Published: 01:03, April 19, 2022 | Updated: 10:07, April 21, 2022
Protecting China's political system is of vital importance
By Ho Lok-sang

China has enjoyed peace for decades. But China’s national anthem warns: “The Chinese People are now at the most dangerous hour.” Many people wonder why the lyrics were not changed to reflect the peace and prosperity in which we are living.  

Indeed, China today is in the best period of its long history. Through its long history, China had to worry about invaders, especially those from the north. That is why we had the Great Wall built, and it is the result of construction and reconstruction through dynasties. Through history, even though China had been economically strong, such as during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), it could be weak militarily. The Song Empire was actually conquered by the Mongols. When Marco Polo visited China, it was when the Mongols ruled China. Today, China has sophisticated weapons, and the People’s Liberation Army is well trained and disciplined. Peace seems to be assured. 

Unfortunately, peace is actually fragile. While China has enjoyed peace for decades, it is a luxury for many people. In particular, if it had not been for China’s military strength, China could have been invaded. In any case China’s peaceful rise is apparently not welcomed by the West. Peter Navarro’s book in 2011 Death by China: Confronting the Dragon — A Global Call to Action was one of the first widely read books that popularized the “China Threat” narrative. Even though the People’s Republic of China has never invaded any country, the United States is uncomfortable when another country has caught up with it economically. American politicians have invented many slanderous narratives, including the “Xinjiang forced labor”, the “Xinjiang genocide”, Beijing’s “erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms”, etc., to show China in a bad light. Of late, the US has been trying to incite worries among China’s neighbors about the “China Threat”; and by selling advanced weapons to Taiwan and sending senior government officials to visit Taiwan, it emboldened Taiwan’s leaders’ cessation motives. 

National security, in general, is security of the Chinese people from threats of all kinds. But among all the threats that China faces, the greatest threat is the threat of the political system being undermined. It is of paramount importance that China averts this threat, because our political system is the foundation on which all the achievements China has made so far is based. Unfortunately, too many people, especially our youngsters, have been fooled into believing that changing to a system that allows “competition among political parties” is necessary if democracy is to be achieved. Many people have been misled into believing that having a choice of parties is a fundamental human right. A political system without party rotation is, according to this logic, undemocratic.

The problem with this logic is that it does not acknowledge the fact that all governments are supposed to serve the best interests of all the people. Having political parties competing for votes to get the right to lead the country may not put the best people in the position of leadership.In the case of the United States, people generally would vote for either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. But many Americans have realized that whichever way they vote, ultimately the politicians are not going to look after their best interests. While big businesses spend a lot of money lobbying politicians to look after their interests, the man in the street has little sway in public policy. This is not my conclusion but a finding in a serious study by Princeton University political scientist Martin Gilens and North Western University Professor of Decision Sciences Benjamin Page, whose 2014 article in Perspectives on Politics concluded that “when the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”  

One common allegation by Hong Kong’s fugitives who could face charges under the National Security Law for Hong Kong is that since the National Security Law was implemented, on June 30, 2020, voices of the opposition have been silenced, and Hong Kong today no longer allows a dissenting voice. This is either a distortion of the reality or a complaint based on misunderstanding. Certainly the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is open to criticism. I, for one, have criticized the HKSAR government multiple times in this column. So it is totally false that citizens today have to be a “yes man” or risk being prosecuted. Yet an attempt to undermine the political system is altogether a different matter. China’s Communist Party of China-led political system is public infrastructure that has served the country and all its people extremely well. People are thriving, living longer, and enjoying peace. 

While the reformed electoral system in the HKSAR today may not be as attractive as what the government proposed in 2015, that reform package was unfortunately rejected by the “pan-democrats”. Unfortunately, given the horrific developments in 2019, the election system today is exactly what was needed to bring peace and order back to Hong Kong.

April 15 has been designated the National Security Education Day. Let us remember that China’s political system has served China well. Because it has served the country so well, it has drawn the ire of those who are envious of our success. We must protect it. 

The author is director of Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.