Wednesday, January 16, 2019

China: Dystopia in Power - Alex Alexiev

by Alex Alexiev

Yet further evidence that Xi Jinping's China is returning to its totalitarian communist roots.

For many years, geopolitical pundits have debated which way China is likely to go after it pulls large numbers of its population out of poverty. Following the semi-market reforms undertaken by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 and large-scale development, China has indeed brought large numbers of its population – some 250 million at last count – into the middle class. One theory, put forward by Reagan diplomat Jeanne Kirkpatrick, is that authoritarian dictatorships like Franco's in Spain and Salazar's in Portugal easily transform into democracies once their citizens become well-to-do and are no longer satisfied with economic freedoms alone, while totalitarian communist systems that operate on different command principles altogether do not.

This debate has become even more heated, given some disturbing changes in China of late and the emergence of an American president seemingly willing to challenge Beijing's accustomed rapacious way of doing business with the West. What has happened in China, in short, is a remarkable strengthening of the state-owned sector and therefore communist party rule under Xi Jinping, who came to power in 2012. According to The State Strikes Back: The End of Economic Reform in China? by Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute, while in 2013, 57% of bank loans went to private companies and 35% to state-owned firms, under Xi, in 2016, these percentages were dramatically reversed to 83% for state firms and only 11% for private companies, despite the fact that most state-owned companies were loss-making and inefficient compared to private ones. Finally, in perhaps the best example of the new ascendancy of the Communist Party yet, the party changed its succession rules in 2018 to allow Xi to become president for life – a clean break with Deng's admonition not to allow another disastrous cult of personality of the party chairman like that of Mao.

Very little of this has seen the light in America's mainstream media, which have been happy to project yet another Trump defeat in his "trade war" with China. In this, the media are uncannily similar to Walter Duranty of the New York Times and assorted leftist "political pilgrims" who could see nothing wrong with "Uncle Joe" Stalin and his murderous regime while they starved and murdered millions. Fortunately, history cannot be falsified forever, even by the Times, and eventually, books like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago and Robert Conquest's The Great Terror and The Harvest of Sorrow appeared to provide a measure of historical justice to the victims.

It seems that we may not have to wait quite so long to hear the dismal tale of Chinese communist depredations. Thanks to an intrepid journalist from an obscure Russian opposition website, we now have a remarkable exposure of dystopia in power in Xinjiang, which even George Orwell could not have imagined. The author, who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, tells a remarkable story of total surveillance of the Muslim population, with perhaps a million or more already thrown in "reeducation" internment camps. A Kashgar communist official let slip that there are 120,000 imprisoned in these camps, while others estimate the number of prisoners between one and three million, a staggering figure in a total Uyghur population of ten million. And this may be only the beginning. A German researcher looking at official Chinese building projects has identified 78 re-education camps being built in Xinjiang, some of them as large as 25 acres. Things that may lead to an arrest and internment include reading the Koran, wearing traditional clothing, having a beard, etc. While there, Muslims are forced to eat pork and are subject to never-ending communist propaganda. There have also been more than an occasional report of torture, and some prominent Uyghurs have died in detention.

Two additional aspects of Xinjiang reality that the author deals with in detail are the methods of surveillance and the nature of the "social credit" system. Surveillance of the Muslims is total, unrelenting, and high-tech. Muslims are required to install an app on their phones that makes tracking them easy and are constantly subject to iris scans, house searches, and millions of cameras following them everywhere. The Chinese have supposedly developed surveillance apps for cameras that can recognize and follow a discrete person and need only seven minutes to identify an individual in a crowd.

All Muslims are divided in three categories: safe, average, and dangerous, with commensurate social credit scores. Locals believe that just being a Muslim means a low score, which severely affects one's freedom of movement. A low score makes it difficult to buy train tickets, shop at better stores, rent an apartment, and a myriad of everyday chores, to say nothing of getting a passport to travel abroad.

It may be useful for U.S. officials to read this dystopian tale before they sit down with Chinese officials to discuss trade matters. A government that treats its own people this way is unlikely to have greater respect for trade partners.

Alex Alexiev is chairman of the Center for Balkan and Black Sea Studies ( He can be reached at


Follow Middle East and Terrorism on Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment