Let us consider the problem topics that the critics try to use to discredit the government of China. The S China Seas, the China/Indian border, Tibet, Taiwan and HK – all fall under one heading. China is fiercely protective of its own territory. Tibet belongs to China. Taiwan belongs to China, HK belongs to China and here China will brook no intervention. In 1949 Taiwan/Formosa was part of China – it remains so despite the encouragement to Taiwan to become an independent nation. Tibet has always been part of China and attempts by India to separate Tibet off from China have been resisted since 1954. HK was brought to a standstill by protests from HK citizens designed to separate HK from China and the Western leaders stood by quietly hoping that the street protests would encourage China to allow a measure of Hong Kong independence from China. That was never going to be and the Security Law is designed to remind the world that what belongs to China is China’s whether in Tibet or Taiwan or islands in the S China Seas or India – or Hong Kong.
But this is nothing to do with expansionism and superpowerism. China is surrounded by 52 US military bases. China does not have one soldier outside China. US aircraft carriers sail through the S China Seas but not one Chinese vessel has ever sailed outside the ports of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Acquiring land and taking control of overseas territories – the traditional activity of a burgeoning imperial power – is not on China’s agenda. The Belt and Road Initiative is something quite different.
So now to the Uyghurs. There is a context here which is never given column space. For many years Hsinkiang has harboured Muslim extremists who have been responsible for considerable violence in the Province. China dealt with terrorists by arrest and prison but they found that prison merely gave the terrorists access to more terrorists. The Militant underground grew in prison when it was meant to diminish and then the terrorists came to Tiananmen Square and knifed Chinese citizens. Now the Chinese feared a Chechnya within its own borders and they decided to act. The action they have taken has never been attempted in the West and is automatically condemned. China is engaged in a wholesale attempt to change the thinking of Muslim terrorists and the people that the terrorists hope to convince. People are detained and put through a process of re-education which outrages Western democratic thinking. At first sight it does seem oppressive but before you condemn it take a look at the state of Chechnya – and the constant military activity by Muslim terrorists that brought so much death and destruction to the people of Chechnya.
The purpose of this article is not to convince readers about the Uyghurs or the Tibetans or the Hongkongers or the Taiwanese people. That debate will rage on but it is an encouragement to people to see the whole picture and not a selected part. Lifting 500m people out of poverty is not something that should be disregarded – any more than the 134m Chinese tourists travelling abroad and returning home or the 800,000 Chinese students overseas or the life style and aspirations and priorities of the Chinese people. China does not want to become like us any more than we want to live like the Chinese. But building a new Iron Curtain and focusing only on the negatives and failing to realise the significance of China’s achievements will lead us into fundamental confrontation when what is needed now, more than ever before, is co-operation and participation in China’s long term goals to 2050 and beyond. Co-operation is the way forward not confrontation.