welcome toForeign Polices Memoir on China.
This week’s highlights: Why the public mood in China contrasts with the triumphalism of party-states, NATO sees Beijing as a source of systemic challenges, and Chinese President Xi Jinping is leaving the mainland for the first time since the pandemic began to visit hong kong.
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As the Party Congress approaches, what is the mood of the public?
As the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) approaches, officials fall on themselves to lavish praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping, the supreme leader, the helmsman, the core of the nation. Xi will secure a groundbreaking third term as party chairman at the congress, which is only held every five years.
The hyperbolic flattery of the powerful is normalized in Chinese political parlance; the average official on an inspection tour is often described in terms that would make North Korean leader Kim Jong Un blush. year by year. His third term as party president will only increase this.
This year has seen well wishes from some foreigners, such as the billionaire George Soros, that Xi could be blocked for a third term. There is no sign of this beyond the usual rumbling of expatriate and dissident rumor. At the CCP congress, the fight against COVID-19 is likely to be used as one of the main legitimizing factors for Xi’s stay in power. Shanghai just declared its disastrous two-month lockdown absolutely rightand state rhetoric continues to emphasize Xi’s victory and leadership.
This triumphalism contrasts with the mood of the public. Frustration with COVID-19 restrictions is growing, not just because of lockdowns, but with regard to the constant testing, travel restrictions, and the feeling that China is cutting itself off from the world. Within the upper middle class, there is growing concern about this withdrawal. In Shanghai, some families have started storing English textbooks in case the subject is removed from the national curriculum. Those who have money are vote with your feetas the new term runxue (run-ology, the art of leaving) indicates.
While it’s always possible for people to express their displeasure with China’s zero-COVID policy online, that’s not the case with general frustration with Xi-ism. However, periphrases abound. The euphemism came to the fore when the term West Korea has become the online code of an increasingly dictatorial China.
Xi’s first anti-corruption campaign in 2013 drew a veritable well of support, but that has faded as bribes and extortion return and crackdowns on free speech continues. Even for those without strong feelings about Xi, the surplus of political meetings and speeches associated with maintaining his leadership is likely irritating. Even ordinary workers have to attend these events, but they are especially painful for CCP members, especially those who joined the party in one city and now work in another.
In my experience, most people find such events a boring imposition, but they have become routine. Meanwhile, Marxist studies are increasingly a diploma in demandwith young graduates trained in the boredom of Xi Jinping Thought.
There is no plausible way to translate this public frustration into meaningful action. Within the party-state, the security services are more important than ever, and Xi has just secured his already tight control over them by appointing a longtime ally, Wang Xiaohong, as Minister of Public Security. Wang will take over institutions that have suffered purge Last year. Indeed, Xi has shown his willingness to quickly eliminate any potential threat as the public faces a surveillance system reinforced by the pandemic and determined to stifle dissent.
None of this means that public discontent will simply go away. But it could lead to a slow brain drain, growing ideological and economic stagnation, and seething anger that could produce even quickly suppressed protests. As with former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and his successors, the moment of danger for China’s political system will likely come after Xi, when a new leader tries to reform and long-contained frustration can finally come out in public.
NATO adopts a new position. The public strategy unveiled at the NATO summit in Madrid this week means the alliance now officially sees China as a source of systemic challenges. After Russia, China is the second most mentioned country in the plan, which is supposed to challenge NATO interests, security and values, as well as subvert the international order through hybrid tactics and coercive diplomacy.
Although making China a NATO priority has been a US goal for years, Beijing’s support for Russia during its invasion of Ukraine has hardened attitudes in Europe. Leaders from Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea attending the Madrid summit highlighted NATO’s growing role in assisting US allies in the Pacificpart of the agenda since 2020.
Against a backdrop of anti-Western sentiment that characterizes Xi’s rule, China’s own attitude toward Russia’s war in Ukraine is partly shaped by its view that NATO is at the root of the conflict. Beijing is likely to paint NATO’s latest move as Cold War rhetoric, but its own media and diplomats were more aggressive in their descriptions of NATO. Some officials in Beijing may now regret moving closer to Moscow, but there are few signs of a change in tone or policy as a result.
Five years of zero-COVID? After a misleading report that a CCP official said China’s zero COVID policy would remain in place for five years, panic quickly spread online. The most likely explanation is that the report confused at least part of the next five-year period, which delineates an economic planning period, with five years. However, don’t expect the COVID-19 restriction system to go away anytime soon. Epidemics in Beijing and Shanghai now appear to be under control; given the transmissibility of omicron variants, reopening remains a fragile process.
As a sign of relative confidence, isolation time for international travelers went from 14-21 days to just 10 days. It won’t mean a return to tourism or regular travel, but it may reassure some business travelers.
Xi goes to Hong Kong. On July 1, Xi will make his first trip outside the Chinese mainland since the pandemic began. It’s not a very long trip just across the border to Hong Kong, where the cities rapid integration in the legal and political system of the continent continues at a brisk pace. Xi’s visit will mark the 25th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule. Meanwhile, Hong Kongers have spent the two years since Beijing’s national security law was introduced taking British passports in unprecedented numbers.
Against Big Tech. China’s campaign against tech industry rumbles despite some retreat this year due to fears of an economic slowdown. New laws target giant platforms such as Weixin (or WeChat) with penalties for monopolistic behavior. As it has done throughout the crackdown, the Chinese government has mixed a genuine concern about exploiting users with a desire to demonstrate total state control.
New regulations for video streaming, one of the most popular forms of media in China, require streamers to be qualified to discuss law, medicine or education if they cover these topics as well as to go after dissidents and banned artists.
Online search blocked. The exclusion of most outside journalists, researchers and scholars from China for both political and public health reasons has led to a new emphasis on digital research in recent years. Until now, researchers have been aided by local government policy, which has emphasized putting information, such as court cases, online. But the government is now aware of outside researchers using Chinese materials to demonstrate things like forced sterilization in Xinjiang or the use of tender documents to expose surveillance state propagation.
Any potentially sensitive material is now quickly taken offline, the largest academic research database, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, under investigation by Chinese authorities. Other databases, such as ownership and business records, are likely to see similar action, with material removed or made accessible only to people with Continental IDs.
Imagined stories. China has completely blocked Wikipedia since 2019, but it remains popular for users with VPN access or those in the diaspora. sixth tone reports that one of these users got into work of systematic historical fiction, creating a whole faked history of medieval and early modern Russia that dominated Chinese Wikipedia for years.
Chinese users have applauded the writings of unknown authors as a masterpiece of Borgesian fiction. It reminds us how creative the Chinese internet can be when the authorities don’t get in the way. Chinese authors have produces thousands historical, fantasy and science fiction novels online, some of which hit the mainstream market after heavy censorship.
This is often not for directly political reasons, but because supernatural content is frowned upon by censors, so magical elements, for example, have to be given Scooby-Doo-style pseudoscientific explanations to get a contract. conventional edition.
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