Why China is the big winner from Brexit



Publicly, China has lamented Britain’s decision to walk out on the EU. But there was a definite silver lining for Xi Jinping’s increasingly authoritarian China, “[and] it won’t have taken them more than 30 seconds to realize”, according to Steve Tsang, a China expert from the University of Nottingham.

“The referendum shows that democracy really sucks – that democracy does not deliver stability, prosperity [or] responsible government,” Tsang said.

“The first priority of the Communist party and of Xi Jinping is the perpetuation of the Communist party’s rule in China. They are fundamentally anti-democratic … And what better illustration of how democracy doesn’t work than to have the oldest, most respected democracy – through a democratic process – get itself into arguably, potentially the biggest mess that the UK has self-generated since the second world war? It is a gift.”

From a larger geostrategic perspective, it would seem that China is the big winner from Brexit, argues Brookings analyst David Dollar:

Europe is likely to be a less influential player on the world stage and will be absorbed with internal issues of negotiating the British exit, controlling immigration, and keeping the periphery inside the Eurozone. The United States is also likely to be distracted by these European challenges. This gives China more scope to pursue its reclamation activities in the South China Sea and to play divide and conquer with European states on various issues. 

The ruling Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly warned against the infiltration of “Western” notions of democracy and the rule of law, but appears to have taken the shock result, which prompted widespread falls on global financial markets, in its stride, RFA reports.

Elite contemporary leaders of Communist China, don’t have a very detailed knowledge of the nuances of democracy, notes Kerry Brown, Professor of Chinese Studies at King’s College, London, and the author of The New Emperors, a book on the leadership of modern China.

“As the famous quip goes, Chinese leaders don’t mind elections, as long as they know the results beforehand,” he writes for The Diplomat. “Unfortunately for Cameron, that’s not the way democracy works in the U.K.”

Politically, too, Brexit can only widen China’s scope for action, notes one observer:

As China challenges the West’s cherished institutions and ideals, from navigation rights to human rights, the importance of defending those rules and values is rising steadily. A united EU could have presented a serious check to Beijing’s growing assertiveness. We’ve already seen the alternative: when the US expressed concerns last year about China’s plans to set up a rival to the World Bank, the Europeans stumbled over themselves to sign up, undermining any hope of extracting concessions from China’s leaders.

Yet while Brexit could be bad news for China’s economy, it’s great news for the propaganda apparatus of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), notes analyst Josh Horwitz:

As the country’s economy slows, the government will feel pressure to justify its one-party system to a populace that’s increasingly agitated. Brexit is a gift for China’s propagandists that’s better than anything they could produce on their own—it’s concrete evidence that democratic decision-making can lead to catastrophic results.

Furthermore, with the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union, Taiwan will lose one of its most significant allies within the EU, analyst Jakub Piasecki writes for The Diplomat.

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