KEY TAKE AWAY.
• President Xi Jinping, self-proclaimed China strong man, is the architect of an ideological drift of a Marxist mold, the so-called ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, which has become an integral part of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, and which permeates both the Chinese economic and commercial initiatives and the hegemonic intentions of a new international order indicated by China itself as a ‘new global order with Chinese characteristics’.
Xi Jinping – Presidente of the People’s Republic of China and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China
Regardless of the analysis of the Chinese autocratic system, it risks providing not only a partial view of the Chinese reality and threat, but also a distorted, fragmented vision, in which Chinese actions are analyzed individually, placed within the unique economic-commercial sphere, without considering the political and ideological framework within which they move and which in fact coordinates them. It is plausible that the exasperated emphasis that was given to the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) had, and has, however paradoxical it may seem, just the aim to conceal and overshadow the framework that is the current political reality of China.
The West, in its collective memory, tends to associate China with the failed Mao Zedong cultural revolution and with the events of the massacre of Tiananmen Square, with the iconic image of the student who, alone, is interposed himself in vain between the Chinese army tanks, whose had been ordered the repression, and the protests of the students who joined the population of Beijing in 1989. They all together asked in Tiananmen Square for freedom, participation, rights and denounced the corruption of the communist regime. In the days between 4 and 6 June 1989, the demonstrations began in the first days of May 1989, were repressed in the blood, by the Party and the army, its armed branch.
AP Photo/Jeff Widener/LaPress
The order of the brutal repression was given by Mao Zedong’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, together with Prime Minister Li Peng, both leaders of the Chinese political elite, who on the one hand started a timid opening of Communist China to markets and international trade (with the accession of China to the International Monetary Fund in 1981), and at the same time he had purged the leader of reformism Hu Yaobang, Secretary General of the communist Party dismissed from his role in 1987 by Deng Xiaoping because favorable to a democratic transition in China and considered too close to the students, a nwho died in unclear circumstances in April 1989, a month before the protests started.
Tiananmen Square is still a cumbersome memory for the Chinese regime because it reveals the true face of the regime, in the present exactly as in the past time. The massacre of unprecedented proportions was yet another proof of the Chinese Communist Party brutality and of the personalistic use of its army, the PLA, to put into action whenever the status quo of the Party and its elite is questioned. The dramatic events that took place in Tiananmen Square between April and June 1989 are a black hole in official Chinese historiography, they have no place in Chinese textbooks and news reports. The rare hints are to what is called the ‘4 June incident’ with, at times, a praiseworthy comment to the thwarted danger to the stability of the nation and to the hegemonic role of the Party, in the vain attempt to modify the historical narrative and cloud the memory in the interests of the Party.
Instead, the whole West was overwhelmed and expressed its indignation and total condemnation for the Tiananmen Square massacre, caused by the Chinese regime against its own population. It is likely that, not being able to slip a massacre of such magnitude into western oblivion, China has worked on a re-examination of its image, in the meantime preparing itself for a new offensive against ‘western power’, building a narrative and an ad hoc equipment, to realize its political agenda, implementing it in its ramifications, but not detracting from its ideological substance.
Part of this narrative is symbolically acted by China also towards the historical period of Tiananmen Square: one example is the statue in ‘honor’ of Hu Yaobang, the dismissed reformist leader, inaugurated in 2018 in his hometown, in the province southern of Hunan, approved by the Central Party Committee and the State Council. However, far from being a recognition of responsibility by the regime for the events that led to the massacre in Tiananmen Square, this act is likely an attempt to change both internal and international perception of China. On the one side, the reformist image of Hu Yaobang, towards which the Chinese people still seem to be sensitive, is used in a functional way, aligning his reformist view with President and Secretary General Xi, in order to build a semblance of unity within China and at the same time pressing on nationalistic spirits, currently necessary for the survival of the Party, and on the other side trying to confuse the international imagination, reinforcing the substantially unreal image of China and its President as a reformist and credible interlocutor.
