Letter from China

I’ve just returned to the U.S. after a week working in Beijing.

Let me reiterate some conventional wisdoms, confirmed by my own observations.

  • Everything you’ve read about China in recent years seems right – and then some. It is fast becoming the powerhouse of the 21st century.    
  • The state is increasingly intrusive and oppressive. Even a tourist can feel it, see it. Every Chinese person with whom I had an honest conversation confirmed the observation. But, so far at least, the Chinese people are willing to trade individual freedom for collective strength and relative prosperity. How long this overriding acquiescence will last is uncertain. But for now it appears entrenched.
  • Xi Jinping is the most powerful single figure in China since Mao. He feels strong enough to have dared in the last year to accrue to himself a level of power and authority typically associated not with authoritarian leaders, but with totalitarian ones.
  • Curiously, for China is anything other than communist in any traditional sense, the ideology of Marxism, Communism, is being vigorously and rigorously revived. Once again, the Chinese Communist Party is becoming the primary instrument of state control.
  • Xi intends to be strongman not only within China, but without. He, the Chinese, have a strategic plan that is far more ambitious than anything Americans can even conceive of. The Chinese are investing heavily in places such as distant Asia and Africa, which within the next decade will bestow on China unrivaled global influence.

China Daily is an English language newspaper published in China. It is considered to be state-run.  On one of that days I was in Beijing, January 12, the front-page headline was reminiscent of nothing so much as Pravda, for decades the main state-run rag of the Soviet Union.

The headline read, Xi Urges Strict Party Discipline. The text that followed, reprinted here in part, speaks for itself:

Highlighting the importance of governing the Party with strict discipline, Xi required the whole Party to maintain the authority and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee, intensify the fight against corruption, and strive for a better “political ecology” in the party.

It is a must to uphold and enhance the Party’s comprehensive leadership in the process of governing the party with strict discipline, Xi said, adding that it is fundamental to maintain the authority and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee.      

The Party should focus on capacity-building for its long-term governance and the building of its progressiveness and purity to ensure that the CPC becomes a Marxist political party that always walks in front of the times, supported by the people brave for self-revolution and standing the test of all challenges, Xi said.

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