by Team Red Lantern Analytica
The now-famous science-fiction show, Star Trek, has traversed several decades, expanded into many series, various franchises, fan-fiction, producing hundreds of episodes and has built its lore and universe. In it, the planet Earth and its ally planets form a multicultural, multi-species United Federation of Planets. The Federation floats several exploratory ships, as well as freight space ships. The primary purpose of exploratory vessels is to explain deep space and “to boldly go where no man has gone before”. The most cutting edge and daring exploratory missions are carried out by the Federation flagship called “Enterprise.” Despite a reasonably benign mission of discovering new planets, contacting new species and seeking new civilizations, the Federation, in its early years, comes into contact and loggerheads with the Klingon species. The Klingons are warlike, seek conflict and have a single-minded view, to expand the territories of their Empire in the vast swathes of the space. The Klingons have had a history of deep socio-political divide and intra-species conflict during their evolution as a space faring species. Union came among the Klingons after spilling a lot of blood, civil wars and internal strife.
Interestingly, the Klingons use their personal experiences to justify space conquest and seek confrontation wherever, whenever possible. They are a species that suffer from narcissism and see “honour” in fighting and dying in a conflict or battle. Even if a Klingon warrior is defeated in battle, he or she is lionized, and exaggerated stories are told at home about their glorious battle. Diametrically opposed to the pluralistic, federal and democratic values of the United Federation of Planets, they become the Federation’s mortal enemies.
One can equate modern China to Klingons in this eerily familiar piece of science-fiction. It comes as no surprise that Star Trek has managed to inspire several generations of diplomats, politicians, scientists and academics who deal with international relations. China today seeks enemies where there are none. It makes enemies and antagonists out of nation-states. It seeks honour in fighting battles of its own creation, perhaps because it feeds into its narrative of being a strong nation and projecting the same image for its citizens. By clamping down on relative dissatisfaction, the CCP thus ensures internal political stability.
While the CCP celebrates a century of its inception, even as the global pandemic rages on, it is projecting itself as a beacon of truth and justice for the whole world. While this projection is mostly being done for domestic consumption, one cannot help but notice that the CCP is anything but.
In this piece, we list out 10 reasons as to why the last 100 years of CCP rule marks the ‘Century of Oppression’.
1. Since late 2019, the world has been terrorized by the mismanagement and actions of one nation. The People’s Republic of China has shown that it is an irresponsible power that has allegedly unleashed a lab-engineered pathogen upon the world in what seems to be a bid to reset the global world order. Perhaps the pathogen accidentally leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology high security lab. However, the fact that this pathogen has taken the world by storm at a rather convenient time for the Chinese establishment, wherein the leadership in Beijing seems to have directly benefited from, begs some questions. At first, the very denial that the coronavirus leaked from the lab at all and then the subsequent cover-up of the same cost the world dearly. Not only this, the establishment in Beijing fanned misinformation about the spread patterns of the virus. This denial is currently ongoing. However, all circumstantial evidence points towards genetic engineering of the virus, even placing the accidental lab-leak theory under question. The pandemic that ensued ensured several things such as electoral shift of power in Washington, resetting of the trade war between the US and China.
2. It is also evident that the CCP has not missed a beat in terms of changing the status quo of Hong Kong. Small, incremental changes were already being made in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong over the years. This in itself was a violation of the agreement reached with the UK in the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. Under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, the socialist system of the People’s Republic of China would not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and Hong Kong’s previous capitalist system and its way of life would remain unchanged for a period of 50 years. This would have left Hong Kong unchanged until 2047. However, during the pandemic, large scale changes were introduced to HKSAR that have effectively ended the One Country, Two Systems arrangement, save in name only. Life in Hong Kong has forever been changed. The brutal oppression of the relentless spirit of Hong Kong has been crushed with an iron fist by the CCP. Hong Kong was unlike any other British colony. Not only did it become the single most import hub that supported the export driven economy of the PRC generating much wealth for the country, but it also became the single most important beacon through which the world began to understand China. Academics as well as researchers that put the culture, history and the identity of China first, all of it began from Hong Kong. Whether it be the translation work of important Chinese literature or China’s civilizational world view, Hong Kong remained the most important place to gain insights into the same from an objective perspective. Hong Kong also gave the world one of the most original, professional and brilliant film industries. Dominant film industries such as Hollywood learnt many techniques from Hong Kong cinema. The world would have not known or understood China had it not been for Hong Kong. All this was destroyed by the CCP for selfish political reasons. Not for any other reason, other than Hong Kong’s disagreements with oppressive regime in the mainland.
3. The brutal oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang by Beijing is the biggest point of concern. While the world is awakening to the horrors of Islamophobia by China, the CCP continues to oppress their Uyghur Muslim minorities with impunity. Whether it is the images of concentration camps or rewriting of the Holy Qur’an itself or even disappearances of young Uyghur men, the CCP’s actions remain objectively deplorable. However, critics and Islamic majority nation-states are complicit in this crime committed by the CCP. They are quick to point fingers everywhere from Palestine, Arakan, Chechnya to Syria but seem to acquire amnesia when it comes to oppressions in Xinjiang. Here too, the CCP promise of liberating all Chinese people from oppression and poverty remains a distant dream.
