This is the third column in a three-part series by Alex Lo. Read part two here . Why is Carl Schmitt so popular among academics and ideologists in China today? On one level, it’s quite obvious. The German legal and constitutional theorist was a staunch defender of sovereignty and the principle of non-interference, the very diplomatic principles that have guided China since its economic opening up. And he did it with a highly sophisticated anti-liberal philosophy that is being studied, more than ever, in Western universities. Also, just to get our terms straight. He was a liberal in the 19th century British economic sense of the word, that is, for free trade and the free market. But he was anti-liberal in the Anglo-American political sense in that he opposed its universal claims for political or democratic freedoms and human rights. He would have approved of China’s market reforms and political authoritarianism. Most Western critics of Schmitt and China stop here, and are happy to claim the two sides are made for each other in their totalitarianism – one was a Nazi and the other communist/authoritarian/fascist/you name it. Of course, their own liberal-biased ideological beliefs prevent them from seeing at least some validity to Schmitt and China’s objections to the liberal international order and the conflict and chaos it has caused, mostly in developing and poor countries since the second world war. There is a widely held historical narrative that the principles of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of early modern European states – after the Thirty Years War of the 17th century – led to constant wars among themselves. But Schmitt argues their frequency belies their limited nature, as opposed to the total wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, and those of the 20th century. Some more predictions about a looming Chinese-American war The “cabinet wars” of the 18th century were limited because they were fought over territories, dynastic claims, trade or kingly egoism. They weren’t primarily religious or ideological. The combatants were, in a sense, morally on the same level. Schmitt is most famous for his claim that the friend and foe distinction defines the very essence of politics. But for him, a foe need not be morally bad, and an ally morally good. Therefore, the European states didn’t have to demonise and then try to annihilate each other because one side was evil and the other unquestionably good. Likewise, allies might join one side or the other without having to blame and demonise each other. There is no doubt that his interpretation was coloured by the Treaty of Versailles, which assigned war guilt exclusively to Germany. But he would have been appalled by the hypocritical way Anglo-American governments almost always demonise an enemy before starting a war. This also creates the inconvenience that they always have to paint their allies as righteous and angelic when many may well be worse than the enemy. In our world today, the most convenient way to demonise an enemy – before invading or interfering – is to apply the “universal” liberal values of human and democratic rights to them. Its application is seen as superseding sovereignty and territorial integrity. For Schmitt, every modern ideology is a form of “political theology”, a secularised way of redefining good and evil. The language of human and democratic rights is no different, just the contemporary Western way of saying “me good, you evil”. Here, we should consider the early work of Wang Huning, a member of the central government’s Politburo Standing Committee. As the brain behind Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents and Xi Jinping Thought, he should rightly be considered China’s philosopher king, though he is usually referred to as China’s chief ideologist in the West. What I find is that like Henry Kissinger, Wang’s earliest academic work when he was just another professor of politics was the most intriguing. It was not an accident, according to his early thesis, that the rise of universal human rights regimes and doctrines coincided with Western decolonisation and the worldwide independence movements in all major places previously colonised by the Western imperialist powers after the second world war. Just as the poor, exploited and colonised peoples followed and began to realise the Western or Westphalian principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity by gaining independence, the West has moved on to new international political principles to justify its continuing dominance and interference by appealing to the universalism of democracy and human rights – and unspoken, their moral superiority. I don’t know if Wang was thinking about Schmitt, but he was definitely thinking about Marx. In Capital , Marx has argued Britain, righteously, turned against globalised slavery, of which it was the predominant trader, exactly when it was industrialising into a fully developed capitalist economy. It was much easier to squeeze profits out of wage earners than slaves in the new economy. And their working conditions were not necessarily better, perhaps even worse, than slaves. Consider how many wars and invasions the US had launched since 1979, the last time communist China fought a war If you think Wang’s thesis is fanciful, consider the International Criminal Court (ICC). After its previous chief prosecutor announced a probe into war crimes possibly committed by US soldiers, the Trump administration duly imposed sanctions on the prosecutor, her family members and her most senior ICC colleagues. The Biden administration has reversed the sanctions, but added the ICC really shouldn’t proceed with the probe. Guess what? The new prosecutor has now announced the priority of his investigation will focus on the Taliban while the United States’ case will be put on the back-burner. The guy clearly got the message from Uncle Sam; he just couldn’t drop a decade-long, multimillion dollar investigation. But of course, people will forget about it over time. The ICC has been criticised for going after tinpot Third World dictators, especially from Africa, but rarely anyone from the West. Surely we know US leaders and soldiers and their Western allies would never commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. Just ask the elite Australian Special Air Service. Consider how many wars and invasions the US had launched since 1979, the last time communist China fought a war. It’s obvious to me which country is more warlike, though it’s not obvious to many people I know, for reasons Schmitt and his Chinese followers have explained. It’s at least worth thinking that Western democracies, but especially the US and its English-speaking allies, are more prone to starting war and manipulating their publics into it, rather than preventing it. If there is a looming war between China and the US, I should think the Chinese fear it a lot more than the Americans.