However, reality is always stronger than the narratives that want to hide it, and that are inexorably destined to be dismantled in front of the truth. In 2019, the Chinese Defense Minister, General Wei Fenghe speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, in fact declared about the massacre of Tiananmen Square and the events that marked the phase preceding the massacre: ‘It was a political turbulence and the government Central took decisive measures and the military took steps to stop it and calm the turmoil. This is the right path. It is the reason why the country’s stability has been maintained. ” Adding : “The past thirty years (ed. note: from the massacre in Tiananmen Square) have shown that China has undergone important changes and thanks to the government’s action at that time the Country has enjoyed stability and development.”
General Wei Fenghe
The fact that a high representative of the Chinese political elite, as well as head of the Department of Defense, declares that a massacre of students and workers is considered ‘right’ and is the element that founded the stability and development of a Country, is a an indicator whose gravity reveals not only the violent outcome of even current Chinese ideology, but also the absolute interdependence between the exercise of Chinese military power and the pursuit of the Country’s economic development, in order to reach pursue consolidate Party and its top representatives, and in particular the President Xi political power.
The Chinese regime has not collapsed. Labels are restyling operations: the term ‘communism’, difficult to integrate with the China need and intention to be a global hegemonic pole, is replaced by ‘socialism’, a more acceptable term in the West and, where appropriate, still replaced with the phrase ‘with Chinese characteristics’ placed to complement the ethereal ideas with which China paints itself. The substance has actually not changed. The regime is exactly the same Chinese regime fought in the Tienanmen square and which today celebrates itself as the bearer of a new global order based on ideas such as that of diplomacy and peaceful coexistence, both invoked as valid if and only if ‘with Chinese characteristics’ .
The Chinese style of diplomacy and coexistence includes the creation of a network of economic and political-strategic relations in all the regions of the Globe and an extensive use of political coordination also in the management of conflicts, leveraging on a double narrative, intentionally confusing, and substantially contradictory. In fact, China supports the concept of military non-interference on the one hand, while making massive use of persuasion techniques and an alleged negotiation ‘with Chinese characteristics’ which in fact has nothing to do with the art of negotiation of Countries with democrats and liberals values. The negotiation ‘with Chinese characteristics’ is nothing else but pure coercion and therefore, in fact, an interference toll in the sovereignty of a State, economic and political, as well as military, considering that it is acted by a nation where economy, politics and military power are a single body and center of interest, intention, ideology, action.
There is therefore no democratic graft in the current Chinese regime, but only an acceleration of economic and market processes, because the regime found this channel as a privileged channel to be able to keep alive at domestical level and exercise its ‘Three warfare’ , or the triple dimension of conflict in peacetime. This is the Chinese path to attempt opening the way towards the realization of geopolitical ambitions, which have the same heinous connotations of the repressive regime of Tiananmen Square, because the regime that governs them is brutal. And today, with even more dangerous and insidious characteristics, because they are not very visible.
After Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, the power of the Chinese regime was entrusted to his successor Deng Xiaping, who started a timid economic opening, still maintaining the Party regime’s implantation. The purge of the Reformist Secretary General of the Party, who had attracted around him the consensus of the economic elite as well as the students and workers, the massacre of Tiananmen Square that followed, remain the indelible sign of how much, despite the Chinese economic openings, there were no intention to scratch or dismantle the Chinese regime, nor to favor its evolution from a democratic point of view.
After the massacre of Tiananmen Square, however, the regime attempted to move avoiding the centralization of power in the hands of a single leader, favoring what was called a ‘collective leadership’, and as far as possible trying to insert an internal political competition to foster a peaceful succession of political leaders. The two successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, in fact significantly stopped their mandate resigning, and not, as usual for China, because of their death.
Yet today, after decades of collective leadership, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party since 2012 and President of the People’s Republic of China since 2013, brings China back to personalistic, centralizing, autocratic and totalitarian leadership.
At the end of his first five years of power, Xi consolidated a greater personal power than his predecessors Jiang or Hu. In contrast to previous openings, he declared during the 19th Party Congress in October 2017, that he did not want to identify a possible successor, an element that had been one of the greatest indicators of openness towards democratic demands by his predecessors. In March 2018 during the National People’s Congress (or NPC) it also introduced with 2,958 votes in favor (2 against, 3 abstentions, 1 invalid) among the various changes to the Constitution, the abolition of the two-term limit for the President and the vice-president, a clear sign of his intent to remain in office beyond 2023.
