When another country does something to upset the Chinese Communist party, it gets accused of ‘a Cold War mentality’. This is psychological projection, in Freudian terms, a defence mechanism which projects onto others the negative aspects of one’s own self.
But the CCP is right in a way: we should have more of a ‘Cold War mentality’ or at least a ‘values and systems war’ mentality. China is not the Soviet Union. We never co-operated with the USSR on trade and investment or science and technology. We do with China.
Indeed the CCP sees itself as fighting a ‘values and systems war’. Xi Jinping, in his first speech to the Politburo in 2012, talked of the need for ‘Chinese socialism to gain the dominant position over western capitalism’. Externally the CCP covers up its mentality by constant propaganda slogans, such as talk of its ‘win-win’ Belt and Road Initiative and a ‘community of shared future for mankind’. Beijing does want a shared future for mankind, a Leninist-capitalist one.
Has the UK woken up to this? Certainly, there are some in the press and parliament that have. Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the South China Sea — not to mention the Covid cover-up — have ensured that. In 2020 research by the British Foreign Policy Group’s research found that 83% of Britons did not trust China to act responsibly in the world, five points behind North Korea.
But what about the UK government? Whitehall is currently in the process of fleshing out our approach to China, due to be published in the spring. What is badly needed is a clear set of policies, a strategy no less.