February 10th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Blackouts due to closure of coal-fired power stations

EDITORIAL Behind China's push for global power

CANBERRA OBSERVED The left's appetite for change can't be satisfied

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY The Four Ideologies of the 21st century: Transgenderism, Libertarianism, cultural and Economic, and Radical Environmentalism

SEX-TRAFFICKING Meet modern slavery - in your very suburb

EUTHANASIA Delivering Victoria's death law: an unedifying spectacle

ENVIRONMENT Too hot? Too cold? Blame global warming

OPINION Report on child sexual abuse aimed at Church

FREEDOM OF RELIGION 'Equality' and equally disingenuous terms

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Saudis, Israel confirm Middle East alliance

OBITUARY To the memory of a multimedia Chestertonian: Tony Evans

MUSIC Straight to the heart: for the listener, at least

CINEMA The Commuter: And my criteria for reviewing films

BOOK REVIEW Essays take 'settled science' to task

BOOK REVIEW A pathway through a tangle of nonsense

BOOK REVIEW Quarterly Essay


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Behind China's push for global power

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, February 10, 2018

In a way not seen before, China is perceived as one of the most powerful nations in the world: from Davos, where it championed free trade to the world’s leading corporate and political leaders, to North Korea, where it is seen as key to reining in the rogue communist regime, to the South China Sea where it has built several island forts to project Chinese power as far southward as Indonesia.

Its power projection is undoubtedly destabilising the Pacific region, which includes Australia.

China’s economy continues to grow at rates of over 6 per cent annually, several times higher than the United States and Western Europe, and its vast trade surpluses with the West have enabled it to buy a strategic stake in the economies of many Western countries, including Australia.

All these developments have occurred while China, the world’s most populous country, is ruled by a single party, the Chinese Communist Party, which has controlled China since seizing power in 1949, almost 70 years ago.

A lead article in the Communist Party’s propaganda organ, the People’s Daily, on January 15, 2018, said that the world is in chaos, giving the Communist Party a “historic opportunity” to reshape the world order.

It said: “The world has never focused on China so much and needed China so much as it does now … The capitalism-led world political and economic system is full of drawbacks, the global governance system is undergoing profound changes, and a new international order is taking shape.”

It added: “[China] is more confident and capable than in any given period in history to seize this opportunity.”


The rhetoric is a reflection not only of China’s economic power, but more importantly, of the centralisation of power in China in the hands of its leader, Xi Jinping, who now holds the offices of the President of China (and therefore head of state), General Secretary of the Communist Party, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, controlling the army.

To most people in the West, this concentration of power creates the impression of a cohesive, single-minded government, totally focused on a single strategic objective.

But people familiar with the history of machinations within the Chinese Communist Party convincingly argue that this is not the case.

Since the foundation of the modern Chinese state in 1949, the leadership has been riven by internal differences and factional power plays within and between the rival sources of power – the party and the army – for control of the state.

The life story of Xi Jinping strikingly confirms these observations.

The father of China’s President was himself a military commander in Mao’s communist army, the People’s Liberation Army.

After Mao’s triumph, Xi’s father became a leader of the Chinese Communist Party, and held that post until he was forced out in 1965, during an earlier party civil war, the Cultural Revolution unveiled by Mao himself.

He was imprisoned, and only rehabilitated 10 years later, after Mao had died. He aligned himself with Deng Xiaoping, another party leader who had been persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, and after Deng took control, Xi’s father was instrumental in pushing through Deng’s economic reforms.

He emerged as a member of the ruling Politburo and was deputy chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the rubber stamp that is used to legitimise the Communist Party’s rule over China.

The President himself was exiled during the Cultural Revolution, and spent time in prison, before spending a further five years in a labour camp, digging ditches.

After his family was rehabilitated in the mid-1970s, he enrolled as a mature-age student at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing, studying chemical engineering.

After graduation, he worked as secretary for Geng Biao, then vice-premier and secretary-general of the Central Military Commission and Minister for Defence. Geng was another leader of the communist forces during the civil war, and a close associate of the President’s father.

This gave Xi close contact with the leadership of the People’s Liberation Army, facilitating his rise to power in the Communist Party. He later served as party secretary in four provinces, giving him influence in the party administration.

Since getting control of the Communist Party in 2013, he has waged war against factional rivals by conducting successive anti-corruption campaigns. (His elder sister owns multimillion-dollar properties.)

He has supported free trade policies with the West, to ensure China’s continued access to export markets for consumer goods, and expanding the consumer economy in China, ensuring a growing market for Chinese manufacturers.

At the same time, he has been aggressively curbing freedom of speech in China through restrictions on the internet, curbs on religious freedom, and strengthening the Communist Party’s monopoly control of the media.

It remains to be seen how long these contradictory policies can be pursued, without provoking another explosion like the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.

Peter Westmore is publisher of News Weekly.

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