/ 01 July 2021

Communism in China hits the ton

It was 100 years ago today that Mao Zedong and 12 others gathered in secret in a small brick house in Shanghai to form the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). To mark the occasion, Monday’s spectacular show in Beijing kicked things off, and “grand celebrations” are planned today in Tiananmen Square where President Xi Jinping is expected to take centre stage. What won’t be highlighted – China’s military might. Organisers are said to understand how that would look given recent argy-bargy with the US and others. Which isn’t the only bit of stage management being done…

Organisers are presenting a glorified version of the party’s early struggles and recent achievements to shore up President Xi’s agenda and his legitimacy as a long-term leader, observers say. “By linking the party to all of China’s accomplishments of the past century, and none of its failures, Xi is trying to bolster support for his vision, his right to lead the party and the party’s right to govern the country,” says Stanford Uni’s Elizabeth Economy. And that’s essential because China is a massive country that’s been under the firm and unrelenting grip of one party for more than 70 years through some tough and terrible times. That means its citizens need regular reinforcement that their system of government is the right one. And clearly, many think that’s the case – the CCP has 95 million members, which is almost 7% of China’s entire population.

The National Security Law that bans Hongkongers from any shows of opposition towards China has been in place for a year. After massive anti-China protests, the law was imposed on the territory criminalising secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces. Those found guilty of any of those things face a maximum sentence of life in prison. Beijing says the law has brought stability, but critics say it violates the ‘one country, two systems’ principle that was to keep China out of its civic affairs when the UK handed it back to China in 1997. Since the law was enacted, 117 people have been arrested, and 60 charged – mostly pro-democracy activists, politicians, journalists and students.

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