Is the kidnapping of Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive of Huawei, a turning point?
Let us leave aside the cowardly Canadians bending to the capricious will of a declining United States, or the increasingly ineffective sanctions that the USA slaps on all and sundry, and consider what I have elsewhere called China’s dialectical leap into the future.
Huawei’s technological breakthroughs are only one – albeit important – aspect of a much larger process. Having been the first to test successfully a 5G communication, Huawei has developed a whole process that enables it to roll out a complete network in countries keen to get hold of it. 5G will make wifi and national broadband networks obsolete. How has it been able to achieve this, along with superior technology all the way from smart phones to undersea cables? Of its 180,000 employees, more than half are involved in research and development. Has it done so through ‘intellectual property theft‘? Not at all, but through the active incentives of a communist party in China that knows such developments take place only with significant government support.
Yet, Huwaei is only one example of a whole range of technological breakthroughs that have been happening in China over the last few years. I will not go into the full range of these here, but will focus on wider social and political questions. This is because the dialectical leap is taking place not merely on a technological level.
Socially, the symbiosis – as many are now recognising – between traditional China culture and Marxism means that Chinese culture today means Marxist Chinese culture. The old Confucian four-character saying, ‘all under heaven is as common [tianxia wei gong]’ has been appropriated and reinterpreted in light of communism’s focus on the ‘common’. This has massive implications at all levels, from the share economy through a Chinese Marxist approach to human rights (in which economic wellbeing is the basic right) to core socialist values.
Politically, all of this is taking place precisely under the strong leadership of Xi Jinping. Call it what you will, but the reality is that a good dose of communist authoritarianism is precisely what China has needed in the last six years. The result: on average, 90 percent of people in China are confident of the direction in which the country is headed, and 84 percent of people at all levels have trust in the government and public institutions (as the Ipsos and Edelman poll agregates indicate). This entails confidence to innovate and take risks, with quite stunning results.
Back to the kidnapping of Meng Wanzhou: this is an extraordinarily clumsy move that will backfire in so many ways. Only time will tell, but this may well be the moment when countries like the United States, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (a small gaggle that once upon a time called the shots) really do begin to fall behind in a very noticeable way. By contrast, those keen to engage with and make use of Chinese breakthroughs may well begin to leap ahead as well. The candidates are many indeed, from Russia through Africa and Central Asia to Latin America. Now that would be a different world.