It seems like everyone has a reason to be angry with China. Human rights organisations campaign against its suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and its treatment of Uighur Muslims in ‘re-education’ camps. Corporate America has battled for years against intellectual property theft from Chinese businesses. Green activists protest its environmental record, while the arrival of 5G has created another point of friction as the UK and the US battle to limit Huawei’s influence. So what is the best way to handle this superpower?
Some say it is essential to get tough. If we are to maintain a liberal democratic world order, then countries that threaten this must be prepared to pay the price. China’s aggressive diplomacy must be faced head on and all Western democracies should unite in this battle. With their refusal to recognise Taiwan as an independent nation, and the oppressive tactics wielded by protestors in Hong Kong campaigning against the Chinese police state, it is clear that Beijing is trying to impose its system and standards on other countries, and it is the responsibility of other countries to get tough with rogue nations.
That is the argument of the hawks. But not everyone agrees. Proponents of a more hands-off approach say that those who want to get ‘tough on China’ are coming from a very Western-centric viewpoint. A letter condemning China’s handling of Hong Kong this year did not have a single signatory from an African or Middle Eastern leader. Moreover, there is a fear that the Chinese government will use criticisms from Western countries as an excuse to be even more hardline and punish advocates of free speech for appearing to sympathise with America and the West. It would be better to allow the Chinese people to find their own route towards a better society. Lastly, China has a long history of authoritarian governments that stretches back before the Communist Party – it is not about to become a parliamentary democracy any time soon. Instead of trying to get tough with it, risking a second Cold War, we should co-opt China into the world order in order to make it a party in peace and stability by engaging with the country from a position of good faith.
Join us on December 1 as Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat argues that we need to prevent a Beijing-dominated world, while Singaporean author Kishore Mahbubani contends that the West should accept that it’s only a matter of time before China usurps the US as the world’s most influential superpower.
Book bundles include one ticket for the online debate, plus a copy of Kishore Mahbubani’s book Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy with free UK P&P. Books will be posted within 1-2 weeks of the event finishing. Click here to purchase a book bundle.
Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy by Kishore Mahbubani is available to buy from Primrose Hill Books, for £20 including free UK P&P. Intelligence Squared+ subscribers pay £18 for this book, and receive further discounts on other books. Click here for more information and to subscribe.
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Speakers subject to change.