They say there are two sides to every argument. But The Final Struggle is a book that’s so anti-China that before long you are punch-drunk with the onslaught.
Within the first 10 minutes of reading you’re told that Mao Zedong (毛澤東) killed more people than Adolf Hitler, that Beijing has amassed the biggest military build-up in world history, that a Chinese citizen commits a crime by going to church on a Sunday, especially if the church isn’t registered with the government, by having more than the allowable number of children, by following the teachings of the Dalai Lama and by advocating free speech. The rounding up and brain-washing of a million Uighurs naturally features, and the term “Orwellian” is unsurprisingly prominent.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that unqualified praise for this book from Mike Pompeo, secretary of state under former US president Donald Trump, is what you first encounter.
The way China conducts business is also put under the microscope, but by now you know in advance what to expect. All companies operating abroad must share any information with the Chinese Communist Party back in Beijing, and foreign companies in China operate under similar conditions.
Of course, much if not all of this is true. I have always been particularly horrified at the statistic that 98 percent of criminal court cases in China result in a conviction. This means that the police have unlimited power, and a simple charge is virtually equivalent to a prison sentence, if not worse.
But is the US so faultless? There are indeed two sides to every question, but only one side is represented in this otherwise excellent book.
Among factors that are overlooked is the very extensive trade between Taiwan and China in hi-tech materials, a trade that is of self-confessed benefit to both sides.
We also learn that China’s “headhunting super agency, the central Organization Department [runs] talent acquisition offices in Silicon Valley, Boston, New York, Oxford, Tokyo, Taipei and other centers of technology and finance round the world.”
In 2019 the US government changed its policy over China, opting to expose the danger posed by its ways rather than, as previously, attempting to help the country integrate with the rest of world trade. This book is perhaps a part of this policy change.
The author, Ian Easton, an occasional Taipei Times contributor, claims that many of the speeches of Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) that have never before been translated into English form the foundation for much of what is claimed in this book. A long section is given over to the celebrations accompanying Xi’s 64th birthday. By this time, Eastern says, he was the most powerful man China had ever known.
‘MASTERS OF THE WORLD’?
This book’s title comes from China’s national anthem. “We will be masters of the world! This is the final struggle. Unite together. Soon international communism must be realized.”
Then came COVID-19 and Xi’s claim that China would lead the world against it, neatly fitting in with this author’s view of China’s global ambitions.
Strange to say, there is not a major section dealing with China-Taiwan relations. What comment there is says the US should not derive comfort from the fact that there hasn’t been armed conflict over Taiwan so far, and notes that China is approaching the position where it has more firepower in the Taiwan Strait than the US, Taiwan and Japan combined — an ominous sign.
On the other hand, Easton also writes: “We already live in a world in which the United States violates its own founding principles by actively opposing Taiwanese people’s attempts to exercise their right of self-determination. Since 1979, Washington has gone so far as to deny the very existence of Taiwan (ROC) as a legitimate country, even though the government in Taipei has always been independent from [China], and Taiwan is a liberal democracy that enjoys popular sovereignty.”
Many other topics are covered — BRICS, rare earth minerals and more.
In a notable chapter entitled “PRC Weaknesses,” however, the downside of China’s economic success is shockingly presented. In a rating of press freedom, Reporters Without Borders places China four places from last in the world, whereas Taiwan has a better score even than the US, as does South Korea. As for “global freedom” in general, Tibet receives the lowest grade in the entire world. Human rights abuses in China generally, according to the US State Department, include forced sterilization, coerced abortions, rape and torture.
Pollution follows. The PRC is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, while carbon dioxide emissions increased by over 80 percent between 2005 and 2019. It has been estimated that 90 percent of groundwater in China is unfit to drink, and some 50 percent unfit for use in farming.
All this leads some researchers to calculate that China is nearing the peak of its relative power and will begin declining sometime between the late 2020s and 2035. Its continued rise is not a foregone conclusion.
Notes of optimism are generally qualified by a pessimistic rejoinder. Thus, the US depends increasingly on Chinese products, and though there are reasons for optimism about the future, “it would seem unwise to presume only good things will happen tomorrow when so many bad things are happening today.”
Easton holds a master’s degree in China Studies from National Chengchi University and studied Mandarin at National Taiwan Normal University.
This book, then, is very thoroughly researched and powerfully written. If it tips the balance rather too much in favor of the US, so be it. Everyone has a right to his opinion.
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