“The Chinese people,” Mao said, “comprising one quarter of humanity, have now stood up.”
The import of the famous line was rooted deep in historical context. Mao made this clear when he spoke that day of the struggle against Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) and the Nationalists who had begun to flee to the island of Taiwan in defeat, of the civil wars which had wracked China since the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Mao spoke of Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), whose revolution against that dynasty had helped topple that regime. He spoke in triumph, a political and military leader who had won out over all enemies to secure his grip on power.
Stretching his rhetorical canvas even more broadly that September day, Mao took in the sweep of Chinese history since the first incursions of the West. “The Chinese,” Mao said, have always been a great, courageous and industrious nation; it is only in modern times that they have fallen behind. And that was due entirely to oppression and exploitation by foreign imperialism and domestic reactionary governments. For over a century our forefathers never stopped waging unyielding struggles against domestic and foreign oppressors.
China has stood us up, but perhaps we will just let it all slide and nod along with the “inevitable rise” of the Chinese era. Xi Jinping, at least, appears to be betting that the world will write off China’s revisionist history and all that goes along with it.
The righteous struggle of the Chinese people against imperialism had borne fruit in the figure of Mao, he seemed to be indicating, the peasant-turned-strongman standing at the heart of imperial power as a representative of the common Chinese people.
All that remained—and it was a tall order—was to overturn the rest of China’s historical setbacks, clearing the ledger of “humiliations” and restoring China to her proper station of dignity among the nations of the world.
Learning to Love Chinese Communists’ Version of “History”
It didn’t take long for the Chinese Communist Party to reveal that it would be using its cloak of “historical humiliation” to conceal aggressions of its own. In October of 1949, for example, a short month after Mao vowed to set history right, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) (which, it must never be forgotten, is simply the armed guard of the Chinese Communist Party) marched into East Turkestan (now the site of a confirmed genocide against the Uyghurs). East Turkestan had been harassed by Chinese warlords in the 1920s and 30s. Mao undertook to write a new history there, one according to which East Turkestan, filled with Turkic-speaking Muslims, was a “part of China.”
And yet, as time went on and the People’s Republic of China consolidated its hold on the eastern third of Eurasia, Western liberals learned to live with that aggression. The Korean War (1950-1953)—which ended in stalemate almost right where it began after Mao poured a ceaseless wave of PLA soldiers into the fight to back North Korea—proved that the West did not have the stomach for the massive land campaign it would take to dislodge the communists from Beijing. Although President Harry Truman (1884-1972) did seriously consider the use of nuclear bombs, the plan was scrapped and the stalemate was swallowed as a fait accompli. The PRC would stay.
Eventually, American Machiavellians found good use for the Chinese Communist menace.
Eventually, American Machiavellians found good use for the Chinese Communist menace. In 1972, President Richard Nixon (1913-1994) embraced PRC imperialism as a foil against the Soviet Union. Visiting the Badaling section of the Great Wall of China, President Nixon is reported to have exclaimed, somewhat prosaically, that it truly was a great wall. But perhaps he was thinking of its effectiveness against Moscow, and not the northern tribes.
PRC leader Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997), much more of a fox and a dissembler than the romantic megalomaniac Mao ever was, convinced many in the West that China had chosen the capitalist road. From that point, Red China looked, to free marketers, to be a deep shade of green. Money trumped political scruples, and the gates to the magic China market creaked open.
By the time globalization had become the new faith of the liberal West, taking China at its word had become an article of that faith. Believing that China was just trying to come to an honest reckoning with history (or, which comes to the same thing, suspending disbelief that China was using history to hoodwink gullible liberals eager to pump up their 401(k)s) was the dogma of the globalist cabal. “China has stood up” came to mean, “China will grow rich, and will eventually become fat and happy and liberal just like us.”