4. A similar but older issue of oppression exists in Tibet Autonomous Region. Much like Hong Kong and Xinjiang, Tibet remains “autonomous” more in name than in practice. The discourse around the forceful occupation of Tibet seems to have disappeared globally. The proverbial experts that favour Beijing argue that Tibet wasn’t forcefully occupied in 1950, right after the creation of the PRC in 1950 by the CCP. To justify this, claims are made that Tibet had been a part of China since the Yuan dynasty. However such experts fail to mention that the Yuan were themselves Mongols. China Proper effectively functioned as one of the Khanates of the larger Mongol Empire. Therefore, it was effectively the Mongol rule over China and Tibet, and not Han Chinese rule of Tibet. It has long been known that Tibetans, Turkic and Mongol minorities enjoyed a higher status in the Yuan era than Han Chinese. Yuan rule over China was virtually a semi-colonial experience, similar (if not the same) as semi-colonial rule over China, much later in the Chinese history. Tibet had always, at some level, maintained its separate identity prior to its forceful occupation by the Han Chinese led PLA in 1950. Yet such distorted facts are consistently peddled and fanned by the CCP without batting an eye.
5. The CCP’s push for a Great Leap Forward, under the leadership of Chairman Mao is often justified by theoretical framework of Marxism. The thing is that it failed so miserably that even the CCP tries their best to distance themselves from it. The justification for the same is based on Mao’s own concoction of Permanent Revolution. He essentially argued that even after the establishment of socialism (in accordance with various stages of Historic Materialism as proposed by Marx), revolution would remain an ongoing process. These revolutions that took place during the Socialist era are what Mao refers to as ‘leaps’. Accordance to Engels’ second law of Dialectic Materialism, which underlines the fact that quantitative changes in society will bring about qualitative changes to it. Whenever quantitative changes saturate a society, a qualitative change will occur. This qualitative change is what is a ‘revolution’ or ‘leap’. The attempts made during the Great Leap Forward were an exercise to carry out these quantitative changes. Mao launched the campaign to reconstruct the country from an agrarian economy into a communist society through the formation of people’s communes. Mao decreed increased efforts to multiply grain and steel yields and bring industry to the countryside. This was also matched with a host of other experiments in quantitative changes such as backyard furnaces, attempts towards irrigation management, experiments with crops based on Lysenkian pseudo-science. Local officials were fearful of anti-rightist campaigns and competed to fulfil or over-fulfil quotas based on Mao’s exaggerated claims, collecting ‘surpluses’ that in fact did not exist and leaving farmers to starve. All this backfired leading to a nationwide famine, which in turn led to large scale deaths of millions of people. The deaths range anywhere between 15 and 55 million. In classic CCP fashion, Mao did not retreat from his policies and instead blamed problems on bad implementation and ‘rightists’ for opposing him. On the flipside, opposition against Mao started boiling over within the CCP itself. Mao’s answer? More death and oppression. Hilariously, Mao initiated the Socialist Education Movement in 1963 and the Cultural Revolution in 1966 in order to remove opposition and re-consolidate his power. It was as if he was a high school bully: unsophisticated, obstinate, whose reality was known by one and all yet someone who had decided to go after people on the basis of flimsy arguments. Yet he is someone who was supported by his enablers and lackeys because he may be physically or politically powerful. Ambitious people needed someone like Mao to latch on to. If Mao is to be viewed as a separate entity (which he wasn’t), his lackeys would be characteristic of the general nature of the CCP itself.
6. The Cultural Revolution was not only a means to eliminate opposition against Mao within the ranks of the CCP, but it was also a tool of causing social disharmony and sowing seeds of social distrust. It was one thing for Mao to want to eliminate his political opponents in the CCP. However, to poison the mind of the young and impressionable (via the Red Guard) to the point that they started reporting their relatives as well as parents no less to the CCP. All this, in a society like that of China that has deep commitments towards filial piety. Those reported upon were either imprisoned for a long time to come or neutralized for good. The stated goal of the Cultural Revolution was only a cover, not unlike the kind of cover and distractions that the CCP uses today too. On paper, the goal was to purge the traditionalist and capitalist elements of the society while reinstating the ‘Mao Zedong Thought’. In truth, it was nothing more than a drive to purge Mao’s political opponents. To this end, if thousands of years’ worth of Chinese culture and civilization is destroyed, the very fabric of Chinese society is frayed, then so be it. An entire civilization suffered because of the petty infighting within a mere political party.
