China: government and governance 2020

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China: government and governance 2016-20

October 2019
How Mainlanders Suffer abroad
The very unique challenges that students and newly immigrated Mainland Chinese people suffer in the west…
The culture shock of overseas mainlanders and why other ethnic Chinese dislike them

Think Covid’s Messed Up Your Travel Plans? Try Getting Into China.
To keep the virus out, Beijing has enacted some of the world’s toughest border controls. Lives have been upended, and business has been disrupted.
(NYT) For the past year, people trying to go to China have run into some of the world’s most formidable barriers to entry. To stop the coronavirus, China bans tourists and short-term business travelers outright and it sets tough standards for all other foreigners, even those who have lived there for years.
The restrictions have hampered the operations of many companies, separated families and upended the lives of thousands of international students. Global companies say their ranks of foreign workers in the country have dwindled sharply.
At a time of strained tensions with the United States and other countries, China is keeping itself safe from the pandemic. At the same time, it risks further isolating its economy, the world’s second-largest, at a moment when its major trade partners are emerging from their own self-imposed slumps.
China was the only major economy to grow last year. It knows businesses will find a way to keep their Chinese operations running, with or without expatriates, and it is betting that they will come back when the pandemic eases. At the same time, China’s restrictions highlight the inadequacies of its vaccine rollout, which has been slow compared to those of the United States, Britain and other countries.

24 February
Baseless Imprisonments Surge in Xinjiang
Harsh, Unjust Sentences for Uyghurs, Other Muslims
The Chinese government has increased its groundless prosecutions with long prison sentences for Uyghurs and other Muslims in recent years in China’s Xinjiang region, Human Rights Watch said today. Since the Chinese government escalated its repressive “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism” in late 2016, the region’s formal criminal justice system has convicted and sentenced more than 250,000 people

23 February
China’s food security at core of Beijing’s new five-year rural-revitalisation plan
(SCMP via Yahoo!) China is placing greater emphasis on food security and self-reliance to feed its 1.4 billion people, according to its annual blueprint for rural policies amid the pandemic, with an emphasis on utilising new agricultural technologies.
The new plan puts a comprehensive revitalisation of the countryside at the heart of the national agricultural strategy in the next five years.
[See China: Xinjiang, Agriculture and the Uighur Population (Future Directions, May 2018]

22 February
Parliament declares China is conducting genocide against its Muslim minorities
The House of Commons overwhelmingly endorsed a motion to recognize that China is committing genocide against its Muslim minority, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet abstaining from the vote amid a nearly frozen relationship with Beijing.
The vote in favour of declaring Chinese atrocities in Xinjiang contravene the United Nations’ Genocide Convention passed by 266 to zero. The Conservative motion was supported by all opposition parties and dozens of Liberal MPs.

9 February
How Clubhouse (briefly) exposed China’s fear society
By Josh Rogin
(WaPo) For the past few weeks, the social networking app Clubhouse gave thousands of mainland Chinese citizens the opportunity to put their government to this test. Tragically, if not surprisingly, the Chinese Communist Party failed. On Monday, authorities moved to block the app and tried to erase all traces of its existence from the Chinese Internet. Even more troubling, those Chinese citizens could now be in real danger of government retaliation.
Thousands of Chinese citizens from all over got to hear each other (literally) over the past few weeks for the very first time. They joined chat rooms about music, movies and culture, but the most popular by far were those that discussed topics the CCP deems sensitive issues, such as Uighur atrocities, the Hong Kong crackdown and Taiwan. Exiled leaders of the Tiananmen Square student movement and dissidents like Ai Weiwei spoke directly to Chinese citizens. Uighurs and Hong Kongers and Han Chinese conversed honestly and for the most part respectfully about difficult topics.

2-3 February
Xinjiang’s Camps Enable Systemic Sexual Violence
A new report draws attention to rape and other abuses of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China’s large-scale internment camps.

‘Their goal is to destroy everyone’: Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape
By Matthew Hill, David Campanale and Joel Gunter
Women in China’s “re-education” camps for Uighurs have been systematically raped, sexually abused, and tortured, according to detailed new accounts obtained by the BBC.
According to independent estimates, more than a million men and women have been detained in the sprawling network of camps, which China says exist for the “re-education” of the Uighurs and other minorities.
Human rights groups say the Chinese government has gradually stripped away the religious and other freedoms of the Uighurs, culminating in an oppressive system of mass surveillance, detention, indoctrination, and even forced sterilisation.
The policy flows from China’s President, Xi Jinping, who visited Xinjiang in 2014 in the wake of a terror attack by Uighur separatists. Shortly after, according to documents leaked to the New York Times, he directed local officials to respond with “absolutely no mercy”. The US government said last month that China’s actions since amounted to a genocide. China says reports of mass detention and forced sterilisation are “lies and absurd allegations”.
The Uighurs are a mostly Muslim Turkic minority group that number about 11 million in Xinjiang in north-western China. The region borders Kazakhstan and is also home to ethnic Kazakhs.


24 September
Night Images Reveal Many New Detention Sites in China’s Xinjiang Region
China said it was winding down its “re-education” camps for Uighurs and other minorities, but researchers found evidence that incarceration is on the rise.
(NYT) As China faced rising international censure last year over its mass internment of Muslim minorities, officials asserted that the indoctrination camps in the western region of Xinjiang had shrunk as former camp inmates rejoined society as reformed citizens.
Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on Thursday challenged those claims with an investigation that found that the Xinjiang authorities had been expanding a variety of detention sites since last year.

