The Spectator

Feedback | 23 April 2005

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China is still a tyranny

As usual Mark Steyn makes some good points, this time in his piece on globalisation (‘The sovereign individual’, 16 April). But he is mistaken in his praise of China, ‘the dynamic, advanced, first-world economy’. The Telegraph, for which Mr Steyn also writes, summed up China’s rulers in its leader of 16 April as ‘the tyrants in Beijing’ who have threatened all their neighbours and now are signalling a possible invasion of Taiwan.

Is China really the inspiration for ‘sovereign individuals’ that Mr Steyn suggests? The rule of law there exists largely for the protection of the state, not, equally, to protect the individual from the state and to ensure justice. There is little freedom of religion or of the published word, the internet is closely controlled, and ethnic minorities are persecuted. China has the largest number of extrajudicial executions of any country, leads the world in suicide, and is the only country where female suicides outnumber those by males. Female infanticide is so common that in parts of China there are 118 boys for every girl. At the moment Beijing is manipulating demonstrations against the Japanese, who in fact have apologised many times for the 1930s war, while Chinese security organs crush any public demand for democracy or simple justice.

I believe that Mr Steyn’s two Chinese examples (please, Mr Steyn, no one says ‘Chinaman’ any more; it’s not even in my spell-checker) may be leaving Canada to find work in China, and if they do so, in a big east-coast city, and have plenty of capital and contacts, they may prosper. But if they contest official corruption or make a public complaint about something political, they may wish they were back in Canada’s ‘ramshackle backwater’.

Jonathan Mirsky

London W11

Mark Steyn accuses Christian Aid of being comprised of ‘condescending neo-imperialists’ on the basis of some vague assertions, a bit of anecdotal evidence and some slightly bizarre predictions. What’s lacking is an understanding of how the world really works.

For rich and well-educated professionals who can travel the world taking advantage of new opportunities, Christian Aid’s campaign for trade justice might look like an irrelevance. Lucky them. Half the world’s population don’t have the same choices. Reality for them is falling incomes, no jobs to go to, and governments who can’t afford to bail them out when things get difficult. Christian Aid wants the new opportunities to be open to everybody, and, for the poorest, history shows that trade justice — and most certainly not free trade – is the only way out of poverty.

China and India became the economic powerhouses they are today on the basis of exactly the sort of policies Christian Aid says all countries should have the freedom to adopt. Where did all the highly educated Chinese and Indians, who Mark Steyn says are stealing accountancy jobs from the USA, come from? From states that used tax revenues and invested in education.

The computer industry is a prime example of the success of ‘trade justice’. How did countries like Japan and South Korea build up the electronics industries Mark Steyn celebrates? By governments intervening in the economy. South Korean electronics companies were protected from competition and got generous subsidies in their early stages. In Taiwan, rates of protection reached 55 per cent in the 1970s.

Trade justice is not wishful thinking by woolly liberals. It’s the only strategy that has ever succeeded in driving innovation, boosting productivity and reducing poverty.

Claire Melamed

Christian Aid, London SE1

A truly liberal party

Your claim that the Liberal Democrats are a bunch of ‘confused bossyboots’ whose only ambition is ‘to bleed the rich’ is extraordinarily misleading (Leading article, 16 April). In fact, the economic proposals put forward by Vincent Cable (that radical anti-capitalist lefty who until recently masqueraded as chief financial executive of Shell International) should command the support of all who believe in liberalised free markets: reform of the expensive and immoral Common Agricultural Policy, the promotion of global free trade, the removal of all ‘business regulation’ unless specifically renewed by Parliament, and the abolition of the interventionist DTI. It should also be noted that the single positive economic decision for which New Labour is credited, the creation of an independent Bank of England, was actually a Liberal Democrat policy, and one that never appeared in Labour’s 1997 manifesto.

It is even more absurd to claim that the Liberal Democrats, who have opposed the increasingly authoritarian policies of Tony Blair (compulsory ID cards, detention without trial, the erosion of judicial independence, control freakery over the civil and intelligence services, and restriction of economic migration essential to the continued prosperity of our ageing nation) are somehow more ‘bossy’ than the Labour, and often Conservative, parties which supported them.

Chris Scanlan

Oxford

Titian: art or porn?

Roger Scruton draws a distinction between ‘the naked and the nude’, implies one between pornography and art, and illustrates these subtleties by comparing well-endowed page-three girls to Titian’s Venus of Urbino (‘Shameless and loveless’, 16 April). Is this the same Venus that Mark Twain called ‘the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses’? ‘It isn’t that she is naked and stretched out on a bed — no, it is the attitude of one of her arms and hand. If I ventured to describe that attitude there would be a fine howl ... for she is a work of art, and art has its privileges.’

