Last October Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey shook the sports world with a tweet. It said, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” Pretty simple. Not controversial…. at least, not controversial in the United States. But China was offended. They cut off all economic ties with the Rockets and demanded an apology from the National Basketball Association. And they got one.
China uses its economic clout to shape the public discourse in business, academia, politics, and even sports. Its authoritarian impulse has no boundaries. Even citizens of liberal democracies are subject to its influence.
This is the third part of “Liberalism, Capitalism, Communism” about the global ascendance of China. My conversation with Mareike Ohlberg, a Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, explores how the Communist Party of China extends its influence beyond its borders. She recently authored the book Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World with Clive Hamilton. They write in the opening lines of the first chapter, “The Chinese Communist Party is determined to transform the international order, to shape the world in its own image, without a shot being fired.”
China is imagined as a powerful, authoritarian state. Francis Fukuyama has described it as a strong state with weak rule of law. I disagree. China is a weak state with a strong party. Xi Jinping is described as the President of China, but his real power comes from his role as the Chairman of the Communist Party. The power of the CCP is neither subtle nor indirect. For example, the military is not a part of the government. It is a branch of the CCP.
China’s global ascendance is the ascendance of China’s Communist Party. It does not matter whether the CCP is committed to Marxism or Communism. The reality is it has always been authoritarian. It has never been supportive of liberalism nor democracy.
Recently, The Economist observed, “The achievement of the Trump administration was to recognize the authoritarian threat from China. The task of the Biden administration will be to work out what to do about it.” There is a bipartisan consensus in the US that China represents a threat to America. Something must be done. We just need to figure out what that “something” is.
Thanks to Apes of the State for permission to use their tracks "The Internet Song" and "Bill Collector's Theme Song." You can find their music on Spotify or their Bandcamp.
Please visit my blog at www.democracyparadox.com. I have written 80 reviews of both classic and contemporary works of political science with an emphasis on democracy. This week I reviewed Michel de Certeau's classic The Practice of Everyday Life. Please visit the website and read my book reviews. And don't forget to subscribe to keep up with future episodes.