China: government and governance 2020

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China: government and governance 2016-20
China

Tibet: The CCP Launches a Campaign Against Prayer Flags
Nothing is more typical of Tibetan culture and religion than religious banners. They are now being taken down, village after village, as persecution of religion escalates.
It is difficult to imagine Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia, or Ladakh without prayer flags. Strings of small cloth banners with religious symbols and texts hang everywhere. They are part and parcel of the landscape, but for Buddhists, they are much more. They are sacred artifacts, believed to create peace and harmony. Their five colors—blue, white, red, green, and yellow—represent the five elements and the five wisdoms of Buddhism.
Devotees believe that the wind, by moving the prayer flags, will spread compassion and goodwill around, for the benefit of both Buddhists and non-Buddhists. For this reason, Buddhists do not mind when Westerners who believe in different religions buy prayer flags and use them in their homes. They only ask that these sacred objects be treated respectfully. They are not merely ornamental. When they are worn beyond repair, they should not be thrown in the garbage, but burned by paying attention to the fact that they should never touch the ground. In this way, Buddhists believe that their blessings will be carried by the smoke to the spiritual world.

14 April
The Chinese Communist Party’s culture of corruption and repression has cost lives around the world
By Irwin Cotler and Judith Abitan
(Globe & Mail) There is authoritative and compelling evidence that if President Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had intervened and reported on its coronavirus outbreak three weeks earlier, transmission of COVID-19 could have been reduced significantly around the world. One study, from the University of Southampton, even suggested transmission could have been reduced by 95 per cent.
For 40 days, Mr. Xi’s CCP concealed, destroyed, falsified and fabricated information about the rampant spread of COVID-19 through its massive state-sanctioned surveillance and suppression of data; misrepresentation of information; silencing and criminalizing of dissent; and the disappearance of whistleblowers – all of which reflect the breadth of criminality and corruption in the party.
Chinese Consulate Asked Wisconsin State Senate to Praise CCP for ‘Sharing Key Information’ about Coronavirus, Emails Show
(National Review) The head of the Wisconsin state senate recently received multiple emails from the wife of the Chinese Consulate-General in Chicago asking him to propose a resolution to praise China for its handling of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

4 April
Cleo Paskal: Time to practice social distancing from CCP
(The Sunday Guardian) How many times does CCP have to lie before we just say, ‘ok, they are liars’?
Miami: It’s time to practice social (and economic and political) distancing from Patient Zero of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
This global disaster has one origin, the nature of the CCP. I’ll explain. …
If we accept that the CCP lies, and seems to care more about its own survival than the health of its citizens (and those in the rest of the world), why does it have the right to set the agenda in, for example, the World Health Organization (WHO)?
While the CCP was lying about how contagious the virus is, non-WHO member Taiwan was trying to alert the world that person-to-person transmission was possible, something essential to know when crafting responses. That fact was a key component of Taiwan’s so far effective domestic policies, resulting in Taiwan being one of the few countries not in a total virus panic. If Taiwan was a member of the WHO, thousands of people might still be alive, and the global economy might not be in free fall.
The CCP similarly infects other international organisations, as it seeks to use them for narrow, and potentially dangerous, advantage. This isn’t a call to expel China from such fora, but rather to give its voice the credibility it deserves, while ensuring other voices that actually do realise that we are all in this together, such as Taiwan, can be heard.
Maybe with social, economic and political distancing, we can contain the dangerous contagion that close contact with the CCP inevitably engenders. And, if so, when the next crisis comes out of China, we will already have our protective gear in place.
Cleo Paskal is Non-Resident Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

3 April
China’s Coming Upheaval
Competition, the Coronavirus, and the Weakness of Xi Jinping

(Foreign Affairs) The United States has limited means of influencing China’s closed political system, but the diplomatic, economic, and military pressure that Washington can bring to bear on Beijing will put Xi and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) he leads under enormous strain. Indeed, a prolonged period of strategic confrontation with the United States, such as the one China is currently experiencing, will create conditions that are conducive to dramatic changes. …
During the multidecade competition of the Cold War, the rigidity of the Soviet regime and its leaders proved to be the United States’ most valuable asset. The Kremlin doubled down on failed strategies—sticking with a moribund economic system, continuing a ruinous arms race, and maintaining an unaffordable global empire—rather than accept the losses that thoroughgoing reforms might have entailed. Chinese leaders are similarly constrained by the rigidities of their own system and therefore limited in their ability to correct policy mistakes. In 2018, Xi decided to abolish presidential term limits, signaling his intention to stay in power indefinitely. He has indulged in heavy-handed purges, ousting prominent party officials under the guise of an anticorruption drive. What is more, Xi has suppressed protests in Hong Kong, arrested hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists, and imposed the tightest media censorship of the post-Mao era. His government has constructed “reeducation” camps in Xinjiang, where it has incarcerated more than a million Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities. And it has centralized economic and political decision-making, pouring government resources into state-owned enterprises and honing its surveillance technologies. Yet all together, these measures have made the CCP weaker: the growth of state-owned enterprises distorts the economy, and surveillance fuels resistance. The spread of the novel coronavirus has only deepened the Chinese people’s dissatisfaction with their government.
The economic tensions and political critiques stemming from U.S.-Chinese competition may ultimately prove to be the straws that broke this camel’s back. If Xi continues on this trajectory, eroding the foundations of China’s economic and political power and monopolizing responsibility and control, he will expose the CCP to cataclysmic change.
Since taking power in 2012, Xi has replaced collective leadership with strongman rule. Before Xi, the regime consistently displayed a high degree of ideological flexibility and political pragmatism. It avoided errors by relying on a consensus-based decision-making process that incorporated views from rival factions and accommodated their dueling interests. The CCP also avoided conflicts abroad by staying out of contentious disputes, such as those in the Middle East, and refraining from activities that could encroach on the United States’ vital national interests. At home, China’s ruling elites maintained peace by sharing the spoils of governance. Such a regime was by no means perfect. Corruption was pervasive, and the government often delayed critical decisions and missed valuable opportunities. But the regime that preceded Xi’s centralization had one distinct advantage: a built-in propensity for pragmatism and caution.
In the last seven years, that system has been dismantled and replaced by a qualitatively different regime—one marked by a high degree of ideological rigidity, punitive policies toward ethnic minorities and political dissenters at home, and an impulsive foreign policy embodied by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a trillion-dollar infrastructure program with dubious economic potential that has aroused intense suspicion in the West. The centralization of power under Xi has created new fragilities and has exposed the party to greater risks. If the upside of strongman rule is the ability to make difficult decisions quickly, the downside is that it greatly raises the odds of making costly blunders. The consensus-based decision-making of the earlier era might have been slow and inefficient, but it prevented radical or risky ideas from becoming policy.
Under Xi, correcting policy mistakes has proved to be difficult, since reversing decisions made personally by the strongman would undercut his image of infallibility. Xi’s demand for loyalty has also stifled debate and deterred dissent within the CCP. For these reasons, the party lacks the flexibility needed to avoid and reverse future missteps in its confrontation with the United States. The result is likely to be growing disunity within the regime.
Some party leaders will no doubt recognize the risks and grow increasingly alarmed that Xi has needlessly endangered the party’s standing. The damage to Xi’s authority caused by further missteps would also embolden his rivals, especially Premier Li Keqiang and the Politburo members Wang Yang and Hu Chunhua, all of whom have close ties to former President Hu Jintao. Of course, it is nearly impossible to remove a strongman in a one-party regime because of his tight control over the military and the security forces. But creeping discord would at the very least feed Xi’s insecurity and paranoia, further eroding his ability to chart a steady course.

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