‘Peace’ to Xi Jinping may be the authoritarian status quo

Since his inaugural address as President of China, analysts and interested parties have been decoding the message that Xi Jinping brings and what change, if any, can be expected in China.

Since his inaugural address as President of China, analysts and interested parties have been decoding the message that Xi Jinping brings and what change, if any, can be expected in China.

Noting with great excitement the enviable economic prosperity that China has been experiencing in the last few years, while acknowledging a coming “spiritual vacuum”, President Jinping called for the “great renaissance of the Chinese nation”.

It has been supposed that Jinping is alluding to China as the most advanced and civilised nation, a position it held in the Middle Ages.

Other commentators have suggested that China has already achieved this renaissance.

The Chinese blogger Longyi Sky Master 945 said recently that:

We’re 100 years early in realising the Chinese dream! We now have the biggest, most beautiful and luxurious government offices in the world! Right now, what else could the Chinese people be dreaming of?

In short, the new crop of beautiful governmental palaces is evidence that China has reached the riches that will sustain it as the next superpower. Others have questioned what this prosperity, and thus the Chinese dream, has been built on.

One commentator on Sina Weibo, the very restricted web forum in China where ‘Longyi Sky Master 945’ blogs, described China as bureaucrats and corrupt officials … living the dream but most in the country live a nightmare”.

This is the reality of modern China. The Human Rights Watch’s World Report of 2013 has noted that though the decade-long leadership of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao is over, while enviable economic growth has stood the nation out, there has been little progress on human rights.

The report adds:

Chinese people had no say in the selection of their new leaders, highlighting that despite the country’s three decades of rapid modernization, the government remains an authoritarian one-party system that places arbitrary curbs on freedom of expression, association, religion, prohibits independent labor unions and human rights organizations, and maintains party control over all judicial institutions. The government also censors the press, internet, and publishing industry, and enforces highly repressive policies in ethnic minority areas in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia.

There are huge restrictions on journalists and bloggers, China flouts legal guarantees of freedom of expression to the 538 million internet users in the country, and at least 27 journalists are in prison on suspicious claims of “revealing state secrets”.

Government restricts religious practice to government-approved places of worship, women’s rights are severely limited which sees fines, coercive measures and in some instances forced abortions. Despite claiming to want peace on a global stage, China was also one of two countries to veto resolutions aimed at pressuring the Syrian government at the United Nations.

The other country was Russia, where Xi Jinping made his first stop on his tour as Chinese President.

With China’s prosperity has come a new socio-economic model that cannot be ignored. New capitalist economies are being created, such as in China, that are not being matched with democratic nations. As market economic reforms take place in Asia these nations are not becoming more free, but less.

Some hoped that Xi Jinping would have liberal pretensions like his Father supposedly did before him, but it is a real optimist who imagines that the new president will cool the authoritarianism of his rule to suit human rights organisations – who he will perceive as meddling irritants.

When the new President announced in Moscow that the “Chinese people deeply appreciate the value of peace and also need a peaceful environment to build their nation”, I was only reminded of how Richard Bessel described the difference between Stalin’s position and Hitler’s:

“Stalin wanted peace and basic political guarantees, i.e. German recognition that the status quo was invulnerable, and hence immovable stability in Eastern Europe”.

Similarly I worry that what Xi Jinping means by peace is the authoritarian status quo.

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