Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

China is still a tyranny

From Jonathan Mirsky

Sir: As usual Mark Steyn makes some good points, this time in his piece on globalisation (The sovereign individual', 16 April). But he is mistaken in his praise of China, 'the dynamic, advanced, first-world economy'. The Telegraph, for which Mr Steyn also writes, summed up China's rulers in its leader of 16 April as 'the tyrants in Beijing' who have threatened all their neighbours and now are signalling a possible invasion of Taiwan.

Is China really the inspiration for 'sovereign individuals' that Mr Steyn suggests? The rule of law there exists largely for the protection of the state, not, equally, to protect the individual from the state and to ensure justice. There is little freedom of religion or of the published word, the internet is closely controlled, and ethnic minorities are persecuted. China has the largest number of extrajudicial executions of any country, leads the world in suicide, and is the only country where female suicides out-number those by males. Female infanticide is so common that in parts of China there are 118 boys for every girl. At the moment Beijing is manipulating demonstrations against the Japanese, who in fact have apologised many times for the 1930s war, while Chinese security organs crush any public demand for democracy or simple justice.

I believe that Mr Steyn's two Chinese examples (please, Mr Steyn, no one says 'Chinaman' any more; it's not even in my spell-checker) may be leaving Canada to find work in China, and if they do so, in a big east-coast city, and have plenty of capital and contacts, they may prosper. But if they contest official corruption or make a public complaint about something political, they may wish they were back in Canada's 'ramshackle backwater'.

Jonathan Mirsky

London W11

From Claire Melamed

Sir: Mark Steyn accuses Christian Aid of being comprised of 'condescending neoimperialists' on the basis of some vague assertions, a bit of anecdotal evidence and some slightly bizarre predictions. What's lacking is an understanding of how the world really works.

For rich and well-educated professionals who can travel the world taking advantage of new opportunities, Christian Aid's campaign for trade justice might look like an irrelevance. Lucky them. Half the world's population don't have the same choices. Reality for them is falling incomes, no jobs to go to, and governments who can't afford to bail them out when things get difficult. Christian Aid wants the new opportunities to be open to everybody, and, for the poorest, history shows that trade justice - and most certainly not free trade - is the only way out of poverty.

China and India became the economic powerhouses they are today on the basis of exactly the sort of policies Christian Aid says all countries should have the freedom to adopt. Where did all the highly educated Chinese and Indians, who Mark Steyn says are stealing accountancy jobs from the USA, come from? From states that used tax revenues and invested in education.

The computer industry is a prime example of the success of 'trade justice'. How did countries like Japan and South Korea build up the electronics industries Mark Steyn celebrates? By governments intervening in the economy. South Korean electronics companies were protected from competition and got generous subsidies in their early stages. In Taiwan, rates of protection reached 55 per cent in the 1970s.

Trade justice is not wishful thinking by woolly liberals. It's the only strategy that has ever succeeded in driving innovation, boosting productivity and reducing poverty.

Claire Melamed

Christian Aid, London SE1

A truly liberal party

From Dr Chris Scanlan

Sir: Your claim that the Liberal Democrats are a bunch of 'confused bossyboots' whose only ambition is 'to bleed the rich' is extraordinarily misleading (Leading article, 16 April). In fact, the economic proposals put forward by Vincent Cable (that radical anti-capitalist lefty who until recently masqueraded as chief financial executive of Shell International) should command the support of all who believe in liberalised free markets: reform of the expensive and immoral Common Agricultural Policy, the promotion of global free trade, the removal of all 'business regulation' unless specifically renewed by Parliament, and the abolition of the interventionist DTI. …

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