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The People's Republic of China at 70: The Final Insanity

October 7, 2019

The military parade and celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China have finally ended. As the boss of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping can finally breathe a sigh of relief. He managed to break the “Russell’s curse” that had haunted the CPC, dodging the 70-year expiration date that the great philosopher, Bertrand Russell, assigned to totalitarian regimes. This year's military parade spared no hard-earned resources to put on the most ostentatious display of strength. But the superficial pomp revealed an extreme lack of self-confidence: it turned what should have been a jubilant event to be enjoyed by all into almost a funeral, with preparations that harassed ordinary people in a paranoid frenzy as if guarding against enemies and thieves. This is the true picture of the enslavement and savagery that the CPC has inflicted on the Chinese people for 70 years.

The CPC's first 70 years can be generally divided into the Mao Zedong era, the Deng Xiaoping era, and the current Xi Jinping era (the eras of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao can be considered extensions of the Deng era). ]These eras have their respective characteristics and a trajectory of succession and evolution. As founder of a one-party dictatorial system, Mao turned all of China into a communist utopian experiment; it was an era of violence, fanaticism, poverty, and bloodshed. Confronted with the wreckage of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping rescued socialism in China by "rolling up the flag without taking it down," and implemented a governance model that called for economic reform while rejecting political reform. Through Reform and Opening-Up and the June Fourth crackdown, Deng remade the CPC and, along with a soaring economy, left behind a legacy of crony capitalism with overweening material desires and environmental destruction.

When Xi Jinping took power, the Deng era’s neo-totalitarian model with Chinese characteristics was already on its last legs, having created as many problems as it solved—pervasive corruption at every level of government throughout the country, rampant rent-seeking by those in power, income disparity, and widespread public outrage. Mao's Cultural Revolution and Deng's "lame duck" reforms were like two sides of the same coin, releasing all the worst in human nature and destroying China’s social environment. Xi had the choice of two roads to take: One was to follow the historical trend and the public sentiment of our time, drawing China closer to universal civilization, pushing forward political reform and solving the problems left behind by the Deng era. The other was to persist with one-party dictatorship, refuse to return political power to the people, embark on a historical backslide, and revert to the Mao era to solve the problems created by the Deng era. As a member of the Second Generation Reds, Xi chose the latter course. Public opinion has centered on his lack of education and paltry IQ, but it would be more accurate to say that after drinking the wolf’s milk of Party culture, the Second Generation Reds have become the freakish spawn of a fanatical era; with Mao as their spiritual godfather, they are intensely invested in keeping China Red.

Before taking power, Xi Jinping saw that the CPC was facing a crisis. As the successor of a Red regime, he took on the mission of defending it to spare himself the ignominy of being the last ruler of a fading dynasty. In Xi's own words, he had to do his shift properly, hoist thebanner properly, and safeguard the CPC family enterprise. This is the departure point for interpreting everything Xi has done since taking power. Xi started out by fighting corruption. After gaining his footing, he could have established his place in history by conforming to the historical trend and public sentiment by discarding Deng's one-sided reform model and pushing forward social transformation. Unfortunately, in order to defend the Red regime, he chose complete historical reversion, once again wheeling out Mao to serve as a tool of suppression, using heavy-handed methods to deal with domestic and diplomatic crises, and hurtling toward a dead end. He is now in a blind alley, at a point of no return.

There is a proverb in the West: Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. This is a depiction of the current situation in China. During a visit to Mexico in February 2009, Xi, then the Vice President, said that those in power would “not cause disturbances” among the people  (不折腾, bu zheteng). But once he took office, he has done just the opposite. Under his rule, he has  created a personality cult throughout the country, eliminated term limits, shut out dissenting voices, torn down churches, built concentration camps in Xinjiang, strengthened Internet blocking, used "high-tech totalitarianism" to enforce social control, and gone back-and-forth on the question of universal suffrage in Hong Kong. Furthermore, officials throughout the country, in order to please  Xi by demonstrating impressive achievements, have caused all kinds of trouble to ordinary Chinese people in the name of this and that campaigns of randomly changing policy that hark back the Mao era. The campaigns have included: expelling the “low-end” population, forcibly dismantling and digging up graves, converting from coal to natural gas, a “toilet revolution” that put up luxury-looking public toilets that are open only during day time and require users to show their IDs for access, and tearing down shop signs. And in a display of doomsday insanity, in the lead up to and through the National Day military parade and celebrations, all of Beijing was placed under a virtual martial law; people had to register their names to use public toilets; windows facing the street were covered with reflective paper; and people weren't allowed to leave their homes or, in some cases, couldn't even stay in their homes.

