Letter published in the Financial Times
We Must Up Our Game on China Whilst We Can
Sir, Jamil Anderlini, in “Under Xi Jinping, China is turning back to dictatorship” (October 12) gives us a partial picture. He says that PRC national Wang Jiangfeng was sentenced to two years in prison for “the heinous crime of referring to president Xi as a steamed bun.” However, Mr Wang has separately been in a long dispute with the authorities over what he claims was his wrongful conviction for stealing Rmb20,000 of public funds in 2003. More recently he has been repeatedly detained and also been sent for “re-education through labour” for staging protests against his original conviction and his treatment by the authorities.
China is not a democracy, nor is it a dictatorship. President Xi is a very powerful man, but China is no family business like Cuba or North Korea; it is a system of authoritarian bureaucracy that manages supervised capitalism and draws on 2,000 years of experience in governing a large state. To say that “we know almost as little about the inner workings of China’s top leadership as we do about North Korea’s” is not true. Every five years, the government of China publishes a blueprint for the future and then they deliver; gigawatts of renewable energy, thousands of miles of high speed rail, a billion hand held devices with e-banking platforms.
China is not a democracy, nor is it a dictatorship
To think the process is unresponsive to the people’s wishes is also wrong. The Chinese Communist party is the largest user of polling companies in the world and often publishes unfavourable results. There is no comparable system in any other country that sets out so transparently its objectives and how they’ll be delivered. If we are to get to grips with this vast nation and understand it well enough to deal with the challenges Mr Anderlini raises, in trade, foreign policy and in human rights, we need to get rid of the slogans and look beneath the rhetoric. We owe it to the next generation to “up our game on China” before it’s too late.
October 17, 2017