China Through German Eyes

Photo by Ling Tang

When domineering empires change, it is never easy for those believing in an empire. Just ask the Roman imperialists and Monty Python’s “what have they ever done for us?” Today, many see China’s rise in such a way. Meanwhile, others in the West may want to make Taiwan the next Ukraine.

Yet, there is a certain mystery in dealing with China, including the recent hot air balloon incident. In any case, anti-China sentiments are stretching from a balloon to Taiwan to China’s Coronavirus strategy. First, China’s Coronavirus strategy was too harsh and now it is too soft. China cannot get it right for the West and for those eager to bash it.

In his recent German-language book – “China and the West – German economist, adjunct professor (University of Missouri–Kansas City, Jilin-Universität) – Wolfram Elsner – outlines the rise of China and the decline of the West. This – according to his observation – is flanked by a rather distorted media coverage of China in the West.

During the Chinese government’s rigid Coronavirus policy, for example, China was first portrayed as an unscrupulous dictatorship and every protester was framed as a freedom fighter. After the government has changed its course and abandoned its zero COVID-19 policy, we are suddenly told that the Chinese aren’t counting thousands of dead while hospitals and crematoria are overcrowded.

Yet, many virologists agree that if all countries had practiced zero COVID-19 policy for just three weeks at the beginning of 2020 – with testing, tracking, and lockdowns – COVID-19 would have been history since 2020. However, the West was neither in an organizational position nor politically and ideologically ready for this.

Although the corporate business model of vaccination has been pushed to a greater or lesser extent, sooner or later, however, in terms of health policy, they resigned and more or less capitulated. Realizing this, corporate media started pushing a new narrative for this. It is framed as, Living with Corona.

However, many people in the West still die of Coronavirus every day and fall ill with Long Covid. Interestingly, the roughly 2,000 COVID-19 deaths per day have – rather suddenly – vanished from our corporate media.

At the beginning of 2023, 23 million US-Americans were ill with Long Covid – of which about five million are permanently unable to work. Not a small number. Simultaneously, internationally- known virologists – such as Eric Feigl-Ding, Devi Sridhar, and Germany’s Christian Drosten – agree that China has been very successful with its zero COVID-19 strategy.

This episode alone shows that Western media and its political mainstream continue to be motivated primarily by ideology. The main theme seems to be to “bash” China and to divide the world into a “them (China) versus us” version.

As a consequence, we see very serious media distortions about China. The mystery for the West – its media industry, its think tanks, corporate lobbyists, and the politicians who are promoted by corporate media and its semi-intellectuals – is that they don’t really know. Perhaps some don’t even want to know China. Yet they present themselves as “we know it all” experts.

Meanwhile, China is undertaking a breathtaking energy and emissions transformation. For example, every second tree planted in the world is being planted in China; 86% of emissions are being compensated by China’s gigantic newly planted forest.

At the same time, an “ecological civilization” is being developed in virtually all areas of everyday life. Yet not many want to notice this in our media and our politics.

Worse, whenever a topic is considered in detail and in terms of facts – be it China’s social credit systems, population policy, labor law, social insurance, general social trust, youth issues, family and elderly policies, China’s anti-monopoly policy, etc. – most of the generally accessible facts and current studies on China are relatively unknown in the West.

Instead, what is circulated are myths and knowledge that is 15 to 20 years’ old. In China, for example, crimes in the individual sphere are punished more leniently than in the USA. At the same time, the death penalty is most often carried out in China.

In terms of population size, the absolute figures are significantly relativized – as always with China – once they are related to China’s population. The country is by no means in 1st place in terms of the death penalty. Yet, nothing should be downplayed. But it should be understood.

Much of this can be explained through China’s Confucian cultural tradition. In this, crimes in the individual area are punished even more leniently in China than, for example, in the USA. Yet, in the case of crimes against the general public – including the environment and the financial system – Chinese society seeks to defend itself – at times, rather rigorously. With almost 4,000 years of Chinese culture, there still is a different Chinese value system.

