January 25, 2020
The sudden outbreak of the coronavirus is only the latest misfortune to affect the current Chinese leadership. The other two – continuous unrest in Hong Kong and the electoral victory of the anti-Beijing presidential candidate in Taiwan – have been substantial upsets for Beijing.
Truth be told, the outside world had invested in China’s emerging economy and opened its doors to Chinese-made products in the hope that Deng Xiaoping’s gradual opening of the Chinese market would be followed by an equally gradual opening of the country’s political system to more competition and eventually to truly democratic elections.
Alas, regardless of how logical and necessary such a scenario was, the expectations of Western nations in particular were thwarted by Xi Jinping’s return to Mao-style one-man rule. For a country with a developed economy such as China, and one with a nuclear-armed military, such an outcome to its uninterrupted 30-year economic growth trajectory could prove to be a disaster in the making.
Indeed, since 2017 the Chinese constitution has been amended to allow president Xi to stay in power beyond the 10-year limit established by communist party peers after Mao’s death. New security laws have been adopted and now all companies in China, big or small, have to put up with the emergence of communist cells in their midst and on their boards. There are voices in China clamoring that the private sector should be taken over by the state altogether, as the historical mission of the former were approaching the end of its usefulness for the country. Even international companies like L’Oréal, for example, have been forced to accept communist apparatchiks on their board of directors in China and to hoist the communist flag in their lobby, lest they forget who the real masters of the country are.
Such worrisome developments prove that Chinese communist officials could not be trusted for long to act in the best interest of their nation or of the world as a whole. Chinese communists cannot understand that their leadership is rapidly becoming toxic for their nation, especially for the emerging middle classes and today’s or tomorrow’s business leaders. A truly healthy and functional market economy cannot force its businessmen and managers to act as mere puppets of the party and be deprived of the necessary autonomy to make vital business decisions.
This 180-degree return to the bad old ways, when Mao ruled over the party and the country with an iron fist, should be strongly resisted by the international community of states. In actual fact, there is very little value in the political doctrine currently being peddled by Beijing, namely socialism with Chinese characteristics.
By this time, instead of trying to promote reunification with Taiwan by force, Beijing should have opened up its political system to its former foe, the Kuomintang, and allowed its candidates to stand in mainland elections. This would have given the Taiwanese an incentive to accept a gradual reunification with the mainland, a process which would have guarranteed the peace and security not only inside China, but also in the region. Such a transition, from a one-party to a two-party political system, would have also offered Chinese voters the opportunity to select the best party to lead China forward, as well as the best President to represent them internationally.
As matters now stand, however, China presents the grotesque spectacle of an economically powerful country where communists still enjoy a political monopoly. Their system has been obsolete for the past 3 decades. Accordingly, neither new security laws, nor constitutional changes will be able to hide this obsolescence from the Chinese public forever.Spotlight on Geopolitics