China: government and governance 2020-August 2022

Written by  //  August 30, 2022  //  China, Government & Governance  //  No comments

China: government and governance 2016-20
China

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

30 August
Ai Weiwei: Why Xi’s ‘united front’ is vital to the artificial concept of a ‘Chinese nation’
(WaPo) Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a major speech in Beijing late last month at a conference on United Front Work.
The speech’s unifying principle seemed vaguely to be ethnic, linguistic or cultural. But its main point, barely hidden, was to build fealty to the Chinese Communist Party.
Despite its successes, the CCP has been plagued by a lack of confidence, for at least two reasons. One is a profound uneasiness about its right to rule. This is a long-standing problem, both unavoidable and insoluble. The CCP presents itself to the Chinese people and to the world as the legitimate representative of a nation and its people, but its leaders know that the Chinese people did not choose the party.
China sets date for party congress at which Xi will get rare third term
Pandemic, economy and Taiwan overshadow Xi’s desire to start a third term in triumphant mood.
(Politico) On October 16, China’s ruling Communist Party will hold a high-level meeting at which President Xi Jinping is all but certain to be given an exceedingly rare third term at the helm of the world’s second-biggest economy.
The once-every-five-year congress will also likely see a partial reshuffle of the party’s supreme governing body, the seven-strong Politburo Standing Committee, even though Xi has centralized a great deal of power — crucially on economic matters — over the last decade.
This year’s meeting will also definitively mark a departure from the post-Mao era doctrine of collective leadership, designed to prevent the emergence of personal cults at the top.
‘It’s getting extremely hard’: climate crisis forces China to ration electricity
Forest fires, droughts and heatwaves across the country is forcing provinces to reduce power consumption

27 July
Leaked Data Show China’s Population Is Shrinking Fast
Yi Fuxian
Because China has always massaged its demographic figures and cracked down on anyone who challenges the official line, there are endless debates about the true size and growth trajectory of the country’s population. But a recent, large-scale data breach offers some sorely needed clarity.
Unexpectedly rapid aging is slowing China’s economy, reducing revenues, and increasing government debt, with provinces cutting civil servants’ wages and infrastructure investment this year. Clearly, the population base that supported China’s strategic expansion is gone. Will China adjust its strategy and seek better relations with the West, or will it follow Russia in desperately trying to undermine the global order? The first option is obviously in the interest of both China and the West, which is also facing an aging crisis that will require it to pursue a strategic contraction. The second is a surefire formula for prolonged decline.

21-22 July
China’s banking crisis draws fresh scrutiny as economic slowdown highlights emerging risks
China’s banking regulator is pressing ahead with ‘risk disposal’ at small- and medium-sized banks to protect public savings
A rural banking scandal, which has drawn rare protests, has highlighted latent financial risk facing China’s slowing economy
(SCMP) China’s small- and medium-sized banks account for nearly a third of total banking assets in the world’s No. 2 economy, but have over time built up substantial risks, according to the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC).
In an effort to deal with the problem, the commission is carrying out a regulatory clamp down on equity and connected transactions, with a focus on shareholders and executives who have swindled money from small banks, CBIRC spokesman Qi Xiang said.

China plans ‘great efforts’ to consolidate economic recovery
(Reuters) – China will make great efforts to consolidate its economic recovery particularly in the crucial third quarter, putting a priority on stabilising employment and prices, state media reported on Friday after a regular cabinet meeting.
The world’s second-biggest economy narrowly missed a contraction in the second quarter, growing just 0.4% year-on-year, weighed down by COVID-19 lockdowns, a weak property sector and cautious consumer sentiment. The government has set a 2022 growth target of around 5.5%.

14 July
A rural banking crisis is brewing in China
(Quartz) On Sunday (July 10), angry comments flooded the Weibo page of the US embassy in China, urging Washington to pay attention to a banking scandal. The comments came from depositors whose funds have been frozen in village banks, some of which are indirectly controlled by a city-level government in Henan, a central Chinese province. The same day, protests staged by nearly 1,000 depositors in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan, were crushed by authorities.
Despite the crackdown, Henan authorities agreed the following day to repay deposits totaling 50,000 yuan ($7,434) or less. Frozen deposits exceeding that amount will also be repaid eventually, the authorities said, although they gave no timeline for this process.
This solution may be far from enough to contain a spreading banking crisis. According to affected depositors, the total funds frozen could amount to tens of billions of yuan from tens of thousands of citizens. To cover all these deposits will strain already tight local government revenues, which have shrunk due to declining land sales. More worryingly, the incident showed the mounting pressure that China’s small and regional lenders face in a slowing economy.

