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CHINA TODAY UPDATE
Book Reviews : Stein Ringen, The Perfect Dictatorship
Hong Kong, HKU Press, 2016, 193 pp.
With The Perfect Dictatorship, Stein Ringen proposes to explain how a regime built on “much that is unpleasant” (p. 135) manages nevertheless to carry on, imposing on its population a form of compulsory arrangement that is unmistakably a silent victory for totalitarianism (p. 143). It is indeed intellectually uncomfortable to conceive that a country seemingly developing its way toward economic capitalism – so it is said – may continue to be politically Leninist (p. 165). We believe this book deserves our attention for three main reasons. First, each page denounces the complacent view that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is only a regime that is economically successful and efficient in what it delivers. This is not to take the country seriously, says the author. Second, devoid of sentimental bond to his subject, Ringen is rather immune to the often blinding glitter of the Chinese “state civilisation.” And third, the book pays serious attention to the political questions raised by the genuine economic rise of the country and to the no less genuine desire for power of its leadership in considering the Chinese state as a mature state. It therefore takes the Party at face value, cleverly avoiding the twin pitfalls of Chinese “otherness” and “political culture,” two trendy discourses seemingly incapable of sharply defining the reality of the present. Ringen, a professor at Oxford University and renowned specialist in state analysis, contributes to the debate on the nature of the Chinese state by bringing together scattered known arguments in an intellectually dense interpretative essay without concession.
2The first advantage of the book is that it is extremely clear about its own perspective, claiming from the outset that “China analysis should be grounded in an undisguised awareness that we are dealing with a dictatorial state” (p. viii). The objective of the book, says Ringen, is an attempt to analyse the Chinese regime from outside the box of China Studies. Ringen believes that the distance of detached observation remains an advantage, evoking the self-deception of the Mao era and pointing out some more recent publications, naïve or slavish to the point of embarrassment (p. 39). Ringen defends himself from any further Chinese ambition and sees himself as a social analyst and a methodological individualist. For him, a state manifests itself in what it delivers, down to the lower reaches of its population (p. 41).
3In the case of the PRC, if the term “authoritarian” is too accommodating, the terms “dictatorship” and “totalitarianism” are problematic and seem primitive and oversimplifying in defining the actual current nature of the regime, which must be reconsidered in the light of contemporary reality (p. 2). The PRC is a sophisticated dictatorship under which citizens are granted many liberties, but only up to a certain point, beyond which the Party intervenes with all the force considered necessary. The Party is here and everybody knows it. If it doesn’t tell everybody what they can do, it controls in detail what they cannot do, read, or listen to. Obviously, this subtle system of indirect control is more profitable in the long run than the mere application of brute force (p. 137). However, Ringen reminds us, “the threat of punishment, harassment, detention, the loss of job or home, retribution against family and friends, violence, and ultimately death” remain persistently present. It is totally possible to get on with life in the PRC today as long as the rules – the boundaries of which remain strategically obscure – are understood, integrated, and accepted. The pages devoted to the law are edifying and remind the reader of a fact commonly overlooked: in the PRC, the prevailing legal theory is that the law is in the service to the Party that makes the rules and that can consequently override legal decisions. The law exists only as long as it does not disturb the one who wrote it. Moreover, it is never clear what a law actually is (p. 79).
4The regime’s totalitarian essence permeates everyday life so deeply that the space of the political is shrunk to nothing. In the PRC, what remains of political life is “forced underground and into privacy, secrecy, and isolation” (p. 139). The in-depth study of the individual and corporate taxation mechanisms, social services, public sector, and social insurance and assistance offers a rational cartography of the regime’s capacity; if it possesses the necessary ability to uphold state determination, it remains “more effective than efficient” (p. 115). Following a thorough analysis of the state, its economy, and its power matrix (Party, military, executive, legislature, police, and administration), the author reaches the slightly ironic conclusion that if Chinese leaders undeniably invented a form of political regime, they actually reinvented dictatorship. He coins the neologism “controlocracy” (p. 138).
5The memory of the “three ghosts” haunting the leadership is the only mention of history in the book: the century of humiliation (1842-1949), the destructive excesses of the Mao era, and the fall of the USSR (pp. 2-3). From this triple determination was born the absolute priority of the party-state: to ensure its own perpetuation. The post-1978 reformed state operates therefore on a twofold agenda: on the one hand, economic growth must be secured to noticeably reward the population; on the other hand, for its own survival, the Party must rebuild the “machinery” of social control (p. 6). From this perspective, “reform” is not a mere copy of Western modernising mechanisms, but rather a strengthening and perfection of the regime (p. 166). Skilfully using official data, Ringen rapidly shifts from analysis of the political system and its social impact to a critical interpretation of the “model,” citing other examples of modernisation where political and social progress accompanied economic development. In Taiwan and South Korea, complementing economic growth allowed the governments to obtain the compliance of their populations. They purchased legitimacy through investment in education and social protection (p. 35). Ringen questions the motivation and objective of a reform project that in the PRC is obviously reduced to a heedless quest for economic growth devoted purely to the objective of national might. Nevertheless, in this pursuit of “greatness,” the PRC strives to impress only by a display of “bigness” (p. 35), a “growth-ism” confirming the feeling that if Chinese leaders understand the meaning of growth, they no longer know what growth is for (p. 48). Yet, Ringen adds, power without purpose is “a threatening constellation” (p. 49).
