Global Arena: China and the Dialectics of Freedom

If the world were a racetrack in which nations compete for victory and medals, we would admire the mighty catching-up nations that are surging ahead. These include China and India – Russia would like to join them. Western countries still claim the first position, but we see them torn by the strongest internal contradictions and social protests. This is especially true of the United States.

Western countries themselves prefer a different perspective: these internal contradictions and protests are seen as a proof of the freedom they concede to their citizens. But this looks more and more like a sugarcoating and a lie – as evidenced by the shameful handling of the pandemic. They should have rejoiced over the incredible progress of medicine that produced highly efficient vaccines, which – if properly administered – would have allowed Western nations to eradicate Corona within a year. Instead, incorrigible fools took and take en masse to the streets to prove to themselves and others that freedom for them consists of bashing each other’s heads in constant street fights with the police.

From the perspective of the most successful teams

in the global racing arena, such an understanding of freedom is nothing other than a sign of moral and spiritual decline. Accordingly, Chinese and Russian propaganda confidently assume that the period of Western domination is about to end: from this point of view, the West is made up of degenerated people. Mind you, this is not just the party’s or the government’s view; meanwhile, the majority of the people of China and a number of other countries believe this analysis to be correct.  After all, Beijing has succeeded – so far at least – in protecting its own population of billions from the pandemic, and it has done so exclusively by following the recommandations of science. What a paradox: this science has its origins in the West, and that is where the best vaccines still come from, but a false, self-destructive understanding of freedom now makes it impossible for Western countries to apply it with the same success as a country that to this day still officially calls itself a developing one (quite wrongly by now, but with political cleverness). While the spectacular success in the fight against the pandemic continues to bring China uninterrupted growth, most Western countries don’t even dare to speak of mandatory vaccination – that would be dictatorship! -, although such a simple measure would have spared us countless deaths, several lockdowns and economic decline.

The race of nations does not only take place in this particular field,

that is, in dealing with a dangerous epidemic. The economy, the military, political freedom, all dimensions of social and governmental life are affected. But what is completely overlooked by most is the interdependence of the participants in this planetary race – the dialectics of freedom and its opposite. Until five hundred years ago, the great civilizations lived largely apart from each other. The Indian Mogul empire under Akbar, but even Qianlong’s China, did not need to worry about what was going on in Europe any more than Henry the Fourth of England needed to worry about what was happening in faraway China or India. But today, global distances no longer count. The political actions and the program of the Chinese party are directly determined by the political, economic and social orientation of America. To put it bluntly, the Chinese have an authoritarian system because the Americans insist on the greatest possible freedom.

This interdependence resulting from the race of nations

was first evident in the rise of Japan during the second half of the 19th century. Japan would never have been able to build up its own industry; the tiny pacific island country would never have risen to become the second largest economic power on earth (only recently to be ousted from this position by giant China), if it had not deprived its own citizens of much of their freedom – in other words, without the transition to an authoritarian regime. Although almost all industrial products of the West, i.e. of the then world power Great Britain, as well as German and American goods, were classes better than those of its own emerging industries, Japan forbade its citizens to import and consume them. And it did so with good reason, for otherwise its own companies, which were only just being established, would have had no chance. Every state that wants to hold its own in the international race against far superior competitors feels compelled to make this authoritarian intervention. It restricts the present freedom of its citizens in order to give them all the more freedom in the future.

The US itself took this path

during the 19th century in order to assert itself against England, the world power at the time. Japan and China followed in its footsteps. As long as there are great differences in technological development in the race between nations, freedom is a luxury that only the countries at the top can afford. This seems evident, but the beneficiaries of such freedom like to conceal the obvious truth. Yes, they even go to great lengths to impose this freedom, which is so useful to them, on the rest of the world. They do so ostensibly out of philanthropy, but in fact because it suits their own interests. Back then, when Japan was still in the process of building its own industry, English, German and American companies would have made much more profit if the citizens of Japan had been allowed to buy their superior products. English propaganda therefore denounced Japanese and all other foreign protectionism as a sign of political backwardness. The top runners assiduously ignore that countries that are catching up have no choice but to restrict the freedom of their citizens – in some cases even drastically.

The dialectic of freedom and unfreedom

becomes immediately apparent as soon as the laggards are themselves getting close to the top. Then a radical transformation takes place: their attitude toward freedom changes completely. After the end of World War II, the United States – a decidedly protectionist state until the Great Depression of the late 1920s – became the greatest champion of economic freedom. No wonder, since the industries of their competitors were largely destroyed by the war and they now took the technological lead in several fields until the end of the last century.

There is no clearer evidence of the rise of China

and the decline of the United States than the rapidly changing relationship of both nations to economic freedom. While the United States has turn protectionist since Donald Trump, the same country, China, which until recently surrounded its own industry with a high protectionist wall, can now afford to take ever greater steps toward economic liberalism. Chinese products have become so competitive on the world market that it is now Western countries that feel threatened and call ever loudly for protective measures. The up and downs of economic development do, of course, have political consequences. It is no coincidence that in the United States as well as in Europe, the trend is not toward a strengthening of democracy but toward authoritarian regimes. The dialectic of freedom and its opposite proves once again that today no single state is sovereign master of its own destiny. Instead, all nations are caught in a web of mutual dependencies. Of course, the government and politicians in general want to convince their citizens that their fate rests entirely in their own hands. But such intimations are becoming more and more of a self-delusion and self-congratulation.

