China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, is rapidly transforming from an authoritarian state to a totalitarian fascism. In the last one year, China has brought the entire world extreme pain and anguish—the world has not undergone so much distress since World War II—all because of the Wuhan-originated virus, which had been kept under wraps till the time it rooted itself in every corner of the world. Since its inception, communist China’s first victims were its own people and people from occupied territories. Turkestan, also known as Xinjiang, was occupied by Mao’s communist army in 1949. Subsequently, Tibet was occupied, and the 14th Dalai Lama, along with his followers, was forced to take refuge in India.
Although China is composed of multi-ethnic people, it is controlled by the hegemonic power of ethnic Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese, who also constitute 90 percent of China’s population. The Chinese state is a cocktail of fascism, extreme nationalism, communism, and capitalism. China’s state policies toward ethnic minorities and occupied nations, like Buddhism in Tibet, Islam in East Turkestan and Mongols in southern occupied Mongolia, are extremely racist and broadly resembles Nazi Germany. The Nazis had implemented the policy of Lebensraum, where conquered nations faced extermination, race annihilation, mass murder, ethnic cleansing, and relocation because Berlin believed that they could utilise the living space for ethnic Germans. China’s policy in occupied territories such as Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and covertly economically ruled Gilgit Baltistan, KPK, and a vast span of Balochistan has led to slow-motion genocide and internal displacement of ethnic populations.
Unlike most authoritarian states, China does not believe in the continuity of the established world order. China is a disruptive and revisionist power. When it comes to international obligations and laws, China has already started to disregard it. In the apparent violation of International Sea Laws, China is building airstrips, radars, and missile systems in the international waters, causing hurdles for the freedom of navigation in the Pacific Ocean, and is also engulfed in border and land disputes with countries like Taiwan, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, India, and a few more. In the 1990s, Western policymakers hoped that investment and trade with China would bring more freedom for the Chinese people. Nevertheless, they were wrong; China’s economic strength translated into more internal repression and external aggression.
Although China was a victim of colonisation it is now China which is becoming a coloniser in the region. China’s geopolitical and military ambitions are not limited to East Asia and South-eastern Asia. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has enabled China to reach as far as Europe. One of the significant parts of the BRI is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a blueprint for military and economic colonisation of South Asia. Pakistan and China are collaborating to turn occupied Balochistan, KPK into a colony and trying to emulate it on the lines of Xingxiang. In Jiwani, near the Strait of Hormuz, Pakistan and China are constructing a naval base and a secret underground naval base in strategic Sonmiani Beach.
These secret bases in Balochistan will not only give China strategic hegemony in the Persian Gulf but also endanger free trade as they have done in the South China Sea. It would adversely affect India, the world’s largest democracy and a regional powerhouse, complicating the strategic depth the Indian Navy has and would also give China and Pakistan some leverage to countervail India’s already occupied territories by China. Chinese claims over non-Chinese territories are based on myths and past imperial history. If, according to Chinese logic, imperial occupation is the basis of legitimacy to rule a populace then Mongolians should be the ruler of the Chinese people, because after all China was conquered and governed by the Mongol Empire for almost a century.
Since the spread of the global pandemic of Covid-19, the policies of Western countries which appeased China in the past have turned against China. The novel coronavirus has caused substantial human and financial losses in the entire world. Western countries are investing more in their defence and preparing for future conflicts now. In the midst of a second national lockdown and recession, the British government announced the largest increase in their defence budget since the Cold War. The goal of Britain seems very clear: they want the Royal Navy to be one of the most powerful naval forces of the world. However, the security challenges do not lie in continental Europe but in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
However, the British government never cared about the people who have been subjugated since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. During the state visit of Xi Jinping in 2015, The Guardian had reported that the British police raided Tibetan dissidents’ homes because they waved Tibetan flags and Chinese pro-democracy activists like Shao Jiang, who survived Tiananmen Square, were intimidated and arrested because of direct Chinese pressure. Britain’s appeasement policy started to gradually shift only when the Chinese communist party systematically destroyed Hong Kong’s democratic system. The United Kingdom is a party to the Sino-British treaty of 1984 which established the principle of “one country, two systems” in China, and it ensured that Hongkongers would enjoy a degree of political and economic freedom. Like Britain, most western democracies prefer financial incentives on democratic values and human rights. If it had not been for China’s violation of the Hong Kong treaty and militarisation of the South China Sea, Britain would have never changed its policy of appeasement.
