This morning I received a message from an acquaintance, a woman in her 70s who grew up between Britain and Hunland. She asked me for my opinion on Adolfina Honecker’s, I mean, Angela Merkel’s, China deal. Having been distracted with other things recently, I hadn’t heard about it. (Funny how real life and work tend to get in the way of things) I took a Captain Cook and was amused.
Amused. Yes, I was amused. The EU will now increasingly become reliant on China. Had this been 20 years ago, I would have been more forgiving. Even 10 years ago one could have been relatively forgiving. After all, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao followed Deng Xiaoping’s maxim that China’s initials “PRC” should serve as an acronym for its foreign policy: please remain calm. Under Deng and his hand-picked successors, China sought to position itself as a stable, doveish but assertive alternative to an often histrionic United States. As the 1990s came to a close and the USA engaged in a catastrophic series of wars and foreign policy blunders after 9/11, Deng’s call bore fruit.
In developing countries, never entirely comfortable with the West, China’s policy of sticking to doing business, giving loans on (relatively) favourable terms and attaching (relatively) few strings proved popular. As American policy blunders and their consequences mounted, even many Western countries started to see the value of a Chinese alternative. If China would show progress with human rights and rule of law as other countries that embarked on the path of economic modernisation such as South Korea, Taiwan, Poland and Mexico had, why not China? Even if, say, Mexico had its issues with corruption and was always a bit dodgy in some ways, it was still better than it had been in most respects.
That all started to change under Xi Jinping. Initially he continued Deng’s path, but then he moved to supplant it, to replace it. The first country to feel his wrath was Norway. After the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, Norway found that its primary export to China, salmon, was being held up in customs causing billions in losses. Norway didn’t buckle per se, but that served as a warning and since then, there have been fewer efforts to support Chinese dissidents. The next country to be targetted was Sweden. A Chinese-born man who later became a naturalised Swedish citizen was arrested in Hong Kong and transported across the border for selling books in Hong Kong critical of the Chinese regime. This wasn’t, of course, illegal but it was a headache for Beijing. When the Swedish government did what it was expected to do, stand up for one of its citizens, Sweden was met with a campaign of hatred and abuse. Any pretext whether it was a Chinese family being ejected from a hostel after showing up a day before their reservation and refusing to leave after they were told that there was no vacancy or a satirical programme on Sveriges Television was used to whip up flames of hatred against the Nordic kingdom.
The most recent recipient of Xi’s affections is Australia. At this point, we should all know what we’re dealing with. There is no more excuse for ignorance and it’s abundantly clear that Xi is not Deng, he’s not Jiang and he’s not Hu. At this point, we should be aware of how cynical the PRC is. As most of the world is inflicting pointless economic self-destruction on itself, China is open for business and ensuring that it can leapfrog others. At this moment, Adolfina Honecker has chosen to make the EU a vassal of China. She’ll be gone before the year’s out, of course, but once French interests clash with China’s, once the Netherlands and China clash, they will see how much they can do when China shows them the same tender mercies it has Norway, Sweden and Australia.
In a way, I’m relieved that I was put in a position that I’d have to choose between Germany and the United Kingdom. (In order for me to hold more than a mini job of no more than 15 hours a week and 450 euros a month, I’d have to have a health account. In order to have a health account, I’d have to formally renounce all legal ties to the United Kingdom. I have formally rejected those conditions in writing and have formally accepted the consequences of my decision, acknowledging that my position in Germany is now untenable and that I will return to the United Kingdom once my rental agreement is honoured)Bit of a paradox. Now that my education in East Asian law, history and languages will come of use, I’ll be back in Britain more likely than not working in a position supporting independent seniors ans assisting Hong Kong settlers.