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Last Updated: Jan 5th, 2021 - 10:38:01 

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China in Context
By Martin LeFevre
Jan 5, 2021, 10:39am

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The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek, since to China, and many people outside China, China now is the context of the international (dis)order. As true as that may be, no nation, however humongous its economic power, can be the context of a workable global order.

The leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, with President Xi at the helm, are nothing if not cunning. Americans used to be the masters of having it both ways, but the Chinese have made us looks like putzes.

Playing the European Union for suckers, the CCP "has in recent weeks made deals and pledges that will position China as an indispensable global leader," even as, "over the past year, the communist party has tightened its grip over the economy, doubled down on state-owned enterprises and launched a new push for self-reliance."

That's a neat trick if you can manage it, but it requires a lot of self-deception, and/or realpolitik cynicism, on the part of Western 'partners' to pull it off.

As the mainstream Western press puts it: "China's vast economic and diplomatic influence, especially at this time of global crisis, means that countries feel they have little choice but to engage with it, regardless of their unease over the character of Mr. Xi's hard-line rule. An Asian trade pact, for example, while limited in scope, covers more of humanity - 2.2 billion people - than any previous one."

Wang Huiyao, president of the straight-faced named, Center for China and Globalization, exclaims with characteristic Chinese pride: "Everyone has seen China's resilience, its vitality, tenacity and its stability, especially through its fight against the epidemic." Yes, and that's what scared the bejesus, or rather the be-confucius out of the rest of the world.

Where the Chinese are concerned, it's apparently start with hyper-nationalism and stay with hyper-nationalism to the bitter end. After all, "the country's 'Wolf Warrior' diplomacy, named after a pair of jingoistic action movies, shows no sign of relenting."

Even so, as reported, "a day after the European Union publicly criticized the harsh prison sentence handed down to a Chinese lawyer who reported on the initial coronavirus outbreak in the city of Wuhan, the Europeans finalized a huge investment agreement."

What about freedom? "Citizens of China don't have freedom of speech, freedom of worship or freedom from fear - three of the four freedoms articulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt - but they have the freedom to move around and lead a normal day-to-day life."

"And in a pandemic year, many of the world's people envy this most basic form of freedom."

Right, I don't need democratic freedoms, as long as I can eat my steaks, ride my SUVs and ATVs, and attend pro and semi-pro (college) football and basketball games. The American nightmare has become the Chinese dream.

So what if China is the most surveilled country in the world? And wasn't it necessary for "the government to take extreme social-control measures at the beginning of the outbreak to keep people apart - approaches that are beyond the reach of democratic governments?"

So how long will "the so-called China model - the Communist Party's promise to the Chinese public that it will deliver prosperity and stability in exchange for its unrelenting grip on political power," rule in China, much less beyond its borders?

Businesspeople the world over are betting that human nature, so defined, will prevail for the foreseeable future over human nurture. And the Earth be damned.

As for hamstrung Joe Biden, he "has pledged to galvanize a coalition to confront the economic, diplomatic and military challenges that China poses." Good luck with that, as the United States of America struggles to get up off its self-imposed knees.

With all due respect to China's newfound leadership role in the ecological, epidemiological and economic challenges facing humankind, the Chinese don't care about the earth and humanity; they only care about China. The Donald tried to trump the Chinese at nationalism, but it has backfired, and now the loser-for-life has only one card to play-start a major war-in a desperate bid to stay in power.

The world faces a choice: stick with the crumbling, post-World War II international order, and be dominated by the communist/capitalist Chinese juggernaut; or supersede the nation-state and form a genuine, minimally workable global polity.

Don't count out the human spirit yet. Betting on China is not that far removed from betting on North Korea, which Trump was willing to do. And look where that's got us.

Within a year or two, Kim's ICBMs will be able to reach DC. Of course the geniuses in the Clinton Administration bet on China over Russia, and looked the other way as American aerospace companies indirectly upgraded Chinese ICBMs under the guise of commercial technology transfer.

The most radical and urgently necessary political idea is to give tangible form and moral force to superseding national sovereignty with the sovereignty of humanity.

Identification with particular groups - the essence of tribalism/nationalism -can no longer be primary if the earth is to remain viable and the human spirit is to survive.

In political terms, this is the meaning of psychological revolution. Cities can and must be the cornerstone, legal foundation, and democratic selection wellspring for an effective, non-power-holding global body.


Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He welcomes dialogue.

Published with permission of the author. All copyright remains with the author.

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