Liberal Democratic Nations Must be Unified in Opposition to China

Seiji Fuji

The Hong Kong national security law threatens liberal democracy

 On July 1, the top article on the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper’s front page was entitled, “Hong Kong National Security Law Comes into Effect: China Strengthens Control, ‘One Country, Two Systems’ in Danger.” The “one country, two systems” principle in Hong Kong is threatened by the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which has been enacted by China. The beginning of the article outlined the important points of the law as follows:

  • The law stipulates secession, overthrowing the government, terrorist activities, and conspiring with foreign powers as crimes
  • The Chinese government establishes an office for safeguarding national security in Hong Kong to provide guidance and supervision
  • The national security law prevails when there are inconsistencies with other local laws in Hong Kong

 The Nihon Keizai Shimbun also published a series of articles, “Strong China and the World,” over three days.
 The first article was entitled, “Written Challenge to Democracy.” It said the national security law is “an emergency measure that was not passed in the Legislative Council (legislature) of Hong Kong. It shakes the foundation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle through the direct application of Chinese law.” This “is a written challenge sent by China against the democracy cultivated in Europe and the United States.”
 Deng Xiaoping, who started the “reform and opening-up” of China in 1978, strove for economic development by introducing capitalism via Hong Kong. As a result, “China gained affluence at a much faster speed than Deng imagined. It accounted for 4% of the global GDP in 2001, which rose to 16% in 2018. China has become the biggest trading partner of many nations.”
 Against this background, China is attempting to use Hong Kong to prove that “capitalism functions even without democracy,” by showing that “Hong Kong will be stable and continually prosperous under the national security law.” The article concludes by stating, “The battle between democracy and the strong power of the state has entered a new dimension.”
 The second article was titled, “The Illusion of a Peaceful Rise: Countries That are Economic Hostages Cannot do Anything.”
The “one country, two systems” principle was originally designed as a model for China’s integration of Taiwan, but this was watered down in Hong Kong. Moreover, China is “intimidating Taiwan by declaring it will not hesitate to use military force to obstruct independence” by Taiwan. Member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was founded in 1967, have “focused only on the good points” of the U.S. (national security) and China (the economy) for many years. However, China has abandoned its premise of a “peaceful rise” and “begun working to achieve complete harmony in politics and economics.” When Australia proposed a survey on the source of the novel coronavirus, China “put regulations on imports of Australian barley and meat, and advised its citizens to avoid sightseeing or studying abroad in Australia.” When Huawei equipment was banned from the United Kingdom’s 5G network, China threatened to withdraw Chinese companies from nuclear power plant and high-speed railway construction projects in the UK.
The third article was, “The U.S. and China Will Struggle for Supremacy in 10 Years: Solidary Among Democratic Nations Will be Essential.”
 As a response to the Hong Kong national security law, the U.S. Congress is making arrangements to pass a bill that imposes sanctions on China, including shutting China out of the American financial system. However, President Donald Trump is unmotivated to do this. There have been many COVID-19 deaths in Italy, which is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. For this reason, Huawei and other Chinese companies have donated large amounts of ventilators and protective gear to Italy, and these donations are frequently covered in the Italian media.
 China is predicted to surpass the U.S. as the country with the world’s highest GDP in the 2030s, and China is implementing a clear policy of expansionism. “To hold China back, unity between nations that share the values of freedom and democracy will be essential.” However, international harmony is growing unstable, as shown by the examples of the U.S. and Italy. The series ends by stating that liberal democratic nations must re-establish solidarity today, which is absolutely true.

Capitalism flourished while Britain and the U.S. were in power

 The world is currently shifting from capitalism to an era of affluence in which there is zero growth. Economist Eisuke Sakakibara, former vice minister of finance for international affairs, wrote an article entitled “Into the Post-capitalist Era” for Career+ Finance, a job search website. It reads:

Modern capitalism is thought to have begun back in the 16th century (1450 to 1640). After the collapse of the Medieval empires, the concept of “sovereign states” born in the Italian cities moved north to the Netherlands. Finally, Britain became a sovereign state and expanded across the world. In his famous book The Mediterranean (five volumes, translated by Masami Hamana, Fujiwara-Shoten, 1991 – 1995), Fernand Braudel points out that the greatest turning point was the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. In this naval battle, a force made up of Spanish and Italian cities was victorious over the Ottoman Empire. This marked the end of the Middle Ages and the dawning of modern Western Europe. That time was also the height of prosperity of King Philip II of Spain, and Elizabeth I had already ascended the throne of England. The Elizabeth I era lasted until 1603. Sir Francis Drake and others defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, and England took over the leading role in Europe from Spain.
Britain established a capitalist structure after the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, then came to rule the Seven Seas and spread the capitalist system across the world. After the Meiji Restoration, Japan made a late start as a capitalist nation and established a capitalist structure together with Germany, Italy, and other nations. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance was formed in 1902, and Japan moved forward with modernization and industrialization modeled after Britain.
The capitalist system spread from Britain to continental Europe (including Germany and France), then to the British colony of America. After Europe was devastated by World Wars I and II, the U.S. became the leader of the capitalist system in the postwar era. The golden age of the British Empire, from the mid-19th century until World War II, was called the “Pax Britannica.” The “Pax Americana” age led by the U.S. has continued since the end of World War II. The U.S. supported Europe through the Marshall Plan and gave aid to Japan via means including Government Appropriation for Relief in Occupied Area (GARIOA) and Economic Rehabilitation in Occupied Area (EROA) funds.
Europe and Japan, which were laid waste by World War II, became the frontiers of post-war recovery. Asian and African countries also carried out vigorous economic revitalization centered on aid, etc., and modern capitalism flowered on a grand scale based on the concept of doing things “further, faster, and more logically.” The global economy experienced rapid growth in the postwar period, with Organisation for Economic Co-operation (OECD) countries in particular achieving average growth of 3.9% from 1950 to 1987. (The average from 1900 to 1950 was 2.2%). Japan and Germany, as well as other countries ruined by their defeats in the war, accomplished particularly striking growth. Japan’s average growth rate from 1950 to 1987 was 7.1%, West Germany’s was 4.4%, and Italy’s was 4.4%.
During the period of rapid economic growth (1956 – 1973), Japan recorded average growth of 9.1%. During the stable growth period (1974 – 1990), its average growth rate was 4.2%. However, the rapid and stable growth ended in the 1980s, and the global economy entered a period of maturity, including Japan and Germany. Japan’s average annual growth rate was just under 1% from 1990 to 2016. Many other advanced nations had growth rates in the zero to 2% range, with an average of 1%.
A menacing “Pax China” approaches in the post-capitalist era

