Builder of a house of cards lauds solid foun­da­tions he sees in na­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS -


Michael Dobbs, au­thor of the suc­cess­ful House of Cards book and tele­vi­sion se­ries, said the West has spent too much time telling China how to run its political sys­tem.

It is time to step back from that, he said, adding that China never tells the West how to run its pol­i­tics.

There is no in­di­ca­tion, in fact, that China wants to re­make the rest of the world in its own im­age, he said.

The for­mer chief of staff and deputy chair­man of the United King­dom’s Con­ser­va­tive Party spoke in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with China Daily. He now sits as a peer in Bri­tain’s House of Lords.

Dobbs said he is ea­ger to help raise the level of un­der­stand­ing be­tween China and the UK, say­ing it is in­evitable for the coun­tries to some­times dis­agree in im­por­tant ar­eas, given that the world is chang­ing and China is grow­ing. There are bound to be points of fric­tion, just as when tec­tonic plates move, he said.

“What you do with that is, you an­a­lyze them and try to ar­rive at an un­der­stand­ing and con­clu­sion,” he said.

Dobbs is best known as the cre­ator of House of Cards, a novel pub­lished in 1989 that be­came a UK tele­vi­sion minis­eries that won two awards from the Bri­tish Academy of Film and Tele­vi­sion Arts.

Netflix made a US ver­sion, and the work has be­come short­hand for cor­rup­tion in­side Western political sys­tems.

Dur­ing Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s state visit to the UK in Oc­to­ber, Dobbs pre­sented the first edi­tion of House of Cards as a gift to Xi, on which he wrote a note read­ing: “Where we agree, let us re­joice; where we dis­agree, let us dis­cuss; where we can­not agree, let us do so as re­spected friends.”

Dobbs noted that China has be­come a ma­jor player in the world af­ter a roller coaster of change. The fu­ture of the West, whether the West likes it or not, is linked with what hap­pens in China, he said.

Be­cause of China’s geo­graphic and eco­nomic size, Dobbs said, any­thing that hap­pens there makes big­ger waves world­wide than al­most any other coun­try, and the rip­ple ef­fect is far greater than else­where.

“China is like a huge tanker and you do not turn a tanker around in a very short pe­riod. It takes time and it re­quires con­stant pres­sure on the tiller in or­der to turn that around,” he said.

When it comes to cor­rup­tion, a sub­ject on which Dobbs is an ex­pert com­men­ta­tor, he com­mends China’s ef­forts.

He said one of the rea­sons he praises much of what China is do­ing is that Bei­jing has set out a se­ries of steps and chal­lenges — cor­rup­tion be­ing one of them — in an ap­proach he calls “very sen­si­ble”.

On tak­ing of­fice in 2012, Xi vowed to crack down on cor­rupt “tigers and flies”, that is, both high-level of­fi­cials and lower-level pub­lic ser­vants alike. Last year, 336,000 peo­ple were pun­ished un­der Party dis­ci­pline rules, with 14,000 of them trans­ferred to ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to the Party’s Cen­tral Com­mis­sion for Dis­ci­pline In­spec­tion, the govern­ment body spear­head­ing the cam­paign.

One of the un­der­ly­ing prob­lems of cor­rup­tion in China is the huge dif­fer­ence be­tween the rich and the poor, Dobbs said, which en­cour­ages cor­rup­tion.

“Putting pres­sure in all those ar­eas over the long term should have a ben­e­fi­cial ef­fect. It is the sort of lan­guage and the sort of ob­jec­tive that I think is hugely help­ful, that is set out there very much in pub­lic,” he added.

Dobbs said an­other fac­tor that makes China in­spir­ing is a per­spec­tive based on a dif­fer­ent sense of time, par­tic­u­larly in tack­ling deep­rooted prob­lems.

“We have be­come very short-term in the West, and I would ar­gue in some cases very short­sighted, and that gets in our way. China is not like that,” he said.

Dobbs said that while he is a big sup­porter of Western cul­ture, “that does not mean to say that I close my eyes to some of the weak­nesses that we have, and stop look­ing for in­spi­ra­tion in how some other cul­tures deal with th­ese things. Some­times, in some ar­eas, they deal with it bet­ter than we do.”

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