Now far be it from me to make comparisons between Dr Scruton’s attitude towards the body and John Ruskin’s, whose veneration for the classical nude left him reeling in horror upon discovering his wife’s pubic hair. But, at the least, it seems that one man’s porn is another man’s art.

Rory Mulchrone

London WC1

Roger Scruton calls for the safeguarding of the projects of love and of raising children. These projects are necessarily linked.

Increasingly, adults whose own relationships are chaotic, who are struggling with the first project, have also embarked on the second, and it is a commonplace that having a baby is spoken of as a means of saving a relationship. When sex is regarded as a commodity, other people become mere objects through which our own desires can be fulfilled without any further concern for them as people, for it is concern for others that is at the heart of love.

It is difficult to see how anyone so bound up in self that others are as mere objects can manifest the degree of love that is necessary for sustained relationships, especially those involving a new generation.

Roger Scruton should have gone further; raising children is impossible without love.

Peter Inson

Wembley, Middlesex

A thought-provoking piece by Roger Scruton on the consequences of the sexual revolution. Young women today are under immense pressure to ‘get physical’ in order to secure a potential partner and are then often left dangling at man’s mercy — waiting to see whether it will lead to something more. Meanwhile, the average Joe Bloggs, having made his ‘conquest’, is inevitably ready to move on to greener pastures, and women are left with the prospect of finding new love with the stigma of having had a number of previous partners — hardly a selling point for most self-respecting women. The result is that women today are profoundly unhappy as they are increasingly disempowered. And if women are unhappy, then it goes without saying that men will also end up unhappy.

Samuel Green

London NW4

Pope against the zeitgeist

Matthew Parris’s attack on the British media (Another voice, 16 April) for lavishing its attention on Pope John Paul II’s death and funeral ignores the intrinsic fascination, to many educated people, of a global institution which is even older than the English monarchy, and which has been bound up, for good or ill, since the pontificate of Gregory the Great with 14 centuries of the nation’s history.

Pope John Paul II was, moreover, far more than a celebrity, as Parris calls him, but a world historical figure of the stature of Churchill, embodying the very soul of the Polish nation in its defiance of the two great 20th-century tyrannies of National Socialism and communism. Most modern celebrities are chiefly known for being celebrated. Pope John Paul II was, in the phrase of the Times, ‘the Pope of Popes’, a professional philosopher, the master of many languages, an actor and a sportsman when young; above all a roving evangelist who addressed the largest crowds in Christian history and sought peace and friendship with every race and religion under heaven.

Celebrities are created by our zeitgeist. Pope John Paul II heroically defied it, especially in his teaching on sexual ethics. For his wisdom in this matter, see Roger Scruton’s essay in the same issue of The Spectator.

Sheridan Gilley

Department of Theology,

University of Durham

The agnostic Church

I loved the article by Matthew Parris ‘Why the Church of England is our best defence against religious enthusiasm’ (Another voice, 2 April). How perceptive and sensitive he is. It may amuse him to hear a rumour current out here that the Anglican Church had amalgamated with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They still knock on your door — they just don’t know why.

Anthony H. Bradborn

Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines

My coinage

In his praise for Peter Oborne’s dissection of the Blair court (‘How Blair betrays the Crown’, 9 April), Tim Holman writes, ‘Mr Oborne has coined the excellent phrase “manipulative populism” to describe what is going on’ (Letters, 16 April). In further evidence of his excellence, and even modesty, Peter has kindly asked me to point out that it was I who coined the concept in www.openDemocracy.net.

Anthony Barnett

London EC1

Pigs who fly

Ordinary policemen share Andrew Gilligan’s concern (‘Tony’s coppers’, 16 April). They are dismayed at what has happened and they have little regard for their leaders, who are referred to as ‘seagulls’: they never stay in one place for long and crap on those beneath them.

John Grey

Brighton, East Sussex

Overdue loan

I read with interest Sam Leith’s review of Max Hastings’s Warriors (Books, 9 April) and in particular the acknowledgment by Max that as a schoolboy he ‘thrilled’ to a 1920s anthology called Stirring Deeds of the Great War. Could this be the same book that I lent Max when we were at prep school together in about 1957? He’d remember me as Candler Mi.

Could it also be the same book that inspired his father, the Eagle Special Investigator author Macdonald Hastings, to write a series of articles on heroes of the first world war?

If so, I would like to have my book back.

Hugh Candler

Abergavenny, Monmouthshire