In the global race for economic,

political and military power, it is not only the drive to stay on top or to reach it that imposes a certain way of acting on nations – the state of technological development also has a profound impact on politics and society. Since the second half of the 20th century technology has made great strides. Not only has it become possible to create technical wonders like the computer in backyard garages the same can be said of weapons of mass destruction like nerve agents and bombs, the recipe for which anyone can call up on the Internet – and without the knowledge of the police, the state and the public (the first to recognize this in all sharpness was Hoimar v. Ditfurth). That is why states are de facto forced to increasingly monitor their own citizens. So-called technological progress goes hand in hand with a social regression that could end in the transformation of society into an Orwellian surveillance state. Even conceding that the initial reactions to the threat of terror were greatly exaggerated and served as a welcome excuse for some politicians to give themselves and the state greater power, it still remains undeniable that new technologies and their convenient misuse by individual criminals (and the intelligence services of other states) must undermine the freedom of society in the long term and push it in the direction of ever increased control. China has already set a bad example, but other states such as the U.S. and the U.K. go to great lengths to monitor their own citizens as extensively as possible.

There is no symmetry between the leading world power

and its challenger. The former is accustomed to ruling and commanding and therefore usually acts overconfident to the point of clumsiness; the latter is fixated on the adversary and follows its every action with the utmost vigilance, carefully considering each of his moves. How well the Chinese know the U.S. and, conversely, how little the U.S. knows China, is already evident from the number of students in each other’s countries. In 2019/20, China sent a total of half a million of them to the U.S. and to Canada, but only eleven thousand students from the U.S. came to China. In other words, China knows much more about the West than the West knows about the Far Eastern country.

Chinese strategists are therefore well informed about the destructive tensions in Western societies. They know that “capitalism,” although it created the wealth of their own and Western societies, is seen by a growing number of people as the greatest bogeyman because it increasingly deepens the rifts between rich and poor. What a brilliant move by Xi Jinping to oppose big business in his own country in the interest of social justice! Having largely eliminated the greatest poverty in his own country and in a very short time introduced a pension system for the entire population, he is now doing what all Western reformers have been demanding for two centuries, namely to rein in the excessive wealth of a few in the name of the majority of the population. Twenty years ago, such a measure could have paralyzed rapid industrial growth, because the total commitment, the willingness to work to the point of self-sacrifice, which the race with the technologically far superior states of the West demanded of the most capable and intelligent, could have failed because of such a measure. China therefore copied the West’s recipe for economic success (and de facto laid communism to rest, although it calls itself a communist regime). In the meantime, however, China’s industry has grown immensely, it is consolidated and diverse. Moreover, a highly efficient education system has produced so many capable minds that Xi can make the surprising move toward a welfare state. As a result, the Middle Kingdom is not only catching up with the West ideologically, it may overtake the The country will certainly not become communist in the Marxian sense, but it will achieve greater equality.

This will significantly strengthen China’s reputation abroad

For we should have no illusions, the protest against so-called capitalism, or rather against social inequality and unequal treatment, is the ideological dynamite that threatens to tear Western states apart. To be sure, the mostly invisible and inconspicuous corporate overlords and billionaires are no longer the primary targets of present-day protests – on a large scale, that was the case with the Occupy Wall Street movement under President Obama – instead, the opposition to inequality is instead directed against whites, Christians, Protestants, straights etc., in order to fight for the rights and opportunities of the actually or allegedly underprivileged. These may be blacks, gays, Latinos, Afghans, or asylum seekers.

China solves this problem in its own way

In Beijing People’s Congress, you can discover exotic butterflies with colorful headdresses among an overwhelming majority of dull grey men and women in Western outfits. These are the “Indians” of China, in other words the original ethnic groups who, along with the majority Han Chinese, once made a major contribution to the cultural wealth of the country. I say “once,” because today these people are being relocated to those faceless tenement cuboids that are shooting up like ugly mushrooms everywhere out of the Chinese soil. In one or two decades at the latest, nothing will remain of the former cultural diversity except some exotic headdresses and other museum artifacts. Nothing and nobody can resist this forced levelling by the Communist Party. If individual ethnic groups, such as the Uyghurs, seriously resist, the regime becomes merciless, because how and by what means a person may aspire to happiness is determined exclusively by the party (i.e., the majority of Han Chinese). Then drastic measures are implemented: Labor camps and ethnic cleansing – just as, by the way, the United States treated its native population for nearly two centuries (not to mention us Germans, who showed even less mercy to people identical to ourselves).

Actors are always unconscionable,

as Goethe once said. The most powerful take this tendency to its extreme. But unfortunately, it is not merely a moral defect that drives them. If the evil were so easy to diagnose, then it might be just as easy to cure. It is the unfortunate race of nations, and – to no smaller extent – it is the so-called technological progress that is directly responsible for the most pressing evils. This race is leading the world ever closer to the abyss and may eventually turn all of us into losers. Only a higher authority – the UN or whatever it may be called – can put an end to this ominous race.