The Chinese Communist Party is like no other party in the world. It requires us to rethink the very idea of what a political party is. The West believes the CPC is no more than a clone of the CPSU. In fact, it could hardly be more different. The CPSU was a catastrophic historical failure: the CPC is hugely successful. The former was frozen; the latter highly innovative, constantly on the move. It is deeply rooted in Chinese society, a hybrid of Chinese Marxism and Confucianism, shaped by and as complex as Chinese civilization of which it is a fundamental part.
The US-China High Level Dialogue in Anchorage was highly revealing. The strong criticisms made by Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi, in the presence of the global media, about the United States suggested a new kind of self-confidence on the part of China in its growing strength. It certainly took Blinken and Sullivan by surprise. The US message, meanwhile, is that Biden is reading from the Trump playbook on China, with a soft edge or two.
After the handover in 1997, Hong Kong was based on one country two systems. These were never equivalent: how could they be? The essence of the handover was the passing of sovereignty from the UK to China. One country took precedence: two systems was shaped by and only existed in the context of the former. The West ignored this crucial difference or, at least, greatly played down its importance and significance and, what is more, its legitimacy. Now China is reasserting the primacy of one country over two systems: the divisions which have undermined Hong Kong will be replaced by a new sense of authority and stability. But Hong Kong’s problems are not just political. The failure to tackle the socio-economic problems bequeathed by the British – an oligopolistic colonial-style economy, huge inequality and, above all, the control by tycoons of the supply of land, resulting in sky-high property prices – has understandably led to a mood of resentment and pessimism, especially among the young. Fundamental socio-economic reforms, alongside political reform, will be necessary if hearts and minds are to be won.
What will happen to Europe? Will it continue with a broadly pro-American orientation, or will it pursue an increasingly independent position? Either way, the consequences will be far-reaching. At the heart of the West lie the US and Europe. If Europe seeks a more autonomous role, then the West will be seriously weakened. A fascinating ECFR poll published recently reveals a deep disillusionment amongst Europeans towards the US. Europeans are becoming less Atlanticist and more independent-minded. As the recent EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment suggests, the EU will develop its own relationship with China, rather than acting in tandem with the US. What once drew Europe westward, the over-arching importance of the US economy, is now drawing it eastward: the centre of gravity of the global economy is now in the east. Read my latest column for the Global Times.
2020 was an historic year. It was dominated, of course, by the pandemic. And the extraordinary disparity between the Chinese and Western responses. While China largely succeeded in eliminating the virus, the West failed miserably. It was the greatest test of governance since the Second World War and China passed with flying colours. As a result, China was the only major economy to grow in 2020, with all the other major economies contracting. The disparity between the Western and Chinese performances will shape not only 2021 but the rest of the decade. The prospects for the West look bleak: indebtedness, introversion, instability and riven with conflict. Special People’s Daily 2020 video.
The prospects for the US look bleak. With continuing rapid decline, rampant inequality, falling living standards, rising unemployment, and China becoming the world’s largest economy, the divisions will grow ever greater. The Capitol Hill insurrection was more like the beginning than the end of the polarisation and turmoil. The US is in danger of imploding, which will only hasten its decline. My latest column for the Global Times.
We are approaching the end of December. The pandemic struck Europe and the US in March. That is now 10 months ago. Much of Europe is once more in varying degrees of lockdown. In the US, COVID-19 continues to spread unabated. The situation in the West is now as bad as at any time since it all began. With the honourable exception of New Zealand, the West has singularly failed to quell, let alone eliminate, the virus. Without a vaccine, evidence suggests that the West will have to learn to live with the coronavirus indefinitely. Read more >
Much of Europe is once more in virtual lockdown. In the United States, Covid-19 continues to spread unabated. The situation in the West is now as bad as at any time since it all began. With the honourable exception of New Zealand, the West has singularly failed to quell, let alone eliminate, the virus. Why has the West failed so miserably? Interview with Liu Xin.
The pandemic will wrought huge changes in the world, much greater than the 2008 financial crisis. The fact that China has handled the pandemic far more successfully and competently than the United States, and the West more generally, will have far-reaching consequences. Without a vaccine it is clear that Western societies will fail to eliminate covid-19. The 2008 Western financial crisis led to Trump. The pandemic will change the world in ways that we don’t yet understand and cannot predict. The 2020s threaten to be a period of great turmoil, volatility and unpredictability. One thing is for sure: the pandemic will accelerate China’s rise and the US’s decline. This was an online talk given to the Understanding China Conference in Guangzhou 20-22 November 2020.