21 June
China’s mental-health crisis is getting worse
Covid lockdowns and constant surveillance probably do not help
(The Economist) It is no surprise that demand for psychotherapy is increasing in China. Take the residents of Shanghai, who recently suffered through months of lockdown. Now they are free to move about, but still constantly tested for covid-19, with a positive result landing them in an isolation centre. If the virus is not causing enough anguish, there is also the struggling economy. China’s youth-unemployment rate has shot up to 18.4%. Don’t complain too much, though, lest the state take notice. Censorship, surveillance and oppression, on the rise ahead of a Communist Party congress later this year, add to the anxiety.

9 June
China COVID jitters flare up as parts of Shanghai resume lockdown
(Reuters) – Shanghai and Beijing went back on fresh COVID-19 alert on Thursday after parts of China’s largest economic hub imposed new lockdown restriction and the city announced a round of mass testing for millions of residents.
The most populous district in the Chinese capital, meanwhile, announced the shutdown of entertainment venues, while news of the lockdown of Shanghai’s Minhang district, home to more than 2 million people, pulled down Chinese stocks.

26 May
The Economist newsletter: How Xi Jinping is damaging China’s economy
For the past 20 years China has been the most reliable source of growth in the world economy, contributing a quarter of the rise in global GDP over that period. Its success has for the most part been powered by pragmatism, as the ruling Communist Party mixed market reforms with state control. Now, however, China’s economy is in danger.
The first problem is the zero-covid policy. More than 200m people have been living under pandemic restrictions. Many are sleeping on factory floors so they can keep working, but industrial output has dipped and for the full year China may struggle to grow faster than America for the first time since 1990. Western vaccines are still banned, some 100m Chinese over the age of 60 are not yet triple-jabbed, and the zero-covid policy looks set to continue into next year. Since it is associated with Xi Jinping, China’s leader, criticism of it is regarded as sabotage.
The second problem is Mr Xi’s ideological approach to economic policy. His aims are rational: to tackle inequality, monopolies and debt, and to ensure that China dominates new technologies and is fortified against Western sanctions. But his strategy is to expand the scope of the least productive part of the economy—the government-run one—while buffeting the private sector with fines, regulations and purges.

10 May
In Shanghai, covid is revealing cracks in the authoritarian system
(WaPo editorial board) China’s draconian approach to the coronavirus outbreak in Shanghai is moving beyond just a public health emergency. It is also becoming a challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the Communist Party’s long-standing claim that its authoritarian system is the key to stability and prosperity.
Initially, the plan in Shanghai was to smother the virus fast with a two-part city lockdown. That failed and was abandoned. The authorities then shut tight the entire metropolis of 25 million, saying it would be for just a few days. Six weeks later, it remains in place — and thousands of daily new cases are still being reported. Although the totals are declining, it is still not zero. What’s more, the lockdown has created a severe disruption to global supply chains. Public patience is exhausted, and faith in the party’s ability to govern has eroded. There have been scenes of food rotting in piles while people nearby were hungry, a person stuffed into a body bag while still alive and nightly protests, with people banging pots from balconies.
3 May
China’s Doomed Fight Against Demographic Decline
Beijing’s Efforts to Boost Fertility Are Making the Problem Worse
(Foreign Affairs) China is aging fast. In 1978, the median age of a Chinese citizen was 21.5 years. By 2021, it had risen to 38.4, surpassing that of the United States. If China continues along its current trajectory and follows the rest of East Asia in descending to ultra-low fertility rates, its median age could rise to over 50 by 2050.
China’s rapidly aging society and plunging birth rate poses a host of challenges for its leaders, including a shrinking number of young workers and an increasingly unstable pension system. Beijing is steadily pivoting toward pro-natalism as a strategy to mitigate these risks. In 2016, the Chinese government scrapped its harsh one-child policy, and in 2021 it began introducing policies aimed at actively encouraging childbearing. The experience of China’s East Asian neighbors, however, indicates that such measures are unlikely to succeed in raising fertility rates. And the Chinese Communist Party’s re-embrace of traditional gender norms under General Secretary Xi Jinping is likely to turn the clock back on women’s rights by decades and exacerbate root causes of China’s cratering birth rates.
Beijing should halt its ideological pivot against women, and instead move to address the consequences of rapid aging by raising retirement ages, reforming pension systems, and rethinking immigration practices to allow foreign labor to assist with eldercare—particularly for China’s rural poor.