China Has Stood Us Up
These two strands of ahistorical history—the Western strand, wishful thinking against the realities of burgeoning communist power, and the Chinese version, according to which there is no conquest which cannot be historically justified—have long abetted one another. Willful ignorance was the key. Australian academic and China watcher Clive Hamilton, writing at the Australian, puts the course of China-world relations following the Deng years this way:
When in 1990 former leader Deng Xiaoping began articulating the doctrine of ‘hide our strength and bide our time’, few asked: ‘Until China is ready to do what?’
Xi Jinping’s recent speech at the Twentieth National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, however, has left few in the world who still don’t know what Deng wanted to bide his time for. “Xi Jinping has given us the answer,” Hamilton continues.
China turned globalization into the vehicle, ironically, for its hyper-nationalist takeover of the interconnected world.
While Xi’s aggressive posture as China’s leader shocked Westerners lulled by the sound of ‘China’s peaceful rise’, his presidency represents continuity with the Communist Party’s doctrine of historical inevitability, according to which the east (read: China) must supplant the west. His only point of difference has been his decision to abandon ‘hide and bide’ earlier than some among the Party elite thought wise.
In his important new book, Spies and Lies, Alex Joske reveals that the idea of China’s ‘peaceful rise’ was developed and promoted in the early 2000s by Zheng Bijian, a senior cadre who worked on behalf of China’s secret espionage and influence agency, the Ministry of State Security.
The peaceful rise theory was like a dose of fentanyl to the foreign affairs establishments in America and Australia—relieving their anxieties, dulling their senses, even inducing a state of euphoria. Yet it was a ruse, a ruse designed to counter suspicions blocking China’s entry into global institutions and to convince the world that China under the CCP had no malign intentions.
China has stood up, alright. Right on the necks of the free world. In that sense, China has stood us up. We waited and waited for China to arrive following its “peaceful rise.” We waited for nothing. China turned globalization into the vehicle, ironically, for its hyper-nationalist takeover of the interconnected world. The networks which the globalists laid down to bring the Gospel of the End of History to the hinterlands have become the conduits through which the Chinese Communist Party has extended its racist, atheistic reach across the face of the earth.
The Fragile Insides of Dictatorial Regimes
Not all has been smooth sailing with the Chinese communists’ life-hack of liberal internationalism, however. Nor will it likely be easy for Xi to make globalism wholly his own, to bring the world truly under his dictatorial power. For one thing, there appears to be a great deal of populist anger in China, as witnessed recently by a brave soul who hung a pro-freedom, pro-democracy banner from a bridge in Beijing—and by millions in China outraged by yet more government corruption, this time in the banking sector.
Dr. Tsewang Gyalpo Arya, the head of Tibet House in Tokyo (the Liaison Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Japan and East Asia), emphasized to me that the grip of the CCP on power internally is more tenuous than might be realized.
The political ramifications of an economic unraveling in the PRC would be catastrophic.
“Xi Jinping incites unease among the Chinese people by playing up the security threat from the outside world and spending heavily on arms and ammunition,” Dr. Arya wrote to me.
“Actually, however, the regime senses a threat from its own people, and all these security excuses and upgrades are made to deter the public from rising against the government.”
Jennifer Zeng, a US-based China watcher who has been outspoken in defense of religious freedom and human rights, wrote to me by e-mail that “economically, every front in China is falling apart. From the real estate market to local fiscal revenues, from employment to domestic spending, the numbers must be so ugly that the CCP even dared not to release its GDP and other major economic figures for Q3 of this year.”
The political ramifications of an economic unraveling in the PRC would be catastrophic. World financial markets would be shaken to their cores. And the crackdown on ensuing unrest inside the PRC could turn into one of the worst humanitarian disasters in history.
“The chilling messages in Xi’s work report [for the 2022 Party Congress],” Zeng continued, “are that China will go back to having a planned economy, and that, when the time is ripe, there will be another round of ‘land reform’ or ‘joint state-private ownership’ adopted before and right after the CCP first grabbed power in China.
“These measures will make a comeback under other names, such as ‘common prosperity’ or ‘well-regulated income distribution and the means of accumulating wealth (规范收入分配秩序，规范财富积累机制)’.