As for the West, many argue that neoliberal capitalism has lost its productive dynamics and has entered an era of sustained degeneration in many Western countries. Neoliberalism’s uncontrolled market forces have – just as Marx predicted for capitalism in general – led to a strong concentration mechanism.

The false promise of neoliberalism has allowed large corporations and corporations lobbying to impose their neoliberal ideology on political decision-makers. This has been turbo-charged through the monetary power of neoliberal capitalism. If they ever did have, these so-called “forces of the free market” no longer exist in the West. The plentiful wealth-creating suggestions of neoliberal textbooks (all boats rise, etc.) turned out to be hallucinations.

Today, we see a narrow band of oligopolies in virtually all sectors of the economy. There are financial-industrial hubs that dominate tens of thousands of enterprises. The global media industry has flanked the corporate system of oligarchs presenting it as normal, natural, and inevitable.

Unlike in the West, China has mobilized millions of people and millions of young founders of technical and social innovations. China has also developed a new kind of relationship between regulation, standardization, experimentation, and joint learning. This relationship includes state authorities that participate equally in discussions in its network. This is China’s agile industrial, environmental, and social policies.

In other words, China’s five-year plans are their mobilization instrument. It is precisely this new combination that has generated an enormous social-economic mobilization. This extends to organizational performance, state, private and social, political will, as well as a long-term development mission.

One might argue that China’s top-down requirements are no longer simply top-down requirements. Instead, they are mobilization instruments through grand ideas and future visions. China is improving its own development conditions with now 140 partner countries and 40 international partner organizations.

Meanwhile, the US military knows perfectly well that they could no longer win a war against China. This matters in the Taiwan context. Yet, China can wait. And even better, the world seems to be changing rather in its favor.

While some in the West may want to make Taiwan the next Ukraine, the latest polls in Taiwan show a rather different story. In Taiwan, 85% of the people do not want to change the status quo. A position from which they benefit. We know there is a close interdependence between Taiwan and the mainland with plenty of Taiwanese investment in China and trips to the mainland.

As a consequence, and for a peaceful competition, both sides rely on well-informed and reasonably rational military men. In short, it is the “culture of diplomacy” instead of “Ramboism“.

Beyond all that, China is rapidly gaining partners in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and even in the UN. The West may be ill-advised to assume the role of a preventer. In any case, China’s inevitable rise to number one – embedded in a growing international trade and its global cooperation network – is nothing more than the restoration of a millennia-old normality.

For the last three-hundred years, European-Anglo-Saxon colonialism was nothing but an historical exception. This period is over. Trying to put on the breaks onto China no longer convince the world.

Instead, the USA and the EU will waste their last (military) power while China has already mastered completely different technologies. Boycotts will probably not win the race.

Western corporations – BlackRock, Vanguard, Tesla, VW, BMW, Bosch, Siemens, SAP, etc. and their bosses – will start speaking rather plainly to get “their” politicians back on the ground.

At the moment, German corporations are quietly building up a kind of German industrial sector in China, including Chinese suppliers. This will allow them to protect themselves from any future waves of Western sanctions.

The EU is already the loser of the sanctions’ orgy. Meanwhile, the US seems to continue its outdated Anglo-Saxon, anti-Eurasian heartland strategy that seeks to prevent any Eurasian cooperation.

In terms of China-EU relations, we might get back to a culture of diplomacy. It is good old international law and reason instead of euphoria of war and victory. It is acceptance and coexistence instead of the destruction of the other.

This might even mean – while maintaining a good life for all – that realistic changes in the world will become inevitable. This might also indicate that we will have to say goodbye to what we thought was normal for the last three-hundred year history: US and European domination.

It might also signal that Europe will “again” become a small peninsula on the edge of Eurasia – eliminating the White Men’s colonialism, racism, invasions, gunboat diplomacy, militarism, fascism, and imperialism – now sold as globalization.

Thomas Klikauer is the author of German Conspiracy Fantasies.