If many expected to see a China gradually proceeding on a democratic path, gradually institutionalizing the governance to make it more responsible, and more constrained by the law, which was happening until 2012, today face with a completely involute scenario, a change of course made by the current President Xi, with a clear totalitarian imprint, according to the source and information available.
It was Xi himself who outlined China’s past and future in his speech at the 19th Party Congress, which in fact marked, through various amendments to the Constitution, the outlines of his autocratic power. He himself outlined the 100 years of history of the People’s Republic of China, from 1949 to 2049, dividing into three phases. According to Xi, the first phase was the socialist revolution and the construction phase of China, from 1949 to 1978, led by the ‘Mao Zedong Thought‘. The second phase, from 1978 until 2012, was guided by the thought of Deng Xiaoping, who initiated the rapid industrialization of China, opening up to the world and moving towards a “relatively wealthy” society (xiaokang). Xi then indicated the roadmap for Chinese development until 2049 and the underlying philosophy and ideology, incorporating it into what he called the “Xi Jinping Thought“.
Not just this. This ‘Xi Thought’, therefore both the programmatic aspect of Chinese economic development and the founding ideology that he intends to spread, was declared by the highest decision-making body of the Communist Party, and then it is now included as law in the Chinese Constitution, an event that had been granted in China only for the thought of Mao Zedong, moreover after his death. Putting the political vision as an integral part of the Chinese Constitution not only places Xi on par with the thinking of Mao Zedong and the Marxist classics, including Lenin, but ratify its inviolability by law.
This element has to be considered together with another fundamental indicator that extends beyond China’s borders the attempt to legitimize, at any cost, the spread of Xi’s ideology. It was repeatedly Xi himself who specified that Chinese growth intends to protect what are considered the priority interests of China, and that this implies a complete review of the current global order. In particular, Xi identified China’s priority interests in defending: 1) state sovereignty, 2) national security, 3) territorial integrity, 4) national reunification, 5) the stability of the Chinese regime, 6) the safeguarding of everything that is necessary to ensure sustainable social and economic development. All interests that China, by its own admission, intends to safeguard by any means, including military means.
As result, in this context also the Belt and Road Initiative project takes on the connotations to be the tool which, having to guarantee the economic development of China, falls within those projects that contribute to the Chinese realization of interests considered top priorities: not only the interest in sustainable economic development, but also the interest in the stability of the regime and therefore of its ideology, today the ideology of XI, ratified by law as the ideology of China. It follows that, a violation or alleged violation or interference in the development of the BRI project, not only from the States that have joined it, would be perceived according to Chinese foreign policy as a violation of its primary interests, which would legitimize, according to the concept of Chinese security, the activation of all suitable measures, not least the military one, actionable in the name of China protection.
Xi has managed to position himself in a role of absolute control of the Party, its bodies, its arm-armed, in order to make his program operational, pervasive his thinking, so much so that it coincides with the unique thinking proposed not only for China, but which should characterize and influence all relations, including international relations of China itself, until the ultimate goal is achieved, namely the full Chinese economic realization and the realization of a new global order.
Xi Jinping presides, with three other members of the Politbureau Standing Committee in the role of vice presidents, the Leading Small Group on Comprehensively Deepening Reform, which has become a sort of Council of State, which usually meets monthly and publishes specific policies on a wide range of issues, including economic ones. In turn, heads of government bodies are required to report regularly to the Politburau Standing Committee.
The Politbureau Committee is made up of six members, besides Xi who chairs it: Li Keqiang (current Prime Minister), Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, Wang Huning, Zhao Leji (new anti-corruption chief) and Han Zheng.
(Politbureau 7 Members)
Among these members, Wang Huning is noteworthy.