25 April
Mass testing hits Beijing amid fears it could face Shanghai-style lockdown
(WaPo) Local news reports and videos showed road closures and apartment buildings sealed off with metal fencing as authorities imposed “targeted lockdowns” in neighborhoods found to have positive cases. Long lines of residents waiting to be tested could be seen throughout Chaoyang district.
The extreme measures taken in response to relatively few cases reflect the government’s unease over the more transmissible omicron variant, which has broken through China’s strict border controls and quarantine measures and tested its previously lauded handling of the pandemic.
Officials in Beijing are under even more pressure to make sure the politically important city does not become a repeat of Shanghai’s lockdown, marred by food shortages, clashes with authorities and seething citizens venting their frustration on and offline.

31 March – 10 April
Shanghai residents question human cost of China’s COVID quarantine
(Reuters) Shanghai is doubling down on the quarantine policy, converting schools, recently finished apartment blocks and vast exhibition halls into centres, the largest of which can hold 50,000 people. Authorities said last week they have set up over 60 such facilities. read more
These steps, including sending patients to quarantine sites in neighbouring provinces, have been greeted by the public with a mixture of awe at their speed and horror over conditions, prompting some Shanghai residents to call for home quarantine to be allowed.
The Economist argues that extreme restrictions in China’s financial hub indicate a failure of policy. Residents in Shanghai say the lockdown has been nothing short of a mess. The chaos will test the government’s “zero-covid” strategy.
A clumsy lockdown of Shanghai is testing the “zero-covid” strategy
Short of food and medicine, residents of China’s financial hub are growing angry
The Finance section looks at the impact Omicron is having on China’s economy. Analysts have had to turn to unconventional indicators for a timely take. The outbreak is also part of a toxic mix of recession risks that could hit global growth.
Shanghai Seethes in Covid Lockdown, Posing Test to China’s Leadership
(NYT) As the coronavirus races through Shanghai, in the city’s worst outbreak since the pandemic began, the authorities have deployed their usual hard-nosed playbook to try and stamp out transmission, no matter the cost. What has been different is the response: an outpouring of public dissatisfaction rarely seen in China since the chaotic early days of the pandemic, in Wuhan.
Shanghai is in the fourth day of a two-stage lockdown
Lockdowns on residents in the east were set to lift on Friday
Authorities say they will lift curbs in stages instead
Shanghai’s western districts will be locked down on Friday
(Reuters) – Shanghai is set to put the vast majority of its residents under COVID lockdown from Friday, as it expands curbs to include the western half of the city and extends restrictions in the east where people have already been forced to stay home since Monday.
The Chinese commercial hub, home to 26 million people, is on the fourth day of a 10-day lockdown that was to cover the city in two phases, with first the east and then the west entering lockdowns of five days each.

8 March
China’s city elites wake up to scale of trafficking after chained woman shows human side of age-old crime
(SCMP) Artists, poets, lawyers and netizens expressed shock about the plight of rural women sold to men and anger over authorities’ failure to protect
‘Unmarried men are seen as a source of instability … respecting women’s rights and safety are not something that concerns the Party’: human rights researcher

25 February
China’s chained woman scandal: public anger persists as investigations, censorship ‘raise more questions’
The efforts to draw a line under the case have seen junior officials punished and the media censored but people are continuing to ask questions
Journalists and activists say the authorities have failed to address concerns about human trafficking or the woman’s fate
(SCMP) The punishment of 17 officials in China’s eastern Jiangsu province over a woman found chained up in a hut in Xuzhou city has failed to quell public anger over the handling of the case.
“Although the latest government statement was very long and dealt with punishments for a lot of people, this affected mostly lower ranking officials,” said Fang Kecheng, assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a former journalist with Guangzhou-based liberal newspaper Southern Weekly.
The woman’s plight came to light last month when video footage of her with a chain around her neck, apparently kept there by the man she was married to, went viral.
Authorities initially denied that the woman, who is mentally ill and has eight children, was a trafficking victim.
However, they contradicted this in a later statement that said she was trafficked from the southwestern province of Yunnan and twice sold as a bride in 1998, ending up with a man surnamed Dong.

31 January
George Soros: China’s Challenges
President Xi Jinping intends to use the Beijing Winter Olympics as an opportunity to tout the superiority of his model of authoritarian rule. But the regime’s careful preparations have required covering up problems that can no longer be obscured.
(Project Syndicate) The year 2022 will be a critical one in the history of the world. In a few days, China – the world’s most powerful authoritarian state – will begin hosting the Winter Olympics, and, like Germany in 1936, it will attempt to use the spectacle to score a propaganda victory for its system of strict controls.