6The chapter focusing on the reality of poverty is eloquent. The perspective imposed on statistical tools permits the author to argue that if many people were lifted out of poverty, “many, very many were left behind in destitution” (p. 120). And the lives of those who, according to official data, emerged from poverty have probably not evolved very much; China remains a country of “massive and oppressive poverty” (p. 148). What Ringen adds accurately is that for poverty as for growth, the regime claims more than it deserves, and that the effective reduction of poverty has come on the back of economic growth that the state merely follows, rather than as a “result of redistribution through social policy” (p. 148). In terms of what it takes, the Chinese state is highly developed, while in terms of what it delivers, it is still underdeveloped (p. 164). For Ringen, the Chinese state “does less for its people than it would be able to and could afford to because it has other determination and priorities than to work for the good of the common people” (p. 166). Ringen’s book is then a meticulous deconstruction of the clumsiness of the “liberal myth” that relates the necessity of Chinese development to the inevitability of the political liberalisation of the country – a myth, he says, that should not have survived the drama of June 1989.
7Ringen divides the phenomenon of corruption into three levels. The lower one, present everywhere in everyday life, is diffuse: services, authorisations, stamps, contracts, certificates, business, licenses, schools, hospitals… The second level, within the bureaucratic apparatus, corresponds to the buying and selling of position and promotion. Finally, at the highest level of the state, it is not embezzlement anymore; it is “organized crime” (p. 24-25). Consequently, for him, the present governmental campaign against corruption is invigorated by a dual ambition: the Party needs to purge its internal opposition, after which the competition of a parasitic oligarchy must be eradicated to reaffirm the Party’s direction in the political and economic realms, and ultimately in society (p. 28). Ringen extends the analysis by pointing out the radical inversion of priorities systematically corroding the entire bureaucratic apparatus. Civil servants do not serve the public anymore. They have to cultivate the upper stratum of their hierarchy, generally in charge of their position, in a never-ending game of obligation and reciprocity where the mere idea of public service is overturned to become a tool at the sole service of the Party.
8In terms of control, the author points to the co-optation of all civil society organisations. This takeover of potentially critical social movements is an important feature of the admirable dynamic stability of a regime frightened most of all by any social activism able to organise and to create networks (p. 140). It is not the organisation toward such objectives that poses a problem, but rather it is organisation itself (p. 141). The space the regime leaves to the people, and that gives the impression of a form of normality to everyday life, is composed only of areas of indifference conceded by the state, often to compensate for its continuing disengagement from the social realm: a retreat of the state that is not – never is – a retreat of the party-state (p. 137). The relationship of domination between the leadership and society has not fundamentally changed, even if it has been softened, and the totalitarian ambition seems not yet even questioned. It is obvious here that controlocracy is the most perfect dictatorship: it does not depend on the omnipresence of terror, and the regime can even afford to be parsimonious in its use of brute force. Nevertheless, the threat is ubiquitous (p. 141).
9The Chinese, like all human beings confronted with a state that is strong, cumbersome, and intrusive, have no other choice than to compromise. Strategies to respond and adapt are abundant: “by courage, by ingenuity, by helping and protecting each other, by opposing and protecting, by organizing, by subverting, by pretending, by surviving (…) as well as by acquiescence and obedience, by collaborating in oppression, by opportunism and cowardice.” Ringen adds: “the rich tapestry of the human condition (…) for the good and for the bad” (p. 40). Here we see the cultural alibi as well as the historicist excuse, both essentialising a so-called Chinese specificity, brushed away with convincing eloquence. The author further questions the ultimate primacy of stability. He argues that political opening could have unleashed more energy and creativity. And even if it might not have been workable, the official litany of its potential demise to justify the current state of affairs “is not credible” (p. 146). What remains true is that each and every attempt at political opening was immediately translated into claims for more democracy. The Party knows it does not have the genuine support of the population in a society that has become one of the most unequal on earth. The few reports available on the quality of life and happiness of the population completes a bleak portrayal of reality in today’s PRC. It proves again that there is no correlation between economic growth and the well-being of a population (pp. 149-150).
10To conclude this enlightening essay, Ringen engages the “China Dream” (Zhongguo meng) of the present leadership.1 He picks up a recent press article allowing no doubt of the link between national greatness and the individual happiness of each and every Chinese. Beyond the customary nationalist celebration, the Chinese leadership’s rhetoric seems aimed solely at the subordination of individual autonomy to the national might in a re-enactment of the terrible idea of the “People-as-One” coined by Claude Lefort, who defined the totalitarian phenomenon as the consubstantiality of state and society.2 An essential characteristic of totalitarianism, this fantasy of the unity of the people with their leader (be it an individual or a group), of a homogeneous organic society, pure and unique, is grounded on the denial of a divide between state and society. Fundamentally, repeats Ringen, the idea of unity between a nation and a person is a fascist idea, “the fascist idea,” he even insists (p. 176). The cold radicalism of this depiction of the Chinese regime will obviously generate criticism, disagreement, and debate. This may also be the reason why this book is essential reading.
