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Liberal democracies can contain authoritarian China

By Chris Lewis - posted Thursday, 4 June 2020

Given an increasingly aggressive China in recent years, liberal democracies can contain the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ambitions, albeit the looming Cold War between liberalism and authoritarianism may cause “an unprecedented crisis that will lead to the biggest wipeout of wealth in history”.

To put it simply, the world cannot trust the CCP, albeit many nations may take its money whenever it can.

Despite the troubles facing many liberal democracies, with immense social, economic and political cleavages particularly evident in the United States (US), the imperfections of any liberal democracy are exposed yet such societies remain vastly superior to what exists in China under the dubious leadership of the CCP.


For example, while the CCP gloats about its effective response to the coronavirus outbreak which began in Wuhan, the Economic Times states on 30 April 2020 that

China locked down all domestic traffic internally by end January 2020 but pushed to open foreign travel till end March. Data from Tom Tom traffic index, a traffic location site that covers 416 cities across 57 countries show that as a result of this strategy, China, intentionally or otherwise, was able to lockdown its cities unknown to the world. While this reduced the spread of the Coronavirus within China, China’s aggressive foreign travel policy led to a virus explosion worldwide.

The CCP’s behaviour with regard to the coronavirus will only compound growing concern in many liberal democracies about China.   

While a March 2020 Pew poll found that 66% of Americans had an unfavourable view of China compare to 26% favourable, a 2019 Pew poll found similar opposition in many liberal democracies, including Japan 85-14, Sweden 70-25, Canada 67-27, South Korea 63-34, France 62-33, Netherlands 58-36, Czech Republic 57-27, Italy 57-37, Australia 57-36, Germany 56-34, UK 55-38, Philippines 54-42, and Spain 53-39.

Greater concern about China has emerged in response to the mass detention in Xinjiang of over a million Uyghur Muslims, a reality enabled by China’s annual domestic security spending reaching $US193 billion in 2017, and the CCP quashing its own domestic media investigations about key policy issues with 48 journalists in Chinese prisons as of December 2019.

The CCP, by taking on the liberal democracies, is promoting a battle that it will not win, within the  reality that both China and the more powerful liberal democracies already spend a substantial part of their national gross domestic product on military spending.  


Take recent CCP legislation that is intended to quash dissent in Hong Kong which, besides showing the world a total disregard for existing democratic norms, will erode any hope that the yuan will become a reliable and convertible currency that can challenge the longstanding safety of the US dollar.

With the value of the yuan protected by the CCP’s extensive capital controls, which prevents a major capital flight, the CCP now jeapordises its own ambitions by undermining Hong Kong’s open society which has long served as a gateway to the West to attract global capital.

It is estimated that 60% of foreign direct investment in and out of China during 2018 went through Hong Kong, that Chinese banks still hold more assets in Hong Kong than any other region ($1.1 trillion in 2019), and that Chinese businesses during 2019 tapped Hong Kong’s debt market for 25% of their $131.8 billion in offshore US dollars.

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About the Author

Chris Lewis, who completed a First Class Honours degree and PhD (Commonwealth scholarship) at Monash University, has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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All articles by Chris Lewis

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