3 January
Top Risks 2022
By Eurasia Group president, Ian Bremmer, and chairman, Cliff Kupchan.
#4 — China at home
An increasingly burdensome “zero-COVID policy” (see Risk #1) and President Xi Jinping’s reform plans will unsettle markets and companies in 2022. Xi’s vision of technological self-sufficiency, economic security, and social harmony — to “make China strong” — will collide with intensifying pushback from the West, an exhausted growth model, an overleveraged and unbalanced economy, and a rapidly aging population — and at a time when COVID variants continue to circulate.

RISING CHINA: President Xi Jinping is seeking an unprecedented third term at a leadership meeting this year, further cementing his hold on the world’s second biggest economy. Xi has been cracking down in both China and Hong Kong, while pushing his mantra of “common prosperity,” reining in the country’s big companies and billionaires. What does this all mean for still-strained U.S. ties, and for Taiwan, an island democracy that Beijing considers its territory? Key reading:

2021

11 November
China passes history resolution to enshrine open-ended rule of Xi Jinping
(NYT) A high-level meeting of China’s Communist Party on Thursday declared President Xi Jinping’s undisputed rule of “decisive significance” for the nation, affirming Xi’s iron grip as he prepares for a near-inevitable third term that would extend his rule until at least 2027.
“Establishing comrade Xi Jinping’s position as the core of the Central Committee and the core of the whole party . . . was of decisive significance in advancing toward the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” top officials said at the end of a four-day conclave, or “plenum,” in Beijing that passed a new ruling on party history.
The decision to write a resolution on the “major achievements and historical experience” of the party’s first 100 years makes Xi only the third leader after Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping to adjudicate on the past.
Does Xi Jinping’s Seizure of History Threaten His Future?
The struggles of the first century of Communist Party rule are being buried by the need to cohere around what Xi calls “the great rejuvenation” of China.
(The New Yorker) At a secretive conclave this week, China’s Communist Party is busy excising the unwanted chapters of its history. The resulting portrait—which may shape the future even more than the past—will be enshrined in a pronouncement with a title that leaves no doubt about its emphasis: “The Resolution of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on the Major Achievements and Historical Experiences of the Party’s Hundred-Year Struggle.” …
Earlier this year, an official volume known as “A Short History of the Chinese Communist Party” was revised to limit discussion of the Great Leap Forward, Mao’s calamitous social and political campaign, which resulted in the worst famine in recorded history. (The previous rendering of the Great Leap Forward carried the admonition “This bitter historical lesson shouldn’t be forgotten.”) The revised history also removed a candid assessment of the Cultural Revolution, the decade of bloody chaos that Mao set in motion in 1966. In an article published in September in the journal China Quarterly, Patricia Thornton, a specialist in Chinese politics at Oxford, observed that the official history of this turmoil had been “replaced with an account that restricted its focus to highlighting various industrial, technological and diplomatic advances.”
At the moment, outside analysts see no major threat to Xi’s power, but the history of the Chinese Communist Party casts doubt on the prospect of a simple, certain future. “After all, since 1936 there has been only one peaceful transition of power within the Chinese Communist Party, and that was in 2002, when Hu Jintao, designated as heir by Deng Xiaoping, took over the reins as Party General Secretary from Jiang Zemin,” Barmé said. Far more often, the pressures of ambition and factionalism within the Party have given rise to sudden bids for power and dominance.
The more Xi closes down the routes for advancement, dissent, and individual success, the more he risks fostering a kind of political sepsis—a volatile, sometimes fatal, rot from within. It is a lesson contained in the past, but one has to be open to seeing it.

20 September
‘Chairman of everything’: Xi Jinping prepares to rewrite Chinese Communist Party history
James Griffiths
(Globe & Mail) Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top leaders will meet in Beijing next month for a closed-door summit expected to underscore Mr. Xi’s firm grip on power as the country faces economic uncertainty and growing tensions with the West.
At the meeting of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, officials will discuss a “key resolution on the major achievements and historical experience of the party’s 100 years of endeavours,” state media reported this week. Such historical resolutions have only been adopted twice before. Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping both used them to consolidate power and remake the party as they envisioned it.
Mr. Xi is expected to defy precedent and secure a third term as leader during the party congress next year. He has already done away with the collective leadership and consensus-based policy making pursued by his predecessor, Hu Jintao. And he has largely sidelined Premier Li Keqiang and taken on so many roles that he has been dubbed “the chairman of everything.”
In August, writer Li Guangman argued that “a monumental change is taking place in China.” The previously little-known blogger’s article was widely republished by state media, including the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, indicating at least tacit support for his arguments at high levels within the party.
… This is all occurring in “direct response to an increasingly fraught and complex international landscape,” he continued, “and a direct response to the savage and violent attacks that the U.S. has already begun to launch against China.”
Such “wolf warrior” rhetoric was also included in the announcement of the coming historical resolution, a reference to China’s new, assertive style of diplomacy, noted Patricia Thornton, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Oxford.

