The People's Republic of China turns 70

China has celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic with a huge military parade. Commentators take highly differing views of what the state founded by Mao Zedong on 1 October 1949 has become and how the West should position itself vis-à-vis its current strength.

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Karar (TR) /

Power that can't be denied

The West should take the military parade as an opportunity to finally rethink its position, writes Karar:

“China has undoubtedly demonstrated its power to the world. Let us hope that after this parade the US realises that today's China is no longer the China of 70 years ago, or even that of 10 years ago, but a state whose military and economic strength should be taken seriously and with which one should cooperate. China has indeed changed. After the 1978 reforms its economy began to grow at an average annual rate of six percent. From 2010, China had the second largest economy in the world, and from 2014 to the present it has been in the front row. Although wealth is not fairly distributed large sections of the population have benefited greatly from this upswing.”

Iswestija (RU) /

Where China has failed so far

Izvestia points out where crises are looming in China:

“Not only regarding the 'one family, one child' policy but also with the 'one state, two systems' principle. The best example is the recent events in Hong Kong, which have also harmed Beijing's relations with Taiwan. Even if the People's Republic is successful in winning over Taipei's remaining allies, it's losing the battle for the hearts - and minds - of the inhabitants of Taiwan and Hong Kong. ... However, China's most pressing challenge is at home. In recent years a generation has grown up there with a well-developed civil consciousness and a growing desire for democracy. The state leadership would do well to stop ignoring this demand from society.”

El País (ES) /

Progress without democracy

China's breathtaking record is as impressive as it is one-sided, comments El País:

“In just a few decades, this once underdeveloped and internationally irrelevant country has become a nation of strategic importance and a leading force in research and development that places it in a dominant position vis-à-vis the next global technological revolution. ... But this model has a dark side: a system of iron ideological control with serious human rights violations within the country and a foreign policy of fait accomplis and latent threats. ... And Beijing is developing mechanisms to control its citizens that are more reminiscent of dystopian novels than of a country that is a global power. For 70 years China has shown efficiency without displaying any intention of introducing democracy.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Differentness should make us stop and think

Instead of raking China over the coals Europe should try to come to terms with how different it is, sociologist Mauro Magatti urges in Corriere della Sera:

“The Chinese way should make us stop and think. In the name of a social harmony it regards as a precondition for prosperity, the government seems to be realising the dream of British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who in 1791 imagined a factory-like prison with a single watchman. ... The idea is not to demonise China or its culture. ... For the first time since the beginning of modernity, the West must compare itself with another culture that has been able to appropriate modern instruments. Our dealings with China can and must be seen as a chance for the West and Europe to breathe new life into the sense of our own distinctive culture.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

A dreadful record

Jyllands-Posten can't see any reason to celebrate:

“In many international rankings - globalisation, corruption, equality, economic freedom, human rights, etc. - China ranks very low, a reflection of the fundamental contempt for the people that characterises all communist dictatorships. ... The fact that China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases underscores how economic growth and the fight against poverty have extreme consequences for climate change. ... President Trump's trade policy has curbed China's competition-distorting actions, but further clear measures are needed if Beijing is to be forced to play by the same rules that apply to other major economies.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Beijing putting off tackling its problems

China still has some hurdles to take before it can claim to be a real superpower, writes Sinologist and film-maker Catherine Vuylsteke in De Standaard:

“The question is how much you can sweep under the rug before the consequences make themselves felt. The distortion of history, systematic nationalist propaganda and a system of social credit won't harm China for the time being. But that could change. What's more, major problems are in the offing: what can be done about Taiwan, which is daily proof that Chinese culture is perfectly compatible with democracy? ... And how will things turn out with Hong Kong, which has been showing for months what exporting the Chinese model means in concrete terms for the free world? Beijing's answers to these challenges will show whether it can call itself a modern, emancipated and responsible superpower.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Prosperity can't stifle the desire for freedom

The people of China have not risen up as Mao Zedong announced in 1949, political scientist Jean-Philippe Béja laments in his blog with Mediapart:

“Given the undeniable improvement in living standards, the population has not risen up against the new power and is instead tolerating the increasingly invasive propaganda for the new man at the helm. Today more than ever we are seeing the triumph of what [Nobel Peace Prize laureate] Liu Xiaobo called the 'philosophy of the pig' according to which material comfort stifles the need for freedom. Is a people subjected to this philosophy truly on its feet? How long can this anaesthesia last? The example of the revolt by the people of Hong Kong shows that nothing is ever certain for dictators.”