Left side: Wang Huning
It is in fact the first time that a qualified academic has joined the Chinese leadership. Wang Huning likely is the key to Xi Jinping’s ideology. His orientation is called neo-authoritarian and neo-conservative approach, and would have been instrumental in the formulation of Xi’s new ideological thinking and political platform. The explicit objective of this “new Chinese socialism” or “socialism with Chinese characteristics“, as often appears in official documents, is to embrace the current of neo-authoritarianism. This doctrine claims that political stability provides the framework for economic development and that democracy and individual freedom are just ‘considerations’ to be addressed later, only if and when social, economic and cultural conditions are appropriate. As Wang would have written in a 1993 article entitled “Political Requirements for the Socialist Market Economy ‘:‘The formation of democratic institutions requires the existence of specific historical, social and cultural conditions. Until these conditions are ripe, political power should be directed towards developing these conditions. ‘
Within the Party, Xi acts in full adherence to his own ideology, placing himself personally at the head of each structure. He chairs eight major small groups including the National Security Commission, thereby directly managing internal security and likely reducing the chances of a coup. Xi’s control over the party’s armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is even more complete than his control of the Party and the government, so much so that it is even more extensive than that which Mao Zedong had done in the past. If Mao had to share military power with powerful revolutionary-era marshals, Xi also assumed the new post of commander-in-chief of the PLA Joint Battle Command, a power he manages substantially absolutely.
The document ‘China’s National Defense in the New Era’, chapter 2, ‘China’s Defensive National Defense Policy in the New Era’, edited in 2019, explicitly states the total adherence of the PLA, the Chinese armed forces, to Xi: ‘To strengthen the defense and China’s national armed forces in the new era, it is imperative to fully implement Xi Jinping’s thought on strengthening the army, accurately implement Xi Jinping’s thought on military strategy, continue to strengthen the political loyalty of the armed forces, strengthen them through reform and technology, manage them according to the law and focus on the ability to fight and win. ‘And again:’ theoretical and political implementation and development are a top priority on the agenda of the armed forces. The Chinese armed forces take on Xi Jinping’s thoughts on strengthening the army as a guide, firmly confirming Secretary General Xi Jinping as the central nucleus of the Chinese people’s Political Consultative Conference (CPCCC, editor’s note: the most powerful Chinese institutional advisor) the entire Party, firmly support the authority of the CPCCC and its centralized and unified leadership, and follow the responsibility system of the president of the Central Military Commission (CMC), in an attempt to further strengthen awareness of the need to maintain political integrity , think in general terms, follow leadership and maintain alignment with it. ‘
Last but not least, the document re-launches the commitment of the Chinese armed forces, including the “Three Warfare” and therefore the army’s commitment to the Chinese Political Warfare. In fact, the document of 2014 is recalled explaining: ‘In accordance with the Decision on issues relating to military political work in the new era issued in December 2014, the Chinese armed forces have improved their political work and embarked on a new path of development. In order to fully strengthen Party leadership and military party building in the new era, a CMC meeting on party building was held in August 2018. Great efforts are being made to cultivate the revolutionary officers and soldiers of the new era with faith, skill, courage and integrity and to build troops with faith, conviction, discipline and iron commitment’, naturally loyal to Xi’s totalitarian thought.
Among the recent military innovations, the establishment of the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force (PLASSIF), one of the most significant components of the ongoing military reform and reorganization of the People’s Republic of China, would seem noteworthy. Although the available sources are often obscured, the PLASSF would seem destined to integrate domains of different military operations, aiming at a sort of “domains fusion” capable of increasing the synergies between the resources of the Chinese Armed Forces, which could improve their ability to further project Chinese military force.
In addition to assuming control and command of the army (PLA), made up of active members and reservists, the latter assigned in peacetime to the management of internal security, Xi leads the Military Commission, which has the unified command not only on the army but also on the Chinese armed police force and the Chinese paramilitary police (PAP). The Chinese paramilitary militia is primarily responsible for managing / repressing civil unrest, and therefore has internal security functions, although it is not a member of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and is subject to directives and is required to report both to the Committee. Central of the Chinese Communist Party and the Central Military Commission, both chaired by Xi. All the Chinese armed forces and militias are therefore today the Xi’s longa manus.
