May 3rd, 2018 at The University of Cambridge. By Chen Pokong
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,
I’m honored to participate in tonight’s debate.
In discussing the influence of the East tonight, given the limits of time, I may not be able to talk much about other Asian countries. I will focus on the country that frequently comes to mind: the rising red empire of China, which is now the world’s second largest economy and the newest superpower.
At this time, I do not believe the East of the globe is going to have the most influence, because that to a great extent means China is going to have the most influence. In my opinion, for this to happen would require one prerequisite, which is that China should become democratized and civilized. A democratic China combined with democratic India and Japan would project enough joint force for the East to genuinely influence the world.
In speaking of the influence of China, a common misconception is that “China leads the world.” In fact, China doesn’t even lead Asia. In the past ten years or so, China’s aggressively expansionist behavior has stirred up antagonism with neighboring countries, attracting hostility from all sides and placing China in an isolated position.
If we take China’s expansionism as a kind of influence, I believe it will be blockaded by the United States and other countries, in other words, this influence will not last long.
Another common misconception is that “China will replace the U.S. in leading the world.” But let’s examine this more closely: After the U.S. withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, the other countries did not invite China to join, much less did China replace the U.S. as leader of the TPP. The reason is very simple: China is infamous for not following the rules and for going back on its word, and it cannot meet the TPP’s high threshold for free trade regulations. In particular, China cannot fulfil the TPP’s provisions on labor rights and intellectual property safeguards.
Another misconception is that “While the US is withdrawing from free trade, China will lead free trade.” However, one of the prerequisites for free trade is the free flow of information. How can other countries expect China to lead free trade when it closes itself off from free information? Establishing the Great Firewall to isolate Chinese people from the rest of the world is extreme isolationism.
It’s true that China currently has considerable economic capacity. That means the totalitarian Chinese government can collect enough money from its people. China established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, or AIIB, and created the Belt and Road Initiative, which gives it economic dominance over some developing countries. However, this economic dominance is not enough to influence general regional political trends, much less rise to the level of global cooperation.
It wasn’t only Western countries that have cold-shouldered the Belt and Road Initiative. Even among countries with close relations to China, the Belt and Road Initiative has encountered suspicion and a series of failures. In China-friendly Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar, China-funded hydropower plants or dam projects have been cancelled due to local opposition. The reasons are because China’s asking price is too high – mostly China is demanding 90% of the profit, or because China’s loan condition is too harsh, or because the projects would harm the environment.
If we compare China’s Belt and Road Initiative with the Marshall Plan that the U.S. used to aid European countries after World War II, we can see that the actual outcome of the Marshall Plan was mainly benefiting other countries, but Belt and Road Initiative mainly benefits China itself, especially its red elite.
In fact, the Belt and Road Initiative imply another layer of intention by the CCP syndicate: the corrupt Senior Chinese officials and Red elites hope to find a legal outlet in the international community for their enormous ill-gotten gains through the so-called “overseas investment,” a disguised form of money laundering. This may be the most brilliant and secretive money laundering scheme in the world today.
America’s world leadership emerged as part of a natural process that took shape after the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War. As the victor in all three wars, the United States displayed not only a formidable hard power, but even more crucially, the most powerful soft power: the values of democracy, freedom, human rights and rule of law. The United States took on the mission of defending world peace and became the world leader through collective endorsement.
The soft power that the U.S. possesses is exactly what China lacks.
China’s negative ethical image not only instills dread among bordering countries, but also triggers intense antipathy and conflict among closely-linked regions, and even within China itself.
Beijing has declared Taiwan as an integral part of China, but most Taiwanese do not identify with China. Hong Kong, once a British colony, returned to China 21 years ago, but the people of Hong Kong continue to reject the Chinese system.
In other words, China’s influence does not extend beyond its borders, not even to Hong Kong, and only to Tibet and Xinjiang under protest. In fact, the majority of Tibetans and Uyghurs do not identify with China. China’s so-called influence can only be enjoyed within its borders; once it emerges into the outside world, it’s dead on arrival.
Under these conditions, we can only talk of “China leading the world” if the sun starts rising in the west.
In fact, it is not only Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang that do not identify with China; even many Han Chinese citizens do not endorse the Chinese system and China model. This became clear in the large-scale public antipathy and opposition when Xi Jinping in March of this year forced through an amendment to the Chinese constitution that abolished term limits for the president. Such attempt to turn back the wheels of history is not acceptable to China’s own people, not to mention to the rest of the world.
As one of the protesters in the 1989 Democracy Movement, and a political prisoner of Chinese government, I have witnessed the tyranny and darkness of Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s rule, which is much more hideous than anyone outside can imagine. In the 29 years since the Tiananmen Massacre, I have watched as the CCP’s dictatorship has intensified, not only in its suppression within China, but also in its expansionism outside of its borders.
“Diplomacy is an extension of domestic politics.” A regime that doesn’t talk reason within its own borders will not talk reason in the international community; a regime that doesn’t respect rule of law within its own borders will not obey the rules of the international community; a regime that suppresses its own people will never treat foreign nationals with kindness.
When people speak of the “China threat,” I can’t help but say: There is no China threat, only a CCP threat. It is a threat shared by the Chinese people and the world alike.
China’s single-party totalitarian government has killed the creativity of its people. Most of China’s technology has come from plagiarizing, pirating and stealing technology from the West. Other technology has come from acquiring Western companies together with their core technologies. It is shameless for Chinese government to show off its so-called “Great Technological Leap”, because almost all of China’s technology comes from the West.
When we talk that European and American influence relatively declines, we should keep in mind that China’s resurgence over the course of 40 years was to a great extent facilitated by the West. Today, China’s largest trading partners are the European Union and the United States. This in itself shows the importance and influence of the West in terms of China’s economic takeoff.
Ironically, while the Chinese government bombards its citizens with anti-Western propaganda, the constitution of the Chinese Communist Party lists Marxism – which originated in the West – as the first of its guiding ideologies.
For China, being prosperous and powerful, this is not the first time nor the last. In the history of thousands of years, there have been many times. However, because the political system has never changed, dictatorship, dictatorship, then dictatorship, power has never been constrained, finally resulting in unavoidable official corruption. Each time, a prosperous and powerful China had become a cloud of smoke. Today’s China, continuing to reject democracy and the rule of law, will certainly repeat the failure of history.
For the time being, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to join me in opposition to the motion. Because we have not had enough evidence to conclude that the future belongs to the East.