13 September
For Xi Jinping, Chinese online culture is increasingly seen as a threat
As Chinese youth spend more time online and craft their identities in virtual spaces, governance and efforts to control their conduct have grown accordingly.
Rui Zhong, program associate for the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States.
(Globe & Mail) At the start of September, China introduced a heavy-handed ban on online video games. Chinese children under the age of 18 are not allowed to play games on weekdays; on weekends and holidays they can only play for a single designated hour in the evenings. It’s just one of a spate of new policies targeting the internet and entertainment sectors. In 2021, this has manifested in the censoring of university LGBTQ group social media accounts, the shutdown of K-pop fan accounts, the banning of “effeminate” men from all media, and the digital deletion of celebrities. The end goal? To prevent any threat to China’s stability and shut down anything or anyone seen as culturally deviant – as determined by President Xi Jinping.

17 August
China faces threat in volatile borderlands after Afghanistan falls to the Taliban
(WaPo) The militants’ stunning rout of the Western-backed government in Kabul is likely to reignite debate in Beijing over its security policy in Xinjiang, a hot-button issue that has drawn sanctions from the United States and Europe.
Muslim ethnic minorities make up a large part of the population of Xinjiang, and Chinese authorities have long been suspicious of their loyalties. Some hard-liners in the vast region abutting Central Asia have expressed the wish for an independent homeland, a stance strictly forbidden by Beijing, and the region has experienced sporadic terrorist attacks
Chinese officials signaled their interest in Afghanistan’s future late last month, when Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted senior Taliban officials in Tianjin.
At the meeting, Wang demanded that the Taliban sever ties with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a separatist group that Beijing has blamed for attacks in Xinjiang.
… Now, Beijing faces the potential of renewed radicalization to its west, and questions of how to manage Xinjiang, a resource-rich region more than twice the size of Texas with a population of 25 million. A renewed ramp-up of Chinese security forces in Xinjiang would probably prompt an international outcry, after the documented human rights abuses and ethnic discrimination of the last campaign.
China also faces the prospect of an influx of Afghan refugees.
… Chinese officials worry about the prospect of Afghanistan becoming a haven for Islamist militant groups, including ETIM. In 2016, Kyrgyzstan said Uyghur militants were behind a suicide bomb attack on the Chinese Embassy. Islamist extremists have asserted responsibility for several incidents of violence against Chinese workers in Pakistan, and in 2017, the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad issued a warning of “imminent attacks” to citizens.

14 August
Xi Jinping’s assault on tech will change China’s trajectory
It is likely to prove self-defeating
(The Economist) Chinese regulators have mounted over 50 actions against scores of firms for a dizzying array of alleged offences, from antitrust abuses to data violations, costing investors around $1trn. Mr Xi’s immediate goal may be to humble tycoons and give regulators more sway over unruly digital markets. But the Communist Party’s deeper ambition is to redesign the industry so as to sharpen its country’s technological edge while boosting competition and benefiting consumers. In this, it echoes many of the concerns that motivate regulators and politicians in the West: that digital markets tend towards monopolies and that tech firms hoard data, abuse suppliers, exploit workers and undermine public morality. China is about to become a policy laboratory in which an unaccountable state wrestles with the world’s biggest firms for control of the 21st century’s essential infrastructure.

6 August
Why the Quad Alarms China
Its Success Poses a Major Threat to Beijing’s Ambitions
By Kevin Rudd
(Foreign Affairs) By March of this year, when the Quad held its first leader-level summit and issued its first leader-level communique, Chinese officials had begun to view the Quad with growing concern. Since then, Beijing has concluded that the Quad represents one of the most consequential challenges to Chinese ambitions in the years ahead.
As “strategic competition” with China has become a rare point of bipartisan consensus in Washington, Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken to warning that his country faces a “struggle over the future of the international order” with a United States determined to thwart China’s rise. Xi believes that Beijing has an opportunity between now and 2035 to make China the world’s top economic, technological, and potentially even military power. Integral to this push is persuading countries in Asia and around the world that Chinese dominance is inevitable and that, accordingly, they have no option but to start deferring to Chinese demands. That would enable China to begin rewriting the rules of the international order—and entrench its global leadership position—without ever having to fire a shot.

