Disunited democracies cannot face China challenge


The world’s leading democracies need to defend the rules-based global order against challenges from Russia and China, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday, AP reports.

“As we look to 2030, we need to work even more closely with like-minded countries, like Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, to defend the global rules and institutions that have kept us safe for decades,” he said during an online event. He urged the 30 members of the world’s biggest military alliance to “stand up for a world built on freedom and democracy. Not on bullying and coercion.”

“The rise of China is fundamentally shifting the global balance of power, heating up the race for economic and technological supremacy, multiplying the threats to open societies and individual freedoms, and increasing the competition over our values and our way of life,” Stoltenberg added.

Recent reports highlight Beijing’s aggressive use of Twitter and deployment of its United Front apparatus in its latest sharp power offensive.

China is getting worse in terms of authoritarianism. It is becoming much more of a dirigiste state, notes Matt Ridley, the award-winning and bestselling author of numerous books including “The Evolution of Everything”, “The Rational Optimist” and his new book, “How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom.”

For a while, China was drifting towards democracy. That has been reversed, he tells AEI Fellow

I think Chinese bureaucrats think they can direct and control exactly what happens in innovation. And if they do try that, they will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. And just like Japan, it will no longer be at the front of the pack. So, I wouldn’t bet on China being the lead innovative country in the world for a very long time, unless it can democratize and liberate its regime.

Beijing’s attempts to gain control of international agencies, to dominate emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology, to tout an increasingly repressive brand of authoritarian capitalism, and to use targeted economic rewards and punishments to gain political leverage, all pose strategic challenges to the community of democracies, argues Professor Roland Paris, Associate Fellow with the Chatham House US and the Americas Program. To develop a common approach to China, democratic countries need to overcome three major obstacles, he writes:

  • First is a reservoir of distrust that has grown between the United States and its allies in recent years. US leadership remains vital for decisive collective action…..
  • The second obstacle is the slowness of some to acknowledge the seriousness of the China challenge. The EU has lately begun to harden its position on China along with, it appears, Britain and Canada. ….
  • Finally, there is mounting concern that the United States might overreact to China. Even as these two powers compete, they must exercise restraint as this is essential for the stability of the global economy, the billions of people facing an unprecedented pandemic, and a creeping climate crisis. All demand continued cooperation.

“Democratic nations — and others that share their concerns — should develop joint strategies that penalize any Chinese attempts to dominate strategic technologies through espionage and intellectual property theft,” Paris adds. “They could also devise shared standards to toughen the vetting of Chinese overseas investment in sensitive sectors, and to prohibit the pressuring of foreign firms operating in China to disclose their trade secrets.”

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