Mussolini and Hitler came to power through elections, China’s Global Times reminded readers Monday. Now an “abusively racist and extremist” candidate is on the rise in the United States, it says. Maybe democracy isn’t such a good idea after all.
In an editorial Monday, China’s state-owned Global Times newspaper used Donald Trump’s rise to gloat about the fault lines in U.S. society and to argue that democracy was both a waste of time -- and downright scary.
From the rise of a “narcissistic and inflammatory candidate” to the violence that surrounded his planned rally in Chicago, the paper said it was shocking this could happen in a country that “boasts one of the most developed and mature democratic election systems” in the world.
Fistfights between supporters of rival parties might be common in developing countries during election season, it wrote, but in the United States?
Trump, it said, has opened a Pandora’s box.
The candidate’s supporters, it noted, are mostly lower-class whites who lost a lot after the 2008 financial crisis. “The U.S. used to have the largest and most stable middle class in the Western world, but many are going down.”
Unwritten, but implied: The argument that China survived that financial crisis in much better shape, and its middle-class is rising.
Ignored: The argument that trade with China after it entered the World Trade Organization caused manufacturing jobs to hemorrhage from middle America, and the fact that China is still grappling with the delayed aftershock from the financial crisis, as its economy struggles under a growing mountain of debt.
But, back to the point-scoring.
Then, the paper described the emergence of Trump, “big-mouthed” and the "perfect populist" to provoke the public.
“Despite candidates’ promises, Americans know elections cannot really change their lives. Then, why not support Trump and vent their spleen?”
The second big takeaway of the article: Democracy doesn’t get you anywhere anyway, so why bother?
The paper went on to argue that this election did raise some serious issues about America’s decline and hypocrisy. After noting the rise of Mussolini and Hitler, it said that most analysts believe the U.S. election system will prevent Trump from winning, so that “the process will be scary but not dangerous.”
But even if Trump is a false alarm, his rise has “left a dent” and left the United States facing “the prospect of an institutional failure.”
The inherent instability of the democratic system is classic Communist Party propaganda and an argument that resonates with many people here: Indeed, it is one of the pillars of the party’s legitimacy in many people’s eyes.
Democracy is a mess – just look at India – and sometimes violent – viz. the Arab Spring. China’s history before the Communist Party came to power was equally messy. Only strong, purposeful and benevolent one-party rule can guarantee stability.
Of course, there are a couple of glaring lacunae in that argument: The most obvious being the tyranny and mass insanity unleashed by Mao Zedong, who killed tens of millions of his own people, (as indeed Stalin did in the Soviet Union). But hey, that bit of history is officially glossed over here.
The paper may have a point in that the rise of Trump -- as well as that of Bernie Sanders -- is arguably a reaction to the capture of American politics by big business and lobbyists, and the failure of globalization to deliver economic benefits to the middle class.
But it also ignores the fact that democratic “reactions” can often offer a (long and winding) path to democratic solutions, while dictatorships almost always end in chaos.
But back to the Global Times.
Finally, then, the paper had this message for the United States.
“The U.S. had better watch itself for not being a source of destructive forces against world peace, more than pointing fingers at other countries for their supposed nationalism and tyranny.”
U.S. hypocrisy: It’s an argument that was also aired in a 45-minute documentary Sunday on party-controlled China Central Television. The Xinhua news agency said the program revealed the U.S. “double standards on human rights-related issues, whereby the U.S. pokes its nose into other countries' internal affairs while leaving many of its own problems unsolved.” Quartz called it part of China's escalating criticism of the United States. Last week, it noted, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations declared the United States too violent and racist to criticize others on human rights.
If you want to see how CCTV looks at the United States, the documentary has been posted to YouTube, with subtitles.
China seemed to have had an ambivalent reaction to Trump’s rise, from the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman who reported her country’s “bemused” interest in the campaign to nationalist netizens unsure whether to celebrate his authoritarian streak or exult in America’s perceived decline.
Ironically, there is one group of Chinese who have united in their condemnation of Trump, if for very different reasons from the Global Times: The survivors of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
On Friday’s Republican debate, Trump appeared to endorse what he called a “strong” response from the Chinese government in putting down pro-democracy protests there. He described the Tiananmen Square protests as a “riot.”
Trump, wrote former Tiananmen protest leader Wu’er Kaixi on his Facebook page, “is an enemy of the values that America deeply defines itself by: The same values that have long provided hope to the victims of oppressive power worldwide."
"Those of us who have fought for freedom anywhere in the world worry that something is about to change in America.”