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Globalization has created a Chinese language monster – international coverage

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Globalization has created a Chinese language monster – international coverage

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On Sunday, the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee recommended ending the two-term term, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to remain in office indefinitely. This will certainly mark the end of an era – not only for China, but also for the West.

For the West, the era in question began with the end of the Cold War, when old enemies became “emerging markets”. China had started opening its markets to foreign investment as early as 1978 as part of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that the private sector took off there, and Western firms quickly rushed in to take advantage of the breakneck pace of Chinese economic growth.

The nice thing about the history of emerging economies after the Cold War was that it was apolitical. Remember Jim O’Neill’s famous 2001 identification of the leading emerging economies as the “BRICs” (Brazil, Russia, India, China) – four states from different groupings during the Cold War that now together as leading protagonists in one new age of peaceful globalization under the Pax Americana. Some called it the end of the story.

On Sunday, the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee recommended ending the two-term term, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to remain in office indefinitely. This will certainly mark the end of an era – not only for China, but also for the West.

For the West, the era in question began with the end of the Cold War, when old enemies became “emerging markets”. China had started opening its markets to foreign investment as early as 1978 as part of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that the private sector took off there, and Western firms quickly rushed in to take advantage of the breakneck pace of Chinese economic growth.

The nice thing about the history of emerging economies after the Cold War was that it was apolitical. Remember Jim O’Neill’s famous 2001 identification of the leading emerging economies as the “BRICs” (Brazil, Russia, India, China) – four states from different groupings during the Cold War that now together as leading protagonists in one new age of peaceful globalization under the Pax Americana. Some called it the end of the story.

This apolitical approach, however, was based on the Cold War assumption that democracy and capitalism go hand in hand and that the expansion of free markets would bring global convergence to the Western economic model, as the Washington Consensus predicted.

Confidence in globalization resulted in huge amounts of Western capital and intellectual property flowing into emerging economies, especially China. But only a few in the West recognized the geopolitical significance of it at the time. Instead, they praised the history of economic growth. And not without reason: China’s integration into world markets has lifted a billion people out of poverty. It remains a testament to the material benefits of removing geopolitical barriers to the development of global business.

But this story of global cosmopolitan peace has been on the brink for some time. Russian privatization in the 1990s eventually spawned an oligarchy-controlled mafia state. More generally – with a few exceptions, mainly in Eastern Europe, where democracy has prevailed (despite the current problems) – capitalism has spread despite democracy, not in parallel, since the end of the Cold War.

And nowhere is that more evident than in China. It is now perfectly clear that, despite the pious neoliberal belief in the transformative power of free markets to promote “reform”, China is headed for more, not less, autocracy. In fact, it may not be an exaggeration to say that China has embarked on a new form of totalitarianism where a man sits on top of a police state and has access to ubiquitous data shared through social media and online shopping platforms as well A huge amount gathered over citizens are human and electronic surveillance devices to track their every move. Look no further than the ghastly “Social Credit Score” system Beijing plans to introduce by 2020 to get a feel for just how wrong it has proven to be the idea that free markets are driving democratic change or even minor liberalizing reforms in China will. A billion people may have been lifted out of poverty, but only to live under cyber totalitarianism.

The geopolitical consequences of this realization could indeed be very profound. During the Cold War, the West faced totalitarian communist regimes whose economic model and political system were alien to what the “free world” claimed to stand for. Of course, the link between capitalism and democracy has always been tenuous, not least given the fact that many of the West’s allies were not democratic. But now, if there was ever any doubt, we know for sure that capitalism and democracy do not have to go together: Capitalism is up for grabs, and you don’t even have to support the Pax Americana to get involved.

How does it end? We don’t know yet, but the question could be the defining characteristic of a new geopolitical phase the world seems to have entered. Notice how far from the happy story of liberal globalization is the language of the Trump administration’s December 2017 National Security Strategy: “China and Russia are challenging American power, influence and interests, and trying to undermine American security and prosperity . “

Of course, this happens in the context of a presidency that bizarrely refuses to implement US Congress sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 US elections. What is more important, however, is that Western states and their citizens are becoming more and more vigilant about the need to fundamentally reassess the value of integrated global capitalism, which they have more or less promoted since the early 1990s. I am not talking about reassessing in the face of the inequality that economic growth has created or the massive outsourcing of manufacturing jobs that has created rust belts on both sides of the Atlantic, which is a separate discussion. Rather, this reassessment concerns the inconvenient truth, now certainly undeniable, that the West’s own economic policies have, if unwittingly, encouraged the rise of deeply illiberal regimes in much of the former communist world.

What practical effect this has in the foreign and economic policy of the West depends on the one hand on the extent to which the West is prepared to sacrifice material wealth for the benefit of its public values; and on the other hand, to what extent authoritarian states, above all Russia and China, try to export their values ​​abroad. A number of areas could be enumerated in which this dilemma will play out, but the main litmus test in the near future will be whether the West responds to China’s Belt and Road initiative as a benevolent economic project or as a geopolitical threat.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The apolitical image of the emerging countries, which has underpinned an era of rapid globalization since the end of the Cold War, certainly had its charms, not least the potential to alleviate poverty on a large scale. But today it looks ugly as it turns out that many of them are not heading towards the democratic values ​​of most developed markets.

The dogmatic claim that economic freedom leads to political freedom, which underpinned much of the laissez-faire approach to post-Cold War economic policy between the West and authoritarian regimes, seems naive today. China has proven that there is no necessary relationship between them. Only true believers can still hold on to the idea that capitalism will eventually lead China to a more liberal place, just not yet.

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