1 To translate Zhongguo meng using “China Dream” rather than “Chinese Dream” makes sense if we accept that the dream of Chinese leaders may not be the dream of all Chinese.
2 Claude Lefort, Le Temps présent. Écrits 1945-2005, Paris, Belin, 2007, p. 268. Michel Bonnin developed Lefort’s idea in relation to China in “Comment définir le régime politique chinois aujourd’hui,” in Yves Michaux (dir.), La Chine aujourd’hui, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2003.
David Bartel, « Stein Ringen, The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century, », China Perspectives, 2016/4 | 2016, 90-91.
David Bartel, « Stein Ringen, The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century, », China Perspectives [Online], 2016/4 | 2016, Online since 01 December 2016, connection on 01 April 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/chinaperspectives/7146 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/chinaperspectives.7146
David Bartel is a PhD candidate at the EHESS, and an associate researcher at the CEFC (firstname.lastname@example.org).
special issue of Agone, No. 52, 2013, 232 pp.
Published in China Perspectives, 2014/1 | 2014
Paris, Demopolis, 2014, 270 pp.
Published in China Perspectives, 2015/1 | 2015
The Confucian revival and the “China model” in the work of Arif Dirlik
Published in China Perspectives, 2013/1 | 2013
Celebrating 20 years of the Hong Kong journal
Published in China Perspectives, 2011/2 | 2011
Paris, Gallimard, 2010, 776 pp. + 35 pages of illustrations.
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CHINA TODAY UPDATE
1.Freedom in the World 2021 - China 9/100
2. Pope blesses Taiwan for lunar new year
Freedom in the World 2021 - China 9/100
Freedom in the World 2021 - China 9/100
China’s authoritarian regime has become increasingly repressive in recent years. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is tightening its control over the state bureaucracy, the media, online speech, religious groups, universities, businesses, and civil society associations, and it has undermined its own already modest rule-of-law reforms. The CCP leader and state president, Xi Jinping, has consolidated personal power to a degree not seen in China for decades, but his actions have also triggered rising discontent among elites within and outside the party. The country’s human rights movements continue to seek avenues for protecting basic liberties despite a multiyear crackdown.
Pope blesses Taiwan for lunar new year
11th February 2021
News - www.ucanews.com
Pope blesses Taiwan for lunar new year
Island's president takes a dig at China by highlighting Hong Kong's struggle for democracy
UCA News reporter
Pope Francis has met with Taiwan’s ambassador to the Vatican to extend his special greetings and blessings to Taiwanese people for the lunar new year.
Ambassador Mathew Lee met the pope on Feb. 8 on the sidelines of the Vatican’s annual meeting with the diplomatic corps and conveyed new year greetings on behalf of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and the Taiwanese people.
“Pope was in good spirits, wished a good start to the lunar year and promised to continue to pray for Taiwan,” Lee reportedly said.
During the meeting, the pope described 2020 as the year of “despair” that saw the world fall “seriously ill” due to the coronavirus. He said religious freedom is a “primary and fundamental human right” that must be protected as the world races to protect lives from the virus.
Meanwhile, President Tsai extended a lunar new year message on Feb. 10 that had a special focus on Hong Kong and its struggle for democracy.
Tsai said that “though democracy is not perfect, it is mankind's best system and they should keep the faith on it.”
On Feb. 9, Tsai conveyed best wishes to China for the new year but also called for a resumption of dialogue with Beijing over unresolved bilateral issues.
Tsai’s government has offered support to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong since massive protests erupted over the draconian national security law introduced last year.
Taiwan has also offered sanctuary to many Hong Kong citizens who fled the massive crackdown in the former British colony, much to the chagrin of Beijing, which accused Taiwan of endorsing violence and crimes.
The East Asian island, officially called the Republic of China, is an independent democratic nation that borders China, Japan and the Philippines. Communist China claims it as its own territory but Taiwan maintains sovereignty thanks to considerable global support, especially from the West.
Taiwan has maintained non-diplomatic relations with the Vatican since 1922 and entered full diplomatic relations in 1942. The first Taiwanese ambassador to the Holy See was posted in 1943.
Taiwan has a population of about 24 million. Buddhists account for about 35 percent, Taoism for about 33 percent and Christians are estimated at about 4 percent, while some 18 percent of Taiwanese identify themselves as non-religious, according to the Index Mundi website.
Catholics in Taiwan are estimated to number more than 220,000 and covered by one archdiocese and six dioceses.
