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Política Internacional / 01/07/2021


Chinese Communist Party celebrates one hundred years

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Chinese Communist Party celebrates one hundred years

Twenty-first century China is capitalist”. The phrase by American sociologist Eli Friedman, author of the book “Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China” illustrates well the moment of Beijing in the economic aspect. And, with a fine irony, politically explains the longevity of the Chinese Communist Party (PCC), which this Thursday (1) celebrates its centenary sustained by a powerful economy and tainted by delicate humanitarian and geopolitical issues in the domestic and world spheres.

The “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, implanted by Deng Xiaoping four decades ago and maintained by his successors, took the country to the position of second largest economy in the world. Leaving behind part of Mao Tse-tung's ideas allowed the acronym to survive events like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union, which started the shrinkage of Communism on the planet.

The next step would be to cross national borders, but China doesn't seem willing to go beyond its domains. The possibility of taking over the post of the world's largest economy is palpable, but the geopolitical cost could be high for an authoritarian government accustomed to politically managing a frightened nation.

Surveillance and repression

"At home, the Chinese Communist Party, concerned that allowing political freedom would compromise its power, built an Orwellian state of high-tech surveillance and a sophisticated internet censorship system to monitor and stifle public criticism." says the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Satisfied with the control they are able to impose on their domains, the Chinese may not be concerned about taking a step towards world economic supremacy. “When we look at the effective hypothesis of China expanding and becoming the largest global economy, there is also a political cost of global governance,” said Pedro Brites, PhD in International Strategic Studies UFRGS and professor at FGV-SP, in contact with The Reference.

Training for military parade in Hebei, China (Photo: Flickr/gadgetdan)

Paulo Menechelli, general secretary of the Center for Global Studies at UnB and research director for the Observa China network, follows the same reasoning. "Even if China becomes the world's largest economy in terms of values, it does not signal interest in imposing its culture on other countries."

With or without global cultural dominance, the Chinese economy shows no signs of slowing. “There is a bet in the West that this [China's economic] growth will not be sustained, but this bet is always postponed. It seems to me difficult to reverse this situation”, stated Brites. “Of course, China no longer has the same double-digit growth it had 20 years ago. But it is possible to predict, yes, a sustainable growth”.

Economic strength

Today, the PCC is the largest political institution in the world, with more than 90 million members. A story that began tragically, with the famine that killed tens of millions amid Mao Tse-tung's Great Leap Forward. He went through the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the last breath of freedom of opinion in the country. And he reached economic strength with Xi Jinping, since 2013 the godfather of the repressive system with which Beijing manages information and controls the population under the shield of an economy that is taking large steps.

In Fortune magazine's Global 500 ranking, China currently has 124 of the world's 500 most valuable companies. Nobody produces and exports as much on the planet as the Chinese. Even in Covid-19 times, the economy has not lost momentum, and economists are projecting economic growth between 8% and 9% in 2021, compared to a modest 6% projection by the government itself.

But numbers can be deceiving. “China itself describes itself, depending on the environment, as a thriving economy, while recognizing its many internal challenges. Even if it becomes a power, or the biggest one, it knows it has challenges”, says Menechelli. “It was only in 2021 that it managed to reach the goal of ending extreme poverty, despite the challenges. This is not consistent with the greatest global power. And China knows that.”

Centralized power

If economically the Chinese model refers to capitalism, politically the country follows a rigid communist model. The Chinese Communist Party is not the only one in the country, but it has all the power. The other parties whose existence is accepted are subordinate to the central acronym. Although its members even hold government positions, they do not act at odds with the CCP.

“Since their foundation, these [parties] have established cooperative relationships with the CCP to varying degrees,” says the website of the Chinese foreign ministry. "China's non-communist parties are not just sham parties, nor opposition parties, but friendly parties that coexist."

In practice, any sign of opposition is crushed by the government. And Xi Jinping has been putting this into practice more than his predecessors, which allowed for a degree of flexibility. Today, the party's control over Chinese society goes back to Mao's day. Since 2013, for example, a law gives police the power to detain any individual in a secret facility for up to six months. It's RSDL (Residential Surveillance in a Designated Place), a bureaucratic euphemism for designating prison without a court conviction.

According to the NGO Safeguard Defenders, RSDL is nothing more than a “state-sanctioned kidnapping”. The process comprises detention, interrogation and, in many cases, torture. There are reports of sleep and food deprivation, aggression, forced application of medications and sexual abuse. “By definition, when forced disappearances are carried out on a scale or systematically, it is considered a crime against humanity, according to human rights norms,” says the entity's report.

Opposition crushed

Even within the party, Xi has been dealing with a growing number of malcontents. And he does it, of course, with an iron fist. In August 2020, one of the victims was political dissident Cai Xia, a party member and devotee of Chinese communism. She was expelled the CCP and lost her pension rights after audios leaked criticizing Xi and the party. She would have referred to the leader as a “mafia boss” and the CCP as a “political zombie”. She has lived in the US since 2019.

But no episode better illustrates the party's handling of oppositionists than the Tiananmen Square Massacre. On June 4, 1989, a peaceful protest calling for more openness in the party and less corruption in the government was repulsed with tanks and machine guns. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people, mostly students, were killed. There is no official count of the number of victims.

"Re-education" fields

Currently, it is not necessary to go to the streets to protest to attract suspicious eyes the CCP. This is the case of the Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region. They are one of the 50 ethnic groups in the country, and the mere fact of being Muslims made them a target of the Chinese government, under the argument of fighting religious extremism.

“It should shock humanity's conscience that large numbers of people have been subjected to brainwashing, torture and other degrading treatment in internment camps. Millions more live in fear amid high surveillance,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Agnès Callamard.

For governments like the US and the UK, the Chinese government's action against the Uighurs is “genocide”. Concerned, 40 nations rallied under Canada's leadership and demanded that Beijing give independent observers access to the region to assess the humanitarian conditions in what China calls "re-education" camps. “We are seriously concerned about the situation in Xinjiang,” summed up Canada's ambassador to the UN (United Nations) Leslie Norton.

Asian tiger

In a specific case, being outside the Chinese mainland border is not enough to escape the state's clutches. With the rise of Mao and the Chinese Revolution of 1949, Chiang Kai-shek's government left Chinese territory and settled on the island of Formosa, now Taiwan. An independent government was formed there, which over time allied with the US, went through a process of political opening in the 1990s and today has one of the 25 largest economies in the world.

For China, Taiwan's political system may even be different, with democratic elections and multipartyism. But that doesn't mean independence. Beijing sees Taipei as part of its state, and a declaration of emancipation promises to be crushed with military force. Or economical.

“An invasion would likely overwhelm the Chinese military,” says a recent Pentagon report on the situation. However, according to the same document, China is able to block Taiwan with cuts in air and naval traffic and information networks. In addition to large-scale missile attacks and possible takeovers of Taiwan's offshore islands, such as the Silver, Kinmen and Matsu Islands in the South China Sea

Taiwan's curtailment would accelerate the consumption of essential materials and drive the island to collapse, according to expert analysis. An action perfectly consistent with the ideas of a party that goes to great lengths to believe. scer. Even if the cost is too high for its own citizens.

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