As the world tries to contain the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, it needs to heed the message coming from Chinese democrats, which is that we all have a stake in China becoming a more open, democratic, and trustworthy political system, notes Carl Gershman, the president of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). As the famous Soviet dissident and writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said in In his 1970 Nobel Lecture in literature, “there are no internal affairs left on our crowded earth.” [or, to put it another way, whatever happens in Wuhan, doesn’t stay in Wuhan].
In defending the struggle for democracy and human rights in China, we safeguard our own future, he writes for The Globe and Mail:
In an essay published earlier this month, Xu Zhangrun [above]– a Tsinghua University law professor who was fired last year for dissent and has emerged as the most prominent democratic voice since Liu Xiaobo – charged that the epidemic has revealed “the rotten core” of the Chinese system. With the country ruled by “in-house Party hacks,” he said that day-to-day governance is in a state of “terminal decay”, and that “the rot goes right up to Beijing.” …..The spread of the coronavirus has driven home to the entire world the costs of “the rise of a Goliath-like China no one trusts,” says Jimmy Lai, the founder and editor of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong who was just arrested for an article he published in The Wall Street Journal.
Other observers note that the epidemic has exposed flaws and fissures within the ‘China Model’ of governance.
China cannot become a global power if it remains “blatantly incapable of treating its own people properly,” argues Xu, the Tsinghua University professor punished for an unsparing critique of President Xi Jinping.
The crisis could also reinforce in Beijing the need to continue building its own parallel global governance institutions, argues Paul Haenle of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center. According to reporting by Axios, Chinese think tanks are already floating the idea of a “Beijing-led global health organization that would rival the WHO.”
“Many in China are now comparing the epidemic to the Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union, which contributed heavily to the Soviet regime’s loss of legitimacy and its eventual downfall,” adds Gershman. “China could be approaching a similar systemic crisis.” RTWT