born. A blessing or totalitarian curse? Let us briefly examine it.
The Soviet Union – much as (the pre-Deng’s) China itself – was far more of a classic continental military empire (overtly brutal; rigid, authoritative, anti-individual, apparent, secretive), while the US was more a financial-trading empire (covertly coercive; hierarchical, yet asocial, exploitive, pervasive, polarizing). On opposite sides of the globe and cognition, to each other they remained enigmatic, mysterious and incalculable: Bear of permafrost vs. Fish of the warm seas. Sparta vs. Athens. Rome vs. Phoenicia… However, common for the both was a super-appetite for omnipresence. Along with the price to pay for it.
Consequently, the Soviets went bankrupt by mid 1980s – they cracked under its own weight, imperially overstretched. So did the Americans – the ‘white man burden’ fractured them already by the Vietnam war, with the Nixon shock only officializing it. However, the US imperium managed to survive and to outlive the Soviets. How?
The United States, with its financial capital (or an outfoxing illusion of it), evolved into a debtor empire through the Wall Street guaranties. Titanium-made Sputnik vs. gold mine of printed-paper… Nothing epitomizes this better than the words of the longest serving US Federal Reserve’s boss, Alan Greenspan, who famously quoted J.B. Connally to then French President Jacques Chirac: “True, the dollar is our currency, but your problem”. Hegemony vs. hegemoney.
House of Cards
Conventional economic theory teaches us that money is a universal equivalent to all goods. Historically, currencies were a space and time-related, to say locality-dependent. However, like no currency ever before, the US dollar became – past the WWII – the universal equivalent to all other moneys of the world. According to history of currencies, the core component of the non-precious metals’ money is a so-called promissory note – intangible belief that,by any given point in future, a particular shiny paper (self-styled as money) will be smoothly exchanged for real goods.
Thus, roughly speaking, money is nothing else but a civilizational construct about imagined/projected tomorrow – that the next day (which nobody has ever seen in the history of humankind, but everybody operates with) definitely comes (i), and that this tomorrow will certainly be a better day then our yesterday or even our today (ii).
This and similar types of collective constructs (horizontal and vertical) over our social contracts hold society together as much as its economy keeps it alive and evolving. Hence, it is money that powers economy, but our blind faith in constructed (imagined) tomorrows and its alleged certainty is what empowers money.
Clearly, the universal equivalent of all equivalents – the US dollar – follows the same pattern: Bold and widely accepted promise. What does the US dollar promise when there is no gold cover attached to it ever since the time of Nixon shock of 1971?
Pentagon promises that the oceanic sea-lanes will remain opened (read: controlled by the US Navy), pathways unhindered, and that the most traded world’s commodity – oil, will be delivered. So, it is not a crude or its delivery what is a cover to the US dollar – it is a promise that oil of tomorrow will be deliverable. That is a real might of the US dollar, which in return finances Pentagon’s massive expenditures and shoulders its supremacy.
Admired and feared, Pentagon further fans our planetary belief in tomorrow’s deliverability – if we only keep our faith in dollar (and hydrocarbons’ energized economy), and so on and on in perpetuated circle of mutual reinforcements.
These two pillars of the US might from the East coast (the US Treasury/Wall Street and Pentagon) together with the two pillars of the West coast – both financed and amplified by the US dollar, and spread through the open sea-routs (Silicone Valley and Hollywood), are an essence of the US posture.
This very nature of power explains why the Americans have missed to take the mankind into completely other direction; towards the non-confrontational, decarbonized, de-monetized/de-financialized and de-psychologized, the self-realizing and green humankind. In short, to turn history into a moral success story. They had such a chance when, past the Gorbachev’s unconditional surrender of the Soviet bloc, and the Deng’s Copernicus-shift of China, the US – unconstrained as a lonely superpower – solely dictated terms of reference; our common destiny and direction/s to our future/s.