CHINA TODAY UPDATE
1. Biden bans linking Covid-19 to China in bid to quell racist backlash in US
2. Xi Jinping and Biden servants of the same economic power
3. Chinese bid farewell to Trump with mixed sentiments of criticism and sarcasm
4. China-US relations: Beijing says ‘new window of hope’ is opening as it offers Biden administration an olive branch
Biden bans linking Covid-19 to China in bid to quell racist backlash in US
27th January 2021
South China Morning Post
* Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders put ‘at risk’ by inflammatory and xenophobic descriptions of coronavirus, memo says
* No political leaders named but Donald Trump’s rhetoric was blamed for soaring attacks on minority groups last year
By: Teddy Ng
US President Joe Biden has banned references to Covid-19 by geographical location, after labels like “China virus” and “Wuhan virus” led to a racist backlash.
“Inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric has put Asian-American and Pacific Islander persons, families, communities and businesses at risk,” Biden said in a memorandum released on Tuesday.
“The federal government must recognise that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the Covid-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin,” he said.
“Such statements have stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons.”
The memo said executive departments and agencies would ensure that official actions, documents and statements “do not exhibit or contribute to racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders”.
No political leaders were named in the memo, but Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump repeatedly used terms like “Wuhan virus”, “China plague” and “kung flu” to describe the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
One week after testing positive for the coronavirus last year, Trump said he was “in very good shape” and that “I beat this crazy, horrible China virus”.
He heard earlier said China would “pay a big price” for the pandemic.
These descriptors were blamed for a rise in attacks and abuse targeting minority communities in the US.
In the memo, Biden pointed out that 2 million Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders worked as health care providers and in other supporting roles, contributing to the effort to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the US.
Asian-Americans reported more than 2,600 hate incidents in just a few months last year, compared with a few hundred in most years going back to 1999, said Aryani Ong, an Asian-American rights activist and former civil rights lawyer.
Trump’s descriptions of the pandemic were furiously rejected by Beijing, which denied his allegation that the coronavirus might have emerged from a lab in Wuhan. Earlier this month, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Washington’s narrative – put forward by former secretary of state Mike Pompeo – was “full of fallacies” and “madness”.
China is also recasting the coronavirus narrative, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi suggesting the pandemic was likely to have been caused by separate outbreaks in multiple places around the world.
Chinese diplomats have promoted unfounded theories linking the virus to US military athletes, while state media has reported the virus could have entered China through imported frozen foods, following cases in Chinese ports and among cold storage workers.
Xi Jinping and Biden servants of the same economic power
26th January 2021
AsiaNews - www.asianews.it
By: Bernardo Cervellera
In his Davos' speech, Xi asserts the winning strength of the "China model". Political stability at the cost of repression. Even the "US model", with its "democratic virus", has victims: immigrants, African-Americans, but also whites, small business owners, workers. Many victims of the globalized system were among the Washington demonstrators. The stock exchanges and the financial world are profiting from the Covid crisis. Financial power pulls the strings of both the "China model" and the "US model".
Rome (AsiaNews) - In the aftermath of Xi Jinping's irenic speech in Davos, there are those who once again assert the winning strength of the "China model". In his 20-minute speech, the Chinese president filled the atmosphere of the international trade elite with popular slogans: no to the "cold war"; yes, to "dialogue and collaboration"; "Multilateralism" and no to "domination over each other"; aid to poor and developing countries; etc…
A similar etching of so many clichés is evident from the very fact that Xi's own country refuses to sign the treaty banning nuclear weapons; that China continues to build military bases in the South China Sea, regardless of the claims of other Southeast Asian countries; that its military jets - and Xi Jinping himself - are threatening Taiwan with a possible recapture by force.
But the fiery sweet intervention had a clear message, or rather two. The first is that China alone can guarantee "political stability". Xi said: "The best criteria [in deciding the merits of a political system] is whether a country’s history, culture and social system fits its particular situation, enjoys people’s support, serves to deliver political stability, social progress and better lives, and contributes to human progress”.
The second, very similar to the first, is: do not choose the US model, still recovering from the assault on Capitol Hill a few weeks ago and marked by the virus of democracy.
The "value of the China model" has been discussed among economists, politicians and entrepreneurs for years. After the 2008 crisis, China alone has been able to show an impressive growth of its GDP. Moreover, as the pandemic has slowed its pace, it has been the first to recover. The fact that Taiwan has done better than Beijing is barely even considered: what really matters is applauding the economic and pandemic successes of an authoritarian system, a system that does not waste time listening to the different voices of society and the freedom of expression, so tied to freedom of trade.
The fact that this system produces victims is apparently unimportant. Entrepreneurs like Jack Ma find themselves held back in their globalization momentum; Uyghur Muslims are imprisoned in forced labour and de-Islamization camps; Christians are accused of being Covid infectors; intellectuals, dissidents, new citizens, journalists are silenced by throwing them into misery and prison. All of this is considered mere "collateral damage" in the name of the supreme good of "political stability".
