Chinese President Xi Jinping is a confounding, if not mysterious, figure in the landscape of global politics. While he has been credited with immense growth of the Chinese economy, analysts have pointed out that the debt-inducing methods by which China’s Communist government have produced economic gains is not sustainable. Meanwhile, the vision of urban Chinese society as ultra-modern belies the system of mass surveillance and Orwellian social systems put in place to establish submission to the party with an iron fist.
It’s difficult to gauge just how favorable or unfavorable the Communist government in China is, mainly because those who speak out against the party are punished in various ways. Soon, a social credit system will rank citizens, by essentially monitoring their criminal history and, more importantly, their compliance with and loyalty to the tenets of the Communist party. This system will dictate virtually every facet of a Chinese citizen’s life, from their ability to receive a loan to which school their child will be permitted to attend. But a more overt system of keeping dissent at bay has been in place for quite some time, even if the state-owned media outlets are prevented from reporting the extent of crackdowns on critical speech.
China has waged an all-out war on the notion that a free flow of ideas from the West is an unstoppable force. By resorting to often-disingenuous justification for prosecuting citizens, shutting down social media accounts of critics, or employing state-loyal citizens to issue death threats and carry out general harassment against those critics, the government is constantly fighting against opposing ideologies. They simply wear down dissenters until they can’t fight the good fight any longer. And these aren’t exclusively Joe Nobodys who are falling victim to the uncompromising Communist stranglehold on the flow of ideas.
A well-known property tycoon, Ren Zhiqiang, was slapped with a year of ‘probation’ because he publically criticized President Xi’s edict that loyalty to the Communist party should be of the utmost for all media outlets.
‘In February, President and party leader Xi Jinping visited the official Xinhua News Agency, the party-controlled People’s Daily newspaper and state broadcaster CCTV. At each place, he stated that absolute loyalty to the party is the media’s highest priority.’ (SFGate)
Declaring that somebody is on probation in China seems like a formality considering the near-constant state surveillance, no?
Regardless, should Zhiqiang step outside of the party line again, he could be ‘expelled’ from China permanently. But this punishment can be considered mild compared to other punishments doled out by the government to those with less of a personal profile than Zhiqiang, for whom a harsher punishment would attract more widespread, intense foreign media attention.
Consider the case of Xing Shiku, a petitioner who has been detained against his will at a state-owned psychiatric facility since 2007 because he continually filed complaints to the government which brought attention to corruption and labor violations. It’s thought that Shiku hasn’t just been detained, but subjected to likely intense psychiatric treatments under the guise that Shiku suffers from schizophrenia, a state-levied diagnosis. Doctors at the hospital have said that he does not, in fact, suffer from schizophrenia. Then there’s the state’s reliance upon capital punishment, which many believe is a tool further abused in enforcing the state’s ruthless political agenda.
All of this is to illustrate the reality that the Chinese Communist government is far from Homecoming Queen among its citizens. When they have to routinely resort to such control systems, there’s a strong likelihood that the state, as it currently stands, could not survive for long on its own merits. This reality informs the announcement that a proposal put forth by the state would end the cap on presidential terms, allowing Xi Jinping to remain in power indefinitely.
Despite China technically being a one-party nation, election fraud is far from unheard of, another indication that the party must do everything in its power to not only remain, but appear legitimate by squashing domestic criticism. However, the appearance of legitimacy is a futile undertaking, and the proposal by the government to further consolidate their power by eliminating term limits once again reinforces the valid impression that the government is quite obviously one maintained through fear, not the favor of its people.
Xi’s second term is set to expire in 2022, and with the Communist Party having determined that he is the strong, singular captain that they have long sought to steer their ship, they are seeking to ensure that he doesn’t face any opposition, whether from political foes or Constitutional limits on his power.
In Communist China, what the party wants goes. Approval of this proposal is merely a formality. Which means that the Chinese people and foreign actors will have to get used to Xi’s brand of strong-armed Communist policies remaining for the indeterminate future. Xi will be 69 in 2022, but a young 69 by outward appearances.
And, because the Chinese government is a hodge-podge of overt and behind-the-scenes decision makers, it’s clear that Xi is merely a tangible affirmation that the Communist Party isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. With their tools of crackdown and oppression more ubiquitous and powerful than ever, the party’s demise isn’t even on the foreseeable horizon.