This letter first appeared in the FT
Martin Wolf is right to point out that democracies need to get their own house in order if their populations are to maintain faith in liberal democracy (June 23). But it is hard to avoid a feeling that the article perpetuates the mistaken notion that political liberalisation in China will naturally follow from its increasing prosperity and integration into global trade.
The idea that engagement rather than confrontation is more likely to change China’s approach, or that it is up to the Chinese people alone to drive political change, might sound hollow to those in Hong Kong or Taiwan.
It may be right to say that the west should not be telling everyone else how to live. However, it is also true that, as individuals, we often choose not to do business with those whom we perceive to be untrustworthy or who have very different values. Europe risks falling into what US president Barack Obama called “Hollandisation”. The idea is that as long as it’s good for business, we don’t care about values and principles. Is that what the voting public wants?
It could be argued that it is precisely this abandonment of values in favour of purely financial considerations that is at the core of the rot of western democracies. As Wolf points out in his review of Mark Carney’s new book Value(s), there is an ever increasing need to “recognise the value of values”. That applies to countries and regions as much as it applies to individuals and businesses.
RADIX Centre for Business, Politics and Society, Amsterdam, The Netherlands