Behind China’s grand façade lies deep insecurity
July 1 marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) founding. Leading up to this centenary, the CCP hosted lavish celebrations, shimmering firework displays, futuristic light shows and all-star performances. Sites such as the Museum of the Communist Party of China and Shuangqing Villa, where the late Mao Zedong once lived (locations and tour routes aptly referred to it as “red tourism”), have seen a boost in visitors. Flags and banners adorning patriotic messages lined the streets as the country prepared for the highly-anticipated grand ceremony taking place today.
The pomp and circumstance is part of the CCP’s well-orchestrated campaign to distract the world from its human rights atrocities and to rev up patriotism and loyalty among the country’s citizens. On the surface, the party seems fearlessly valiant. But in reality, underneath it all, lies an insecure tyrant, desperately clinging to power by rewriting history and trying to control the global narrative about the country’s actions.
2020 served as a rude awakening to Xi’s dreams for paramount power and loyalty. When a mysterious virus emerged within the country, the CCP’s lack of transparency led to massive spread of the disease. The Chinese government’s early mishandling of the coronavirus revealed its incompetence in managing a public health crisis and failed attempts to cover up its mistakes. When whistle-blower Dr. Li Wenliang died from the virus, the Chinese public took to the internet in droves to mourn his death and express outrage over the government’s suppression of information.
Dr. Li became a symbol of freedom of speech who courageously fought to bring the truth to light. The hashtag #wewantfreedomofspeech even trended for a few hours on Weibo, despite China’s heavy internet censorship of the app. Dr. Li’s legacy as a martyr for freedom of speech continues to live on in people’s hearts and minds. His story echoes the calls of millions living within China – as well as in Tibet, Xinjiang, Southern Mongolia and Hong Kong – who have courageously fought to advance freedoms for decades.
Today, there is growing global awareness and acknowledgement of the party’s crimes — a trend that continues to deepen the party’s insecurities. While the CCP continues to hide behind its massive propaganda machine, the world is slowly starting to sift through the fodder. According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, “unfavorable views of China are…at or near historic highs.” The results cite the Chinese government’s failure to respect freedoms, and the growing lack of confidence in Xi Jinping’s international efforts.
In the United States, there are increasing efforts across the political aisle to unilaterally condemn the CCP’s long history of human rights abuses. In advance of the CCP’s 100-year anniversary, Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Ruben Gallego (D-Ill.) co-sponsored a bipartisan House resolution to condemn the CCP’s long list of human rights atrocities from as early as the Great Leap Forward to the ongoing Uighur genocide.
Internationally, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), a coalition dedicated to defending democracy against the CCP’s bullying tactics, surpassed 100 legislators from more than 13 countries. Since its advent in 2020, IPAC has continuously led efforts to expose CCP’s aggression.
On a grassroots level, more than 180 organizations – consisting mostly of diasporic Uighur, Tibetan, Hongkonger and Taiwanese organizations from around the world – have banded together to call for an international boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The coalition argues that such a large global event must not be hosted by a genocidal government that routinely cracks down on basic freedoms. It is heartening to see grassroots activists and policymakers beginning to join hands to boldly advocate for freedoms in the face of the CCP’s repression.
We hope that this global awakening is just the start of greater awareness regarding China’s authoritarianism. The CCP and Xi are very well aware of the increasing attention towards their crimes against humanity. Yet, they remain too scared to boldly own up to their actions and too timid to transparently address their flaws. As more global leaders slowly realize the threat of China’s authoritarianism, the CCP continues to hide behind its grand façade, hoping that it will help buy more time to fully assert its global legitimacy.
As the CCP’s centenary kicks off, the world must re-commit to continuing this burgeoning momentum. China’s façade may be grand — but the CCP must remember that the world is starting to see through it.
Jenny Wang is a senior strategy & research associate and Joyce Ho is a junior researcher at the Human Rights Foundation (@hrf).