Harvard Professor Lawrence Summers refers to this as “secular stagnation.” It seems safe to say that capitalism has matured and we have entered an era that is affluent, but with zero growth. In some ways, this could be regarded as the demise of capitalism. The global economy and developed economies in particular are in a period of maturity, and it is no longer easy to move forward “further, faster, and more logically.” Most frontiers have been developed – both geographically and in terms of industrial growth – and we have no choice but to think “closer to home and more slowly.”
Profit and savings interest rates are decreasing, and loan interest rates are falling significantly in different countries. As of January 6, 2017, the rate for 10-year bonds was 0.051% in Japan, 0.246% in Germany, and 2.361% in the U.S. I believe we can say these low interest rates have beckoned the conclusion of the modern capitalist era that has continued for many years since the end of the Middle Ages in the 16th century (1450 – 1640). In the post-capitalist era, the world is entering an age of affluence and zero growth, which has never been experienced before. It is difficult to predict what will happen in the global economy.

 Peace was maintained via Britain’s global hegemony until World War I. The peace led by the U.S. lasted after World War II and the Cold War until now. Today we are moving towards a “Pax China.” Hegemony is shifting west from Europe to the U.S. and then China. However, is it really okay for the whole world to be closely connected to this country that has introduced capitalist methods, yet has a domestic structure of socialism and one-party rule? China is the site of an continual experiment that has never been conducted in the history of mankind – it has not split apart like the Soviet Union, but rather rules its 1.4 billion citizens under a single government. The government is upheld by a powerful, high-tech surveillance structure consisting of security cameras, wiretapping systems, and other advanced IT technologies. If this became the global standard, it would be a major violation of liberalism, which esteems human rights.

China will not democratize; it is working to integrate Hong Kong

 As the Nihon Keizai Shimbun article said, the “one country, two systems” principle was a model for integrating Taiwan. What is happening in Hong Kong today could someday occur in Taiwan as well. After Taiwan, China may take steps to bring Okinawa and then the Japanese mainland under its influence. I think many people see what is happening in Hong Kong as not our problem, but we are next. The Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 determined that Hong Kong would be handed over by the UK in 1997 with a promise of maintaining “one country, two systems” for 50 years. China has broken this promise with the national security law. In the eyes of the international community, one cannot help but criticize this as a lawless nation. However, a backdrop of power is necessary to stand against a country that does not shrink from doing what is unlawful. Peace is achieved through a balance of power, and nations that lack strength are controlled by those with power. Japan today is just barely maintaining a balance of power with China through the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. I think the Senkaku Islands, which are an inherent part of Japanese territory, could be the place where conflict is ignited. China began claiming its rights to the islands in 1971, after a 1968 marine survey that showed the possibility of underground oil resources in the area. The issue was shelved by both countries when diplomatic relations between Japan and China were normalized in 1972. However, official Chinese ships are frequently violating Japan’s territorial waters at present, and I wonder if Chinese fisherman might not use a typhoon or accident to take refuge on the islands at some point. If they landed on the islands once, the army would be dispatched there on the pretext of “protection.” The same situation might occur like when the South Korean Dokdo Volunteer Garrison landed on Takeshima right after the Syngman Rhee line was established. If a Japanese territory was occupied, fighting to recover it would fall under the category of the right of self-defense. During the Falklands War of 1982, Britain requisitioned its ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2, and Prince Andrew even took part in the war. They fought for the dignity of their nation and recovered the Falkland Islands, which were a British colony. If the Senkaku Islands were occupied, the Japan Self-Defense Forces must fight resolutely to recover them and restore a balance of power.
 Liberal democratic countries have lacked sufficient foresight in the past. When Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997, many nations believed China would democratize over the next 50 years. But in contrast, China has instead made efforts to integrate Taiwan into its country. China is also reclaiming reefs in the South China Sea in a bid to incorporate these international seas into its territorial waters. This is part of its “Hundred-Year Marathon” strategy to gain global hegemony by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. China’s enormous market of 1.4 billion people is the source of its powerful productivity. I think it certainly could replace the U.S. as the global superpower if it increased its economic power and military strength based on this population. Liberalism and democracy might be completely lost in the “Pax China” to follow. To prevent that, liberal democratic nations must unite; stand fast against the Chinese threat; and work to safeguard liberalism, democracy, and the market economy system. First, I feel the UK must serve a central role in working together to impel China to preserve the “one country, two systems” policy in Hong Kong. Now is the time for liberal democratic nations to have a resolute stance.

July 14 (Tuesday), 4:00 p.m.