“This is one of the reasons that many Chinese people are trying to run away (润) from China,” Zeng emphasized. “If they still can.”
Xi may talk tough for an international audience, but he has to watch his steps at home. Xi claims to want to “rejuvenate” China, but how many people are really buying it?
The Price of “Rejuvenation”
June Teufel Dreyer, University of Miami Chinese politics expert and also the author of China’s Political System, explained to me in an e-mail how Xi was trying to walk a fine line in his Congress speech between expectation and reality.
“I think Xi Jinping’s speech was cleverly crafted to promise everything on the one hand and warn of problems on the other,” Dreyer wrote. “Great rejuvenation is inevitable, but stormy seas lie ahead.”
Dreyer also noted that Xi seemed to be hedging his rhetoric about the Chinese economy.
It is unclear whether the Chinese people will keep their heads down and go along with another dictator-for-life in Xi Jinping.
“China will continue opening up, [Xi seemed to be saying,] but we’re going to be self-reliant,” Dreyer continued.
Much will depend on whether another of Xi’s big gambles—the New Silk Road Project, which many are now beginning to see as a massive debt trap—will pay off for China.
For her part, Dreyer expressed skepticism about whether the Chinese economy—which has been on a record growth streak for decades—would continue to deliver for Xi.
“Per capita income is going to rise,” Dreyer wrote to me, speaking again of Xi’s promises in his Congress speech, “but [for Xi] to reach his goal of doubling the economy by 2035, [the economy] would have to grow by 5% p/a, which seems unlikely, even if the covid restrictions he’s said will continue are lifted.”
Dr. Arya, the Tibetan representative in Japan, took an even sharper view of “rejuvenation” à la the Chinese Communist Party.
“The words ‘Rejuvenation of China and security’ frequently appeared in Xi’s speech,” Dr. Arya wrote to me.
“Many interpret ‘rejuvenation’ as the return of the Cultural Revolution of Mao’s era. This is clearly demonstrated by the destruction [by the Chinese Communist Party] of a 99-foot-tall Buddha statue, 45 giant prayer wheels, and a monastic school in the Drakgo area of Tibet’s Kham region last December.
“The situation in China and the occupied regions is critical,” Dr. Arya continued. “Both China and the occupied regions are under strict and heavy surveillance. The movement and activities of the people are constantly monitored.”
This point was reinforced by Teng Biao, a human rights lawyer from the PRC who has risked his life to speak out against the atrocities of the Chinese Communist Party. After a migrant laborer named Sun Zhigang was tortured to death by the CCP in 2003 for having forgotten to apply for and carry an identification card, Teng wrote an open letter to the National Congress in China protesting extrajudicial detention and calling for constitutional review. Teng was also then arrested and tortured for having called attention to the injustice.
“Xi Jinping’s China, under unprecedented high-tech totalitarianism, will be the most urgent and most severe threat to human rights and the rule-based international order,” Teng wrote to me by e-mail.
From now on, there is nothing that can stop Xi Jinping from leading the CCP to destruction. The point is: How much will China and the world have to pay for it?
Teng shared with me a 2018 essay he wrote for China File in which he argued, echoing Dr. Arya’s points, that Xi Jinping, far from representing a new departure for the Chinese Communist Party, was simply repackaging the methods of Mao.
“In the 70 years since the establishment of the Communist regime,” Teng wrote at China File:
Numerous changes have taken place in the social, economic, legal, and psychological spheres. Yet the Party’s essential political role of leading a Party-state under strict one-Party rule has not changed, whether under collective dictatorship or a personal one. […] When measured against the basic ingredients of a totalitarian state as described by Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Xi Jinping’s new totalitarianism and Mao’s old style of totalitarianism don’t differ by all that much.
“Rejuvenation,” in other words, sounds a lot like the same old communist dictatorship. And it looks unlikely to abate anytime soon. It is unclear whether the Chinese people will keep their heads down and go along with another dictator-for-life in Xi Jinping.
World History in China’s Shadow, or China Alone in Delusion?
