The Problem With China - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Opinion

The Problem With China

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Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2020 4:46 pm

In a tour several years ago of four of China’s largest cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, I was impressed by the progress the Peoples Republic had made in elevating the standard of living for much of its vast population, at least for those living in the thriving eastern metropolises. But a fair assessment of that progress required venturing beyond the tourist areas through which we were led, into the interior and the neighborhoods where poverty is still widespread and sanitation primitive.

In and around the cities the air quality was eye-smarting and everywhere we were warned not to drink the water and to be careful about what and where we ate. But even more problematic were the limits on where we could go and what we could say. We were warned, for instance, not to mention Taiwan or China’s one-child policy or anything that could be deemed critical of the government or the Communist party. To do so could put us at risk of being detained, we were advised.

In China, the Communist Party reigns supreme and Party leaders have the final say over nearly every matter of national importance. Preservation of the party trumps every other cause, including individual rights. To criticize the government or the party or to attempt to influence public sentiment against either is to invite detention or worse as many brave protestors, including Hong Kongers, have learned. We enjoyed interacting with our friendly, hospitable hosts and like most ordinary people everywhere, we have much in common. However, our systems of government have little or nothing in common and life under the Communist regime is harsh and restrictive in terms of individual freedoms. Westerners, used to asserting their rights and freedoms, sometimes seem shocked to discover that they have none in places like China.

Since his rise to power, President Xi Jingping, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, has assumed near-dictatorial powers and strengthened governmental control over the lives of its people. China has become more assertive in expanding its world influence and reach. It is colonizing and militarizing the vast South China Sea, intruding on the territorial seas and economic zones of its neighbors and posing a risk to freedom of navigation in an area through which nearly a third of ocean-borne cargo transits daily. It demands that The Republic of China, also known as Taiwan, must be “re-united” with the Peoples Republic, an entity it never has been “united” with in the first place. It poses a cyber warfare threat and steals technology from us and other nations.

This is the problem with China whose behavior probably will not be mellowed by continuing trade agreements, friendly handshakes and membership in world trade organizations. China’s aim is, clearly, to surpass us as the world’s largest economy and superpower and it is clear from past behavior that it will employ any means to do so and will regard any effort to impede its progress toward that goal as hostile. We are two nations with very different systems and they may be incompatible. In any event, it is not in our best interest to help them in achieving their goal of surpassing us. I believe, therefore, that President Donald Trump’s approach of toughness in trade negotiations and always putting America’s interests first is the right approach.

For an example of the problems that China’s opaque system of strict, centralized control from Beijing and the need for the party’s approval of nearly everything that could reflect poorly upon it, consider the coronavirus crisis which originated in Wuhan, a city of 11 million, apparently at an open-air market where food was sold in proximity to wild animals which were being slaughtered and sold as food as well. Sanitation reportedly was an issue. As infections broke out there was a lengthy delay in informing the public. The mayor of Wuhan blamed the delay on having to wait for approval from Beijing which reportedly took a month. Hundreds of thousands of people meanwhile were permitted to leave the area and travel, spreading the virus throughout the country and the world.

The World Health Organization subsequently declared a global health emergency. The U.S. has warned Americans not to travel to China, evacuated U.S. citizens from Wuhan and restricted entry into America of foreign persons who recently visited China. Other countries also took various restrictive measures regarding travel to and from the world’s most populous nation and second-largest economy with a huge potential negative effect on the world economy and markets. The biggest tragedy, of course, is the loss of life involved. Beijing must take the blame for its failure to take timely measures to quarantine the area where the virus originated and control its spread. Its system of government, with its tight control of information and hostility to any criticism, is simply not a good fit in an increasingly global society.

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