On October 16, President Xi Jinping delivered his report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). During the weeks prior to this, we witnessed a conspicuous intensification of Sino-phobic censures from across the Mainstream Western Media, triggered by the approaching National Congress. Leading commentators and core Western politicians have been straining to make themselves heard above this recharged hullabaloo.
The coverage repeatedly speaks darkly about all the headwinds, economic, geopolitical, ageing population, healthcare stresses and so on, facing China. And a dizzying amount of discussion centers on President Xi Jinping and his third term and where his leadership may take China. Depressing notes are added continuously. The notably selective news about China is largely presented as worrisome or worse. The only “good news” about China at times like these seems to be “bad news”, regularly inflated or even freshly fashioned. These Western-incubated anxieties, with their roots in the Yellow Peril stories from over a century ago, must be fed. The alarming China Threat narrative must not just be sustained – it needs to be amplified.
One memorable recent example, focused on the National Congress, was provided by, Gideon Rachman, a well-regarded Financial Times writer. He drew a direct comparison between the UK and China in a story headlined, and I am not making this up: Why I would rather have Liz Truss than Xi Jinping as a leader. Predictably, this story esteemed the surpassing eminence of Western democracy compared to any other governance system, and especially that which applies in China. The article is almost mystical in its argued regard for Western unipolar, universalism, which, implicitly, should be adopted globally. This sort of moralised, political absolutism underpins so much of the confrontational geopolitics now practiced by the US-led West as it resentfully seeks to avoid coming to terms with today’s rising multipolar world.
Again, unsurprisingly, the story presents a list of all that purportedly ails China and it concludes by wondering ominously about the disaster that awaits Beijing. Here, though, we can sense the real pivot of all this profound, Western fretfulness: the success of China. China continues to face immense challenges and a vast array of particular problems – successfully managing a country containing around 20% of humanity is exceptionally demanding. The thing is, though, that China’s performance record – its performance legitimacy – in tackling so many challenges so well on such a scale, is plainly second to none. The like of what it has managed over the last four decades has never before been witnessed in world history.
Looking forward, we can see that finding solutions to the difficulties still facing China presents a vast challenge. But it is also apparent that, while the scope of this task is huge, the core political, economic and social problems facing the US are unmistakably more intractable. As time passes, America’s grave polarisation and inequity realities plainly continue to intensify.
I have written before about how, on my first trip across the border into Shenzhen around 30 years ago, we had to travel over muddy dirt roads to get to the Splendid China theme park, in a time-worn mini-bus. Today, China has nation-spanning rail, road and air transport infrastructure unmatched anywhere else. The UK motoring personality, Jeremy Clarkson, said a few years ago, referring comparatively to the UK, “We’re doomed!” as he drove across extraordinary bridges and along superb long-distance Chinese motorways.
China has addressed poverty alleviation, housing needs, education expansion, health challenges and much more, all at the same time. It now has its own space station and BeiDou satellite navigation system and it has placed surface rovers on the Moon and Mars. It has lifted over 800 million people out of abject poverty, contributing over 70% to the global reduction in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. Applying an American-response metric, we can see, too, that during the COVID pandemic, Beijing’s exacting, science-based approach has saved millions of lives and prevented several hundred million infections.
The CPC has secured the very wide support it enjoys within China (confirmed through multi-year studies by the Ash Centre from Harvard University) because it is people centered. It has, over the last four decades, worked unremittingly to remodel China using intense, continuously reviewed planning and by relying on the intelligent hard work contributed by people across all sectors of Chinese society. On balance, the remarkable rise of China has been exceptionally good not only for China but for the world.
Professor Kerry Brown astutely pointed out, in a recent New York Times essay, that President Xi Jinping governs, above all in the interests the CPC, China and the Chinese people collectively. His place in Chinese history, Brown argues, “rests on whether party rule endures long after his departure so that it can fulfill the party’s fundamental aim: restoring China to its ancient role as a great nation worthy of its Chinese name, Zhongguo, the central country”.
Philip Yeung lately argued that the CPC is the world’s best political party. In the West this reads as a controversial claim. But his case is convincingly made.
Kishore Mahbubani maintains that in East Asian and Southeast Asia, especially, the test of societal accomplishment (by government) is above all grounded in measures of widely shared economic success. This is what China, led by the CPC, has been delivering to its people. This is an endless work-in-progress, of course, but it has produced constructive outcomes at a level never before accomplished.
President Xi’s National Congress report reflected on the how the last five years have been truly momentous and extraordinary. He also stressed the continuing transformation China has experienced and emphasised how the CPC has to strive to build a modern socialist China in all respects. His report radiates affirmative energy within a world fraught with huge geopolitical disagreements. China offers a globally attentive, positive view of the future, while openly acknowledging the gravity of local and international challenges.
Meanwhile, the primary project of the West today is, increasingly, to contain China – to suppress that success. This is an intensely negative view which now seems to permeate so many Western-dominated international groups, from the G7 to NATO and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, through to the QUAD and AUCKUS. They are preoccupied with focusing on what they are against. They provide further confirmation that misery loves company. Any jurisdiction looking for contemporary, high-stamina, “can-do” global guidance surely has to search elsewhere.
We can look forward, for a long time, to discussing which sort of political system is getting more things right than wrong for most people. But it is worth noting, in closing, that Mr. Rachman’s preferred choice of leader, Liz Truss, was also evaluated by the Economist at about the same time as he expressed his views. That journal said that her performance as Britain’s new Prime Minister suggested that she had the shelf-life of a lettuce.