The year is 1900, and a major rebellion is underway in the major provinces of China. The young men who are in revolt are objecting to the West ‘taking over’ their country. They attack all symbols as they see it of all this western intrusion, including railways. The Boxer rebellion is put down by an international force that includes Great Britain, France, Italy and the emerging nations of Japan, the United States of America and Germany. It would take China more than eighty years to emerge from the weight of unfair treaties and capitulations that the European nations had demanded from her, in what they called the open door. Today, China has become a superpower, a serious rival to America for global leadership, so serious that Obama has identified himself as his country’s first ‘Pacific’ President, who may also be the last to take Europe seriously. So, Wen Jiabao’s visit to London yesterday should have been a wonderful opportunity for David Cameron to foster a closer relationship with this economic powerhouse, given this country’s current predicament. Instead, we had the now customary spectacle of the Chinese Premier being lectured in front of the press on human rights by the man currently in the middle of a questionable war in Libya.
China’s human rights record in Tibet and Kashgar, as well as her attitude to freedom of expression are well documented and are rightly highlighted. However, those who lecture should also take a long hard at themselves – China emerged as a superpower after a horrendous period in her history which some of the nations who came to put down the Boxer rebellion had a hand in creating.
If China has moved on from that time, then perhaps so should Great Britain, who should also stop treating a former colony as a developing economy and take a leaf from the United States of America.
If a report in The Financial Times is to be believed, Britain has lost its standing in China’s view, rating below Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Hopefully, Wen Jiabao and the Chinese leadership will settle down to the line of thinking that a large number of us over here share, that Cameron does not know what he is doing, and that perhaps more disturbingly, he has appointed a Chancellor who is completely clueless.