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Once again, schoolchildren, students and staff at state factories will have to bend their minds to the study of official ideology, as China strives to nurture a zombie nation. This giant step backwards is especially painful for me, bringing back memories of sights I witnessed during three years in Beijing (1966-9) in the worst years of the Cultural Revolution.

I don’t suppose China will revert to daily marches by semi-hysterical and sometimes tearful Maoist zealots chanting their veneration for Mao Zedong Sixiang (Mao’s Thought) and hatred for his enemies like Deng Xiaoping (“Smash in his Dog’s Head!”). Nor will a new version of Red Guard thugs burn down our mission as they did in 1967, molesting wives in the process. But anything reminiscent of that dismal era will make observers sceptical about the depth and duration of the Chinese reformation.

What will it mean for us, as we strike out on an independent path in the world? As Xi feels his oats China is likely to be that much less prudent and more thrustingly assertive, whether in the South China Sea or in Hong Kong. And if we are after a munificent bilateral trade agreement with Beijing we shall have to behave. In particular we shall have to learn to stifle our lamentations about the erosion of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, which the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry has already dismissed last year as a “historical document that no longer has any realistic meaning”. Nor shall we be well-placed to risk Chinese wrath by obstructing Beijing’s rapid expansion of ownership in Britain, including sensitive areas of our infrastructure. The forcible British economic penetration of their country in the 19th century is still alive in Chinese minds.

Meanwhile we must once again face the scarcely credible prospect of a hard-left British government handling relations with Beijing, and a recent remark by Corbyn gives us a clue to his thinking. Asked in an interview with Andrew Marr to admit that capitalism had served China well in recent decades, Corbyn demurred, and spoke of China’s economic advances after the communist revolution and in the Great Leap Forward (1958-62).

Sentimentality about China (he was born in 1949, the year of the revolution) cannot explain the mixture of ignorance, blockheadedness and racism revealed by this remark. When I worked in China a mere 2-3 million perished; “mere” because seven years earlier 45-50 million had died in the Great Leap Forward from starvation, brutality or execution, not a few of them eaten by their desperate fellows in outbreaks of cannibalism across the country. The scale and horror were recently confirmed by a chilling book (Tombstone:
The Untold Story of Mao’s Famine by Yang Jisheng,
Allen Lane.) Racism comes into it because as with other apologists for Mao (notably Jean-Paul Sartre) Chinese deaths are downplayed or dismissed in a way that would not be done if Westerners were driven to cannibalism in the course of some ideological experiment. In China, the unspoken assumption goes, lives are cheap, and the experiment worthwhile.
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Julian Pardoe
May 1st, 2018
9:05 AM
This is really a question for GW. Is there a reference for the story about "Russian children maturing quickly"? I put it to an acquaintance who studies the history of the PCF and he was doubtful. It would be of interest to us both to have a date or some other way of verifying it.

Peter Kolding
April 1st, 2018
3:04 AM
The author warns against any nationalist tendencies in Western policy to counter the threat of Russia and China. Yet he ignores entirely that the strength of both these countries has always depended upon the unifying strength of nationalism. The Russians have always fought for Russia first, the Chinese have always been Chinese, the inheritors of the Middle Kingdom. The West, on the other hand, has dedicated itself to 'post-nationalism' and looks upon national loyalty in consumerist terms. (Look at Brexit, with all the rage centred not on the peace and tranquillity that democracy is supposed to promise, but economic advantage instead.) In short, the East is supported by a fundamental loyalty from its people. While the West, a mercenary contract. This is important because the East has retained its populations' loyalty even after suffering millions of deaths at its own governments' hands. The West, on the other hand, cannot even control its borders without being condemned and subverted by much of its own population, without the least concern for the interests of their countries. Worse, in response, their governments take the path of appeasement and slowly, but surely, lose territorial control. It is this loss of territorial control in the West, caused by the policies demanded by post-nationalist ambitions, that have provoked the imperialist designs of Russia and China into action. The argument of the author that it's the personalities of Putin and Xi that propels their actions, but it is the territorial weakness of the West that has allowed this. The West, and especially Europe, has built a society that for all intents and purposes is made up and designed for the exercise of power by an assortment of fifth-columnists-in-waiting. The signal for treachery is simply a refusal by the government to devolve territorial authority to them. Currently, these politically powerful identity groups are happy to allow a limited power of arbitration to the government. But with the example of Corbyn, we see them exercising a far more direct demand for mercenary power. It may be an archaic observation to the post-nationalist mind, but God is always on the side of the big battalions. And the West is determined to be ruled by small tribes and gangs.

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