Winner is rarely a game-changer
Sadly enough, that was not the first missed opportunity for the US to soften and delay its forthcoming, imminent multidimensional imperial retreat. The very epilogue of the WWII meant a full security guaranty for the US: Geo-economically – 54% of anything manufactured in the world was carrying the Made in USA label, and geostrategically – the US had uninterruptedly enjoyed nearly a decade of the ‘nuclear monopoly’. Up to this very day, the US scores the biggest number of N-tests conducted, the largest stockpile of nuclear weaponry, and it represents the only power ever deploying this ‘ultimate weapon’ on other nation. To complete the irony, Americans enjoy geographic advantage like no other empire before. Save the US, as Ikenberry notes: “…every major power in the world lives in a crowded geopolitical neighborhood where shifts in power routinely provoke counterbalancing”. Look the map, at Russia or China and their packed surroundings. The US is blessed with its insular position, by neighboring oceans. All that should harbor tranquility, peace and prosperity, foresightedness.
Why the lonely might, an empire by invitation did not evolve into empire of relaxation, a generator of harmony? Why does it hold (extra-judicially) captive more political prisoners on Cuban soil than the badmouthed Cuban regime has ever had? Why does it remain obsessed with armament for at home and abroad? Why existential anxieties for at home and security challenges for abroad ? (Eg. 78% of all weaponry at disposal in the wider MENA theater is manufactured in the US, while domestically Americans – only for their civilian purpose – have 1,2 small arms pieces per capita.)
Why the fall of Berlin Wall 30 years ago marked a beginning of decades of stagnant or failing incomes in the US (and elsewhere in the OECD world) coupled with alarming inequalities. What are we talking about here; the inadequate intensity of our tireless confrontational push or about the false course of our civilizational direction?
Indeed, no successful and enduring empire does merely rely on coercion, be it abroad or at home. The grand design of every empire in past rested on a skillful calibration between obedience and initiative – at home, and between bandwagoning and engagement – abroad. In XXI century, one wins when one convinces not when one coerces. Hence, if unable to escape its inner logics and deeply-rooted appeal of confrontational nostalgia, the prevailing archrival is only a winner, rarely a game-changer.
To sum up; After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Americans accelerated expansion while waiting for (real or imagined) adversaries to further decline, ‘liberalize’ and bandwagon behind the US. Expansion is the path to security dictatum only exacerbated the problems afflicting the Pax Americana. That is how the capability of the US to maintain its order started to erode faster than the capacity of its opponents to challenge it. A classical imperial self-entrapment!!
The repeated failure to notice and recalibrate its imperial retreat brought the painful hangovers to Washington by the last presidential elections. Inability to manage the rising costs of sustaining the imperial order only increased the domestic popular revolt and political pressure to abandon its ‘mission’ altogether. Perfectly hitting the target to miss everything else …
Hence, Americans are not fixing the world any more. They are only managing its decline. Look at their (winner) footprint in former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria – to mention but a few.
When the Soviets lost their own indigenous ideological matrix and maverick confrontational stance, and when the US dominated West missed to triumph although winning the Cold War, how to expect from the imitator to score the lasting moral or even amomentary economic victory?
Neither more confrontation and more carbons nor more weaponized trade and traded weapons will save our day. It failed in past, it will fail again any given day.
Interestingly, China opposed the I World, left the II in rift, and ever since Bandung of 1955 it neither won over nor (truly) joined the III Way. Today, many see it as a main contestant. But, where is a lasting success?
(The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is what the most attribute as an instrument of the Chinese planetary posture. Chinese leaders promised massive infrastructure projects all around by burning trillions of dollars. Still, numbers are more moderate. As the recent The II BRI Summit has shown, so far, Chinese companies had invested $90 worldwide. Seems, neither People’s Republic is as rich as many (wish to) think nor it will be able to finance its promised projects without seeking for a global private capital. Such a capital –if ever – will not flow without conditionalities. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the BRICS or ‘New Development’ – Bank have some $150 billion at hand, and the Silk Road Infrastructure Fund (SRIF) has up to $40 billion. Chinese state and semi-private companies can access – according to the OECD estimates – just another $600 billion (much of it tight) from the home, state-controlled financial sector. That means that China runs short on the BRI deliveries worldwide. Ergo, either bad news to the (BRI) world or the conditionalities’ constrained China.)
