NI522 - China in Charge - November/December 2019
Fear of a red planet
It’s 1860 and the ‘century of humiliation’ is underway: China is forced to open up to the opium trade and Hong Kong has been handed over to London. British troops slaughter thousands and burn the emperor’s Old Summer Palace to the ground.
Today it’s Britain that goes to Beijing cap in hand. A Chinese firm is putting almost £2 billion ($2.4 billion) into redeveloping London’s Royal Albert Dock, from where imperial ships once set off, and partly financing the UK’s largest infrastructure project, a nuclear power plant in Somerset. George Osborne, former chancellor, put it bluntly: ‘China is what it is. And we have to either be [there] or be nowhere.’
The average Briton is likely unaware of this historical reversal. The average Chinese person is very much aware. As a factory worker in Guangdong told the journalist Alec Ash, who collected vox-pops for this issue: ‘I hope [China] will become even stronger, so that in the future no-one will bully us, like your country did a hundred years ago.’ But what is China really planning for the 21st century?
In this issue we have sought to answer this judiciously. There are more than enough ‘red scare’ stories in the Western press that treat this nation of over one billion people as a monolith. But nor should the prospect of a nationalistic superpower with a powerful betrayal narrative fill internationalists with much hope.
Also included is a moving cartoon history of the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war and, in the Long Read, gay women from Equatorial Guinea vividly and unflinchingly tell Trifonia Melibea Obona their experiences of forced motherhood and ‘family values’.
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