26 July
Online Tutoring in China Was Booming. Then Came a Dramatic Shift in Regulations.
(EdSurge) China’s ballooning edtech market is suddenly deflating thanks to new government restrictions on lucrative private tutoring companies that serve millions of the country’s children.
In mid-July, China’s government issued new regulations that drastically limit for-profit tutoring services and prohibit foreign investment in Chinese private education companies, reports Reuters.
The new rules restrict both tutoring services and the profits they generate. They limit online lessons to 30-minute sessions; impose a tutoring curfew of 9 p.m; and prohibit instruction during weekends, holidays and school breaks. Companies that offer private instruction in core subjects will have to register as nonprofits and will no longer be able to raise investment capital through IPOs or advertise their programs.
There seem to be multiple motivations for the policy shift. State-sponsored news sources describe the moves as a way to ease the pressures children feel and the financial burdens parents face in a society that prizes intense pursuit of academic achievement. That rationale fits with a suite of new policies the Chinese government has recently issued to encourage couples to have more children and therefore reverse the country’s declining birth rate.
But the crackdown on edtech also seems in line with another recent pattern in China—of a government seeking to “exert more direct influence over the private sector,” according to New York Times coverage from earlier this summer. This “clampdown on tech” has coincided with the resignation, detention and even disappearance of leaders of some leading Chinese internet companies.

23 July
Xi Jinping should take the Zhengzhou floods as a warning from China’s history
Philip Ball
The country’s perilous waters have made or broken past leaders. The climate crisis will only make things worse
(The Guardian) China’s continuing obsession with huge hydraulic projects shows that the Communist party remains as determined as ever to claim the “mandate of heaven”. The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze, opened in 2003, is as much a showcase of state power as it is an exercise in flood control and hydroelectricity generation.
This, then, is why the flooding of Zhengzhou will cause alarm in Beijing beyond the economic damage and loss of life. It serves as a reminder to Xi Jinping’s administration that the consequences of the climate crisis, which will make extreme weather events more frequent, could shake the foundations of the Chinese state. The travails of China’s past give its leaders better reason than most to appreciate how such problems could provoke deep social unrest.
China floods: thousands trapped without fresh water as rain moves north
Extreme rainstorms are continuing their path of destruction, dumping 260mm on the city of Xinxiang in just two hours

5 July
Unpacking The 100-Year History Of The Chinese Communist Party
NPR’s Ailsa Chang talks with historian Andy B. Liu of Villanova University about the mark it’s made on the country.
“From the beginning of the establishment of the PRC, the party had this kind of contradiction, right? It was this underground revolutionary Communist Party, but then it had to become a nation state to do all the things that all governments have to do, like fight wars, deal with international relations and build the economy. You could say the country has been successful again in national strengthening, kind of establishing sovereignty over its land – you know, some would say over land that does not belong to China – having a strong military, having a booming economy and so on.
They, for the most part, I think, have abandoned a lot of the early goals, let’s say the Mao years of reducing social inequality. Especially starting in the 1980s and 1990s under Deng Xiaoping, the party kind of put forth this idea that they would become much more of a technocratic party – right? – less invested in politics and much more invested in practical solutions to improving quality of life and growing the economy. Deng Xiaoping famously talks about how some people in China will have to get rich before the rest of the country gets rich. And inequality in China has consistently risen since the 1980s. So I think there’s been very much a sort of abandonment of those earlier collectivist ideals of everyone working together in a very egalitarian manner.”

2 July
In its 100 years, who has China’s Communist Party purged?
Political purges are a feature of CCP’s long history. Here are the stories of the most prominent insiders who fell from grace.
(Al Jazeera) From Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution to Deng Xiaoping’s Tiananmen Square crackdown and Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crusade, leaders of the CCP have not hesitated to take whatever steps they deem necessary to secure and remain in power.
From Peng Dehuai, the general who was tortured for opposing Mao’s disastrous economic policies, to Zhao Ziyang, the premier erased from history for seeking compromise with protesters when Deng favoured guns and tanks, and Zhou Yongkang, the ex-security chief who reportedly threatened Xi’s ascent only to get jailed for corruption – political purges are a time-honoured CCP tradition.

