So why the crackdown this year? This reflects official concern over the state of Chinese masculinity, but it is also only part of President Xi Jinping’s ever-expanding program of repression.
The Chinese military hierarchy has long worried that modern Chinese men, raised in families of one child, lack the martial vigor to wage war. An influential 2010 article by Admiral Luo Yuan denounced the evil phenomenon of effeminate men as impending disaster for the nation-state. Xi himself has said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was because no one was man enough to maintain it.
But the new intolerance of sissies and homosexuals is also a component of the acceleration of Xis’ campaign against Western permissiveness more broadly. Vulgar Internet celebrities are also persona non grata.
Minors are prohibited from playing video games for more than three hours per week, which is to be implemented through facial recognition and other high-tech surveillance. The teaching of English, long encouraged by the authorities, has been relegated.
Social media and internet companies are now required to write computer algorithms to orient themselves towards dominant values and positive energy. This is, of course, diametrically opposed to American social media business models that foment division and antagonism to gain attention and generate revenue. In place of these unhealthy influences, Xi is reintroducing political study sessions and schools are required to step up the teaching of a subject called Xi Jinping’s Thought based on his collected pseudo-philosophical works.
This is reminiscent of the practices of the founder of Communist China, Mao Zedong, and his Little red book. These are all things we thought we would never see again, says Brady, professor of political science at the University of New Zealand Canterbury. Xi is leading China in crisis mode, emphasizing the external threat, just like Mao did. It’s sadly familiar.
Standing atop Mao’s giant portrait in Tiananmen Square on July 1, Xi said during the Chinese Communist Party’s centenary celebration that China would no longer be intimidated, oppressed or subjugated by foreign countries. Anyone who dares to try will find themselves with their heads bleeding against a great wall of steel forged by more than 1.4 billion Chinese.
And this socio-political recovery campaign is only one component of an even larger transformation underway. Xi is heading, erratically but unmistakably, against private capital.
It all started in November when he ordered the cancellation of what would have been the most valuable float in history, Ant Financial, the day before. The reason? Its founder, one of China’s richest men, Jack Ma, criticized regulators. His entire business empire has since suffered and he faded from public view only to reappear in great chastisement.
In recent months, Xi has launched regulatory attacks on a growing list of tech, education, alcohol, video game, real estate and entertainment industries. The market capitalization of China’s four biggest tech companies alone has fallen by about $ 1 trillion, or nearly half, since February. The suddenness, unpredictability and intensity of the crackdown grabbed headlines like the one in London Financial Time last week: isn’t China investable?
There is a clear ideological motivation behind this. Xi launched a campaign for common prosperity last month, a phrase from a Peoples Daily call for collectivization, according to David Bandurski of the China Media Project. It was a movement against private property.
Xi said China must limit unreasonable income. He called on big business to donate money to social causes. None complained and many complied. Tencent, owner of WeChat and a large video game company, immediately donated $ 7.7 billion.
It seems clear that Xi is determined to redistribute the wealth. Only the exact scale and the mechanisms remain to be disclosed.
The man who made China rich, Deng Xiaoping, said it didn’t matter that [the] the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice. China needed economic growth more than ideological rigidity. In 1978, Deng destroyed a system that strictly controlled which cat had which mouse, breaking the Chinese socialist system to allow market forces to work.
Deng said he allowed a few peasants to get rich first, instead of enforcing uniform poverty. Now Xi has said the Deng era has reached its limits. Private capital had gotten out of hand; Xi tames it in the interests of common prosperity.
From the crackdown on effeminate men with unreasonable incomes, all elements of what the party calls the Great Transformation have one thing in common: They all aim to strengthen control. And that means it is Xi taking over the power.
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