7. One has to also note that those in the CCP who were purged, themselves didn’t learn any lessons. Instead, today they behave not too differently from the pro-Maoist elements in the CCP during the Cultural Revolution. Deng Xiaoping was one of the survivors of the purge. While today he is widely regarded in the popular discourse as the person who brought liberalization in the 1970s and elements of free market enterprise in China, he is often mistaken as a person who was sensitive towards society as a whole. On the contrary, it was Deng Xiaoping, under whose leadership the peaceful demonstrations of Tiananmen Square in 1989, were turned into a veritable massacres. It was the mysterious death of a conscience stricken General-Secretary of the CCP Hu Yaobang in 1987, who advocated for a freer China that sparked the protests that climaxed into the 1989 massacre. It was Deng who engineered Hu’s rise and in what Deng, under whose influence he was forced to resign from his position. While the stated causes of his death were natural, it was certainly a convenient time for him to be out of the picture. Many critics of the CCP still don’t believe that Hu died of natural causes. Hu’s successor, party GS Zhao Ziyang also ended up openly supporting the Tiananmen protestors in 1989 at great personal risk. He too was purged and was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life for around 15 years, where he subsequently died. Therefore, here too CCP under the leadership of a so-called liberal leader, Deng, showed the world its real face.
8. The CCP’s internal system encourages the cycle of oppressed becoming the oppressors institutionally. There are two dominant factions within the CCP today, namely the New Zhijiang Army, led by Xi Jinping and the Shanghai Clique, led by Jiang Zemin. However, the occurrence of New Zhijiang Army is a new phenomenon. During the supremacy of Deng Xiaoping over the CCP, all those leaders and their families that were purged in the Cultural Revolution were reinstated. In fact, Deng himself was purged by the pro-Maoist clique, Gang of Four. Thus, under Deng, those who were purged, came into positions of power. However, the key person that oversaw this reinstatement was none other than Hu Yaobang. After Hu’s Purge, Deng also engineered the rise of Shanghai mayor Jiang Zemin in the top echelons of the CCP’s ranks. Jiang would go on to establish his own faction namely the Shanghai Clique that remained loyal to Deng’s vision of China. However, another faction namely Second Youth League Faction under the leadership of young leader Hu Jintao, was also encouraged by Deng that would offer Jiang and his men some competition. This was done by Deng specifically to ensure that power is not concentrated in the hands of one person like in the Mao Era. In time, the Shanghai Clique and Second Youth League came to an understanding and began to share power. They both cooperated and competed on various issues. This kept the system under check. However, this wouldn’t last long because of the very nature of the CCP itself. Xi Jinping’s faction is an offshoot of Jiang Zemin’s Shanghai Clique. While Jiang groomed Xi, enabling his rise, Xi was quietly forming his own faction, today known as the New Zhijiang Army. Today, it is well understood how Xi Jinping led a proverbial “anti-corruption campaign” to strengthen his position in the party against both the Shanghai Clique as well as the Second Youth League. All these factions in the post-Deng era are essentially formed by the legacies of those who were purged by Mao. One would hope that they of all would be wary of creating oppression. But contrary to this, they have become the oppressors themselves today.
9. It is the CCP that has become a threat to its neighbours. Despite being a Communist Party, it has co-opted nationalist issues such as territorial claims. It would be one thing to make fair territorial claim. But China’s territorial claims today also include bizarre irredentist claims that do not fit into any reasonable arrangements that are observed under international law by the rest of the world. Nationalism does not come inherently to the CCP. A closer analysis of the May Fourth Movement of 1919 reveals that these bizarre territorial claims actually emanate from the Nationalist fervour that once were the dreams and aspirations of the Chinese non-left. Today, however, the CCP has co-opted such ideas that have roots in the nationalist thought and subsumed it within the aspirations of the CCP itself. The CCP understands that not only dialling up such nationalist sentiments is popular among the people of China, but it is also politically useful for the stability of the CCP. In this process, if certain extra territories are gained, it also helps China economically and militarily such as their presence in Xinjiang, Tibet, South China Sea, Senkaku Islands, Vladivostok as well as claims over Ladakh and Tri-junction area near Sikkim and Bhutan. While for the common people territorial claims may be an emotional issue, the CCP is well aware of the advantages of making such irredentist claims as well as acting on them.
10. The CCP’s existence itself contains within it a history of crisis, cruelty, purges as well as oppression of its own people. Today, this philosophy of the CCP is beginning to affect its neighbours directly and other great powers indirectly as a spill-over effect is happening from an increasingly aggressive CCP. While Xi Jinping has declared that the age of “bullying China” being effectively over, today a CCP-led China itself has become the bully. Any nation-state that has had the colonial experience surely empathizes with the Century of Humiliation that China had gone through. However, CCP today is undertaking bullying tactics that they apparently despised so much. It is not the Chinese people that are to be blamed for this, but the CCP itself. It is true that CCP has led the delivery of relative material prosperity to the Chinese people. However, a case also has to made for the fact that CCP has also proven to be a hindrance in not just further material development of the Chinese people, but also an overall social development of China. Today, the CCP stands in the way of true freedom and liberty that the Chinese society is yet to experience. The CCP has used the population advantage of China to abandon core Marxist principles and embracing convenient bits of free market enterprise. Sadly, this has only been use to keep a tight noose on its own people and strengthening of state authoritarianism. If in pre-revolutionary China suffered under the yoke of the ‘Century of Humiliation’, the recent celebration of the centenary of the CCP marks the ‘Century of Oppression’.