29 June – 1 July
Xi Jinping hails ‘irreversible’ rise of China at 100th birthday of Communist Party
Xi said the “era of China being bullied is gone forever” praising the party for uplifting incomes and restoring national pride.
(HKFP) In a speech which drew a line from the humiliation of the Opium Wars to the struggle to establish socialist revolution in China, Xi said the party has brought about “national rejuvenation” lifting tens of millions from poverty and “altered the landscape of world development.”
In a ceremony of pomp and patriotism, thousands of singers, backed by a marching band, belted out stirring choruses including “We Are the Heirs of Communism” and “Without the Communist Party there would be no New China” as maskless invitees cheered and waved flags in a packed Tiananmen Square.
A fly-by of helicopters in formation spelling ‘100’ — a giant hammer and sickle flag trailing — and a 100-gun salute followed, while young communists in unisons pledged allegiance to the party.
Xi’s speech braided the economic miracle of China with the longevity of the party.
Pay attention to the world leaders praising China’s Communist Party on its 100th birthday
As China celebrates the impact of the party on its own history, some foreign leaders are reacting, while others stay quiet. Their statements reveal patterns in China’s changing sphere of influence.
(Quartz) World leaders’ congratulations…illustrate the changing dynamics of a world in which China has become a superpower. The US and China now openly acknowledge that they are each other’s greatest threats, while Beijing has aligned more closely with countries that were part of the non-aligned movement during the Cold War,, including Egypt, South Africa, and several ex-Yugoslav states, like Serbia. China’s Xinhua state news agency has published a selection of reactions from the leaders of some of these countries:
Gwynne Dyer: Vulnerability marks 100 years of the CCP
The Chinese Communist Party is celebrating the centenary of its foundation tomorrow and most people in China accept the origin myth that justifies its dictatorial rule. China was a horrendously impoverished and unequal society in 1921, the official line says, and owes its current prosperity and freedom from foreign rule to the Communist revolution of 1949.
The implication, never stated explicitly, is that without the Communist revolution China would still be poor and vulnerable to foreign meddling. But Japan and Korea, which share the same basic East Asian culture, have per capita incomes three or four times higher than China’s, and they are also democracies.
… The trouble with Mao was that he really believed the sacred books. Russian Communists talked about “New Soviet Man” as a Platonic ideal. Mao spent 25 years actually trying to turn the Old Hundred Names into a Chinese version of that imaginary post-human species.
It was twenty-five years of political upheaval, bloodshed, famine and chaos: tens of millions were killed needlessly, and at the end China was just as poor as ever. Mao died in 1976, and it was 1980 before more sensible colleagues gained firm control of the CCP and began building a modern economy in China.
By then China’s East Asian neighbours, Japan and South Korea, were just coming to the end of their three-decade spurts of 10%-plus annual growth rates. China finally embarked on the equivalent process only in the 1980s.
Xi Jinping Casts Communist Party as China’s Savior on Centenary of Founding
Thousands of performers assembled on Tiananmen Square, and China’s leader spoke of “achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” ‘Listen to the party,’ thousands of performers shouted as the ceremony opened with a 100-gun salute.
(NYT) “For 100 years, the Chinese Communist Party has led in the Chinese people in every struggle, every sacrifice, every innovation,” the country’s top leader, Xi Jinping, said in a speech from a deck on the Gate of Heavenly Peace. “In sum, around one theme — achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
China’s Communist Party goes back to the future in centenary curtain-raiser
(SCMP) Xi Jinping’s leadership highlighted in three-hour show at the ‘Bird’s Nest’ National Stadium
Notable absentees include Xi’s two presidential predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao
The event was a curtain-raiser to the party’s centenary celebrations this week and presented key episodes in party history, from the anti-Japanese war to reform and opening up.
Xi did not address the event but his leadership was highlighted with a segment at the end extolling “the strong leadership of the Communist Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core” since 2012.
China’s Communist Party
(SCMP) The Communist Party of China gained power after it won the Chinese Civil War in 1949, founding the People’s Republic of China. Now, it oversees every aspect of life in the country, from the government and military to the economy and society.
China’s Communists Face Daunting Future as Party Marks 100 Years
President Xi Jinping looks stronger than ever, but succession questions and growing apathy among China’s youth are looming challenges
(Bloomberg) While hailing the party’s many achievements, including overseeing an economic miracle that transformed China into a global power in just a few decades, the [senior editor at a state-backed media outlet] also noted some worrying trends. Under President Xi Jinping, who in 2017 declared China “stands tall and firm in the East,” the party has upended presidential succession norms, clamped down on internal discussion and seen a rising wealth gap prompt more young people to embrace “lying flat” — effectively opting out of the rat race and adopting a minimalist lifestyle.
Australia: Beijing Threatening Academic Freedom
Chinese Students, Academics Harassed, Self-Censorship Common at Universities
(Human Rights Watch) Australian universities have failed to protect the academic freedom of students from China and of academics who criticize the Chinese Communist Party, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Pro-Beijing supporters and the Chinese government have also harassed and intimidated those who express support for democracy movements.
The 102-page report, “‘They Don’t Understand the Fear We Have’: How China’s Long Reach of Repression Undermines Academic Freedom at Australia’s Universities,” describes Chinese government surveillance of pro-democracy students from the mainland and Hong Kong in Australian universities. Students are broadly aware that such surveillance takes place, leaving them fearful. Many alter their behavior and self-censor to avoid threats and harassment from classmates, and being “reported on” to authorities back home.
“They Don’t Understand the Fear We Have”
In 2020, nearly 160,000 students from China were enrolled in Australian universities.
Students and academics from or working on China told Human Rights Watch that this atmosphere of fear has worsened in recent years, with free speech and academic freedom increasingly under threat. The Chinese government has grown bolder in trying to shape global perceptions of the country on foreign university campuses, influence academic discussions, monitor students from China, censor scholarly inquiry, or otherwise interfere with academic freedom.