Yet despite all of this, neither are we supporters of the "US model" or even the "Trump model": neither has the United States signed the anti-nuclear treaty and is in first place for the sale of arms worldwide (China is right behind it) ... Even American society has its "collateral" victims: immigrants, African-Americans, but also whites, small business owners, workers, ... As several scholars and observers have pointed out, the same assault on Capitol Hill cannot be dismissed as a subversive and presumptuous attempt by supremacists.
Many - most - of those who demonstrated on January 6 in Washington were the victims of a system that, under the guise of globalization, has forgotten their needs for healthcare, dignity, culture, work. From this point of view, Biden's attempt to bring everything under the inflexibility of the law, as if to erase these elements of civil society, is very similar to the "political stability" desired by Xi.
The real problem is that both in the United States and in China - as throughout the world – one power dominates, the financial one, which pays no heed to what happens in reality and detaches itself from it using Biden's law of "politically correct" or the despotic one of the Chinese Communist Party.
In 2020, nearly 2 million people died from the pandemic; millions of individuals have lost their jobs; the new poor have grown by at least 100 million; the global economy has lost a tenth of its wealth. Yet it is impressive that in the same period, the world of finance has gained more than ever: the stock exchanges have been positive, shares have grown in value. As economist Andy Xi notes and, “Tesla has grown 10 times; bitcoin five times and the Nasdaq almost doubled ". At the same time, in China, house prices have soared, just as cities were deserted with the lockdown.
We continue to argue about the tug of war between supporters of the "China model" or "US model", but in reality we should think about how to change this economy which is overly dependent on finance and not on the real production of wealth. It is this financial power that exploits first one, then the other model and finally both to increase its dominance, which is in turn good for Biden's power and for Xi's.
Chinese bid farewell to Trump with mixed sentiments of criticism and sarcasm
20th January 2021
By: Yang Sheng and Wang Qi
As the end of Donald Trump's presidency draws nigh, thousands of Chinese netizens have commented and interacted with a Global Times post that asked them to describe the controversial outgoing US president and his contentious tenure in a few key words or phrases, with the overwhelming consensus one of negativity and mockery toward the 45th president of the US.
Experts and journalists reached by the Global Times also gave their thoughts on the eve of the inauguration of Trump's successor, president-elect Joe Biden.While they expect a much steadier administration, many admitted that it would not be as entertaining or interesting. Others warned that the effects of Trumpism will cast a shadow as Biden attempts to rebuild shattered US relations and heal a nation in turmoil.
The most common words and phrases mentioned under the Global Times posts include destruction, dishonest, selfish, populism, McCarthyism, unilateralism, protectionism, anti-globalization, untrustworthy, messy, crazy, arrogant, uncertainty, low-credit, funny, laughable, gravedigger of US hegemony, and enemy to pro-US sycophants. As of press time, the online quiz has received about 700 comments and 3,000 likes on Sina Weibo.
Chinese experts said it is unlikely many will make many compliments or positive comments regarding Trump, whether in China or in the US, because the changes that he has made to the US, China-US relations and international relations have been largely negative and destructive, and his governance has caused unprecedented and irreversible consequences.
But some journalists of international politics and China-US ties have mixed feelings about him because they no longer need to stare at his Twitter feed 24/7 in case of shocking tweet storms. The flip side is that Chinese journalists have lost a treasury and a comical window to observe US politics directly.
President of destruction
Many who commented on the Global Times post mentioned the word "destruction" in connection with Trump, as he has destroyed and broken many established rules, constructions, agreements, deals, and ties with other countries, and especially he has damaged the soft power and image of the US.
A web user said in a comment with more than 500 likes, "He just uncovered the dark side of 'democracy' in capitalist countries for us. So the sacred presidential election is actually full of fraud and cheating." Another joked, "Why didn't they let him be reelected? Then he can probably become the last president of the US."
Chinese experts have summarized Trump's legacies in the aspects of politics, economy and foreign affairs. He further divided American grass roots and establishment elites, failed to realize the promise of getting manufacturing industry back to the US from overseas, caused "post-traumatic stress disorder" to US-led alliances and made China-US ties worsen to the brink of a new cold war despite the administration launching no war, they said.
Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Trump represents a division of the US and a resurgence of McCarthyism regarding the international stage, especially toward China.
Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, summarized the Trump administration as one of "subversive destruction" in general and "fundamental regress" when it comes to China-US ties. "He has blocked the trend toward integration between China and the US, turning the certainties of both countries into uncertainty," Li said.
Almost no one on social media remembered that at the beginning of Trump's term, he had expressed a friendly stance toward China and its top leadership. He showed video clips of his granddaughter, Arabella Kushner, daughter of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, singing a Chinese song and reciting Chinese poems on diplomatic occasions, and he praised China's assistance publicly on issues like mediating the US-North Korea tension.
The images that have most stuck in the minds of Chinese people are when he hyped Sinophobia and racism during the COVID-19 pandemic. He sought to assign blame and stigmatize China on almost everything to cover his failed governance, and he launched a trade war to the detriment of not only Chinese firms but also American interests. The US under his governance continues to become more hostile toward Chinese nationals and immigrants, more unequal between the black and the white and the rich and the poor, more incapable of protecting its own people from the coronavirus epidemic, and more divided and violent, even though the election is a done deal, said Chinese analysts.
