There is not a day that goes by when Western critics, those in the US in particular, fail to demonize the country’s Communist government. They accuse it of stealing Western technology, abusing human rights, bullying neighbors, threatening other nations’ national security and a host of other misdeeds.
Whether the accusations are true or not, depends on one’s perspective and ideology in that the anti-China crowd insists the charges are just “the tip of the iceberg,” but others complain the allegations are “fake news” or exaggerated.
Perhaps a brief look at the Chinese government’s achievements, contributions and behavior towards other countries might shed light on how history will judge it.
The Chinese regime is not perfect and has indeed made many mistakes and might even have committed some misdeeds, but it increased the economy 35 times since Deng Xiaoping embarked on reforming it in 1978, affording the country to realize the “four modernization” of agriculture, industry, science and technology and national defense.
It took the UK almost 100 years just to double the size of its economy.
The magnificent economic feat not only turned China into a manufacturing powerhouse second to none, but also made significant advancements in technologies such as 5G, AI, quantum computing and others and might have surpassed those of the West. China’s military power and technology are nearing those of the US.
Perhaps the government’s greatest achievement might be the lifting of 800 million people out of abject poverty, defined by the United Nations as living at less than US$1.90 per day, and putting hundreds of millions more in the middle and upper classes, thereby improving all the people’s standard of living.
It could indeed be safe to suggest China has eradicated absolute poverty for the first time in its more than 5,000-year history. To that end, it can rightly claim to have “served the people.”
On charges of “predatory economic practices” or “debt trap diplomacy,” they are just that, allegations inconsistent with the realities on the ground. Ask any country that has received Chinese investment and it will likely tell that it was instrumental in its economic development.
Even governments won on an anti-China platform made “U-turns.” Brazil’s recently elected resident Jair Bolsonaro, for example, campaigned on an anti-China platform, accusing the Asian giant of “buying Brazil,” visiting Taiwan and allying with US President Donald Trump.
But once elected, he sent his vice-president to mend ties with China and is now visiting the country to forge closer economic relations because Chinese investment and trade have accelerated the country’s economic development and growth.
The reader can also examine the charges of Communist China suppressing human rights in Hong Kong and bullying neighbors in the South China Sea.
It could be argued that Hong Kong is enjoying more freedom than at any time in its colonial history. A case in point is that “pro-democracy” protesters were able to protest with violence and travel abroad to propagate treason without recrimination.
The colonial government, on the other hand, invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, suppressing and arresting dissidents in the 1960s. What’s more, the Hong Kong people did not have the right to elect the governor.
The colonial masters, in fact, only allowed the Hong Kong people “freedom” as long as they remained “obedient” or “knew their place.”
The Chinese mainland central and Hong Kong governments, on the other hand, showed remarkable restraint and lived up to the territory’s Basic Law, allowing the violent protests to linger for over four months.
In the West and the US in particular, the violent protesters would have been arrested and might even be killed for far lesser crimes. For example, black Americans had been killed or badly beaten for just raising their hands at or disobeying police orders.
If the US Congress also showed its hypocritical side, it was passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (HKHUD), which requires the government to sanction any officials who try to stop the violence. That is, while the Congress is castigating Russia and even China for meddling in its election campaigns, it is calling for regime change or “color revolution” in China.
Worse, the HKHUD literary emboldens the protesters to use violence, which could invite a military response from the Chinese military. Should that emerge, the vast majority of the young protesters could become “sacrificial lambs” like those in Tiananmen Square.
There is a parallel between the Hong Kong protests and those of the Tiananmen Square era. Both were meant to provoke a response from Beijing, a military one could give (or not) the West an excuse to accuse China of being “repressive.”
However, the losers were the protesters, including the leaders who fled to and were rewarded with an education in the West’s best universities. The vast majority were left behind to suffer the consequences.
Furthermore, most of the leaders became “homeless” because they could not return to China and visit families. China, on the other hand, has registered phenomenal annual growth rates and saw its popularity surge across the globe since then.
The Tiananmen Square massacre did not hurt China because the protests were “fake” democracy movements. The same outcomes could face Hong Kong for the same reason.
On the accusation that the Chinese government is bullying smaller nations in the South China Sea, perhaps a revisit of history might be in order. First, there was no “freedom of navigation operations (FONPs)” issue before 2012 when then US President Barack Obama announced his “pivot to Asia” policy, stating that the South China Sea is an “American national interest” even though the waters are thousands of miles from the US.
China interpreted the US policy as a way to bottle it within the “first island chain” and disrupting its trade routes to Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond. The right or wrong interpretation (depending on who one talks to) prompted China to claim all territories within the “Nine Dash Line,” which was drafted by the Nationalists in 1947 and said to have been approved by the US before the Communists won the civil war.
To defend its “core interests” or “territorial integrity,” China built islands and installed weapons on them, but it did not stop commercial or military FNOPs as long as they are outside the 12-mile exclusive economic zone.
Yes, it is true that China signed the 1980s United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS), erasing nations’ historical claims outside of their 200-mile zone. But China was exempted from the provision because it made the claims long before UNCLOS existed.
The US, on the other hand, refused to sign the document because its occupation of Guam and other territories might be challenged.
A final note on the issue is that the Tribunal that ruled in favor of the Philippines was not part of the UN. Indeed, it was funded by the US and Japan and it was a Japanese jurist that picked the judges.
In light of the aforementioned, the Communist Chinese government could not be as bad as its critics claimed.