Another week, another flicker of the needle on the Sense-of-Impending-Doom-ometer as the world plods inexorably towards Cold War II.
We detect something of a backlash on the part of the West’s rational, mature, cool-headed sophisticates who appreciate the Middle Kingdom’s unique history and psychology and Xi Dada’s vision in ways mere mortals do not. In various degrees of Panda-hugging-ness, they urge calm, constructive engagement and win-win cooperation. The South China Morning Post carries the thoughts of a UK academic and Confucius Institute chair, who says ‘we must ensure we understand the fears and hopes of this rising empire’. Could Neville Chamberlain have put it better? A US observer bemoans the ‘determined effort to depict [China] as an unmitigated threat’.
Meanwhile, the unmitigated threat seems determined to continue depicting itself. The Chinese Communist Party is setting up student ‘cells’ in West Virginia, among other places. (Thanks to family connections, I actually know this misunderstood state, popularly imagined to be inhabited by inbred banjo-players, but in fact less exotic and mysterious, and in fact rather basic. The CCP is clearly overdoing itself – which is of course the whole point.)
The US government agencies responsible for taking action against ZTE display a sense of humour in a presentation offering lessons in how to avoid punishment, drawing on the Chinese company’s illicit business with Iran and North Korea. The US Treasury is looking at Chinese investments. European diplomats in Beijing are ‘unusually biting’ in their criticism of the Silk (as in Belt and) Road. I declare the weekend open with the thought of an even bigger potential can of worms being opened: the US is also thinking of imposing Magnitsky Act sanctions against Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses in Xinjiang.