"During his presidency, China-US ties reached the lowest point in [modern] history. Any worse situation would be unimaginable, so this could be good news for the future, because no matter what changes Biden is to make, they will at least be better than Trump's policies," Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
"Although Trump has wrought some damage on China, the losses he inflicted on the US are much greater. Trump has brought unprecedented destruction to the legal legitimacy and moral legitimacy of the US. The huge damage to the credibility of the country will seriously undermine the US's status as a leader of the Western world," Lü noted.
The US is becoming increasingly unreliable and uncertain, and this is not an asset of a supposed leader of the world, Lü said. The Biden administration will inherit the fallout as well, because even though Trump's rules and policies will be overturned, if Trumpism returns, everything will revert. This uncertainty will make many countries, even loyal US allies, distance their own interests from the US.
During the Trump presidency, especially amid the pandemic, the world has seen grievous levels of individualism and brusque arrogance among the US. Trump's destruction of US-led alliances, of the system of global governance and of the system of capitalism, would be catastrophic. He has not only ruined the reputation of the US, but that of the whole Western world, as well as capitalism, Wang noted.
Although US allies are saying "welcome back" to the US, on concrete issues like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Iran nuclear deal, European countries and Japan are exercising caution. They decided to reach historic agreements on trade and investment with China as soon as possible despite the Biden team asking them to wait, and the China-EU investment agreement is evidence of this, Chinese analysts said.
The impact of Trumpism, which represents populism, anti-establishment, anti-elitism, and even encouraging overturning the election results with use of force, will be lingering and lasting long, Li said, noting that Trump's stepping down was a setback for the far right, but that Trumpism still has chance to rise in both the US and Europe again. Problems like immigration, ethnic and sectarian conflicts, and uneven development during globalization remain unresolved, he said.
Some Chinese netizens are still trying to have some fun on the last full day of Trump's presidency. Comments under the Global Times' online quiz include phrases describing Trump as "Comrade Jianguo" and "undercover agent of the Party." Jianguo literally means "build the country," but in this case, they mock that Trump is doing his best to build up China to the detriment of the US.
These words refer to a popular meme on Chinese social media that says Trump is "an agent sent by China to win the election in 2016 and disrupt the US to make it as messy as possible, so China can distract US suppression against China and win the competition easily."
One of the comments with more than 1,200 likes under the Global Times' quiz mocked that "His loyalty will be remembered in the East, as he brought disaster to the West."
This meme has become even more popular after the January 6 Capitol riots. Some netizens said they are reluctant to bid Trump farewell, hoping he will remain in the White House to wreak more trouble on the US and bring more advantages to China. Some Chinese web users suggested Trump should open an account on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like popular social media platform, after he leaves office, since all US social media platforms have blocked him.
"If American media, officials or people learn about this meme, they should not be surprised and angry, as this is the sense of humor of Chinese people to ease the pressure and anger against the US amid the unprecedented hostility from the Trump administration. The majority of us don't like Trumpism at all, and we hope the Biden administration can fix [bilateral] ties," said a Beijing-based journalist on China-US relations who asked for anonymity.
In a December 2020 survey conducted by the Global Times, 31.7 percent said they believe Biden will bring certain opportunities to ease China-US tensions, with 28.5 percent pessimistic about the new US administration, and 39.8 percent found the situation unclear.
Trump was thanked by many web users as he made many Chinese people become more informed on US politics. They said that Trump is "the enemy" to Chinese "public intellectuals" and sycophants who frequently flatter, with strong bias, the US and trumpet Western democracy to stigmatize the socialist political system of China.
Trump caused the fairy tales about US democracy created by Chinese "public intellectuals" to collapse, because his poor handling of the pandemic, his dishonest and anti-intellectual statements, faithless behavior on the international arena, and the riots incited by him to challenge the election made the puffery of US democracy increasingly unconvincing, and in comparison, more Chinese feel confident on China's path of socialism.
Li Xiang, editor-in-chief of the Wiews, a Beijing-based online media outlet, said "emotionally, I am a little bit reluctant to bid farewell to him, because we need a mighty internet celebrity like him to make the political news more popular and entertaining, but rationally, I hope he and his sidekicks like [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo will go away as soon as possible, because the world doesn't need liars to be celebrities."
China-US relations: Beijing says ‘new window of hope’ is opening as it offers Biden administration an olive branch
2nd January 2021
South China Morning Post
Minister Wang Yi urges incoming president to try to get relations back on track
* Wang says efforts to ‘start new cold war’ have hurt both countries after ties worsened under Donald Trump
By: Shi Jiangtao
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has offered an olive branch to the incoming Biden administration, saying a “new window of hope” is opening.
In a wide-ranging interview with state news agency Xinhua published on Saturday, he urged the Biden administration to adopt a sensible approach and restart engagement with China to get bilateral ties back on track despite “unprecedented difficulties”.