Among the initiatives taken by Xi to guarantee himself the totalitarian ascent to his homeland, in 2015 Xi gave rise to a heavy repression against corruption and indiscipline towards the Party, through the Central Discipline Commission of the Party; the repression that, according to the data, would have hit in 2015 nearly 300,000 Party members, would have allowed Xi to eliminate potential rivals, cancel centers of power competing with the Party, and impose through fear the absolute loyalty of the political elite to the CCP and his own person. Zhou Yongkang and Bo Xilai, former members of the Politbureau Standing Committee, generals Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, and Sun Zhengcai, a Politbureau member and potential successor of Xi who was purged shortly before the Party Congress in October 2017, were also reported to have fallen under Xi’s crackdown.
Continuing his authoritarian ascent, in 2018 Xi established and effectively placed under his control the National Supervisory Commission with a pervasive control not only over all Party members, but also over all those who work for the State, professors, doctors and managers of state-owned enterprises. It contributes to outline the Xi Jinping’s totalitarian profile, concerned with building and guaranteeing his own cult, and therefore the resilience of his authoritarianism, his emphasis on loyalty and building trust towards the Party and his person, elements for him crucial, as moreover indicated several times in his writings by the ideologue member of the Politbureau, Wang Huning, mentioned above.
Various instruments would be adopted in China to achieve this end; among these the practice of requesting all Party officials, including the main provincial leaders and members of the Politbureau, to engage in the so-called criticism and self-criticism practices and in loyalty commitments (biaotai) to the central apparatus of the Party and its role.
Mistakenly sometimes considered not more than ritual, and therefore underestimated in their bloody externalization, these tools are stubborn practices of Marxist-Leninist indoctrination, already adopted in post-Mao China, and today present and implemented in anarchist extremist – terrorist groups with Marxist orientation (for example the Kurds of the PKK / YPG / YPJ who also saw Chinese foreign fighters join their ranks in Syria).
These indoctrination practices, to which others are added, , for Xi must be addressed in the name of patriotic indoctrination in various directions: to mother earth China, to China as a nation, to China as a culture, to China as a Communist Party, and to the ‘Chinese socialism with Chinese characteristics‘. As result, the totalitarian thought of Xi himself, not only has the purpose of flattering Xi, but also of building a nationalistic sentiment since childhood, in order to prevent the future rise of political exponents, potentially adversaries of the autocratic rules imposed by Xi.
In the name of an organic patriotism, a distinctive peculiarity of Xi’s patriotism, in which there can be no love for the Nation without love for the Party and without love for the ‘thought of Xi’, for example the members of the Party are prescribed to avoid any “improper discussion” (wangyi) that challenges central policies, and recruiting new members now requires stricter loyalty standards.
These practices of indoctrination and organic and forced patriotism are consistent with the ideological far left turn of Xi, oriented to Marxism-Leninism, and which naturally involves and affects primarily the educational environments: the university professors who are members of the Party must defend the CCP in the classroom in case of criticism, western textbooks are banned and replaced with new Chinese versions that emphasize the Marxist ideological orientation, and discussion in schools on seven topics associated with ‘western values’ and considered ‘subversive’ is prohibited: universalism, press freedom, judicial independence, civil society, citizens rights, historical Party errors and patronage within the financial elite and political circles. Schools of Marxism are enjoying a real revival on campus across the country. The concept of Meritocracy is replaced by the concept of Virtuocracy, that is the promotion of people on the basis of their political loyalty. It is therefore the total folding and completely aligned with Xi’s Thought that allows social and professional promotions, certainly not personal skills.
In such a context, censorship to block dissent in the bud is an integral part of the Xi Chinese regime. While censorship was once fragmented in several agencies in China, today it is the preserve of a powerful new Cyber Administration of China (CAC) also known as the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission and Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace. Affairs, the central Chinese agency that deals with regulating internet flows, as well as censorship.
