XI’S PURSUIT OF MAO-STYLE DICTATORSHIP MEANS TRAGEDY FOR THE WORLD
Under Chairman Xi Jinping’s rule, China is running in the wrong direction on all fronts. It is aggressively endeavoring to revert to a Mao-style dictatorship, a form of government it itself cast aside for a while following the Cultural Revolution. One cannot help but regard the behavior of today’s China as a reflection of its contradictions and weaknesses rather than its strength. This is the impression I got by observing the first half of the fourth session of the 13th Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC), which opened in Beijing on March 5. The session is expected to last about ten days.
On the opening day Prime Minister Li Keqiang delivered an annual government report—an intriguing address which made me more strongly aware of China’s differences with the world the more I scrutinized it. His first words were: “Because of the new coronavirus pandemic that suddenly broke out…”
The pandemic broke out “suddenly” for sure. But it is a fact that the deadly pandemic fast spread across the globe from the Chinese city of Wuhan because the Chinese government glossed over the outbreak, neglecting to report it to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The entire world was focused on what China would announce for its GDP growth goal for this year. While some quarters viewed the goal Li proposed of ‟6% or more” as appropriate, The Wall Street Journal in its editorial dated March 5 paid special attention to the domestic economic situation behind the goal. Because of China‘s relatively fast recovery from the economic slump attributable to the pandemic, Li could have stated a number a little higher—say, 8%, or even 10%. Why then did Li set the number comfortably lower than most economists’ expectations, the journal asked.
Most of us are well aware that Chinese statistics are not credible. The communist government may set a numerical target higher than realistic, but local governments are committed to meeting the goal without fail. It is common practice for local governments in China to spur investments in useless projects on borrowed money simply to meet the government’s GDP goal, which in fact has absolutely nothing to do with the real economy.
WSJ presumes that the Xi administration decided to set a lower goal in order to not let local governments repeat these mistakes. That would also mean that financial conditions in China have deteriorated in recent years. It would also be a warning of the need to come to grips squarely with the fragility of the Chinese economy.
Too Strong a Private Sector Dangerous to China
Another intriguing point of Li’s address was his reference to the need to reform
China’s state-owned corporations. The prime minister said the government has endeavored to change its so-called “Guo jin min tui” (the state advances, the private sector retreats) policy which has brought pressure on private Chinese firms by favoring state-owned corporations. Adopting a “three-year action plan to reform state-owned corporations,” Li said, the government has endeavored to accelerate “configuration optimization and structural adjustment of the national economy to promote the private sector.” Li continued:
“The government will endeavor unyieldingly to establish and develop the public-owned sector of the economy while also trying unyieldingly to encourage and support the non-public sector of the economy.”
Despite declaring that the government will give equal treatment to both state-owned and private corporations, Li simultaneously vowed: “We will make national assets and state-owned corporations stronger, much better, and much bigger.”
Which of the two opposing types of corporations the Chinese government will favor is instantly clear by merely looking at the reality of the Chinese economy. Last November 3, under sudden instructions from Xi Jinping, Ant Financial, a spinoff from the Alibaba Group, had its world’s largest initial stock offering—US$37 billion—called off at the last minute by regulators for the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Taking into consideration similar cases involving other private Chinese corporations, one can easily realize that China is clearly heading for a policy of prioritizing state-owned corporations. Contrary to privatizing state-owned companies, Beijing is rapidly looking to bring private companies under its control. Reportedly, there are altogether 48 listed companies that willingly or coercively have relinquished management rights to state companies, with resulting negative impacts.
Despite the fact that state-owned corporations have preferentially been entitled to capital and other assets under the government’s “guo jin min tui” policy mentioned earlier, they have been unable to match private corporations in performance. As of two years ago, private companies in China accounted for 50% of all national tax revenues, 60% of GDP, and 70% of urban employment. At the end of 2020, private companies increased their share of national revenue to 60%, maintained a 60% share of GDP, and accounted for an impressive 80% of urban employment.
Against such a backdrop, Xi is mounting increasing pressure on private companies. A strong private sector is seen as dangerous to the dictatorship of both the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Xi himself.
On the first day of the NPC, Xi took the trouble of attending a gathering of representatives from the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, ordering them to promote the Chinese language in their region. Mongolians in China are not allowed to use their mother tongue, as their government has been going all out to assimilate them into the Han Chinese race by depriving them of their Mongolian identity.
Successive Chinese governments have consistently pursued an assimilation policy involving minorities in China, including Tibetans and Uyghurs. But Xi’s program has been particularly stern. Mongolian-born Yang Hai-ying, a professor at Shizuoka Prefectural University, says one needs only to look at Mao Zedong, whom Xi adores, in order to understand the intent of the Chinese leader to become a life-time emperor of China.
Of the multitude of books published about Mao, the little red book titled Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (the Quotations hereafter) is the best known. More than 5 billion copies are said to have been printed across the globe.
Cultural Revolution Still Continuing in China Today
Why does Xi so ruthlessly keep more than one million Uyghurs in reeducation camps, deprive them of freedom and religion, and “reeducate” them? Why does he deny Mongolians their mother tongue and way of life? Why does he ban Tibetans from believing in traditional Tibetan Buddhism? Mao’s words and phrases in the Quotations will help one come to grips with why, according to Yang. They are a little long but allow me to cite them:
“People’s democratic dictatorship uses two methods. Towards the enemy, it uses the method of dictatorship, that is, for as long a period of time as is necessary it does not let them take part in political activities and compels them to obey the law of the People’s Government and to engage in labor and, through labor, transform themselves into new men. Towards the people, on the contrary, it uses the method not of compulsion but of democracy, that is, it must necessarily let them take part in political activities and does not compel them to do this or that, but uses the method of democracy in educating and persuading them.”
What Xi is doing is applying Mao’s “method of dictatorship towards the enemy.” In other words, minorities such as Uyghers, Mongols, and Tibetans are all “enemies” of the Han Chinese. It would be absolutely unthinkable for the Communist leadership to deal democratically with Chinese who are not Han. Mao’s teachings, passionately read by young Chinese at the height of the Cultural Revolution (1966-77), are still being put to practice in China today. In that sense, the revolution is still going on.
What did Mao have to say about Japan? The Quotations refers to Japan several times. Most relevant to we Japanese are the passages about the Counter-Japanese Military and Political University established in Yan’an, Shanxi Province, in 1931. The late Minoru Takeuchi, a leading China scholar who translated the Quotations into Japanese, explained that this university, where a thorough education aimed at defeating Japan was conducted, was viewed as the model institution for teaching revolution in China.
How to triumph over Japan became the foundation of Mao’s revolution across China and has been handed down to the present-day regime led by Xi Jinping. From start to finish, Mao takes a positive view of war in the Quotations, emphasizing that all problems will be resolved by conflict. Obviously, Xi wants to be a second Mao Zedong. We Japanese, of all people of the world, must be most wary of the true intentions of the CCP.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 942 in the March 18, 2021 issue of The Weekly Shincho)