“China-US relations have come to a new crossroads, and a new window of hope is opening,” Wang said. “We hope that the next US administration will return to a sensible approach, resume dialogue with China, restore normalcy to the bilateral relations and restart cooperation.”
Wang and other Chinese officials have appealed for a fresh start on several occasions after President Xi Jinping congratulated Joe Biden on his victory in late November.
Relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply amid growing economic and technological decoupling; clashes over Taiwan, the South China Sea, Hong Kong and Xinjiang; and rows over issues such as the origins of the coronavirus and US sanctions on Huawei.
While China’s nationalist shift under Xi and its increasingly aggressive diplomatic approach are seen by many as contributing to the breakdown of bilateral ties, Wang put the blame squarely on deep-rooted bias and misperceptions about China’s rapid rise.
“What has happened proves that the US attempts to suppress China and start a new cold war has not just seriously harmed the interests of the two peoples, but also caused severe disruption to the world. Such a policy will find no support and is doomed to fail,” Wang said.
He also sought to address fears among American elites about Washington’s relative decline as the world’s dominant superpower, which showed signs of accelerating under Donald Trump, especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“[The] best way to keep one’s lead is through constant self-improvement, not by blocking others’ development,” he said. “We don’t need a world where China becomes another United States. This is neither rational nor feasible. Rather, the United States should try to make itself a better country, and China will surely become its better self.”
Observers said the conciliatory remarks may offer some hopes for many countries torn between economic dependence on Beijing and their ties with Washington, but warned China remained downbeat about relations in the future.
Pang Zhongying, an international affairs specialist at the Ocean University of China, said: “Few people in Beijing are actually optimistic about the US-China relations under the Biden presidency, with most expecting bilateral tensions to last, if not get much worse.”
He said the message was also intended for many other countries, which may also need to reconsider their stance on the US-China rivalry once Biden takes office. “His remarks are largely reminiscent of the good old days … during the pre-Trump era that are gone for good,” Pang said.
For Beijing’s perspective, one of Trump’s biggest mistakes was his disdain for dialogue and diplomatic exchanges, which led to the demise of America’s decades-long policy of engagement with China.
Wang suggested the two sides should still be able to resolve their differences through dialogue “as long as the United States can draw lessons from the past and work with China”.
He said: “This will allow the two major countries to establish a model of coexistence that benefits both countries and the world, and open up new development prospects in line with the trend of history.”
Wang, also put a positive spin on China’s troubled relations with its Asian neighbours, Europe and Africa.
China’s traditionally trade-driven relations with the EU have taken a drastic turn for the worse this year in the wake of the pandemic, as Beijing’s increasingly assertive diplomacy, its trade practices and repressive domestic policies faced tighter international scrutiny.
The two sides finally agreed an investment deal last month after years of negotiations – a development that prompted Wang to call for Brussels to work with China to tackle global challenges instead of “serving bloc politics”.
But Duncan Freeman, a visiting professor at the Free University of Brussels, said that while the deal helped balance China’s rapidly deteriorating relations with the US, it “does not fundamentally change either the economics or politics of the EU-China relationship”.
Wang also praised Russia, which has moved closer to China in recent years, saying there was “no ceiling to how far this cooperation can go” and said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership was a “historic breakthrough” in China’s relations with its Southeast Asian neighbours.
Philippe Le Corre, a non-resident fellow in the Europe and Asia programmes at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said China appeared to have been emboldened by its success at controlling the coronavirus despite feeling besieged as the rivalry with the US intensified.
“China aims at gathering third countries behind its banner – mainly in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and various parts of Asia, whenever possible. It is trying to secure support over its foreign policy, while the West is divided, at least in Beijing’s eyes,” he said.
“The reality is that many countries are not comfortable with China’s policy – not just in the West, but outside, as various surveys have demonstrated.”
Pang also said Wang’s remarks had largely glossed over the problems and challenges Beijing faced in the post-coronavirus world. For instance, he made no mention of Japan and India, which have an increasingly tense relationship with Beijing.
“We don’t see serious self-reflection or any signs of policy adjustments, which may be necessary to counter an emerging anti-China coalition,” he said.
But he said Beijing still had cause for optimism because of the disenchantment among US allies over Trump’s unilateral and confrontational approach to China.
“Wang’s remarks, especially his insistence about China’s success in making more friends, were also meant as a warning to Washington that it too faces an imminent turning point as countries may choose to stay further away from an increasingly populist and nationalist America,” Pang said.
