ADELAIDE - As one of PNG Attitude’s more vociferous critics of the Chinese government (as distinct from its citizens generally) I would like to take up some readers’ comments about how China has risen so far and so fast.
In doing so, I reject any inference that criticisms of Chinese government policies and action reflect an inherent Sinophobia.
In particular, I draw a clear distinction between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which rules the country and the Chinese people generally. They are clearly not the same thing.
I freely acknowledge the huge achievement of the CCP in facilitating the rapid rise of China to resume its rightful place as a major power in the world.
However, I note that this only became possible when, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, the party essentially rejected most of its hitherto orthodox communist ideology in favour of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’.
In practice, this meant switching to a state controlled form of the capitalism that had for so long been repudiated and condemned by Mao Zedong and other party luminaries.
The CCP that remains exhibits many of the structures of the old communist regime but is, at its heart, is essentially just another version of the one party state typically fostered by authoritarians everywhere.
The triumph of China has been greatly aided and abetted by the naïve, greedy and rather stupid capitalists of the western world, who cheerfully ignored the true nature of the CCP and made the heroic assumption that, as its wealth grew, China would ‘naturally’ transform itself into some sort of democratic state.
This hubris is now reaping its reward.
The capitalist ruling elites clearly knew nothing about China’s history in which at no time has the idea of democracy penetrated its ancient culture.
Democracy’s only manifestation was, paradoxically, in the former British colonial possession of Hong Kong, and Beijing is ruthlessly suppressing it there as I write.
To China it is clear that the masses must be taught to know their place, which is not in the halls of power.
Fundamentally, the CCP is both suspicious and afraid of the people it purports to lead. Unleashing the masses would put its power at risk and this cannot be tolerated.
The contrast with democracies, even those as deeply flawed as that of the USA, is striking.
The leadership of the CCP has, until quite recently at least, successfully hidden its true nature and ambitions. It has out thought and out manoeuvred the western political leadership at every turn.
Only with its resort to ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy has the Chinese government decided to reveal its true face to the world.
So, in the context of Papua New Guinea, there should be no illusions whatsoever as to the true nature of the Chinese regime or its ambitions to dominate its self-defined sphere of influence.
By all means do deals with Chinese enterprises but, be warned, they are or can easily be made instruments of state policy by a government that routinely uses intimidation, harassment, imprisonment and even lethal force to impose its will and crush dissent.
All that said, the world is going to have to live with a China controlled by the CCP for a very long time.
The nature of the long term relationship with this mighty but still fragile authoritarian power is yet to emerge.
Our democratic ruling elites have only belatedly come to understand this and certainly have shown no sign yet of having a collective position on what their strategic policy approach can or should be.
I think that this should be devised on a multilateral basis and have military, political, economic and cultural elements.
Very probably, this process will first rely upon the USA shrugging off the horrors of the Trump era and restoring its fractured relations with other democratic powers.
Only then can the hard work begin on devising and implementing an effective containment strategy that, while respecting China’s legitimate rights, constrains it from achieving a position of geo-political dominance across Asia and the Pacific.
PNG risks becoming a pawn in this 'Great Game' and so may find its interests and needs ignored or sacrificed if this suits any of the major players.
The fate of Cuba is instructive in this regard as well as that of China’s Uyghur population.
I am not advocating for return of the 'reds under the bed' idiocy of the Cold War era, but the crafting of a rational, balanced and effective response to a power which threatens the use of main force to impose its will upon others.
This balance of power approach has long been used to keep the world's major powers from lurching into war and there is no reason why it cannot be used once again.