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