China’s Ruler Intensifies Personality Cult As He Consolidates Power, Accelerates Aggressive Militarism

Commentary, Government, Ian Madsen

So far this year several new centres of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” have been established. The current total of such fonts of wisdom and scholarship is 18. They usually specialize; in the ‘rule of law’, the economy and other topics. Hefty tomes credited to the Chairman of the Communist Party of China, ‘CCP’, are promoted to the public, schools and government employees. His words enter Party policy statements and official law.

Chairman Xi’s image and activities are common fare in Chinese media. He is dutifully cited on major issues and important events. At the last Party Congress in 2018 the two-term limit on the presidency was eliminated. He is nearly certain to be ‘elected’ to a fourth term next year, blocking other Party apparatchiks from promotion, so he must redouble his efforts to sideline potential opposition or rivals.

One such possible source of opposition is the tech oligarchs, the founders or top executives of massive social media and information technology companies such as Alibaba, Ten Cent, Didi Xuching, Byte Dance and online tutorial companies. Chinese regulators nixed the global share offering of Alibaba’s financial technology unit, Ant Group, after Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, made derogatory remarks about state laws and oversight. The others suffered from new rules constraining the companies from raising capital or listing on foreign stock exchanges. The online tutorial companies lost their right to seek profits.

The tech bosses have scrambled to placate the Forbidden City, pledging billions of dollars of donations for underdeveloped communities. They hope to meet Mr. Xi’s goal of ‘common prosperity’, making them less of a target. The CCP‘s ‘anticorruption drive’ initiated by Beijing, has, at its core, the goal of sidelining or eliminating rivals to Xi’s rule and orthodoxy. With all these actions, Chairman Xi has warned Chinese corporations to not step too far out of their narrowly sanctioned channel of activity.

1930’s European fascism included persecution of ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities; similarly Chairman Xi favours the dominant Han ethnic group over Uyghurs, Tibetans, Korean, Mongolians, Hui and Dai; the secular over Muslim, Christian, Falun Gong or devout Buddhist; Mandarin over all other languages. Han citizens pour into minority regions, overwhelming them. Forced assimilation and internment for those insufficiently loyal, or secular are well documented. Xi’s regime has also imprisoned non-minority Han opponents or critics, and even abducted them abroad.  

China’s aggression against neighbours, such as India, Bhutan, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines are well known, but less so are its ambitions and expansionist aims in Central Asia. It also uses overkill in trade and other disputes with Canada, Australia and the United States and even Lithuania. It is growing its military massively, adding many missile launching sites. It sponsors angry nationalist propaganda in its national media. The long list of despotic actions and policies shows that Beijing intends not just total internal subjugation, but seeks to do so globally.

Failure to bow to China’s rhetoric and threats will bring severe economic repercussions, and it has implied even worse military ones. The danger the current Beijing leadership presents, personified by Chairman Xi (who has even made the image of Winnie the Pooh, used to mock him, illegal) is real. His retirement or removal will not end the danger, but might signal a more neutral, benign policy in the future.  

Yet, wishing such change is near-futile. Instead, all who cherish freedom should try, however hard it is, to minimize links, dependency and vulnerability to this evil, hostile, expansionary regime. Winston Churchill and others warned of the fascist military dictatorships of Central Europe in the 1930’s, but were unheeded, and the result: horror and catastrophe. China’s might makes its threat today worse.

 

Ian Madsen is a senior policy analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Photo by zhang kaiyv from Pexels.