This week in Say More, PS talks with Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, a former EU commissioner for external affairs, and Chancellor of the University of Oxford.
Project Syndicate: You’ve long urged liberal democracies to come together to “defend their belief in a global order based on credible international agreements and the rule of law.” And you recently wrote that the AUKUS security agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States represents a positive and necessary step forward. But you say this “should not be the last agreement between like-minded powers to counter Chinese aggression.” What should come next?
Chris Patten: In the security arena, the AUKUS submarine deal is precisely the sort of agreement liberal democracies might want to pursue, with the objective of constraining Chinese military aggression in the Indo-Pacific region. The only aspect of that deal with which I take issue is the rather ham-fisted way in which it was negotiated. France was blindsided by the news that such a deal had been reached – and, thus, that a multi-billion-dollar submarine contract it had been negotiating with Australia was off the table. French sensibilities should have been considered during both the negotiation of AUKUS and the subsequent discussions fleshing out the agreement.
China’s neighbors and the world’s liberal democracies should also be cooperating beyond the security arena, in order to protect and enhance the global order and the international rule of law. We can start doing this within the frameworks of existing international organizations. For example, in the World Trade Organization, we should work collectively to press China to honor its agreements. In the United Nations agencies – such as the UN Human Rights Commission – we should again try to mobilize support for condemning Chinese serial violations of its obligations under international law.
We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Patten's picks:
by Amartya Sen
This is the best book I’ve read this year. Written by a great Nobel laureate economist and political philosopher, it demonstrates the stupidity of arguing that those with a profound sense of international obligations and relationships are “citizens of nowhere.” In this brilliant memoir, Sen demonstrates that he is not only a good man, but also a wise and generous adviser to decent people everywhere.
by Tom Holland
I read with great interest this history of the Julio-Claudians, which tells the story of the regime in Rome after the fall of the Republic. The book demonstrates, once again, the wisdom of Cicero’s arguments regarding the importance of checks and balances and the corrosive effect that aggressively defended wealth has on society. In fact, Cicero’s insights are remarkably relevant to some of the major problems we face today.
by Stephen Vines
This is a brilliant – though dispiriting – account of the Chinese communists’ efforts to dismantle Hong Kong’s freedoms, and their vengeful campaign against advocates of democracy, such as Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai. While this book is inevitably depressing, it is also extremely well written and provides important insights into the CPC’s behavior. What the CPC does is bad, and its leaders are bad, too. We should not shy away from saying that bluntly.