This is our truth, tell us yours
If you were listening the PM this evening you will have heard Boris Johnson extolling the virtues of the Chinese planning system, apparently it is somewhere we should be seeking to emulate. He did not make clear which infrastructure project he had in mind.
Perhaps he meant the damn at tiger leaping gorge, which led to mass displacement of minorities, violence and corruption before international pressure led it to be moved. The Chinese are now building it in a majority Tibetan region, where the people know all too well what happens to protesters.
Perhaps it was the Tibetan experience Johnson was thinking of. The systematic environmental exploitation and destruction of Tibet has been policy since the Chinese invasion of 1956. The deforestation, dam building and despoiling of Tibet has of course not had to pass the kind of NIMBY planning committees that Johnson seems to think are standing in the way of making us a world power like China.
Or perhaps he meant the Uighurs, unable to worship freely, and blamed by the Chinese governemt for what is being called a terrorist attack in Tianamin Square. After all one of the elder statesmen of the Tory Party commented this weekend that he found religious observance by some Muslim women “peculiar”.
I could go on, but I am sure you will be relieved to know I am not going to. It isn’t hard to find examples of the Chines destruction of the environment or oppression of dissenting voices. It is all to easy to say that Johnson’s praise for China was just a casual soundbite, but look at the Britain the Tories are building. Legal Aid has been so heavily restricted it may as well not exist, and the ability to apply for a judicial review curtailed. The Daily Mail calls someone whose political views they did not agree with a traitor and government advisors think its OK to hack phones and spy on private individuals.
I am not saying here that we are about to become a totalitarian state. I do think though that we can learn a lot from what those in power admire. When Johnson says he wishes the UK were more like China, we need to think about the power that those in authority have there, without pesky things like opposition and dissent keeping them in check. Perhaps we should not be surprised that someone who wants power admires those countries where their power would be less limited. We most certainly should do everything possible to ensure they do not get their wish.