Cameron ‘kowtows’ to Chinese dictatorship

Western capitalist leaders put business before lofty ‘principles’

Vincent Kolo,

David Cameron, like many other Western leaders visiting China, abandoned any pretence of defending ‘democracy’ or ‘human rights’ in order to secure new profitable deals for British capitalism.

Even before his visit, the Prime Minister’s office stated he had no plans to meet the Dalai Lama, as he did in May 2012, and recognised this had ‘saddened China’.

“Sorry, I can’t see you anymore…”
“Sorry, I can’t see you anymore…”

In response to Cameron’s meeting with the Tibetan Buddhist leader the Chinese dictatorship scuppered a planned visit to China in April 2013, and demanded that the British government “recognise its mistake”.

British capitalism – with its own bloody history in Tibet – made sure Cameron performed the required ‘self-criticism’ so as not to jeopardise financial and business links with the world’s number two economy. During the Beijing meeting with new Chinese President Xi Jinping, Cameron declared: “We do not support Tibetan independence”.

While this is not a new position, the impression of a British capitalist leader being put in his place by China’s now hugely wealthy ‘Communist’ dictators says a lot about world relations today. Xi Jinping’s family have amassed an estimated US$376 million in personal wealth, more than the entire British cabinet with its 18 millionaires.

Performing the kowtow

A forerunner of Cameron, Lord Macartney who went to Beijing in 1793, famously refused to ‘kowtow’ before the Chinese emperor. The emissary of King George III, attempting to open up the Chinese market, agreed to get down on one knee and bow, but not to touch his forehead to the ground three times, as demanded of all ‘tributes’ by the Chinese imperial ritual. Macartney was sent away empty-handed. Cameron has perhaps drawn conclusions from this and duly performed ‘the full kowtow’ while in Beijing, with his submissive statements on which political figures his government would meet with in future. The Guardian said there was “something mendicant, cap in hand, and unduly deferential,” about Cameron’s trip.

In 1793 Lord Macartney famously refused to kowtow to the emperor Qianlong
In 1793 Lord Macartney famously refused to kowtow to the emperor Qianlong

To rub salt in the wound, Beijing’s state-controlled media dismissed Britain as “just an old European country,” claiming it was only of interest “for travel and studies”. Such comments reflect the increasingly nationalistic tone of regime propaganda.

US imperialism is irked by Cameron, whose Beijing visit preceded that of Vice President Joe Biden.

Through Biden, Washington attempted to pressure Beijing over a potentially dangerous conflict with Japan over air space and disputed uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. The British government’s fawning will have encouraged Xi to stand firm on the Japan issue.

Staunch allies

In the business magazine Caixin, Cameron portrayed the British government as the staunchest allies of Beijing in multinational forums such as the G20 and EU, and the most open to Chinese investment.

The British delegation landed a number of billion dollar deals ranging from British big business investment in Chinese hospitals to Chinese investment in Britain’s high-speed railways and nuclear sector.

British capitalism, the former ‘workshop of the world’ – a mantle that has shifted to China – is becoming even more parasitic and finance-based.

The unrepentant finance sharks of the City of London want to position themselves as the major global centre for the booming offshore trade in the Chinese currency, the renminbi.

The government has already opened the way for major Chinese investment in nuclear power – with Chancellor George Osborne offering up to 100% control to Chinese firms.

Chinese investment is also on the cards in the £50 billion HS2 high-speed rail project. The Socialist Party’s sister organisation in China, organised around, warn that both nuclear and high-speed rail development in China are clouded by serious safety issues.

The Wenzhou high-speed rail disaster in 2011, which killed 40 people, highlighted major deficiencies with the Chinese authorities’ approach to copying, merging and ‘improving’ foreign technologies from several different, incompatible national systems.

The same approach has been taken for nuclear power, with blind expansion and unsafe construction practices adding to safety fears.

China’s industrial safety problems are rooted in unbelievable levels of corruption, almost non-existent controls, and the lack of even minimal public scrutiny or democratic checks. Above all they are rooted in the total ban on trade unions in China.