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The Chinese Model that Does Not Suit Us

The Chinese Model that Does Not Suit Us

Wednesday, 29 July, 2020 - 11:45

After the discussion about “heading East” began, a new market for exaggeration opened up. “China to Mars”, wrote an Iran-friendly newspaper. Of course, it would be difficult to find explanations for this fondness of China in Arab political thought and its history. So, let us examine how hostility to the US may reinforce the adoration of China. To get an idea of the extent of this hatred, it suffices to imagine the coronavirus having first emerged in the US rather than China. For China’s admirers, this would have been an enough reason to rummage through US history, beginning with Christopher Columbus and passing through what was done to the “Red Indians”.

There lies the desire to put China on Mars before it arrives there.

It is beyond doubt that the latter, which has the world’s second-largest economy, has made massive gains and been the driving force behind the growth of Asia’s share of the global economy. These gains, by the way, are a testament favorable to Capitalism, or, more accurately, to market capitalism and its superiority to state capitalism.

But this is not the issue. The issue is the presentation of these gains and achievements as reasons for spreading the Chinese model across our region and throughout the world.

Linking the extent of material gains to a model’s expediency is not new. We know, for example, that this is a particular commonality between the former Soviet Union and Arab security and military regimes: Considering progress to lie in the construction of dams, splitting rivers, and distributing agricultural tractors to farmers… these are the "gains" according to the rhetoric of the Soviet and Arab nationalist regimes. Its saluted model was portrayed as achieving progress and prosperity.

Based on this view, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev declared, in 1957, that his country would overtake the United States and arrive at communism within twenty years. Its superiority will be especially significant with regard to producing meat, milk, and butter.

“History is on our side,” Khrushchev would repeat.

Of course, the modes of exchange have changed, as have the commodities, but the concept does not differ much. Regardless of the validity of this conception of progress and prosperity, we stand, generally speaking, before two notions of "progress": One that can be described as "instrumental", which aims to achieve material progress, without freedom and culture, rather, at their expense. The other humanistic and legalistic, people become prosperous through their efforts, and because of their choices.

Indeed, the Chinese model exemplifies the first notion of "progress". It is accompanied by one-party rule and deals with minorities and different groups exclusively through oppression. This is true for the Muslim Uyghurs, as is the case for Hong Kong and the Buddhists of the Tibetan Plateau. Chinese rule has never cheated us on this issue: Since 1989, when Tiananmen Square was flooded with blood, Beijing has been reiterating its commitment to single-party rule and muzzling dissent.

Many of those interested in China wonder: How much longer will the duality of this regime, this coexistence of the system of governance and market capitalism (even under the state’s watch) persist. Because this question often takes the form of pounding sand, some have preferred to stop asking it. However, the experiences of the countries that surround China call for fear for the future of the Chinese model.

In Japan, after the Second World War, the "economic miracle" was associated with the adoption of parliamentary democracy, as dictated by US General MacArthur’s constitution. As for the other Asian "tigers" and "dragons’" economic "miracles", they were accompanied by military regimes, which also ended up adopting representative democracy.

Of course, someone enthusiastic about "heading east" will pop up to remind us of America’s racism, George Floyd’s murder and the events preceded and followed the crime. However, the American model celebrates Martin Luther King’s civil rights, while it is ashamed of the murder of George Floyd. In all cases, major differences and a diversity of opinions can be held about this model. However, if the US state were to go out on a limb and present a definition of the American model, especially while Donald Trump is at the helm, no one would be obligated to accept it. In all likelihood, it would push people to adopt an opposite definition.

In the end, he who opposes Trump or any other president in the United States becomes a prominent voice, perhaps even a prominent intellectual or academic. To find those in China who oppose Jinping, it would be advisable to search the country’s prisons or mental health institutions, and it would advisable to start looking quickly before all traces of them are lost. The model offered by China is not needed by societies whose priorities are freedom, the ability to think independently, and individuality.

As for the milieu enthusiastic about China and "heading east", it only increases the wariness about the Chinese model. Is it conceivable for the admirers of Bashar al-Assad's regime or Ayatollah Khamenei to tell us which countries we should befriend!?

“Tell me who you befriend, and I will tell you who you are.”

We could tweak this popular proverb a little: “Tell me who you are, and I will tell you whom you befriend."

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