The American presidential election did drag on, didn’t it? I followed it, more or less, all the way from Iowa and New Hampshire, a year’s hard campaigning, longer than most modern wars, and all for a result that in the end was never really in doubt except for a few precious moments after that first debate.
So, you have got to hand it to the Chinese for getting the important matter of choosing a leader, for the next 10 years too, out of the way so quickly and efficiently. No primaries for Mr Xi, no debates, no trudging round swing states, no addressing crowds of ordinary people, no hanging around in diners and pretending to be a regular Joe. Oh no. Mr Xi, he different. Very different.
Mr Xi emerged, fully formed, from his chrysalis, to an immediate standing ovation. Who chose him, and how was he chosen? Both of these questions are matters for expert Sinologists, but I think it is fair to speculate that the group who did the choosing is probably smaller than the College of Cardinals and less representative.
We live in a democratic age, and yet no one seems to be in the least cross that the leader of the world’s most populous country has no democratic mandate whatever. More people voted for the least significant parish councillor in Great Britain than voted for Xi. But when Mr Cameron (as he surely will) goes to China he will continue the tradition of sucking up to the Chinese leadership first pioneered by Edward Heath. But Mr Xi ought to command no respect. He ought to be an international pariah. He presides over a monstrous tyranny that, among other things, forces women to have abortions, and persecutes Christians. But that will cut no real ice with our Government, sadly.
One thing that does cut ice in popular terms is the continuing Chinese oppression of Tibet. And rightly so. When the Chinese leadership pays a return visit, I hope that the Friends of Tibet will be out in force, demonstrating in a way that they could never do in China itself or indeed in Tibet. Let us remember that China is the world’s largest colonial power, holding Tibet against its will. This is something that you do not hear the British Government talking about much.
If the British Government does not have much time for the Dalai Lama, a man who commands far more popular support than any Chinese leader, it has no time at all for one Chinese leader who has actually been elected by Chinese people in a free and fair election (unlike Xi). I mean, of course, President Ma of the Republic of China (Taiwan), who in 2008 was elected with seven and a half million votes, which represented 58 per cent of the total. Ma’s mandate is rather more impressive than Xi’s, yet as far as Britain is concerned, Ma does not exist, and should anyone attempt to acknowledge Ma, Xi and his people will be very cross. In fact, the diplomats of the People’s Republic of China make considerable efforts to persuade everyone of the non-existence of Taiwan, a successful, prosperous and democratic Chinese state – one where Christians are free to practise their faith.
So, forgive me if I do not rejoice at what many term (without apparent irony) the “anointing” of Xi. When I think of the President of China, I think of Ma. At the risk of sounding like someone who is unutterably attached to lost causes, I say God bless and prosper the people of the real Republic of China, Taiwan. And may God deliver the people of Tibet from tyranny!