17 June
One Hundred Years of Devastation
Brahma Chellaney
The Communist Party of China’s 1951 annexation of the water-rich Tibetan Plateau – the starting point of Asia’s ten major river systems – gave China tremendous power over Asia’s water map. In the ensuing decades, the country has made the most of this riparian advantage, but at an enormous social and environmental cost.
(Project Syndicate) On July 1, the Communist Party of China (CPC) will stage a patriotic extravaganza to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding. Among the achievements it will celebrate is the Baihetan Dam, located on the Jinsha River, on the southeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The dam will start operations on the same day.
The CPC loves a superlative. It is the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter, with the world’s largest foreign reserves. It boasts the world’s highest railway and the highest and longest bridges. It is also the world’s most dammed country, with more large dams than the rest of the world combined, and prides itself on having the world’s biggest water-transfer canal system. … The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest power station, in terms of installed capacity, and the Baihetan Dam is billed as the world’s biggest arch dam, as well as the world’s first project to use a giant one-gigawatt (GW) hydro-turbine generator. … All of this makes great fodder for CPC-fueled nationalism – essential to the party’s legitimacy. China often flaunts its hydroengineering prowess, including its execution of the most ambitious inter-river water transfers ever conceived, to highlight its military and economic might. (To be sure, there are also superlatives China will not be flaunting at its upcoming centenary – beginning with the world’s largest network of .)
The CPC’s 1951 annexation of the water-rich Tibetan Plateau – the starting point of Asia’s ten major river systems – gave China tremendous power over Asia’s . In the ensuing decades, the country has made the most of this riparian advantage. For example, by building on the Mekong, just before the river crosses into Southeast Asia, China has secured the ability to turn off the region’s .
But the CPC is failing to consider the high costs of its strategy, which extend far beyond political friction with neighbors. The party’s insatiable damming is wreaking environmental havoc on Asia’s major river systems, including mainland China’s dual lifelines: the Yellow and the Yangtze.Giant dams damage ecosystems, drive freshwater species to extinction, cause deltas to retreat, and often emit more greenhouse gases than fossil-fuel power plants. More than 350 lakes in China have disappeared in recent decades, and, with few free-flowing rivers left, river fragmentation and depletion have become endemic.The social costs are no less severe. For starters, given shoddy construction in the first three decades of communist rule, about 3,200 dams collapsed by 1981, with the 1975 Banqiao Dam failure alone killing up to 230,000 people.
… as its early dams age, and weather becomes increasingly extreme, catastrophic failures remain a serious risk.Moreover, dam projects have displaced an enormous number of Chinese. In 2007, just as China’s mega-dam-building drive was gaining momentum, then-Prime Minister Wen Jiabao revealed that, since the CPC’s rise to power, China had relocated 22.9 million people to make way for water projects – a figure larger than more than 100 countries’ entire populations. The Three Gorges Dam alone displaced more than 1.4 million people.
As China Scrutinizes Its Entrepreneurs, a Power Couple Cashes Out
China’s economy is on a tear. Factories are humming, and foreign investment is flowing in. Even so, the wealthy and powerful people atop some of the country’s most prominent companies are heading for the exits. Under the Communist Party’s top leader, Xi Jinping, nationalism has been resurgent in China, and the government has sought to exert more direct influence over the private sector.

21 March
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.

2020

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.

Leave a Comment

comm comm comm