China’s Communists cannot gloss over their history
Published by The i paper (7th June, 2021)
President Xi Jinping has declared that he wants to rebrand China as a ‘credible, lovable and respectable’ country that is “open and confident”. His words were laughable coming from one of the world’s most controlling regimes, especially when they spewed from the mouth of a leader who has tightened the screw so brutally since taking charge in 2013 on both his own people and outsiders daring to dissent from his view of the planet.
Yet his statement was significant since it shows how his style of aggressive nationalism, promoted by an army of ‘wolf warrior diplomats is leaving the nation feeling increasingly isolated around the world. Unfortunately, his words coincided with other events that showed the dark reality of Chinese Communist Party rule.
First came the news that the leadership would allow families to have three children; recognition it faces a crisis as births decline and the population grows rapidly older. It is predicted their population will peak at slightly under 1.5 billion by end of this decade, before entering what one official body called “unstoppable” decline as numbers fall sharply.
This will spark serious economic and social problems with falling domestic consumption, slower growth and a big increase in the ratio of elderly dependants to working-age citizens. The World Health Organisation warns that each working couple will have four or more older family members needing care and assistance.
There are complex reasons for this situation that is so alarming to the government. These include more women opting to pursue careers and further education rather than rushing into family life, lack of maternity pay, looking after elderly relatives, high childcare costs and young people working long hours in a shrinking labour market.
But behind it lies the grotesque social engineering of the Communist party. Mao Zedong outlawed abortion and contraception to boost his army and workforce, saying there could never be too many Chinese, which led the population to near-double in three decades. Then his successors introduced the disgusting one-child policy to restrict numbers, imposed with trademark barbarity – including forced late abortions and sterilisation of women – while distorting Chinese family life for two generations.
The preference for boys resulted in 118 born for every 100 girls because of female infanticide and sex-selective abortions, leading to imbalance today of single men to women. The party’s latest attempt to undo its own damage follows an initial 2016 reversal that let families have a second child yet failed to spark their anticipated change. The latest census reported about 12 million births last year – a massive fall from the 18 million in 2016 and the lowest number recorded for more than half a century.
Yet, as Amnesty International argues, this latest policy is still gross violation of family, sexual and reproductive rights. But this is typical of the repressive old men in charge, who believe they should control every aspect of their citizenry’s life.
Last week also reminded us why the Communist thugs running China are not only far from lovable but do not merit respect: the anniversary of the 1989 slaughter of protesters in Tiananmen Square. This crackdown was the fateful moment when the party chiefs rejected significant loosening of civil space, setting the future course for the country.
Even now, we do not know how many people died in this awful event, although one declassified diplomatic cable from the UK ambassador, based on a reliable source, claimed more than 10,000 fatalities. It spoke of students being mown down, wounded girls bayonetted and armoured vehicles driving repeatedly over corpses before the mashed remains were washed away.
Now the Communist party bosses impose a bar on even slightest mention of the massacre. And such is their fear of political freedom and the demands of those dead protesters, we saw Beijing turn the screw another notch on Hong Kong last week to stamp out the territory’s annual vigil in remembrance. The bravery of those few folk who still gathered with candles or flashing phones demands respect, given the threat of a five-year prison sentence for attending what had become the only major memorial on Chinese-controlled soil to this mass murder.
Alexandra ‘Granny’ Wong, whom I met during the protests there waving her British flag, was arrested for unlawful assembly when holding a placard referring to the date while standing alone.
So what about Xi’s demand for credibility? This has been wrecked by the pandemic. From the start, China’s response involved cover-up and lies, ensuring the virus had extra time to spread with disastrous consequences. Officials silenced local medics in Wuhan trying to warn citizens, hid key data, shut down scientific discussion, kept out foreign investigators, jailed journalists and spread falsehoods.
At last the Western media and scientific establishment – so hypnotised by a few charlatans with conflicts of interest or pathetically scared of provoking a powerful player – has stopped parroting Beijing’s propaganda and woken up to the possibility that this new virus might have emerged from a lab: something I have been arguing should be taken seriously for more than a year. Yet Beijing still lashes out at “blame shifting” by the US rather than permitting proper inquiries into the origins of this global catastrophe.
Regardless of any final verdict on those origins, the state’s draconian and damaging response – directed personally by Xi – shattered even the slightest sense of trust in his regime. I have not even mentioned the atrocities inflicted on Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, vociferously denied by his duplicitous acolytes.
It will take more than a few warm words to a Communist study group to give this nasty dictatorship an image makeover as something that is cuddly, open and respectable. Communist Party rule in China has been horrific on many fronts. And its latest hardline leader has proved disastrous for the nation’s reputation, with the problems of his iron rule both exposed and inflamed by the pandemic.