“In China, engineers are in charge; in the West, the financiers”

Does the digital age make us freer?.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
22 May 2023 Monday 16:24
23 Reads
“In China, engineers are in charge; in the West, the financiers”

Does the digital age make us freer?

Do you still believe that digital utopia that the internet within everyone's reach meant the end of totalitarianism and that each individual would have more freedom from the State...?

I'm afraid not.

The pandemic has served us to verify that states have never had so much power and so much technology and means to exercise it.

For the good common?

The evidence is that states –democratic or not– have been able to confine us through coercion and surveillance to millions of citizens –whether we wanted to or not– day and night for months “for our own good”.

Don't you think China has been worse?

In China it has been shown that the Internet has not put an end to the Leviathan State and totalitarianism, as the delusionals believed in the 90s, but that it is a State strengthened by its mastery of technology to dominate us.

What has the digital age achieved?

The digital world is no longer divided between totalitarian and democratic states as in the cold war. Everything is more diffuse.

Neither democracies nor totalitarianisms are as much as is believed or what they were?

And there are also no communist parties in Western democracies, as there were in the cold war, that support the Soviet Union or China with their votes.

Why is everything more diffuse?

Because China, the rival in the new cold war, is no longer totalitarian, but authoritarian.

Define "authoritative."

Well, it's not a democracy at all, but it does have a free market and any Chinese can leave the country whenever they want.

My neighborhood is full of Chinese working.

Instead, no one could leave the Soviet Union even if they wanted to.

And if you crossed the wall they would shoot you.

You only have to take a train in Shanghai to see that they have improved people's lives. And it's not that I'm pro-Chinese: I just confirm that China is not the USSR.

But there is a mandatory single party.

And if there was a war and China invaded Taiwan, all that fuzzy division between them and us today would suddenly end and there would be just one huge Chinese jail. But now, in reality, our democracies are more like China than we realize.

In what?

Today's China is as technocratic as our democracies. Here and there they send specialists under the orders of politicians. But the Chinese are more pragmatic...

In what sense?

Our politicians are sent by bankers and financiers; Chinese politicians, on the other hand, are sent by engineers. In our democracies, those who really rule are the central bankers, private bankers, economists, financiers...

Don't Chinese politicians govern thinking about money?

It is part of the equation of power, but not the decisive one. They send thinking about bridges, trains, roads, houses... China in many aspects is still a big factory. For better and for worse.

Today the Chinese say that the ideological struggle of yesteryear is already technological.

And who will win it, those who make and sell things or those who make and sell debt to buy it? Who will have the logic of force in their favor to impose the other?

Can there be democracy without money to finance it?

Everyone talks about democracy, but in reality its globalization is much more recent than that of the nation state. And it has a more fragile success in the world than the institution of the nation state, which is already unquestionable in the world.

Is the State, an unquestioned universal institution, in better health than democracy?

The states of the 21st century are formidable machines that are increasingly powerful and, in effect, accepted as the only possible way to organize ourselves, to force people to do what they do not want. Will we still be democracies in 50 years? Don't know...

Don't scare me.

But I am sure that we will continue to be nation states. That is why the independence of Scotland would have changed the United Kingdom more – which would have been reformed from top to bottom – than Brexit has changed.


Because the British institutions do not work and Brexit has only reinforced the falsehood that they do work. They are anachronistic.

You are a political scientist viscount...

I have inherited a noble title without doing anything to deserve it, if it is a merit.

Why hold it then?

I only inherited a man who amassed political and financial power. And with it he bought hereditary symbolic power.

Did you know how to choose your family at birth?

There are still inherited powers here: this is still Great Britain.