Greening international relations along with a greening of economy – geopolitical and environmental understanding, de-acidification and relaxation is the only way out.
That necessitates both at once: less confrontation over the art-of-day technology and their monopolies’ redistribution (as preached by the Sino-American high priests of globalization) as well as the resolute work on the so-called Tesla-ian implosive/fusion-holistic systems(including free-energy technologies; carbon-sequestration; antigravity and self-navigational solutions; bioinformatics and nanorobotics). More of initiative than of obedience (including more public control over data hoovering). More effort to excellence (creation) than struggle for preeminence (partition).
Finally, no global leader has ever in history emerged from a shaky and distrustful neighborhood, or by offering a little bit more of the same in lieu of an innovative technological advancement. (Eg. many see the Chinese 5G as an illiberal innovation, which may end up servicing authoritarianism, anywhere. And indeed, the AI deep learning inspired by biological neurons (neural science) including its three methods: supervised, unsupervised and reinforced learning can end up used for the digital authoritarianism, predictive policing and manufactured social governance based on the bonus-malus behavioral social credits.)
Ergo, it all starts from within, from at home. Without support from a home base (including that of Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet), there is no game changer. China’s home is Asia. Its size and its centrality along with its impressive output is constraining it enough.
Hence, it is not only a new, non-imitative, turn of technology what is needed. Without truly and sincerely embracing mechanisms such as the NaM, ASEAN and SAARC (eventually even the OSCE) and the main champions of multilateralism in Asia, those being India Indonesia and Japan first of all, China has no future of what is planetary awaited – the third force, a game-changer, lasting visionary and trusted global leader.
To varying degrees, but all throughout a premodern and modern history, nearly every world’s major foreign policy originator was dependent (and still depends) on what happens in, and to, Russia. It is not only a size, but also centrality of Russia that matters. It is as much (if not even more), as it is an omnipresence of the US and as it is a hyper production of the PR China.
Ergo, it is an uninterrupted flow of manufactured goods to the whole world, it is balancing of the oversized and centrally positioned one, and it is the ability to controllably destruct the way in and insert itself of the peripheral one. The oscillatory interplay of these three is what characterizes our days.
Uyghur asylum seeker puts international community on the spot
Ablikim Yusuf, a 53-year old Uyghur Muslim seeking a safe haven from potential Chinese persecution, landed this week in the United States, his new home.
But Mr. Yusuf’s perilous search that took him from Pakistan to Qatar to Bosnia Herzegovina where was refused entry and back to Qatar highlighted China’s inability to enforce its depiction of the brutal clampdown on Turkic Muslims in its troubled, north-western province of Xinjiang as a purely domestic matter.
Mr. Yusuf’s case also spotlighted the risk of increased mass migration in a world in which ethnic and religious minorities increasingly feel existentially threatened by civilizationalist policies pursued by illiberal and authoritarian leaders as well as supremacists, racists and far-right nationalist groups.
By choosing Qatar Airways and making Doha his first point of landing after leaving his residence in Pakistan, Mr. Yusuf further underscored the fragility of Muslim acquiescence in the Chinese clampdown and called into question application of Qatar’s asylum law. With the adoption of the law, Qatar last year became the first Arab state to legalize asylum.
While Mr. Yusuf is fortunate to have ended his ordeal with his arrival in the United States, his case accentuated the hypocrisy of the Trump administration that has demonized migrants and refugees and “weaponized” US human rights policy.
Mr. Yusuf’s plight serves the United States as it fights an escalating trade war with China and has made the clampdown in Xinjiang one of the opportunistically selected cases of human rights violations it is willing to emphasize.
Mr Yusuf put Qatar and the international community on the spot when he last weekend posted online a mobile phone video pleading for help hours before he was slated to be deported from Doha’s Hamad International Airport to Beijing.