Chaired by Xi, the Cyber Administration of China (CAC) aims to win what Xi calls the “fight for public opinion”, which translates into that first dimension of the ‘Three Warfare’ mentioned in other contribution, namely the Public Opinion warfare on its internal side. The agency would be divided into several Departments: Internet Security Emergency Command Center, Agency Service Center, Illegal and Unhealthy Information Reporting Center. The latter Department in particular would be a sort of public control system, through which the Chinese population is invited to report those who, through Internet, make explicit thoughts that are considered incorrect and not virtuous: therefore an invite to use informer methods acting as a censorship tool, It’s quite clearly that these tools clash with Xi’s ethereal claims about his dedication to peaceful coexistence. Censorship is particularly efficient in China today and bypassing what is called the Chinese Great Firewall to gain access to global news is increasingly complex for the Chinese.
Critical rumors about the regime have been censored by the Cyber Administration of China (CAC) also through the Sina Weibo platform, the Chinese version of Twitter, and the penetration into WeChat, a platform whose Chinese censorship has returned to the fore during today’s pandemic. In fact on WeChat, the Chinese authorities intercepted and punished for ‘spreading rumors and false information’ the comparison among colleagues by the first Chinese doctor who shared information on some cases of patients who seemed to be suffering from a SARS-like coronavirus.
One of the most evident, and most silent and concealed, example of the Cyber Administration of China (CAC) operations is the control exercised since 2016 in the Xinjiang region. The region was and is inhabited by the Uyghurs, most of whom practice Sunni Islam, and had been the site of ethnic violence. On the orders of the Party and Xi, the CAC attempted to regulate the violence by criminalizing all the inhabitants of Xinjiang who posted online reflections and / or images of ethnic conflicts and tensions. The governorate of Xinjiang was also ordered to strengthen ‘cyber-information security‘, the monitoring and management of internet service providers and internet users. In recent years, massive surveillance has been applied throughout the region and in all provinces of Xinjang: the Chinese authorities collect DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans and blood groups of all residents in the aged region here 12 and 65 years old, according to Human Rights Watch. This Chinese control and surveillance operation expands the collection of biometric data by the authorities, which in the past had already requested all passport applicants in Xinjiang to provide biometric data. For all ‘personnel of interest’, or considered threatening to the stability of the regime and their family members, biometric data must now be taken regardless of age. Surveillance is also carried out through technological links and the region has become one of the main centers for the use of surveillance technology for social control, in particular through an Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP). The collection of personal data would identify the level of suspicion of a given subject, who would subsequently be imprisoned in indoctrination and re-education camps.
According with the information available, a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities would be detained in what authoritative voices call the largest concentration camp system of the 21st century, in a Chinese operation that coordinates forced labor with ‘re-education’ camps, or ‘indoctrination’, managed and created by Xi. The operation would be so coordinated and so high would be the fear of spreading the news outside the Xinjiang region that local authorities would have received an official document to explain the disappearance of parents and families detained in rehabilitation camps. This document has the aim to prevent teenagers from the region, often attending schools outside the region, to which they return on holidays, from spreading news and doubts about the camps.
As the sources evidences show, Xi has also strengthened the centralized social control of the Party through the use of the law and the judicial system functional to its power (Legal Warfare). The Chinese Constitution does not provide for a separation of powers (legislative, judicial, executive), considered a subversive threat by the West against the Party, but a division of functions, all belonging to the Party. The agencies that deal with the Chinese judicial function are coordinated by the Political-Legal Committee of the Communist Party, which operates at all administrative levels. The Political-Legal Committee has primary political oversight over the work of judicial agencies. Since the beginning of 2014, however, the work of the Political-Legal Committee has been subordinated to the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening, under the leadership of Xi.
So if the Party has always managed the courts, it is now the central Party authorities, and not the local Party figures, to appoint judges. Which inevitably implies that likely those who have shown themselves most loyal to the Party and Xi will be appointed as judges.
The indicators lead to some conclusions.
1.The Chinese regime, founded on a single party and on Xi’s autocratic regime, employs, also through its armed wing, the People Liberation Army (PLA), strategies, techniques, methodologies of political warfare, in 3 integrated directions: public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, legal warfare. Although the official documents do not specify that operations related to the Three Warfare (outlined in the previous contribution) are also acted in peacetime, taking into consideration that the Chinese military army is functional to the interests of the Party and President Xi, who proclaimed himself as Leader, and that these interests are also economic and geo-political, it is highly likely that operations affecting all three warfare dimensions are carried out by the PLA on a daily basis, therefore also in peacetime.
