Sunset of the West: a Chinese perspective

Today I read an extraordinary article. It is written by two Chinese scholars, Xue Ping and Gao Wenxing, and was published in the Inner Mongolia Normal Uiversity Journal (Philosophy and Social Sciences Edition) in 2010. Ten years ago, it already expressed what we are seeing today with the sunset of the West. Here is a translation of the passage that struck me:

From a global perspective, Western capitalist modernisation has achieved successes, and Western culture is therefore in a strong position. Some Westerners have tried to promote Western ideological values ​​as ‘universal values’ to the rest of the world. However, we have found that humanism, rationalism, subjectivism, and individualism – modern Western ideological values – have not only achieved the development of Western modernisation, but also have their own insurmountable contradictions. Humanism’s promotion of an anti-divine human nature degenerates into the deification of human nature; rationalism’s promotion of rational critique degenerates into rational autocracy; individualism’s promotion of individual liberation degenerates into the loss of human nature; subjectivism’s promotion of subjectivity degenerates into a lonely absolute subject. These contradictions and paradoxes lead to catastrophic ‘problems of modernity’ – the intoxication of developmental supremism, the origin of consumerist hedonism, the vanity of scientific and technological optimism, the paranoia of anthropocentrism, and the absence of a ‘home’ to which modern people can return.

 

A post-COVID-19 world: China, India and Russia to set the agenda

If the 2008 financial crisis signalled a seismic shift to Asia and away from the North Atlantic as the world’s economic powerhouse and centre of geopolitical strength, 2020 may well be its concluding phase.

It was this article by Shishir Upadhyaya (here) that set me thinking. His basic proposition is that in light of significant recent moves, both China and India will be working together much more closely in a post-COVID-19 world. The signals are already clear, despite their rocky relationship in the past: two meetings between Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi in 2018 and 2019; the explicit reminder at recent celebrations that India was the first non-socialist country to recognise the People’s Republic of China 70 years ago; and the fact that India was one of the first of 120 countries to receive from China crucial medical supplies, especially protective gears, masks and ventilators.

There are a few problems with the article, especially the suggestion that China has few friends in the world and needs India. Of course, we can expect such a perspective from such a writer, but the reality is that China actually has many friends, especially in the developing world, but also in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The zero-sum lagards in the world, which number only a few countries, may not like this, but that is their problem. Thus, a more realistic perspective is that despite their differences, China – as the world’s largest economy – and India would do better to work together. This is not least because they may well be the only countries not to see a recession in 2020 – a short-term decline in growth, yes, but not a recession.

The missing country in the article is Russia. Not only has Russia clearly established itself as an independent global player, but it also has historically close ties with India and has developed ties with China that are arguably the closest they have been for a very long time, guaranteeing global stability (see here). Russia has also determined – correctly – that the Western liberal order has come an end and that a multipolar world is in many respects a reality.

Given that the ‘last stand of the West’ is sinking in delusions and economic disaster (see here), it is perfectly feasible for China, Russia and India that increasingly will set the agenda for a different world order. I for one find this an exciting prospect.

 

 

Western media unlocked: hypocrisy behind COVID-19 reports

For more than a year now I have not read or listened to any ‘Western’ media outlets. The initial reason was that I began to notice that even though they all proclaimed to be presenting ‘facts’ independent of ideology, they would all fall into line when the Western liberal order needed to be defended.

The experience has been liberating. I began focusing on other sources, from China and Russia and the many parts of the world that have been colonised in the past by ‘Western’ powers. I found that they have little time for the gossip, lies and propaganda of ‘Western’ sources, and that they are particularly annoyed by the assumption that former colonisers still feel they have a right to interfere in their previous spheres of – usually brutal – influence. I also found that this pretty much sums up most of the world’s population, since the ‘West’ comprises a motley crew of about 15-18 countries, with only 14 percent of the global population.

And for those who still like to think that state-owned media outlets can be trusted, my response is: do not! For example, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) likes to promote itself as a trusted source of information. But it not only propagates vigorously the Western liberal model (seeing the rest of the world in its own image), but often descends into outright racism. It is no wonder that only 31 percent of Australians trust such outlets, although their alternative options are even worse.

A longer introduction that initially intended, but it is worth viewing this video produced by China Daily and called ‘Western Media Unlocked: Hypocrisy Behind COVID-19 Reports’.

