Xi’s Dream Could Be Others’ Nightmare | Harikumar column
Nostalgic sighs might have arisen in societies grappling with issues such as expensive housing and the rising cost of education when they heard of President Xi Jinping’s crackdown for solving similar problems in China.
In recent weeks, Beijing has unveiled tough decrees to tackle major issues that nearly every country faces. Even if your eyes had marveled at the news of the decision to control financial companies, reports that Beijing ordered online platforms to limit the time children spend playing online games would have attracted the public. attention of parents everywhere.
But stop for a second before you jump on the bandwagon and praise these “tough but necessary crackdowns” to curb greedy businesses and distribute wealth more equitably.
Here’s some news for parents who have applauded the limitation on playing hours for children. Chinese authorities have also made Xi Jinping’s thoughts compulsory in schools and universities across the country.
For those who missed it, the crackdown on the use of algorithms by Internet companies under the pretext of safeguarding user interests is also aimed at transferring corporate power to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The State Council, the country’s de facto cabinet, has also internally issued a set of guidelines urging all levels of government to control ideology, culture, moral standards and online behavior, reported the South China Morning Post. Still, Xi’s actions might look appealing to those living in any liberal democratic society facing chaotic turmoil due to far-right and divisive tendencies gaining traction.
So, is Xi starting a profound revolution to show the way for the rest of the world? The desire for a benevolent dictator – a wise ruler who would rise above the lure of power and its comforts to firmly guide a society on a righteous path – has remained a dream since Plato’s time. The Greek philosopher had argued that the philosophical kings would be the ultimate benevolent rulers.
However, in the centuries following Plato, no government has demonstrated a benevolent regime. A “shared prosperity” that Xi Jinping dreams of is something socialist ideologues have always espoused. But governments that seized power with such promises – whether it was the former Soviet Union or other communist nations like China, North Korea or Cuba – have failed to keep them. All that these revolutionary movements ended up spreading fairly was poverty and deprivation.
The post-World War II era saw Western democracies grow richer and improve the rights and living standards of their people even as the Soviet Union and its satellites struggled to meet the basic needs of their citizens. After the collapse of an economically crippled Soviet Union, Deng Xiaoping, one of the early members of the CCP and the country’s supreme leader in the 1980s, saw danger lurking on the socialist road. He adopted the capitalist system, using the words âChinese socialismâ as a fig leaf to cover their embarrassment. Not only did this avoid the blushes, but the demand also allowed Communist Party leaders to continue to maintain control.
This shift in tactics saw China open up an unprecedented growth path, overtaking many countries with higher GDPs until then, and the communist nation transformed into a quintessential capitalist society. But let’s not forget that Deng also let the tanks roll in Tiananmen Square to crush the young people gathered there calling for political reform in 1989.
Maintaining the party in power was then the primary objective as it is today. The West has failed to distinguish this. He rolled out the red carpet to welcome China to all international organizations, including the World Trade Organization.
Today, China is the second largest economy in the world and is on the way to reaching number one. The country produces billionaires with clockwork regularity. At the same time, many Western companies have seen their profit margins soar to astronomical levels, thanks to low-paid Chinese workers and the rise of middle-class consumers in the country. The CCP is now claiming credit for “lifting 850 million people out of poverty” while conveniently forgetting that those millions remained impoverished because of the party’s past policies. The four-decade roll of the economic juggernaut saw Chinese business genius flourish and companies like Alibaba and Tencent grow into global brands while Chinese factories controlled the economies of the developed world.
This, in turn, led to the erosion of employment in the West when factories were shipped to China, and multinational companies exploited the rule of law guaranteed in those countries to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth, keeping it in the hands of a minority. The rise of social media platforms and internet discussion groups has led to further division in these democratic societies. Their political systems produced populist leaders who cynically used disinformation campaigns to project alternate realities and nurture informational autocracies.
Now the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of every society. At this point, the crackdown that Xi unleashed might seem desirable to many. Left-wing forces angry at runaway capitalism and its exploitative policies may very well see the merit of Xi’s latest crackdown, as it seeks to distribute wealth more equitably through “shared prosperity.” .
But as The Economist magazine pointed out in its October 2 editorial, the etiquette of a benevolent dictator doesn’t quite fit Xi. âAs president, Mr. Xi purged his rivals and locked up over a million Uyghurs. He controls debate and will not tolerate dissent. The latest campaign will show whether he is an ideologue determined to seize power, even as growth slows and people suffer, or whether he is a strong man willing to temper dogmas with pragmatism … “, did he declare.
Unfortunately for Xi, his record of the past four years weighs much heavier in the face of some populist crackdowns deployed in recent weeks. In fact, recent actions might justify comments that the CCP’s Xi faction is desperately tightening control over a generation that has advanced economically and is now seeking more freedom to pursue its interests, be it in cryptocurrency or in entertainment. line.
In recent years under Xi, China has started to aggressively confront its neighbors, whether it is across land borders with India, sea areas with ASEAN countries like the Philippines, Malaysia or the Vietnam, or trade disputes with Australia.
At the same time, with Xi virtually sealing his life position, there seems to be very little chance of having internal checks and balances on his policies and actions.
In all actions, there are unmistakable signs of a regime whose global ambition casts shadows far beyond the waters that wash the coasts of Taiwan and Hong Kong.
In 1949, in his opening address to the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Chairman Mao Zedong said, â(The) Chinese people … have now risen … May the reactionaries nationals and foreigners tremble before us. ! ‘
Xi appears to be aiming for this goal.
(Harikumar is a seasoned journalist, who began his career with Mathrubhumi in the mid-1980s before moving to Qatar and Thailand. He has worked for the South China Morning Post and Radio Television Hong Kong for the past two decades)