* This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Wang holds out olive branch to Joe BidenWang holds out olive branch to Joe Biden
CHINA TODAY UPDATE
1. The importance of respecting the rights of the weakest
2. China finally waves goodbye to family planning as country gets old, but is the damage already done?
The importance of respecting the rights of the weakest
20th November 2020
Agenzia Fides - www.fides.org
ASIA - The importance of respecting the rights of the weakest within the framework of the trade agreement in East Asia, a driving force for development
Hanoi (Agenzia Fides) - The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the newborn economic cooperation agreement between 15 Asian nations representing globally about a third of the GDP and the world population raises hopes and concerns among civil society in the various countries of Asia. In the intentions of its creators, the pact will become a driving force for development in East Asia. But the official birth of the agreement - with the signing during a virtual conference on November 15 in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi - has also aroused concern, especially among civil society organizations because of the effects the agreement could have on the most fragile and weakest segments of the population such as farmers or craftsmen.
"The Covid crisis should be an opportunity to realize how important farmers, fishermen and other food producers are", commented the Indonesian NGO "Solidaritas Perempuan". Asian human rights monitoring networks and platforms such as "Focus on Global South" highlight dangers for people working in the informal sector, small manufacturing businesses and for farmers: all people who live on minimal profit margins with mediators who then export the goods. Drastically reducing tariffs on agricultural products, for example, could have tragic consequences for small producers and for women who work for the subsistence of their families in the context of small-scale agriculture. The situation, the NGOs warn, is aggravated by the presence of Covid-19.
The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (Apwld), based in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), referring to Rcep said. "In Asia, the pandemic has taken so many lives, destroyed economies, swept away millions of jobs and livelihoods in ways never seen before. Right now, any economic, fiscal and political decision must reflect the needs and priorities of the peoples".
From Manila, the NGO "Trade Justice Pilipinas" has also joined the chorus: "In the years in which we have followed the negotiations, we have constantly expressed our concerns about the negative implications of Rcep on the Philippine economy". The concerns are shared by trade unions in Indonesia, South Korea, Australia, Malaysia and Cambodia which, as stated by the trade union platform "Public Service International" have expressed their reservations about the effects of the agreement on jobs.
The Rcep negotiation marathon began 8 years ago with a negotiation started in 2011 in Bali during an ASEAN summit. Last year India, initially involved, withdrew, thus delaying the official inauguration of the agreement for a year. Rcep includes all ten ASEAN countries (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations which includes: Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia) and five countries of Oceania and East Asia: China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
The agreement intends to gradually reduce custom tariffs on many goods and services, integrating the commitments already established with the World Trade Organization, by taking into account sectors such as e-commerce or intellectual property rights. Even if it will not be easy to align very different economic situations, the 15 signatory states which launched the Rcep have provided for safeguard clauses aimed at protecting specific products or countries. Rcep was also born as a multilateral cooperation structure in the search for mutual economic advantage. (MG-PA) (Agenzia Fides)
China finally waves goodbye to family planning as country gets old, but is the damage already done?
9th November 2020
South China Morning Post
China finally waves goodbye to family planning as country gets old, but is the damage already done?
* China’s ‘Jihua Shengyu’, or family planning, policy was not included in the latest national plan released by the ruling Communist Party
* China’s one-child policy, which became a two child policy in 2016, was in place for four decades until the social and economic costs became just too obvious to ignore
By: Zhou Xin
The era of family planning through birth restrictions is ending in China. This was made clear by the fact that the four character Chinese phrase, Jihua Shengyu, was not included in the latest 20,000 character national plan released by the ruling Communist Party.
I was born in 1979 and so was part of China’s first “only child” generation as Beijing rolled out its one-child policy across the country.
Jihua Shengyu meant that many of my classmates from primary school to university had older sisters and brothers, but few had younger siblings. It also meant my mother repeatedly telling me what a pity it was that she could not have a daughter. It meant that for my generation and the ones that followed, the default family size was three – a couple and one child. While it is a universal law to see family size shrinking and population ageing as a result of economic growth, China’s family planning policy has greatly accelerated the process.
After four decades of ruthless implementation, the family planning policy has left a collective mark on the Chinese people, profoundly changing their views of family.
There are many horrible stories related to Jihua Shengyu, including forced abortions, mandatory sterilisation, infanticide and hefty fines. For most Chinese families, the cost was just too high to challenge it. People just got used to it. As a result, the one-child policy, which became a two child policy in 2016, was in place for four decades until the social and economic costs became just too obvious to ignore.
Some Chinese officials had trumpeted the value of family planning in helping China’s economic miracle. It may be true that there were “demographic dividends” as young couples saved more, spent more and allocated more time to work – especially for young women – but the short-term gains came with long-term consequences that have just started to emerge.
The number of people over 65 will rise above 300 million in 2035, creating a huge challenge for China’s already underfunded state pension and health care systems. The country’s labour force will keep shrinking and consumer demand is likely to decline, as well, as older people generally consume less.
The problem of “shrinking cities” in many places is already obvious, especially in the northeast, as young and ambitious Chinese people increasingly seek opportunity in big cities and regional economic hubs.
In hindsight, Jihua Shengyu probably did more harm than good. Although it is a bit late, it is still good to wave a goodbye to the policy.
* This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Family planning backfires in ageing China
PRESIDENT XI JINPING, CHINA: HIS SPEECH IN FULL TO THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM AT DAVOS: JANUARY 2017