This week, a world leader spoke out in strong terms about the naivety of the West in the face of China: “Neither the European public nor European political and business leaders fully understand the threat presented by Xi Jinping’s China.” The same leader described the US’ trade war with China as “coherent and genuinely partisan” and “the greatest […] foreign policy accomplishment of the Trump administration.”
Who is the Trump-apologist in question? Presumably some nefarious Eastern European tyrant — Viktor Orbán, perhaps? Not quite; rather it is his compatriot, billionaire philanthropist and scourge of populists everywhere, George Soros. That he feels it necessary to make this argument shows just how disturbing China’s geopolitics are.
Soros’ comments mark something else too — a wider crack up among the liberal elite. Many still cleave to the old assumptions about the onwards march of progress, the inevitability of globalisation and the benevolence of China. These progressives are stuck in the past; blinded by ideology, they cannot comprehend the politics of the future nor the re-emergence of history.
This group is perhaps best represented by George Osborne. As Chancellor, he argued Britain should “run towards China” and be its “best friend in the West.” Five years on he still trots out the party line; under his editorship the Evening Standard has been craven in its support for Huawei.
But another faction of the elite is shedding its illusions and embracing, if not a post-liberalism, then at least a liberal realism. As Aris Roussinos wrote for UnHerd on Monday, Emmanuel Macron is leading the way in Europe, declaring NATO brain-dead and the continent’s illusions about the end of history naïve. Now George Soros has joined the realist party.
He is right to do so. China is the defining geopolitical issue of our times. Their mercantilist approach to free trade and industrial policy has destroyed our industry. Their control over global supply chains threatens our national security. Just yesterday, the US Department of Justice charged Huawei with racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets. Their approach to dissidents and minorities is unspeakable.
And where is the UK in all of this? The government has welcomed the Chinese state, via Huawei, into our infrastructure with open arms. The left, too, has nothing to say. After boycotting Trump, Jeremy Corbyn wore a white tie to banquet with Chairman Xi, while last month trade unions signed up to an agreement for the takeover of British Steel by a Chinese conglomerate.
The sooner we wise up and heed Soros’ warning the better.