Wielding vast power, Xi Jinping has gone unchallenged within the party for quite some time, but he has failed to win the hearts of the people. The incompetence of his governance is becoming increasingly apparent—and that is his Achilles’ heel. This massively resource-wasting military parade—a show of force to the all the world—did not demonstrate the stability of his power. On the contrary, it shows his awareness that he lacks popular respect and his needs to shock and awe the opposing forces within the Party, flaunt military strength to those outside of China, and lay bare his ambition for global dominance. The grand military parade is a revered aesthetic of fascistic governments; Hitler adored it, and so does Kim Jong-un. And now Xi, too, finds it impossible to wean himself from this drug.

Presenting himself to the international community as the leader of a major country, Xi Jinping has declared his intention to "build a community with a shared future for mankind," antagonizing everyone with his aggressive attempt to use the "China model" to challenge universal values and replace the existing international rules and order, including the human rights mechanisms in the United Nations, and especially by pressing in on Hong Kong and Taiwan. Such moves haveled to widespread antipathy and alarm in the international community and caused his personal image to suffer a sharp downturn. He has not only become negative equity for China in the international community, but also become negative equity burdening the Party within China. Even though Beijing stated that it did not invite foreigner leaders, their absence from such a  big celebration only showed the embarrassment of China’s isolation. The official media’s claim that "Xi Jinping has made China strong" only highlights an upstart’s false pride. A Sino-American trade war has sent the CPC back to square one; the Hong Kong issue has dragged on with no solution in sight, and has greatly dented Xi's  image as a "strong man." The so-called strength is just a glossy polish hiding the foulness within. China's current development model is already hard to sustain and is showing signs of failure. There are plenty of people waiting to see Xi make a spectacle of himself, and his future prospects are by no means promising.

History has frightening echoes. In the seven years since coming to power, Xi Jinping has pushed reactionary policies, has shown skill in herding people but no ability in governing, and has managed to offend people at every level of society. It is fair to say that Xi is beleaguered at home and abroad and that the CPC regime is facing its greatest difficulty since the June Fourth crackdown. As in the Mao and Deng eras, it faces dual external and internal pressures—demand within the party to assign responsibility for repercussions such as the failures of Mao's Great Leap Forward that resulted in the Great Famine, as well as the international isolation that Deng faced after the June Fourth crackdown. In fact, Xi's situation is even worse than Mao's and Deng's were back then. The Cultural Revolution that Mao launched was completely discredited by the Lin Biao incident, but Mao, in his last years, opened up Sino-U.S. relations and created an advantageous international environment for China. Deng's reputation was destroyed by June Fourth, but he regained his footing with his remarks on his Southern Tour and resumed his domestic economic reform. Now is the time when Xi will be tested: Can he actually withstand the internal and external pressure and walk five kilometers of rugged mountain roads hefting 100 kilos without shifting his carrying-pole from one shoulder to the other?

With no road of retreat, Xi Jinping can only brace himself to move forward. The three major issues of Hong Kong, the Sino-U.S. trade war, and economic decline are tied together, and failure in the handling of any one of them will imperil his authority and the survival of the Party, and so the pressure is intense. The pinnacle of the pyramid of power is a lonely place, surrounded by enemies and pitfalls and with no one to trust.  A dictator is fated to sleep with one eye open. Xi knows very well that many people oppose him. Before the October 1National Day celebration, he resurrected Mao’s favorite tactic of class struggle and hauled out the sword of denunciation to seal the lips of the opposition faction within the Party. After the ceremony, the Party journal Seeking Truth (Qiushi) published an internal speech of Xi's from the year before, which showcased Xi’s anxieties with its emphasis on "guarding against internal strife" and "suicidal and self-destructive tendencies" within the Party. The Fourth Plenum of the Nineteenth Central Committee of the CPC, repeatedly delayed, may be the battlefield where he shows his hand, and anything could happen. Whether Xi will be able to suppress the clamor of opposition within the Party and find a way to resolve this perilous critical situation remains to be seen.

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