The People’s Republic of China turns 70 years old today. This is a major event for the world’s longest-lasting Communist superpower. The Soviet Union lasted only 69 years. China has not only surpassed the USSR but has done so in powerful fashion. Today, on its 70th anniversary, the People’s Republic of China is the second-largest economy in the world.
Major spectacles have already begun unfolding in China. Parades, speeches, and loads of pageantry have been planned well in advance of the big day. Commentators note that China has clamped down on security and control across the country. For weeks any Chinese citizen found talking to foreigners was immediately questioned by authorities. The Chinese government wants no signs of dissent to mar today’s celebration. Kites, drones, and pigeons are not allowed to fly in Beijing.
The security state atmosphere has been growing in China for years and today the People’s Republic of China exists as a strange anomaly within the wider interconnected world. Censorship abounds. While many Chinese citizens have smartphones if they employ a privacy app they are guaranteed a visit from government officials. This quickly informs them that Big Brother is watching, always watching. Automakers in China forward real-time data of drivers’ locations to the government. The Chinese have expressed their intent to be on the front end of the artificial intelligence innovations and surveillance is a key place where this is being employed.
- Read more about China’s surveillance state: Gaming China’s Total Surveillance State
In the US many large corporations and high profile organizations have waded into political waters, refusing to do business in American states and cities that do not support their political philosophies on abortion or LGBT rights, to name a few. In many instances, these same companies quietly bow down and empower Chinese surveillance and authoritarianism in an effort to access the potentially massive consumer markets there.
The 70th anniversary being commemorated in China today is specifically appealing to China’s leader Xi Jinping. Xi has the potential to be China’s first “leader for life” since the time of Mao Zedong. In 2018 term limits were dropped so that Xi could remain in power. He is recognized as China’s most paramount leader since Mao. Xi has filled the Chinese governing system with his own supporters to secure his power.
A key ruling philosophy employed by Xi is the importance of China’s history. The Communist Party in China holds a very insecure view of history and the outside world. They see China as having been manipulated and exploited for centuries by outside powers, specifically the British. Communism changed all of that and provided China its own place of power and dignity in the world. Recently Xi has employed a new focus on the Communist history of China within the education system. In Hong Kong, this is one of the complaints among the protesters. A specific Chinese identity is being pushed upon this area and people who see themselves as unique from China.
One would think that China’s Communist history would have some pretty big gaps in it. Why would anyone want to retell the story of the Great Leap Forward where tens of millions of Chinese citizens were killed by the mismanagement and incompetence of Mao’s bureaucratic policies? Why would Xi want to tell about the Cultural Revolution which also took place under Mao? Somewhere between 500,000 and 2 million Chinese were killed under this devastating program.
But Xi is deliberately responding and reminding China of these points in Chinese Communist history. Mao is being revered. The death counts under Mao are being reported as exaggerated. In September Xi toured some of the countrysides that were most devastated by the Great Leap Forward and lauded the patriots who held true to the Communist party during this time.
As China celebrates the 70th anniversary of Communist rule in the nation important points should be recognized as we watch the pageantry.
First, China is normalizing its terrible history. Rather than learning from its history under Communist rule and Mao Zedong, China is lauding it. Leaders are ignoring the fact that Mao was the number one killer of his own people in the history of the world – not Hitler or Stalin. It’s not even close when we look at the death counts of these famous dictators and killers in the history of the 20th century.
Second, the west is accommodating this practice and even empowering ongoing authoritarianism in the name of open markets and higher profits.
Third, as China ascends as the most blatant surveillance state in the world today, the pressure is mounting. In Hong Kong protesters are marring the Chinese day of celebration. Yesterday the first live bullet was fired by police to take down a protester. More violence is coming soon to Hong Kong. On the other side of China, massive internment camps are housing a million Uighur Muslims who have been accused of terrorism in China. The long-standing tension between the Chinese Communist government and Uighur ethnic group is being dealt with in old fashioned ways it appears.
Meanwhile, China’s economy is slowing. A recent report from the BBC notes that current economic growth in China is at its slowest point since the early 1990s. A massive swine fever epidemic is hitting the agriculture system hard. Experts suggest that by the end of 2019 more than half of China’s pigs could be wiped out.
Internal pressure and the normalizing of a despotic Communist history combined with empowerment, or at least tolerance, from the west, make for a dangerous future for the Communist nation and its people. The coming days and weeks will see China take a more assertive stance in Hong Kong but this will likely be only the beginning of a darkened new era of oppression in China.