Capitalist eugenics compared with socialism’s ‘no one is left behind’

To add to the earlier diagram of comparisons between capitalist and socialist responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, another stark difference is emerging: capitalist eugenics versus socialism’s ‘no one is left behind’.

Capitalist eugenics:

‘Not to put too fine a point on it, from an entirely disinterested economic perspective, COVID-19 might even prove mildly beneficial in the long-term by disproportionately culling elderly dependants’. This quotation comes from a certain Jeremy Warner in the UK. In other words, COVID-19 could be ‘beneficial’ from an economic perspective since it will remove those who are a ‘burden’ on the system. Social Darwinism at its worst.

Warner has expressed an unwelcome truth in capitalist countries that have experienced four decades of neoliberal approaches, which have gutted – ‘cutbacks’ they call it – government capability and health services. But doctors too in such places face the grim reality – in light of inadequate resources – of deciding whether an elderly and frail person should receive crucial treatment or whether someone with a better chance of ‘survival’ should receive such treatment. They may frame it as an ‘ethical choice’, but it boils down to forced eugenics.

Compare socialism’s ‘no one is left behind’:

Perhaps the best example is a 103 year old woman in Wuhan, who successfully recovered and was discharged in the middle of March. She has multiple ailments and is unable to manage on her own, and yet the doctors in Wuhan provided her with full treatment, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (used with all patients).

According to capitalist eugenics – whether explicit or implicit – this woman would not be worth the care and attention. But according to the socialist system, no-one is to be left behind. This phrase is repeated again and again by Xi Jinping, with an initial focus on the poverty alleviation program. But it applies equally to health, where it becomes a case of ‘putting people’s lives and health in the first place‘.

As I write, there remain in China less than 500 severe cases of COVID-19. The vast majority of them are elderly and may not have many years left in their lives. But this reality makes no difference: they receive full care. Each day I watch the numbers, noting that severe cases keep dropping at about the rate of 50-70 each day. At the same time, the number of deaths per day is usually less than 10.

Of course, you need to have the medical resources and capability of the government to enable this focus – precisely what a socialist system can do.

 

A useful hour to spend while in lock-down

As more and more people around the world are confined indoors, it may be a challenge to find things to do. Instead of wasting your time on social media or consuming what passes for ‘news’ these days, this hour-long presentation by ‘Vision China’ is worth a viewing. It was organised by China Daily and Tsinghua University and is called ‘Fighting COVID-19: We Are All Together’.

A bit of a talk-fest and the hosts are somewhat wooden (I rather like that), but the views presented come from around the world. The speakers include: Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization, He Yafei, a veteran senior Chinese diplomat, Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a renowned China expert, Jim O’Neill, a leading economist from the United Kingdom, Megan Monroe, a teacher from the United States in Wuhan, and Zhang Ruiru, a Tsinghua University student in Wuhan, will offer their views and stories.

A missing calculation: COVID-19 infections in terms of percentage of population

In this article by John Ross, a senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, he points out that a missing calculation of the numbers of the COVID-19 pandemic is in terms of percentage of population. For those of you like me who keep checking the figures, they are normally listed in terms of absolute numbers (let us leave aside the question of inaccurate numbers in bourgeois states due to limited testing and inept regimes)..

This is misleading, since we need to calculate in terms of the percentage of the population. If we take China’s 82,000 infections (of which more than 75,000 have recovered) and then take into account China’s population of 1.4 billion, we get the following comparisons:

United States of America: 160,000 infections in a population of 330 million becomes, by comparison, 679,000.

Italy: 100,000 infections in a population of 60 million becomes, by comparison, 2.3 million.

UK: 20,000 infections in a population of 68 million becomes, by comparison, 412,000.

Australia: 4360 infection in a population of 25 million becomes, by comparison, 244,160.

Clearly, the pandemic is already much worse in such places. Earlier, I did another comparison between China and Australia, relative to populations. If Australia wanted to contain the pandemic to the same level as China, Australia would have needed to limit infections to a little below 1,500 people. The current level of infections, which is still rising, is already 3 times higher than it should have been.

One qualification: China was the first to discover the new virus, so it had a more difficult task. By contrast, a country like Australia was warned and given valuable time by China’s openness and transparency. In this light, the infections in Australia should have been even less than 1500.