The plea generated thousands of retweets by Uyghur activists and won him assistance from an American human rights lawyer and ultimately asylum in the US.
If deported to China, Mr. Yusuf would have risked being incarcerated in a re-education camp which has been an involuntary home for an estimated one million Uyghurs in China as part of what amounts to the worst assault on a faith in recent history.
China said last month that the majority of the detainees in what it describes as vocational training facilities had been released and “returned to society” but independent observers say there is no evidence that the camps are being emptied.
Mr. Yusuf decided to leave his home in Pakistan for safer pastures after Pakistan became one of up to 50 countries that signed a letter in support of the clampdown.
Concerned that Pakistan, the largest beneficiary of Chinese Belt and Road-related investment, could deport its Uyghur residents, Mr. Yusuf travelled on a Chinese travel document rather than a passport that was valid only for travel to China. China’s issuance of such documents is designed to force Uyghurs to return.
The travel document provided cover for Qatar’s initial decision to return him to China rather than potentially spark Chinese ire by granting him asylum. International pressure persuaded Qatar to give Mr. Yusuf the opportunity to find a country that would accept him.
China’s clampdown in Xinjiang is but the sharp edge of a global trend fuelled by the rise of leaders across the globe in countries ranging from the United States to China, Russia, India, Hungary, Turkey and Myanmar who think in civilizational terms, undermine minority rights, wittingly or unwittingly legitimize violence, and risk persuading large population groups to migrate in search of safer pastures.
Hate crimes have gripped the United States with critics of President Donald J. Trump charging, despite his explicit condemnation this week of white supremacism, that his hardline attitude and language when it comes to migrants and refugees has created an enabling environment.
Violence against Muslims in India, home to the world’s second largest Muslim community, has increased dramatically with 90 percent of religious hate crimes in the last decade having occurred since Narendra Modi became prime minister.
Some 750,000 Rohingya linger in Bangladeshi refugee camps after fleeing persecution in Myanmar while Islamophobia has become part of US, European and Chinese discourse and Jews in Europe fear a new wave of anti-Semitism.
Italy took efforts to counter migration that are likely to aggravate rather than alleviate a crisis a step further by adopting a law that would slap fines of up to US$1.12 million on those seeking to rescue migrants adrift at sea.
The Chinese clampdown that bars most Uyghurs from travel and seeks to force those abroad to return has so far spared the world yet another stream of people desperate to find a secure and safe home. The risk of an eventual Uyghur exodus remains with the fallout of the Chinese re-education effort yet to be seen.
Mr. Yusuf could well prove to be not only the tip of the Uyghur iceberg but of a future global crisis as a result of an international community that not only increasingly has turned its back on those in need but also pursues exclusionary rather than inclusionary policies.
China’s risky bets
China’s infrastructure and energy driven US$1 trillion Belt and Road initiative involves risky bets across a swath of land populated by often illiberal or autocratic governments exercising power without independent checks and balances.
Seeking to reduce risk, China is bumping up against the limits of its own long-standing foreign and defence policy principles, foremost among which its insistence on non-interference in the domestic affairs of others, the equivalent of the United States’ preference for stability rather than political change.
Anti-corruption sentiment fuelled the 2011 popular Arab revolts that toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen and are at the root of current anti-government protests across the globe in countries as far flung as Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Russia, Zambia, the Czech Republic, Albania and Romania
China’s risks were evident in the wake of the fall in 2011 of Col. Moammar Gaddafi when the post-revolt Libyan authorities advised China that it would be low on the totem pole as a result of its support of the ancien regime.
The risks are also evident with Baloch militants targeting Chinese assets and personnel in Pakistan.
To minimize the risk and expand its aggressive domestic anti-graft campaign, China’s top anti-corruption body, the Communist party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), is embedding inspectors in Belt and Road projects, who will be based in recipient countries.
The move helps China counter allegations that it exploits corruption in recipient Belt and Road countries to further its objectives.
Anti-corruption is a signature policy of president Xi Jinping and has allowed him to purge senior Chinese leaders as well as tens of thousands of low-level bureaucrats.
The CCDI is building on the success of a pilot project in Laos where it embedded in late 2017 inspectors in a US$6 billion railway project being built by state-owned China Railway Group. The anti-graft officials, working with the Chinese company, established a joint inspection team with their Laotian counterpart.
The question is whether the anti-corruption effort in countries like Laos or Central Asian nations that consistently rank in the bottom half of Transparency International’s corruption index will bump up against China’s non-interference principle.
Or in other words, can China successfully guard against corruption in Belt and Road projects without pressuring recipient countries to adopt broader transparency and anti-corruption measures?
“How can you strike hard on corruption here at home and give a free hand to Chinese people and business groups [that are] reckless abroad?” CCDI’s director-general for international co-operation La Yifan asked in a Financial Times interview.
Mr. La said China had organized seminars with more than 30 countries to link up anti-corruption regulators. “That is my dream, that we create a network of law enforcement of all these Belt and Road countries,” he said.
Imposing transparency and anti-corruption in Belt and Road partners would be the equivalent of all kinds of environmental, safety and human rights criteria that the United States haphazardly and opportunistically maintains in dealings with foreign countries that have been severely criticized by China.
China has long prided itself on what it terms win-win economic situations in which it imposes commercial terms that often primarily benefit the People’s Republic.
The terms, coupled with the clampdown on Turkic Muslims in China’s province of Xinjiang, has fuelled anti-Chinese sentiment in Turkey and Central Asia with their close ethnic and cultural ties to the troubled Chinese region.
Turkish officials highlighted these sensitivities by denying Chinese media reports that president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had praised the success of Beijing’s brutal approach in Xinjiang during a recent visit to China.
Muslim nations have largely remained silent about the clampdown that amounts to the most frontal assault on a faith in recent history or in some instances even tacitly endorsed it.
In the absence of democracy, “governments can manage their pro-Beijing stance without informing their public, but a pro-Beijing policy over the Uyghur issue can barely be sustained in Turkey. Turkey is still a functioning democracy and total control of the public is not possible. Besides, there is a very strong Uyghur lobby and public sentiment towards the Uyghurs in Turkey,” said Turkish Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies director Selcuk Colakoglu.
Taking its anti-corruption campaign global, raises the broader question of whether it would threaten a pillar of autocracy that China’s non-interference principle has de facto sought to perpetuate.
Political scientists Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw argue that what they call the instruments of global authoritarianism — an army of largely Western bankers, lawyers, brokers and intermediaries that park illicitly gained monies in off-shore accounts and manage the investment of those funds – help keep autocrats in power.
The success of the globalization of China’s anti-corruption effort as well as its campaign to significantly reduce graft at home, would establish autocrats’ ability to satisfactorily deliver public goods and services alongside brute power as the cornerstone of their sustainability.
In doing so, it would give greater meaning to China’s assertion that it does not want to fundamentally alter the established multi-lateral world order but rather make it more equitable and more a reflection of a world that is multi- not unipolar.
It would also cement China’s model of economic reform and state capitalism without political liberalization as the example autocratic and authoritarian regimes want to emulate even if the jury is out on whether autocrats can remain relatively clean without a system of independent checks and balances.
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Authors: Meena Miriam Yust and Arshad Khan When Chelsea Rochman at the University of Toronto and colleagues began their study on medakas...
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Whether you’re hitting the gym to get healthy, tone up or improve your overall well-being, there’s no denying that seeing...
Trips that transform: How airline miles can transform a child’s life
Maksim was just a few months shy of 2 years old when his parents rushed him to the emergency room...
Scaling up support for sustainable development: Mongolia on the rise
Mongolia’s economic rebound in recent years reveals a country rising up to the challenges borne from adverse economic shocks. The...
Hacking of the Newswires connected with Trading: A refresher for the business community
This case I am touching on is regarding Leonid Momotok in which he and other traders used insider trading information...
UNIDO and Kenya to increase cooperation for inclusive and sustainable industrial development
LI Yong, the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), arrived for a two day official visit...
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