The above may all sound like serious headwinds for Xi Jinping and the CCP. By the same token, however, the high-tension situation means that the communist dictator and his flunkies have nothing to lose by going all-in on crafting a new world order in China’s image.
Indeed, Jennifer Zeng wrote to me that the Twentieth National Congress this year represented a virtual point of no return for both the CCP and for the world.
“The CCP’s Twentieth National Congress is another turning point for both the CCP and China,” Zeng wrote.
“From now on, there is nothing that can stop Xi Jinping from leading the CCP to destruction. The point is: How much will China and the world have to pay for it?”
If this proves true, then the world will steadily become like Tibet, Mongolia, East Turkestan, Hong Kong, and other places now trapped in the dead orbit of the swollen political center in Beijing.
As the Chinese Communist Party under the dictatorship of Xi Jinping moves to the center of global politics, it seems as though world history for the foreseeable future will continue to unfold in the shadow of the People’s Republic of China.
If this proves true, then the world will steadily become like Tibet, Mongolia, East Turkestan, Hong Kong, and other places now trapped in the dead orbit of the swollen political center in Beijing.
“First,” Ohno remarked, “the Twentieth National Party Congress is paving the way for Xi Jinping’s lifelong dictatorship. He will rule China until the day he dies, just like Mao Zedong, whom Xi admires.
“Second, China will suppress Southern Mongolia and Tibet, as well as the Xinjiang Uyghurs, more violently than ever before. It’s a policy of genocide.”
There can be no denying that Xi Jinping’s CCP is involved in genocide. Cornell assistant professor Magnus Fiskesjö alerted me recently to Xi Jinping’s 2021 visit to Puning Temple in Hebei, China. Puning Temple commemorates the Dzungar Genocide of the 1700s, when Qing Dynasty forces virtually exterminated a group of Mongolian Buddhists. Some 650,000 Mongolians were systematically murdered. Xi visited Puning Temple to celebrate this historical atrocity.
All signs indicate that the CCP, under Xi, will continue to accelerate its rule by ruthlessly eliminating all rivals—domestic and foreign.
Jennifer Zeng also accentuated the accumulation of power to the Chinese political center.
“Politically,” Zeng wrote, “the CCP’s centralization of power reached another new peak with the Twentieth National Congress. Xi Jinping has set forth quite a few new terms and concepts in his work report for the Congress, such as ‘the Chineseization of Marxism (马克思主义中国化)’.
“The official translation for this phrase is ‘Adapting Marxism to the Chinese context’, but I personally believe ‘the Chineseization of Marxism’ is a more appropriate translation,” Zeng wrote.
(I happen to agree. The Chinese wording is, precisely (and as unwieldy as it sounds), “the Chineseization of Marxism.”)
While from outside of China it may seem that the world must bend ever more deeply to Xi Jinping’s will, from inside of China, the CCP appears to be creating a new, China-only alternative reality.
“Xi has also presented ‘Chinese Style Modernization (中国式现代化)’,” Zeng continued, “High-Quality Development (高质量发展)’, and so forth.”
However, while from outside of China it may seem that the world must bend ever more deeply to Xi Jinping’s will—a man who can warp the language of more than a billion people to fit his delusions—from inside of China, Zeng told me, the CCP appears to be creating a new, China-only alternative reality.
“All these terms,” Zeng continued, “show that the CCP is ready to establish an expansive new terminology system, which will further cut the CCP and China off from the world. As the CCP owns the final right to interpret the new terminology, the Chinese people will have to accept that, yes, this is the way China should be.
“Although people outside China may believe that Xi Jinping is taking China back to the Cultural Revolution, or turning China into another North Korea, these new concepts and terminology may make Xi Jinping really believe that he is creating a ‘New Era’ for China, enabling him thereby also to convince the Chinese public, who are tightly enclosed inside the CCP’s Great Firewall and can receive only the messages put forth by the CCP.”
Will the Stood-Up Stand Up and Fight Back?
Mongolian scholar and naturalized Japanese citizen Ohno Akira sees the Twentieth National Congress of the CCP as a catalyst for enhanced bad behavior by the PRC.
