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Graham Perry
Graham Perry
Experienced Arbitration Lawyer | China & Chinese Business Affairs | Public Speaker/Lecturer.


I was tempted today to comment on Oliver Shah’s quite confused column in today’s Times Business Section on Wall Street + China, but I don’t want to be blown off course from an overarching key topic – China and Democracy. A key issue going forward.

Many Westerners do recognise China’s growing importance in the world + respect its achievements. They can see that millions of Chinese have been freed from poverty – a big success as poverty continues to abound in so many developing countries. And the same Westerners have visited China, pre-Covid, and witnessed for themselves the natural contentment and happiness of the Chinese. China’s Turnaround since 1949 will be increasingly seen as one of the most remarkable historical achievements And yet there is one big topic that remains a big divide between China supporters and China’s critics – human rights.

The focus for the West is the Rule of Law, the Separation of Powers, Habeas Corpus, One Man One Vote. And here China needs to establish that it can continue to produce prosperity, growth and stability and at the same time provide its people with basic democratic freedoms.

As often mentioned, the West + China has travelled quite different paths to the present day. The West has wrestled important concessions from Kings + Princes down the centuries which have worked to protect individual liberties from encroachment by economic + monarchical interests. The dominant character of Chinese History down the centuries, however, has been quite different – a strong centralised rule with autocracy + dynasties and with less focus on individual democratic rights.

In the West, we have had Plato, Socrates, Maimonides, Rousseau, Bentham, Locke and Morris who have given Western democracy a growing focus on individual rights. And important protections have been won by struggle – the UK Great Reform Bill of 1832 as an example. So Western liberals struggle with politics in China, with its authoritarian democracy and the power of the Party.

But China has a Story To Tell. See Post on 9 August 2021.

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