The specter of Chinese civilization

Article subtitle: 
On Chinese and Western models of governance
Article author: 
Angelo M. Codevilla
Article publisher: 
The New Criterion
Article date: 
November 14, 2021
Article category: 
Our American Future
High
Article Body: 

This is a superb article which provides much to consider. It is well worth reading in its entirety.

Editors’ note: Angelo M. Codevilla, who died on September 21, 2021, was reviewing final edits on this essay at the time of his death.

Since few doubt that the increasingly numerous Chinese people are rising in power and self-confidence while we Americans continue to become less and less attached to the values of our own civilization, it makes some sense to ask whether we are doomed to succumb to Chinese civilization....
 
Does China represent the fatal crossroads of Western civilization? The question, as phrased, calls for an unequivocal no. Americans may well end up living under tyranny resembling that of today’s China. But that tyranny’s core is not the classic civilization of Confucius, Laozi, and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. This civilization is what the Chinese themselves abandoned around the turn of the twentieth century. Today’s tyranny in China itself is by, of, and for the Communist Party....
 
... China’s rulers have traditionally had neither interest nor capacity to export any way of life. Their goal vis-à-vis America is now to maximize revenue while minimizing America’s will and capacity to interfere with China’s growing overlordship of Asia. This requires merely coopting the U.S. ruling class, which the Chinese find easy through garden-variety corruption....
 
Our own civilization is in the process of being undercut by its own ruling class, which abandoned Western culture as it was taking power over the past century. By then negating explicitly the civilization’s defining premise—that all humans are created equally in God’s image, and hence that legitimate rule must be based on persuasion rather than force—our ruling class has placed itself on essentially the same ground as that of yesteryear’s and today’s Chinese despots....
 
Chinese Communists also adopted Lenin’s construct of the Party as the ultimate weapon of conquest and power....
 
But whereas stability had been the imperial bureaucracy’s purpose, war was the Party’s purpose—total war to abolish all that was old and replace it with something that no one could define but that required complete denial of the present....
 
We Westerners believe that any uninvited attempt to control what is ours is inherently unlawful and illegitimate....
 
In China, however, law has coexisted very well with all manner and degree of despotism and social control. ...
 
Still, the main reason why Western leaders misunderstand China is that they have never learned or appreciated their own civilization. Our overlords ask: Why is it that Westerners, Americans above all, won’t simply do what they are told?...
 
In the twenty-first century, an oligarchy has replaced the American republic....  In a republic, power derives its legitimacy from the voters. In oligarchies like our current model, power is exercised by persons who control the country’s institutions. They don’t think of themselves as citizens, but as “stakeholders.”...
 
But ours is not a typical oligarchy. The sense of superiority to the rest of America had been the animating force behind the Progressive movement around the turn of the twentieth century....
 
America’s oligarchy is made up of diverse elements that have little in common other than an indifference to or loathing of Western civilization in general and of the American republic in particular....