In the early 1970’s, with the Nixon-Kissinger overture to China, we opened the doors for them to break out of their isolation and offer their markets.
Our interest was economical but political, too, for a friendlier China would help counter the then Soviet menace.
Money began to pour into China and, by virtue of their tenacity and industry, the nation now stands as an economic superpower.
We expected their political maturation to follow. It did not. And that has been the great disappointment for the West.
Whereas Japan, after fiercely fighting the West during WWII, turned around and rebuilt itself as both an economic superpower and a democracy, China instead avoided political growth and settled for remaining a dictatorship.
That has been their choice. The influence of Mao Ze Dong runs deep.
China’s economic rise has been fueled by enormous investment from the West. The Chinese have worked with and improved on it, so they deserve credit. But they also should acknowledge that they have stolen much intellectual property from the rest of the world.
Not only have they not acknowledged it, but to this day their efforts to steal more information are rampant, i.e., through cyberattacks.
When there is an imbalance between the political and economic development of a nation, or even of an individual, there is reason to worry.
And so it has come as no great surprise that China has chosen to side with Russia in their cruelty toward Ukrainians.
The Chinese have been doing the same thing with the Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. And they did it, too, with Hongkongers.
All that economic investment did not modify their political disposition to repress and brutalize.
The Chinese people have no freedom of speech and are constantly being monitored by the State, which is afraid of what freedom of thought can ignite.
I have no doubt, they want to spread their system to the rest of the world. If it’s working for us, why shouldn’t it work for others.
So what are western business interests in China to do about all this?
Do they ignore the political side of China and concentrate only on business?
They cannot. And they cannot because the profits from their businesses are helping support a repressive regime, a regime that is set on invading Taiwan and killing whoever stands in their way to accomplish their goal.
To the extent that western business interests in China continue to fuel their growth, to that extent they are accomplices in the rise of China’s military and their dreams of world conquest.
Enter Elon Musk, Tesla and Twitter.
Mr Musk has praised China. The Tesla factory in Shanghai is the company’s largest. China’s customers buy the greatest number of Tesla vehicles.
So far, China has been friendly to him. And why not? He’s a symbol of the businessman they want. Pliant. Someone who will applaud them, regardless of their political record. And, of course, the Chinese government will make some concessions. There has to be a bait.
The political record of a nation matters. If not today, then tomorrow. But it matters.
Mr Musk has now bought Twitter. From what I read, Twitter has gone to great lengths to stop access to their platforms by governments and extreme factions pushing their agenda. There is an Integrity Team at work in keeping the messaging clear of such meddling, including from bots.
Mr Musk talks of promoting free speech, anyone can say anything and if you have a better argument you will prevail in the end. But Twitter insiders, familiar with the subtlety of messaging, warn us of how crafty those pushing their agenda can be.
Judging by Musk’s record in China, I have no doubt that sooner or later, Chinese influencers will work their way into Twitter with whatever they wish to say.
‘No, there is no genocide in Xinjiang. We love Uyghurs. All those reports you have read are false.’ Alongside a photo of an Uyghur hugging and kissing an ethnic Chinese.
Little by little and before you know it, people will be saying, ‘well, if they committed genocide, maybe it was just a little. Not a lot’.
For all of Mr Musk’s talents, he will not control China’s influencers. Instead, they will control him. And he won’t even know it.
‘We want you to sell more Teslas in China. We love Tesla. Now here is something we need…”
And Mr Musk will say, ‘Only that?’
‘Only that,’ the Chinese official will reply, with a sly smile.
China’s record is clear. Standing in support of Russia in Ukraine makes it an accomplice.
To think that we can talk the Chinese government out of their style is madness.
It will be up to the Chinese people to revolt and affirm themselves. That is their developmental task as a nation.
As for us, we should start to pull out of China. We can do it. China isolated itself from the world for centuries. And the rest of the world still prospered.
Growing dependence on them is a bad idea.
Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net, medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts