If China became a democracy, would it still be rejected by the West?

May 8, 2024
Woodside, United States. 15th Nov, 2023. United States President Joe Biden meets with President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China on Wednesday, November 15, 2023, in Woodside, California. President Xi is in the United States to attend the APEC Summit in San Francisco. Image Alamy/via MFA China/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

Over the last few years, I have wondered about what drives the relentless Western animosity towards China. It seems a very logical question to ask if one wants to understand the world today. But you will be hard pressed to find this explained in commentary provided by the Western media. What one gets is screaming daily headlines, like one recently found in the FT:“US seeks to isolate China with help of Allies.”

And in the last couple of weeks, two of the US government’s leading officials – Janet Yellen, Sec of Treasury, Anthony Blinken, Secretary of State – went to China and predictably, accused and threatened the Chinese government. These ranged from China building over capacity in critical industries, apparently supporting Russia in its war with Ukraine and the irony of ironies, resurrecting the false claim of genocide in Xinjiang. All of this whilst the US and its European allies fuel, what most of the world considers a genocide by Israel against the people of Palestine.

China is now portrayed in the West as an anti-democratic monster which must be stopped. But if it were to somehow become a genuine democracy, it would still be rejected by the West.

This is a conclusion I have arrived at after nearly 30 years of observing and participating in the evolution of Chinese-Western relations. One inconvenient (and even rude) truth in my opinion, which is rarely spoken about, is that after 500 years of domination, the West is ill-prepared to share power with others – and a non-Caucasian civilisation at that.

I have also in recent years been a participant in various international forums, where I have posed the following question to Western experts and commentators: Why is there such a strong anti-China sentiment in the West? What explains it?

I have had a few responses, but often only after expressions of deep surprise that someone from Asia had the audacity to ask such an inconvenient question. The answers never quite passed my “intellectually honest” test.

So let’s explore this a bit more.

Logically, one can only explain the anti-China sentiment in the following three ways.

The first reason is the fear of competing with a new superpower. This is rarely openly acknowledged but is broadly understood by most – especially in the non-Western world. It is so evident in the polices taken to hinder China in all areas of technology and trade, despite all the talk about globalisation, open and free markets, liberalising global trade and fair competition.

It seems very clear that the previously unimagined fear of losing economic hegemony is now so real that the West is in a panic mode. This global dominance was kickstarted in the 16th century, and manifested via colonisation, imperialism, and resulted in the creation of apex settler nation-states like the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel. These nations, plus the UK and a few others are to this day at the forefront of the anti-China campaign.

The second reason is that despite its failure to respect democracies around the world or uphold democracy’s key tenets, the West is apparently concerned that hundreds of millions of poor Chinese are being deprived of all the great benefits of democracy and wants to help them free themselves from the tyranny of the Communist Party and enjoy universal human rights. They thus want to help Chinese to make China a democracy in the image of the West, thereby allowing it to be accepted as a member of the rules-based order, as led, and dictated by the West. And until then, China shall remain a pariah state and must be put under pressure on all fronts. And that is what all the fuzz is about now – make China a democracy for its own good.

Third, the reason to contain China is because it is spreading its evil ways around the world and gaining undue influence in regions where the West dominated for centuries and therefore it is a security threat to others and must be stopped.

What unites these three reasons is the controversial charge of deeply-entrenched xenophobia in the West, accompanied by a deep sense of civilisational – and even racial – superiority that does not allow Western societies to recognise others as equals.

Given these points, let us assume China becomes a democracy and accepts a form of democracy which is in the image of the West—with multi-party elections, etc. Then what?

According to the West, democracy will ensure that the Chinese population is now free to express its political views and make their leadership choices; democracy will provide checks and balances against the excesses of the government ( which it has not in the West); human rights violations will stop; democracy will nurture innovation (as if there isn’t enough in China now which is what is frightening the West anyway); and with these changes it will be warmly embraced by the almighty and benevolent West.

In such a scenario, all sanctions would be removed, trade barriers lowered, and China will be permitted to become a full-fledged member —approved by the West— of the Western-led rules-based international order.

And thus, according to this theory of democracy, freedom and globalisation, China will now also compete fairly because it will obey and be subservient to Western rules on trade and commerce, which should be noted are anything but fair.

So, the question is: Who really benefits? Would this be good for China or the West?

Let’s start with China. According to the Western theory of governance, democracy is also the basis for true capitalism, as it will allow for private enterprise, free markets, and innovation to thrive, foreign direct investments would pour in and there would be minimal state intervention, including in capital flows. (Note; most of the above are not practiced in the West).

Thus, one would assume that China would in fact become even stronger than it is today: more investments, more innovations would be unleashed, more entrepreneurs created, and no more talk about decoupling or de-risking. And as China would be free of sanctions and other restrictions such as tech imports and market access, it would go on to dominate many global markets and its companies will be competing with Western corporations around the world. Thus, they would prove to be even fiercer competition for Western economies and markets than they are today. This would not be good news for Western governments, Western companies, and Joe public.

What excuses and tools does one now use to punish a fellow democracy as big as China?

Perhaps the alternative is that Western politicians believe that once China becomes “democratic”, then the current successful state-led model will unravel and result in China becoming weaker – to the advantage of the West.

A hidden aspect of the Western doctrine and the insincere desire to bring democracy to others like the Chinese is the belief that the Chinese people and culture are inferior: once the Chinese people taste the Western version of democracy and liberate themselves, they will be unable to realise the benefits of democracy as Western states have because their intrinsic racial inferiority. Instead, they will prove incapable of competing with superior Westerners on an unlevel international playing field where the rules are set by the West.

The truth is that the West is acutely aware that the current system works for China, not because Chinese are inferior but because it is ideal for a nation that is so large, coming from a low development base given the history of the last two centuries and it has its own culture and political philosophy which is steeped in its ancient traditions. It has fine-tuned a system so unlike the Western model it cofounds the mindsets of western leaders and populations who are infused with centuries of arrogance.

But let us assume the Western theory of democracy works and China, having embraced free market capitalism, goes on to achieve much more in the economic and global sphere than it has to date today. Will the West be happy and accept it? The answer to that would be an emphatic: No Way.

Will it still accuse China of a long list of bad practices and structural flaws which do not meet the self-serving Western rules of global trade, commerce, international relations, and foreign policy? Yes, it will, as sure as night follows day. It is in the DNA of its sense of superiority, which in the face of a challenger, triggers an irrational fear and thus irrational actions – including a push for war.

From advances in IT, AI, chips, EV and solar power, China has thrown down the gauntlet of competition to the West, especially the US. Rather than compete fairly and negotiate where there are points of difference, the West seeks to contain China using unfair methods, destabilising the region in the process and the world sees it for what it is.

The superficial obsession with democracy, the rule-based order, fair competition, is simply a fig leaf to suppress the first nation to challenge the West in 500 years.

The next decade will provide answers as the West loses stamina, drained by wars and economic decline and thus the ability and political cohesion to maintain its war on China. It will also be interesting to see how a rising India does and whether it is able to achieve the same remarkable results of China and especially with regards to eradicating extreme poverty. Or will democracy impede India’s ambitions? And if not and India becomes a true global superpower giving the West a run for its money, will the world’s largest democracy also become a target of the West?


Republished from COUNTERPUNCH, May 02, 2024


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