Yan Lianke: the world need not worry about the rise of China

By Javier Garcia

Beijing, Apr 17 (efe-epa).- Yan Lianke, one of the major voices of contemporary Chinese literature, considers the COVID-19 pandemic “a great disaster for humanity” that will bring radical changes in the world as we know it, and which should make us reflect deeply on what we are doing as a species.

Holed up inside his home in Beijing, 61-year-old Yan, who has had many of his books banned in the country, believes that China’s growing stature at the international stage should not worry the world as “throughout history, there have been relatively few cases in which China has invaded or assaulted other countries.”

Winner of the Franz Kafka Prize and a regular Nobel Prize candidate in recent years, the Chinese literary giant believes that now the discussion should not be around whether it is communism or capitalism which is better equipped to deal with such crises, but about how political power can be “used correctly to avoid disasters.”

– QUESTION: What are your thoughts about what the planet is going though now, with all the people locked in their houses?

– ANSWER: I think the current situation is very helpless. If people do quarantine well, the situation is going to get better. But I’m concerned that the conditions of isolation aren’t as good as we think. For example, the situation in places like India or Africa.

– Q: Is there any advantage to the world halting because of the pandemic?

– A: According to China’s experience, quarantine is useful for (controlling) the epidemic. That’s how it’s been in China over the last two months.

But I see no advantage in the fact that our lives have stopped, just as agriculture, science, technology, and education have. People’s lives have been greatly affected. It is a great disaster for humanity.

– Q: When all this is over, will there be changes or will we stay the same?

– A: The structure of human society will change after the epidemic. Scientists, sociologists and anthropologists have analyzed that when the epidemic ends in each country, the door, which was originally open, will be slightly closed. People must rethink whether the idea of a human community with a common future (a concept Chinese diplomacy is based on) is worth it.

– Q: Some believe that this pandemic will mean the end of capitalism as we know it. What’s your opinion?

– A: We should not discuss which system is better – capitalism or socialism. It is not a toss-up between both systems. People should think about how political power is used correctly to avoid disasters. Now in China, Europe and the US, power is focused on serving the people. But we have also seen that if power does not serve people but tries to lead them, problems will arise.

– Q: Many people in the West are afraid of China’s rise as a great world power, perhaps because of a lack of knowledge about the country.

– A: I want to talk about it from two points. First, China is not as strong as you think, it has a large population. It is a great economic power, but we have a population of 1.4 billion people and, on average, it is still a poor country.

The motto of a ‘great economic development’ is just propaganda. President Xi Jinping is still solving the problem of poverty.

If China really becomes a great world power one day, the world does not have to worry. Throughout history, there have been relatively few cases in which China has invaded or assaulted other countries. The cultural character of the country is marked by the people’s desire to live a calm and stable life. Its development should not concern other countries.

– Q: What effects will the pandemic have on your country? Will China close its doors further?

– A: Economically China wants to be more open, but that no longer depends solely on China for some reasons. For example, Europe and the US may decide to move their factories from China to other countries or develop their own industries. I think China needs to open up more, but it’s not going to be as easy as it used to be.

– Q: Mobile phones are being used in China and also in several Western countries to detect people’s movements during the disease. Can’t this pose a danger of greater control over the people?

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