As China Marches towards Freedom, Greedy Mandarins Destroy the West

Article excerpt


THE three-day visit of the Chinese vice-president and leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping gives us an opportunity to salute the greatest advance of human rights in the last century. That advance resulted from China's decision, under Deng Xiaoping, to turn away from a planned economy (where the state made every important economic decision) to a free-market economy (where citizens are free to make key economic decisions for themselves).

This decision, and the rapid economic growth that followed, ended the threat of death by famine in China.

As recently as 50 years ago, the country suffered from severe starvation which, according to official accounts, saw 15million deaths. Unofficial estimates put the death toll at between 20million and 45million.

The policies which China adhered to then are still followed today by North Korea's government.

Its people are still threatened by famine.

And, even if they escape that, their lives are still affected by their government's foolish policies. It is estimated that the average North Korean is three inches smaller than their South Korean counterpart.

At a stroke, China's vulnerability to famine ended once Deng replaced state planning with the free market in its farming sector. Rapid growth in agricultural incomes led in turn to surplus savings which were the foundation of China's extraordinary industrial growth over the last three decades.

That growth is so exceptional that when economists talk today of 'an economic slowdown in China', they mean that its annual rate of economic growth might slip from ten per cent to just five or six per cent.

But despite all the human rights progress which China made under Deng Xiaoping, he remained wedded to the totalitarian political rule of the Chinese Communist Party. For instance, he supported the party's brutal response to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

The government treats its dissidents with brutality and degradation, and in Tibet, it is applying the very same policies of torture, expropriation and plantation that England inflicted on this country in the 16th and 17th centuries.

So while Deng Xiaoping is a hero who presided over massive human rights advances, he is a flawed hero.

But he did more for human rights than an army of human rights lawyers.

The hard reality is that economic progress is a much bigger spur for human rights advances than any lawyerly agitation.

Just because the cock crows at dawn, it doesn't mean he has caused the sun to rise; just because lawyers campaign for justice, it doesn't mean they are the cause for advancement in human rights.

We could parachute 100 such lawyers into underdeveloped Afghanistan and they would make little progress, especially after western forces withdraw in the near future.

There were few of them active in China between 1975 and 2000 and yet huge progress was made. But despite the very clear advances that the turn towards the market economy brought to China, many in Ireland are now turning away from market economics.

This reflects disenchantment across the Western world at the economic stagnation and unfairness that free markets appear to have visited upon us.

Groups like Occupy Dame Street have received supporting rhetorical fire from senior politicians including the President.

President Michael D Higgins recently stated: 'We know that the present economic morass through which we are struggling did not come about by accident.

'We know it came about because of a failed paradigm of economic policy, undeclared assumptions, skewed values, and the growth of a culture where our assets were valued and utilised on purely material considerations.' This analysis has some truth: selfishness and greed were the main human propellants of the spectacular Irish economic boom which has now been transformed into calamitous economic bust. …