Jonathan Eida | Opinion
If there is one thing we can take from our current predicament with regard to China, it is the fact that economic liberalisation doesn’t change the nature of the beast: an evil regime will remain an evil regime.
Following the decline of Chairman Mao, the West came up with a strategy to change China forever. The theory was that by liberalising China’s economy, acting with “kindness” and “compassion” whenever they, for instance, stole vast amounts of intellectual property, China would eventually become a Western democracy.
China played along with this game. They embraced the gift of Capitalism, cutting their poverty rate from 80% to 12% in around thirty years, as well as building major corporations that traded with the Western world, enabling them to worm their way into our society. They even momentarily dispersed the power within the leadership, putting time limits on the office of Leader. Things were going so well!
However, all throughout this process, there were signs of the beast within. We saw their aggression in dealing with Taiwan and the countries in the South China Sea, but we ignored it because further economic liberalisation seemed the answer to all our issues. So things continued: we nurtured China’s growth on the world stage, continually integrating them.
As has been revealed in the past few months, this was China’s long game. Having being standing at the gates for a long time, their Trojan horse strategy has been a success. They now have free reign to do as they please, choosing to direct their new-found power at committing genocide against the Uighur Muslims as well as breaking international agreements around Hong Kong. They even recentralised power back to Xi Jinping, making him the most powerful leader since Chairman Mao.
I believe it is fair to say, from this evidence, that simply watching on the side and hoping that countries will “liberalise” is not a successful strategy for effecting long-term change. Rather, it seems to be a particularly destructive one.
It is therefore of great bafflement to me why we continue to humour this modus operandi with other obviously corrupt and evil regimes.
The naivety of the UK’s foreign policy was on full display on Friday, when it abstained from a crucial vote on Iranian sanctions. The UK was one of eleven nations to abstain from a vote to continue a weapons embargo on Iran. One can often tell the morality of such a vote by its advocates. In this case, with support from China and Russia, it should be relatively obvious which side we should be taking.
This decision was a really hopeful shot at reviving the all-but-dead principles behind the Iran nuclear deal. The ideology that inspired the Iran nuclear deal is the very same one that dictated the years of failed foreign policy regarding China. How one can still maintain that following the same path, which resulted in the disastrous outcome demonstrated by the Chinese experiment, is beyond comprehension.
The original deal was riddled with this form of foreign policy, such as the “sunset clause.” The clause ensured that restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme would be lifted after ten years, if the deal was adhered to. Putting aside the fact that evidence has shown the Iranian regime did not comply with the terms of the deal, putting a time limit on the deal itself also has obvious flaws. There is no doubt that, like China, the Iranian regime would have waited out the years before returning to their nefarious misdemeanours. No amount of Gift Aid would have changed this direction.
The UK’s decision to ignore the obvious in favour of the established order is, I believe, a feeble, weak-minded attempt to distance itself from the current US administration. Rather than confront the emerging reality in the Middle East and siding with our allies, it is far less controversial to follow the Obama-era foreign policy, no matter how calamitous or immoral.
Many a criticism can be levelled at the Trump administration, however its approach to foreign policy is not one of them. Their astute, no-nonsense dealings, especially in the Middle East, have led to more progress in that part of the world than perhaps under any other administration. The Israeli-UAE peace deal is just the beginning of a new era of Middle East relations. These milestones have largely been reached due to the administration’s willingness to tackle the Iranian aggression – something the UK is still failing to do.
The UK’s decision not to back the US in its fight against Iran is counterproductive to peace and stability. The only way to deal with evil regimes such as China and Iran is to call them out for what they are and face them head on, not cuddle up to them while funding their despicable schemes.