Is Francis Fukuyama obsessed with China?

Events | | 23-10-2018, 08:20

Is Socialism making a comeback? This question is once again being debated by academicians with China being quoted as a successful example. Some scholars are so overwhelmed by China’s economic growth that they even predict about different types of Chinese models of global governance. 

Last week, George Eaton of Newstatesman has published an interview with Francis Fukuyama, the American political theorist, “who in 1992, at the height of post-Cold War liberal exuberance, wrote in The End of History and the Last Man: “What we may be witnessing… is the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Fukuyama said to George, “What I said back then [1992] is that one of the problems with modern democracy is that it provides peace and prosperity but people want more than that… liberal democracies don’t even try to define what a good life is, it’s left up to individuals, who feel alienated, without purpose, and that’s why joining these identity groups gives them some sense of community.” According to Fukuyama, he did mention about potential threats to democracy at the end of his book [The End of History] which his critics might have not read. 

According to Fukuyama, if socialism is just ownership of means of production then it is not going to work; if socialism means redistributive programs that try to redress balance between incomes and wealth then there is a possibility of resurgence of the socialist left in the UK and the U.S. He said of this type socialism, “I think not only can it come back, it ought to come back”. In his reasoning, he noted that “In social equality, it’s led to a weakening of labour unions, of the bargaining power of ordinary workers, the rise of an oligarchic class almost everywhere that then exerts undue political power. In terms of the role of finance, if there’s anything we learned from the financial crisis it’s that you’ve got to regulate the sector like hell because they’ll make everyone else pay. That whole ideology became very deeply embedded within the Eurozone, the austerity that Germany imposed on southern Europe has been disastrous.” “At this juncture, it seems to me that certain things Karl Marx said are turning out to be true. He talked about the crisis of overproduction… that workers would be impoverished and there would be insufficient demand.” Yet the only plausible systemic rival to liberal democracy, Fukuyama said, was not socialism but China’s state capitalist model. “The Chinese are arguing openly that it is a superior one because they can guarantee stability and economic growth over the long run in a way that democracy can’t… if in another 30 years, they’re bigger than the U.S, Chinese people are richer and the country is still holding together, I would say they’ve got a real argument.” But he cautioned that “the real test of the regime” would be how it fared in an economic crisis.”

According to the Eaton, Fukuyama is troubled by the potential for a U.S.-China war (“the Thucydides trap”, as Harvard academic Graham Allison has called the clash between an established power and a rising one). “I think people would be very foolish to rule that out, I can think of lots of scenarios by which such a war could start. I don’t think it would be a deliberate attack by one country on the other – like Germany invading Poland in 1939 – it’s more likely to come out of a local conflict over Taiwan, over North Korea, possibly a confrontation in the South China Sea that escalates,” Fukuyama said. 

A lot of media outlets and scholars are quoting this interview and Fukuyama’s reversion from its original position mentioned in his book, but no one has tried to analyze the context in which Fukuyama has said all this. He has defined socialism before making his claim on the return of socialism. It is the demand of academic integrating and sympathy towards the emotions of liberal democrats to rightly present the Fukuyama’s statements in their original context. Fukuyama’s socialism and his reference to China, does not indicate his favor of what Karl Marx wrote on socialism as a system and Fukuyama is not accepting socialism as a full package in its classic form. 

China is becoming powerful day by day and it is obvious that it will continue so for the next decade at least. I am confident that the Chinese are doing risk management and feasibility analysis on regular intervals as the Belt and Road Initiative is spreading its tentacles. 

I think that very soon, we will see Chinese’s foreign investment diverting from infrastructure development strategy to the community development strategy. We will soon see China invest in education, healthcare and other social sectors and this investment will direct the attention of its original investment in infrastructure. 

It can stem from two reasons. First, the Chinese are unable to gain the confidence of other states through their investments in infrastructures and the results are not promising by now. It is not because China’s government to government relations are progressing but there are renowned politicians, academicians and think tanks openly criticizing China’s investment strategies. These scholars have influence in academia and ultimately on the policy making process and their opinion cannot be ignored. I think that China’s foreign policy of non-intervention is not favoring it at this point because people are too critical of anything with which word “foreign” is attached and especially post-Cold War era has made their mind of not trusting anyone. How is it comprehensible that billions of dollars are being donated and loaned just because one country wants economic development in another country? China should respond to these reactions, while silence is not in its favor. 

Secondly, it is very important to observe dynamics of China’s domestic issues including its political leadership’s attitude towards sustaining the ongoing foreign investment strategy, situation of minorities highlighted by international media or China’s own citizens’ reaction towards converting China into a surveillance state. These tectonic plates can cause earthquakes whose effects can be felt around the world. The Chinese will definitely try to paint a better image in advance for the international community and community development projects in other countries can help them for portraying this image. 

If China’s investment strategy in future will be as I think, then there is no question of the return of socialism. How can China compromise on domestic socialism on the price of global socialism (by investing in international community development projects)? 

We also need to accept this reality that liberal democracy as a topic has saturated our academia. There were not many topics to write about for social scientists in general and particularly for political scientists, so as an alternative, we have a new lot of academicians whose bread and butter is to write against liberal democracy. Some of them who did not want to play more mental acrobats have decided to affiliate themselves with socialism as they have the example of an economically progressed country “China”. These scholars are continuously writing about the world in 2050 where China will be dominating power. And for this, they give credit to socialism on philosophical level. But I do not think that these scholars are demonstrating any academic integrity. They are treating U.S. foreign and economic policies as static in comparison to Chinese ones. I am sure that U.S. is also investigating China’s strategic ambitions, Chinese intentions to sustain the present global order or to introduce a new one, and possible counter-strategies if China seems to take a lead. 

I think that the more important question is to study the gradual change in China at all levels. Will Chinese political system favor its current economic policy by 2050? Or will we see a new Chinese economic policy shaping its politics? Either way, I do not think that socialism will survive in any of its classic forms. 



About the author:

Ammar Younas is currently attached with Tsinghua University School of Law Beijing China where he is specializing in Chinese Law. He also holds degrees in Political Marketing, International and Comparative Politics and Human Rights from Kyrgyzstan, Italy and Lebanon. Ammar is interested in Legal Philosophy, Philosophy of Human Rights, Politics of Religion and Artificial Intelligence. He also works with Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies Pakistan as a Visiting Research Fellow.