“The Chinese Communist Party will be more assertive in the international community against the free and democratic countries led by the United States,” Ohno told me. “The penetration and intervention of Western countries will also intensify.
“Therefore, mankind needs to work together against China's expansion.”
Dr. Arya, the Tibetan representative, asserts that:
Xi Jinping’s speech at the recent Twentieth CCP National Congress is full of arrogant, aggressive, and dangerous rhetorical statements. With Xi’s third term secured, it forebodes a difficult and tiring time for China and the international community. Xi’s arrogance and irresponsible attitude is the result of the continued silence of the democratic society to the CCP’s aggressive and bullying tactics.
Xi is certainly in power at the cost of the Chinese people, who are emphatically unfree.
“If Xi Jinping is looking for the best for China,” Dr. Arya continued, “then he should let the Chinese people decide for China by adopting democracy, freedom, and rule of law. He should not bend the law and constitution to remain in power at the cost of China and its people.”
Xi is certainly in power at the cost of the Chinese people, who are emphatically unfree. Will the Chinese people ever join the rest of the world in fighting back against Beijing?
Seki Hei, a naturalized Japanese analyst and former Beijing University student who turned against the Chinese Communist Party over Tiananmen, told me that the much-touted invasion of Taiwan by the PRC may be Xi’s way to keep public opinion in his corner. Seki noted that “moving against Taiwan builds up Xi’s support among the Chinese people, the majority of whom are in favor of the takeover.”
Those expecting an internal Chinese uprising, in other words, may be kept waiting in vain, especially if Xi really does run the gauntlet and cross the Taiwan Strait. The CCP may be unpopular among Chinese people, but a war against Taiwan will surely bring nationalist fervor not seen since the days of the First Gulf War (a war which China meticulously studied to find America’s exploitable weaknesses).
The tide may be turning inside of Taiwan at least. Yaita Akio, Taipei bureau chief for the Japanese national daily Sankei Shimbun, writes in the November, 2022 edition of the sober Japanese monthly news magazine Seiron that even those inside of Taiwan notorious for being pro-mainland, such as the founder of semiconductor giant UMC, Robert Tsao, have begun to say that any invasion of Taiwan by the mainland must be resisted.
But as the war in Ukraine drags on, and as recession and inflation drag down the American economy and begin to bite into economies elsewhere around the world, there would seem to be little appetite for a confrontation with the Chinese behemoth. We still have not had a proper accounting for the Wuhan Virus—will anyone in the pandemic-exhausted world dare to stand up to China when nuclear-tipped ICBMs may be involved?
Cardinal Zen warned Pope Francis, publicly and repeatedly, that the deal the Vatican was making with the communist devils in the People’s Republic of China was a sham. Pope Francis shunned Zen for his troubles.
The Vatican has proven singularly adept at leading from behind as the world cowers and kowtows before Beijing. While his boss in Rome looks on, for example, Cardinal Joseph Zen is facing a life sentence from a kangaroo court in the formerly free enclave of Hong Kong. Cardinal Zen warned Pope Francis, publicly and repeatedly, that the deal the Vatican was making with the communist devils in the People’s Republic of China was a sham. Pope Francis shunned Zen for his troubles. The Chinese Communist Party crushes Christian worship in real time, as it has done—as all Communist parties the world over have done—from the beginning. Pope Francis helps Beijing erase this inconvenient past and present. Cardinal Zen, a truth-telling hero, is hung out to dry.
Get used to Novus Ordo, Francis-style “mercy,” Cardinal. As anyone who has been to a Latin Mass can tell you, there’s plenty more where that came from.
China has stood us up, but perhaps we will just let it all slide and nod along with the “inevitable rise” of the Chinese era. Xi Jinping, at least, appears to be betting that the world will write off China’s revisionist history and all that goes along with it. Just as the global elites (and their Pachamama chaplains in the Vatican) wrote off—even celebrated—the Chinese takeover of the global order itself.
--Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan
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