Dominique Moisi, a French political scientist, who favours engagement with China, also pointed out that China is the new repressive and revisionist power. In a recent interview with the Japanese newspaper Nikkei, he said that “China has become more and more brazen, changing by force the status quo. It’s a brutal disruption of the existing world order”.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, China has engaged in a propaganda campaign which portrays its undemocratic and authoritarian system as more efficient than democracies in containing the virus. China runs propaganda that its response and containment of the virus shows that it has an effective form of governance, whereas liberal democracies are an ineffective system of government which cannot deal with a crisis. Search the internet about China’s governance system vs the liberal democracy and we can find hundreds of articles in reputable Western newspapers and academic journals. Some argue for and others against the Chinese model.
The war, which is waged by China, is not limited to the economy and geopolitics. China, like the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, believes that liberal democracies with free economies are a threat to its very survival. According to a study by the International Republican Institute, a Washington-based think tank, China is undermining democratic institutions all over the world. The report states that “Beijing’s support for illiberal actors, the presentation of its model as a superior catalyst of industrial development, and its export of authoritarian tools and practices have the undeniable effect of eroding democratic norms in many countries”.
Despite Chinese propaganda against the democratic system of governance, history proves otherwise. The Nazis, like contemporary Chinese communists, argued that totalitarianism and fascism make for a better system of government. They waged war, killed millions of Jews and other innocent people. The Nazis were defeated and humiliated by the Allies. Nazi leaders were tried for crimes against humanity in Nuremberg. Hermann Goring, one of the most powerful men in the Nazi regime, was asked by Justice Jackson, whether he told a fellow officer that democracies could not fight, cannot mobilise? He retracted from the Nazi stance and said, “I did not tell him any such nonsense, for we had one democracy as our chief enemy, namely England, and how this democracy would fight we knew from the last World War, and we experienced it again during this war”. It seems that this time, once again, democracies will trounce fascism and the Communist Party’s repressive, hegemonistic, and imperialistic idea of the world.
In fact, during the current pandemic, democracies in East Asia have been more effective and efficient in containing Covid-19 and saving countless lives. Taiwan, Singapore, India, and South Korea did better than China and Western democracies, whereas China’s totalitarian system not only caused problems for Chinese people but the entire world. In December 2019, when Chinese doctor and whistleblower Li Wenliang tried to warn the world about the deadly virus, he was intimidated and arrested by state authorities. The Chinese Communist regime accused Li Wenliang of making false claims, and later he died from the virus. Imagine, if China had been a liberal democracy, instead of being silenced, Wenliang would have been recognised as a hero. As a result of the freedom of speech, millions of lives and jobs all around the world would have been saved. The world would have been a safer place. We are facing this pandemic because of the repressive and dysfunctional nature of the totalitarian system, which is inadequate to serve humanity.
Ergo, it is about time for the world to unite against the fascist behaviour of China before it creates more chaos in the world. Democratic powers must take up the responsibility to stand tall and make the Chinese Communist Party pay for its folly and misinformation regarding the Wuhan-originated virus as well as the distress caused all over the world.
Therefore, before distracting ourselves from the Chinese-initiated debate about whether totalitarian regimes are better than open societies, we should have asked, what difference could Li Wenliang’s brave act have made if China had been a responsible state and a liberal democracy?
The writer is Free Balochistan Movement’s head of the Foreign Affairs Department and a member of Chatham House. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at @JNBaloch.