China has long been idolized by many countries in the developing world as a power that champions the rights of the oppressed masses in global forums. They see it as a counterweight to many Western countries that had colonized them decades ago.
This is certainly the image that China sought to project to the world during the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Leaders from many developing countries showed up in Beijing to show their solidarity with China, even though they only had one or two athletes competing in the games.
China is a self-declared people’s republic. Major decisions are made in the Great Hall of the People. The army is called the People’s Liberation Army. Even the party organ is called People’s Daily.
Despite all this egalitarian rhetoric, he is open to debate as to how much the voice of the people is actually heard. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rules the country with an iron fist. When Mao Zedong’s Communists took power in 1949, they were ushering in a revolution led by the peasants, continuing the Marxist doctrine that the workers would take over the affairs of the state and create a dictatorship of the proletariat.
According to Marx, the majority class would direct the affairs of the state, as opposed to the minority capitalist class. The socialist state would treat everyone equally, ultimately giving to everyone according to their needs. Eventually, the state would wither away.
It has been 72 years since the CCP took the reins of power, but there is no sign that everyone is being treated the same, let alone that the state is withering away. Opposing voices are drowned out wherever they arise, not just the voices of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
How did things come to a sorry pass? Will things change? Professor Cai Xia, in a test Posted in Foreign Affairs, provides a long answer. A shorter test appears in The Economist. His views have been widely quoted in periodicals such as The Guardian.
Cai explains how the Communist Party of China under Mao created an authoritarian state similar to what Stalin created in the Soviet Union and how President Xi, who has ruled China since 2012, transformed himself into a larger-than-life figure. Mao mold.
Professor Cai Xia taught at the CCP’s Central Party School, once headed by Xi himself. Cai has published four books and over a hundred journal articles. She was born into a peasant family that took an active part in Mao’s revolution. Cai grew up as an ardent admirer of the president and was fully committed to implementing his philosophy.
Over the years, she grew in stature, becoming a central part of the CCP apparatus. It was then that she began to see the contradictions between what the party adopted and what the party did. Much to her chagrin, she discovered that only one point would be accepted in party sessions, and that point would be the one that the party chairman proposed. It was only late in her life that she learned of the Great Famine under Mao’s rule and the massacre of civilians in Tiananmen Square in 1989. She was appalled by the treatment meted out to Dr Li Wenliang in Wuhan who had given early warning of Covid19.
Xi’s early statements had given him hope. He seemed to suggest that change was in the air and that China was moving towards a liberal democratic arrangement. When this turned out to be a pipe dream, Cai began to criticize the party for its lack of openness and tolerance towards dissent. At that time, she became the butt of ridicule. In 2019, she was forced to flee for her life and has been living in the United States ever since.
Cai said that the CCP’s transformation of China from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy was indeed impressive, but it hid some ugly realities. The “only Chinese way” has violated human rights. She warns: “People all over the world should not be misled by its outward appearance. The reality is that Chinese society is fragile because of the country’s one-party dictatorship, and adopting democratic practices would strengthen it.
Sounding the alarm, Cai said the one-party system portends “disaster for China’s development and human society”. His claim is that the CCP uses rapid economic growth to maintain internal stability. The ultimate goal is to create a “rich country, strong military” that can rival the United States and become a global hegemon.
To prosper in the long term, Cai argues that China must follow the general trend of freedom and democracy in the world: “However, the one-party system is fundamentally opposed to freedom and democracy. This is not only a huge obstacle to China’s development, but a catastrophe in terms of civil liberties.
In chilling detail, she cites how the CPC “confiscates scholarly work published abroad and prohibits discussion of foreign scholarly ideas. Some universities don’t even allow foreign language departments to use foreign language textbooks. This cut off from the achievements of human civilization will undoubtedly block the knowledge and intellectual horizons of Chinese youth, and make it more difficult to cultivate creative thinking. As a result, China will not have the talent it needs to lead in the future.
We learn that drafting documents for the Central Committee is a highly confidential process: “My colleagues and I were prohibited from leaving the premises or receiving guests. When the propaganda department called a meeting, those who were not invited were not allowed to ask questions about it.
Xi’s Thought receives the high status accorded to Mao’s Thought when the Red Book was published during the Cultural Revolution.
Cai raised some very troubling questions about Chinese governance. As long as the CCP is in power, it will never open up to general elections like those of a liberal democracy and will prevent China from becoming a constitutional democracy commensurate with its economic position in the world.
It is assumed that Prime Minister Imran Khan is all too painfully aware of China’s failures. This is why his conception of the welfare state seeks to marry the Chinese economic system with the democratic values and Islamic norms of Sweden.
While such a hybrid state combining the best features of three diametrically opposed systems can be postulated in theory, it may prove impossible to achieve in practice. No wonder then that Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan remains a distant dream, and perhaps an illusion.