17 September
China’s system of oppression in Xinjiang: How it developed and how to curb it
(Brookings) Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policies towards Xinjiang have increased colonial development, further eroded Uyghur autonomy through force and ethnic assimilationism, and co-opted the “Global War on Terror” framing to portray all Uyghur resistance as “terrorism.” Since 2016, an intensified regime of technologically-driven mass surveillance, internment, indoctrination, family separation, birth suppression, and forced labor has implicated the provinces and municipalities of eastern China that fund the Xinjiang gulag through the Pairing Assistance Program, as well as potentially thousands of Chinese and international corporations that directly and indirectly supply and benefit from the system. t.

15 September
Colin Robertson: Why it’s more effective for united democracies to ‘engage-and-constrain’ China than ostracize it
(CBC) The Chinese model of authoritarianism works. It has lifted billions out of poverty. Under Chinese Communist Party rule, China is restored as a great, even pre-eminent, world power. It has managed the pandemic better than others. But a democracy it ain’t. As for human rights — look how it treats Tibet, its Uighers, its dissidents, and now Hong Kong.
We in the West assumed that economic liberalization went hand in hand with political liberalization. We were wrong, a reminder that diplomacy requires us to better understand different histories and cultures.
Now we risk making another mistake in resurrecting the paradigm of the Cold War to address issues with China.
Decoupling from China,” as President Trump has tweeted, is wrong-headed.

4 September
Political Change in China Is Not Implausible
Dr. Jianli Yang , Founder and president, Citizen Power Initiatives for China
(Newsweek|Opinion) Opposition to China’s paramount leader, Xi Jinping, is increasing despite severe crackdown on dissenting voices. Intrusive security controls and surveillance, undue centralization of power, mishandling of unrest in Hong Kong, foreign relations flare-ups and now the coronavirus crisis have resulted in cracks in the armor of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). All this, especially now coupled with an economic downturn, has led critics to speak out against Xi Jinping—which could potentially snowball into major unrest against the communist regime.
According to the BBC, over 170 minister- and deputy minister-level officials across China were sacked, and many more were jailed under the charges of corruption, misconduct and violation of party discipline from 2012 to 2017. The scale of purging opponents has never been so massive since Mao Zedong’s rule. Between 1949 and 2012, in a span of 63 years, as many as 33 members (full and alternate) of the CCP’s Central Committee were disciplined. As the BBC has noted, though, Xi Jinping has overseen the biggest CCP purge in the history of communist China.

21 August
After Covid, China’s Leaders Face New Challenges From Flooding
Unusually heavy rains have wreaked havoc in central and southwestern China, leaving hundreds dead and disrupting the economy’s post-pandemic recovery.
(NYT) Having brought the coronavirus pandemic largely under control, China’s leaders are now struggling with a surge of crippling floods that have killed hundreds of people and displaced millions across the central and southwestern parts of the country.
Flooding on the Yangtze River peaked again this week, in Sichuan Province and the sprawling metropolis of Chongqing, while the Three Gorges Dam, 280 miles downstream, reached its highest level since it began holding water in 2003.
This year’s flooding has unfolded not as a single natural disaster, with an enormous loss of life and property, but rather as a slow, merciless series of smaller ones, whose combined toll has steadily mounted even as official reports have focused on the government’s relief efforts.

5 August

What the Potential Crisis on the Yangtze Means for China and the World
Dean Cheng, Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center
(Heritage Foundation) As if 2020 has not been sufficiently crisis-laden for the People’s Republic of China, it now faces the potential for major catastrophe due to massive rains.
For much of the past several weeks, central China has been inundated by massive rainstorms, which have generated the country’s third major flood for 2020. The massive runoff into the Yangtze has led to concerns that the Three Gorges Dam will be overstressed beyond its capacity to withstand the inflow.
These concerns were not allayed when the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that there had been “displacement, seepage, and deformation” (translated from “weiyí, shenliu, bianxíng”) in the dam structure. Although these threat indicators are reportedly within normal parameters, there is still fear that the dam will collapse.
The flooding of the Yangtze will have enormous effects in China and beyond, especially since the threat of dam collapse coincides with several other domestic crises.
… The current flooding has already led to 140 deaths and 2 million displaced persons as cities and towns along the Yangtze and its tributaries have been evacuated. Millions more have been affected as farms, mines, and other businesses have been hit by floodwaters.
The flooding has affected China’s economy, as businesses have lost inventory and production has been delayed. Similarly, transportation links across China have been disrupted, leading to not only local and regional but national repercussions.
Farther afield, the massive scale of flooding is affecting a range of supply chains. Deliveries of personal protective equipment from China, for example, may be delayed by as much as three weeks to a month, due to flooding of production centers as well as transportation links that would move equipment to shipping ports.
… The COVID-19 shutdown imposed on China led to a massive economic hit, including an unprecedented 6% drop in China’s gross domestic product. While this is not the fault of Xi per se, leaders of all political stripes typically get blamed for economic downturns and other economic problems such as unemployment and inflation.
For millions of Chinese, already facing economic hardship, to now have to evacuate due to flooding will only further stress the ability of the Chinese Communist Party to maintain order—and for Xi to maintain the aura of supreme leadership.

27 July
Communist Power Struggle to Take Down Xi Jinping (video)
China has been hit by the coronavirus, the US China trade war, massive flooding, and that could mean trouble for Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping. Years of internal power struggles and factional infighting are heating up as Xi continues an “anti-corruption campaign” to purge his political opponents in a faction tied to former leader Jiang Zemin, the mastermind of the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice. Xi is planning an upcoming purge of the PLAC, the Political and Legal Affairs Committee. But there’s also growing tension between Xi and Premier Li Keqiang over the Chinese economy. You know what this means? Another episode of General Hostilities!

25 June
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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