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Tuesday, May 28, 2024


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


I am indebted to Professor Mahbubani for injecting into the China debate consideration of the Western mindset that any political system “that deprives citizens of the ability to choose or remove a leader is by definition evil”. The assumption in the West is that the people of China are oppressed because “they do not have the freedom to organise political parties, speak in a free media or vote for their leaders”.

The West looks at China through the prism of the fight down the centuries to overthrow monarchies, defeat despots, uphold the principle of habeas corpus and grant the people  “One Man One Vote”. What at first sight looks to be a fair + reasonable system also enabled, down the centuries, the development of colonialism, imperialism and racism. What was good for the mother country was not necessarily good for Asia, Africa and Latin-America.

And Democracy + Human Rights has not prevented the death from Covid in the USA and UK of 730,000 people compared with a figure, not disputed in the West, of 5-7,000 deaths in China. This is not a body count boast but a recognition that Democracy and the Westminster Two Party System failed to protect its people when they were faced with the greatest challenge.

But the Chinese people compare their position with their past. In 1980, as Mahbubani notes, “the Chinese people couldn’t choose where to live, what to wear, where to study (including overseas) and what jobs to take”. Go back further to 1949 and China was labelled “The Sick Man of Asia”. There are freedoms and freedoms and we, in the West, should be slow to chide China for producing a system of government which has enhanced so clearly the well-being of its people. And remember that 140m figure – the number of Chinese tourists who all returned home after travelling in 2019 to the West and to the World generally.

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