China’s authoritarianism and rising power

An item from The Economist’s “Politics this week” recently:

Ambassadors from 37 countries signed a letter praising China’s “contribution to the international human-rights cause”, including in its restive western region of Xinjiang, where China has locked up perhaps 1m people, mostly Muslim Uighurs, in “vocational training” camps. The signatories were all from authoritarian regimes with dodgy human-rights records. An earlier letter condemning the camps was signed by 22 democracies.

It’s certainly strange to see the concept of human rights subverted in this way.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

26 thoughts on “China’s authoritarianism and rising power”

  1. For the past three years China’s government, citing national-security concerns, has run relentless campaigns against the culture and religion of the Uighur people, 11m Muslims who speak a Turkic language and live in Xinjiang, China’s north-westernmost corner. Mosques have been shut. Men are forbidden to grow beards, women may not wear head coverings and children are barred from prayers. Most troubling are the growing details emerging about a network of detention facilities, which Chinese officials call vocational-training centres but which look for all the world like internment camps. Credible reports say these are holding at least 1m people—mostly Uighurs but also Chinese people of Kazakh and Kyrgyz ethnicity—in extra-judicial detention.

  2. The Tariffs Are Not Just About The Economy

    The post-WWII world order based on the United Nations and the Western liberal tradition of human rights is now being challenged by the autocracies of China, Russia, and Iran and their proxies in North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela. What is telling is that China, Russia, and Iran have significant historical and Ideological conflicts, but these are superseded by their common bond of autocratic control of power. Their common desire is to replace the Western liberal tradition with a new type of world order and to make the world safe for autocracies.

    China does not seek a direct military conflict with the United States, but seeks to use its technological advances to achieve a global economic hegemony. A control of the infrastructure in communications, transportation. artificial intelligence, aerospace, biomedicine, renewable energy, and advanced weapons systems, as well as a global leadership in manufacturing and trade, can all be used to achieve a predominant military position as well. Iran and Russia also have energy and military resources with which to make other countries dependent. The common objective that they share is to replace the world order based on the Western liberal tradition of individual freedom and equality. Their tactics also show a disregard for ethical constraints as demonstrated by their support of North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and terrorist groups, as well as their own abuse of human rights and the persecution of any opposition. The overt uses of power are less needed, however, when one also controls where a person can live or even travel, their educational and job opportunities, and their ability to freely assemble or to freely express their opinion or religion.

    China — The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly — at

  3. Janice Stein, a professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs at U of T, has opposed the Security Council bid since it was launched four years ago. She argues it would have put Canada on the “firing line” as the competition between the United State and China deepens.

    “It would force us, over and over, to take defined positions when the strategy often for Canada is to choose the areas where we want to weigh in. We have made significant contributions to multilateral institutions in focused ways,” Stein said.

  4. When Banyan was last in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, a foreign-ministry official explained that in return for copious investment in oilfields, infrastructure and manufacturing, the only explicit demand China makes of his government is for vocal support for China’s territorial integrity (see article). In particular, China’s government wants no objections to its campaign against Muslims in the province of Xinjiang whom it deems “terrorists” out to split the motherland.

  5. Just as bipartisan opinion in Washington has coalesced around alarm at China’s rise, an elite consensus has emerged in the Chinese capital. Especially in this summer of pandemic and street protests, America is called a nation in decline: a rich country too divided, selfish and racist to keep its citizens safe. Chinese elites see Mr Trump as a symptom and an agent of that decline. State media long refrained from direct attacks on Mr Trump. Not now. The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid, this month reported that Chinese netizens mockingly call him Chuan Jianguo, or “Build-up-the-country Trump”. Their joke, that he is a double-agent wrecking America to make China strong, prompts lines like “Comrade Chuan Jianguo, don’t blow your cover!” Does such scorn mean that China wants Mr Trump re-elected? There, elites are divided. At root, their debates turn on two questions: is American decline irreversible, and would its acceleration suit China just now?

  6. US moves to block all Chinese claims in South China Sea | USA News | Al Jazeera

    However, as a result, the administration said China has no valid maritime claims to the fish- and potentially energy-rich Scarborough Reef, Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal. The US has repeatedly said areas regarded to be part of the Philippines are covered by a US-Philippines mutual defence treaty in the event of an attack on them.

    In addition to reiterating support for that decision, Pompeo said China cannot legally claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei and Natuna Besar off Indonesia. As such, the US said it would regard any Chinese harassment of fishing vessels or oil exploration in those areas as unlawful

  7. Of all the nations impeding China’s military rise in East Asia, none is more important than Taiwan. Conquering Taiwan is the primary warªghting mission of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and preparations for this campaign consume roughly one-third of China’s defense budget. If China conquered Taiwan, it would free up dozens of ships, hundreds of missile launchers and combat aircraft, thousands of personnel, and billions of dollars. Moreover, China could use Taiwan as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” to project military power into the western Pacific and to impose blockades on Japan and the Philippines. Most important, China would end the Chinese civil war once and for all and eliminate the world’s only Chinese democracy, thereby bolstering the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy. (p. 83-4)

  8. How productive is China’s growth? Remarkably, 90 to 97 percent of China’s economic growth since 1990 has stemmed from growth in inputs: the expansion of employment and relentless investment in physical capital. China’s productivity has not only been unspectacular; it has been virtually nonexistent, accounting for only 3 to 10 percent of China’s growth during that time. As a point of comparison, productivity improvements have accounted for 20 to 25 percent of U.S. economic growth for the past century.

    Since 2006, China has tried to boost its productivity by tripling its spending on research and development, employing more scientists and engineers than any other country, and mounting the most extensive corporate espionage campaign in history. So far, however, innovation decrees, resource infusions, and espionage have failed to transform China’s input-driven growth model. Since 2007, investment spending has climbed to nearly 50 percent of GDP, a level “unprecedented in world economic history,” and accounted for nearly all of China’s economic growth. Meanwhile China’s growth rate has plummeted, and its productivity growth rate has turned negative, meaning that China is producing less output per unit of input each year.

    The volume of waste in China’s economy is staggering. China has built more than fifty “ghost cities”—entire metropolises composed of empty office buildings, apartment complexes, shopping malls, and, in some cases, airports.140 In industry after industry, from refining to shipbuilding to aluminum to cement, the picture is the same—supply far outpaces demand—and still expansion continues. China’s unused capacity in steelmaking, for example, is greater than the total steel production capacity of Japan, the United States, and Germany combined. All told, the Chinese government estimates that it blew more than $6 trillion on “ineffective investment” from 2009 to 2014. (p. 111-2)

  9. For the US, the Chinese islands are artificial land reclamations, so a US warship can legally sail as close as 500 metres. But for Beijing, these are natural Chinese territories that China has chosen to enlarge, and the fact they had names before land reclamation are proof they are not artificial. Under Chinese law, a foreign military vessel’s entry into territorial seas needs government approval.

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