In the days that followed the storming of the Capitol, the world’s media debated the impact this would have on America’s reputation, if Trump should be impeached, removed from social media and if the Republicans, the party of Lincoln, had any future.
Trump’s shameful tenure of the great office he holds is now at a close and this week he was impeached for a second time. American democracy has and will prevail, its battered institutions will heal and the county’s engagement with the world will renew.
The outgoing president, a product of a morally degraded entertainment industry, will of course linger, and his followers’ betrayal persist but his legacy will be one of personal bombast, narcissism and abject policy failure. In a few days, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as 46th president and America will begin again.
Yet, just as the West fixated on the next chapter in this, America’s appointment-to-view tragedy, something wholly more sinister and enduring was occurring in Hong Kong last week. As the cops in DC finally repelled an anti democratic mob objecting to the outcome of a free election China was rounding up and interning 53 activists for the temerity of hosting one.
This was hardly a one off event. The same country that incarcerated these young non-violent activists has constructed concentration camps to impose forced labour on one million Uighur Muslims from Xinjiang province as well as pursing comprehensively documented sterilisations, torture, surveillance and repression of the Uighur people and culture.
Last week, on the eve of the Hong Kong arrests, the EU signed up to a new unilateral investment agreement with China that barely acknowledged the existence of, and didn’t propose any sanctions relating to, this mandated incarceration of minorities.
Perhaps improbably, it is the modern British Conservative Party that is now at the vanguard of opposition to the Chinese Communist Party policy of 21st century gulags. Nothing in years has united the Tory party firmament, from Lord Patten to Iain Duncan Smith, as much as the contents of the report from the party’s Human Rights Commission published this week.
It is impossible to deny the appeal of the macabre theatrics of Trump’s end days in the White House but perhaps as the transition from his presidency to Biden’s occurs is it too much to wish that commentators might focus less on comparisons between our Prime Minister and Trump and avert their attention from Western populists to the intensifying threat from China.
If they do perhaps we will finally know that we have learnt the defining lesson of the last century and not let an undemocratic dictatorial nation trample all over our Western freedoms. Let’s hope it’s not too late.