China’s ex general secretary, Hu Jintao, coined the buzzwords “scientific work style” and “socialist construction process” in the Communist Party of China (CPC). His persistence—lasting ten years from his mandate—signified at least two important things: the absence of a linear and transparent method of working, and the unacceptability of a tradition that was, in fact, “not scientific.” His words unveiled a problem larger than the diplomacy of adjectives: the inextricable conflict of private interests, illegal accumulations of wealth, and violations of the law that have accompanied China’s extraordinary development. The current leader, Xi Jinping, was more prosaic: corruption and nepotism are the most serious and difficult to eradicate evils. Growth brought certain inevitable maladies with it, but it is now time to head towards a better conception of power and governance. Clashes were inevitable following this position; the Bo Xi Lai incident represents only the tip of the iceberg. In reality, innumerable positions hide behind the apparent homogeneity of the Central Committee, which are certainly dictated by ideology but also in relevant measure by personal interests. Paradoxically, the CPC’s secretary—the man everyone believes to be the second most powerful in the world—has restricted margins to maneuver. He is a synthesized leader and needs to continuously mediate, and seek alliance that might only last the length of a morning. Xi governs the country, but doesn’t call the shots. China’s present complexity forces him to be prudent, furthermore denying him Mao or Deng’s charisma. The CPC lives in blatant and dramatic contradiction: if he insists on a “scientific work style,” devoid of illegal aspects, the country risks dissolution because the physiology of the irregularities could become pathological. Policies attempting to reform the organization could backfire.
The ordeal of Chinese enterprises overseas—unique in China’s thousand-year history—is a clear example. The contradiction is striking: they were supposed to bring the best Chinese entrepreneurs to the world, but they frequently flounder in unfamiliar international rules they don’t want to learn. If the work style frequently criticized by the CPC asserts itself in China, it’s obviously contrasted beyond the Great Wall. Work ethic and respect for the law—the moral principles on which democratic societies were built—cannot be compromised to special or corporate interests. This is why Chinese investments overseas often end up in financial or judicial newspapers.
Italy can do something to intercept Chinese investments with respect to the law: indulge Beijing’s willingness to clean house, put it to the test, and improve the business climate within the country. Thereby lending support to renewal because it’s China that denounces its own defects. The best solution is to collaborate with the healthiest forces: forces of labor, progress, law, and international norms. Respecting the law is not just a problem for the courts and law enforcement. The indecent warehouses in Prato must be fought in the name of civil conscience, democracy and respect for labor. If [Italy] still remembers reconstruction, conquests, healthy entrepreneurship, and intelligent and respectable work, it must equip itself better to fight opposing values. If Italy continues like this, it won’t attract the best of China. Submitting to violations in the name of benevolence toward China is a poor, unacceptable, and shortsighted excuse. It won’t help China or partner nations. It will continue to nurture a business environment that impoverishes rather than enriches. At the same time, Beijing needs to select its most valid representatives and keep in mind that its history’s most luminous moments were those of sacrifice, work, resistance, and peace. It won’t be easy for either country. Very little was done and, more importantly, a lot was conceded. In any case, hope remains and, as always, it’s up to institutions to not neglect it, rendering it weaker.