Celebrating tyranny: The People’s Republic of China turns 70
Today marks the 70th birthday of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) — not a happy occasion for the people of China, or the rest of the world. The lavish celebration conducted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cannot hide its record of failure. On this occasion, it is reasonable to ponder what the CCP’s accomplishments might be, and the answer is that they created a dystopia. Their celebration, then, commemorates oppression and aggression against China’s people and the global community.
Communist China’s leaders have been appalling. The founder and dominant leader, Mao Zedong, was a mass murderer who starved tens of millions of his people and nearly destroyed his country through his brutal policies and cult of personality. His successor, Deng Xiaoping, successfully suppressed the movement for democracy by butchering student protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and later maneuvered China into the Western economic ecosystem with the encouragement and support of Western political and business leaders. The current ruler, Xi Jinping, idolizes Mao and considers himself the Great Helmsman’s equal. He has founded the first cyber police state to control his citizens.
The PRC is belligerent. Months after its founding, the PRC waged war against Tibet to conquer it. The same year, it attacked the United Nations in North Korea and fought it to a stalemate — which has led to a divided Korean peninsula, served as a permanent source of unrest and instability in northeast Asia, and condemned millions of North Koreans to totalitarian rule under a dynasty far worse than the Borgias.
The PRC attacked India in 1962, almost went to war with the Soviets in 1968 and 1969, conquered the South Vietnamese Paracel Islands in 1974, invaded a united Vietnam in 1979, and clashed with the Vietnamese in 1988 in the South China Sea. In the U.S. long war in Vietnam, the PRC supported the North by providing crews to man anti-aircraft artillery sites, work crews to repair damage from the U.S. bombing, and occasionally clashed with U.S. aircraft.
It has attempted to coerce Taiwan since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, most actively in the Taiwan Straits Crises of the 1950s and later in 1995 and 1996. We should fully expect that the PRC’s efforts to coerce Taiwan through diplomatic, economic and military measures will accelerate in the years to come, and that these efforts will include an attempted invasion of the island.
The regime’s gross and sustained abuse of its people has caused its illegitimacy. In the wake of the Revolution, it killed millions of its people who were, or were perceived to be, enemies of the regime. The CCP created and sustained a famine even worse than the Holodomor, and its human rights abuses continue today — including organ harvesting from prisoners, forced sterilizations, persecution of Muslims and other religious minorities, and ecological mass destruction that adversely affects the world’s future.
The PRC’s ideological worldview is pernicious as it fosters aggression and oppression. Maoism was a nightmare — a collection of fairy tales imported from Europe and adapted to local conditions that validated a bastardized form of Stalinism. Its modern incarnation is “Xi Jinping thought,” which legitimizes CCP control in China, in perpetuity, as well as the expansion of Chinese influence — not through Mao’s “Little Red Book” but through Confucius Institutes, investment, loans and infrastructure development, 5G networks, advanced computing, the Belt and Road Initiative, and many other economic-cum-technological-cum-imperial projects.
The major reason for the CCP’s longevity in post-imperial China is that it relies on ceaseless coercion, including violence, and deception. Its duplicity is directed at the Chinese people, the Chinese Diaspora, and the international community. The CCP carefully fabricates lies for these audiences through its modern and expert propaganda machine, which permits the regime to sustain its myths of socialist utopia.
On the anniversary of its founding, this regime is celebrating its perversity. It is acclaiming its ability to hold onto power and prevent democratic change; its skill and guile in the successful oppression of the Chinese people; and its formulation of an incoherent ideology that weds Maoism to hyper-capitalism, the abuse of the Chinese people, and imperial exploitation of other states. An appropriate celebration will come when the Chinese people someday remove the communist regime.
Bradley A. Thayer is professor of political science at the University of Texas-San Antonio and the co-author of “How China Sees the World: Han-Centrism and the Balance of Power in International Politics.”
Lianchao Han is vice president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China. After the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, he was one of the founders of the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars. He worked in the U.S. Senate for 12 years as legislative counsel and policy director for three senators.