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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

WHY CHINA? #454

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People often ask – Why do you write about China in preference to other topical political issues? Let me explain.
Before my first visit to China – of eight weeks duration in August/September 1965 when I was aged 20 – I had become aware of China in 1952 when my father – Jack Perry – spoke of his meetings with senior Chinese trade representatives from which emerged an invitation to him to switch work priorities from a UK focused textile business to an international commodity trading company that would play its part in promoting trade and business relations between the newly founded People’s Republic of China and the United Kingdom.
This was a key development on its own which I am happy to address in a future Post. Who did I meet? What was discussed? And what was it like to have Dinner with Mao Tsetung and 400 other guests? And what were my father’s feelings about such a dramatic change in business direction?
Moving on, my father became the first Western businessman to visit China in 1953 and set in motion a 70 year relationship which has involved the Perry family in annual visits to China. It provided an opportunity to observe China at close quarters as it wrestled with the challenge of turning the country from ‘The Sick Man of Asia’ (as it was designated by Western commentators in 1949) to today when it is widely accepted that within five years China will surpass the United States to become the biggest economy in the world.
However the knowledge and understanding of China – in the UK and the US – has lagged behind the growing importance of China to world development for two main reasons;- first, China – until 1979 – seemed to be too distracted by homemade political campaigns – such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution – to allow time and space to participate in world affairs. It had no significant international presence.
Things changed in 1979 when economic development became a priority and China was on the move. Big strides were taken and the people benefitted with higher wages, more choice in living accommodation and the opportunity to travel overseas – 139m Chinese travelled to foreign destinations in 2020. Trade expanded on a large scale and the West woke up – late in the day – to recognise the considerable commercial opportunities that were becoming available in China Significantly in 1979 it was Deng Hsiaoping who introduced a wholesale policy of Reform which brought into play many hitherto suppressed commercial instincts which in a generation fundamentally changed the productivity of the economy and the well-being of the people. But China Watchers in the West were caught in a time warp of their own making. They viewed China through out-of-day lens and failed to see the dynamic that was at work – encouraged and led as it was by the Communist Party of China. The West moved with speed from a position of disinterest in China to a position of anxiety about China because a country they had disregarded – and therefore not understood – now featured prominently in every economic growth statistic.
China was unpopular in the West – not simply because of the speed of its transformation but because it flew the Communist flag. US, UK and European Capitalism generally has viewed any Communist government with scorn and contempt and for that reason it is difficult in London, Washington, Paris or Berlin to read a balanced analytical account of China’s progress. The headlines always reach for the negatives such as Covid or a distorted account of China’s actions in Xinjiang Province. The goal is to demonise China because China threatens by hard work and a creative understanding of the dynamic of growth to marginalise the West in the years ahead. That is not to say that China should not be accountable for its own actions whether it is Covid, the Cultural Revolution or the Tiananmin deaths in 1989. But the West acknowledges the 58,000 US soldiers died in Vietnam – but disregards the much larger number of Vietnamese who sacrificed their lives to expel the US from S Vietnam. And Iraqis died as Bush and Blair went to war on a big lie.
We live in dangerous times as the West portrays China as Warmongers that need to be cut down in size. Maybe the truth is quite different as China watches and waits ever ready to defend its hard earned achievements.

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