2.The autocratic rise of Xi, sealed by the abolition of the limit of the two presidential mandates, as requested by Xi, and voted unanimously by the Party, and now included in the Chinese Constitution, gives Xi the right to remain in office in time undetermined. It is highly unlikely that Xi will resign from his role at the end of his second term in 2023.
3.Xi’s construction of his own person cult, the insertion of his ideological and political vision as an integral part of the Chinese Constitution,namely the ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ and widespread in official documents with the extension, alongside concepts such as diplomacy, negotiation, etc., of the expression ‘with Chinese characteristics’, a vague and apparently harmless extension especially in the international context, is instead the ideological mark and trait that legitimizes Xi’s authoritarianism, as the expression of his personal contribution to the Party ideology. This not only positions Xi on par with the thinking of Mao Zedong and the classic Marxists, including Lenin, but ratifies the inviolability of this vision, which is thus inviolable by law. As result, every divergent political vision is now, according to the Chinese Constitution, contrary to the law, therefore illegal, and therefore a threat, internal or foreign, to the security of the Country, as such to face, by any means, including the military one in its various forms.
4.In With specific regard to the armed forces, according with the information available in a modernization phase, it would be appropriate to evaluate the role of the Strategic Support Force (PLASSIF) of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), characterized by what is called ‘domain fusion’ and which apparently, it could be particularly adherent and functional to the political warfare acted by the PLA. However, there are no convergent and precise indicators in this regard, capable to be conclusive.
5.China, in addition to the stability of the regime, and therefore of its current ideological vision based, according to the constitutional norm now, on Xi’s thought, has declared its intention to revisit the global order, while guaranteeing defense, by any means, of its priority interests: a) state sovereignty, b) national security, c) territorial integrity, d) national reunification, e) the stability of the Chinese regime, f) the safeguarding of all that is necessary to ensure sustainable social and economic development.
The assessment of these indicators leads to the conclusion that China most likely considers the protection of its interests as compatible only with the establishment of a new global order, which it would like to be the bearer. China likely considers this new global as based not only on its own political agenda and economic development, but also on an essential and ideological diffusion of its ideology. For this reason China works to permeate not only the internal dimension of China but also the international one, in an attempt to subvert and suppress the liberal and democratic values, considered ‘enemies’ of the stability of the regime.
6.Following this interpretation, the ‘enemy’ in the ‘Three Warfare’ operations is therefore not the ‘enemy’ generally intended as a counterpart in an armed conflict or in any case in an inter-State offensive frontal clash, but becomes anyone, individual or group or State entity, considered ‘subversive’ because it does not adhere to the vision of the Party and XI. The fact that the political vision is closely connected with the vision of economic development, ends up designating as a potential ‘enemy’, and therefore potential target of the PLA operations, anyone who does not adhere and / or stands in the way of the economic and geo-political projects of China, regardless of peacetime or full-blown conflict.
7.Xi is an autocrat with full dominance over the Party and the country. What differentiates him from other autocrats is the fact that he poses himself not only as heir to the Marxist-Leninist tradition, bearer of an ideology that is grafted onto this legacy, reinvigorating it. Xi’s personal legitimacy is based on that of the Party, and in turn that of the Party, incorporating Xi’s vision in the Constitution, legitimizes himself on the figure of Xi, The effect is a scenario of mutual interdependence, which likely could have, as its purpose, to double-assure Xi’s autocracy. In this intertwining, in fact, Xi made sure that a possible fall would result in the possible delegitimization of the Party, a risk that the Party could probably want to avoid, even at the price of accepting what could be further degeneration of the Xi current autocracy.
8.The Xi neo-authoritarianism or ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, likely assisted / proposed by Wang, considered his ideologue, is based on the need of a total political stability, also acted through technological control and surveillance, as well as through an indiscriminate use of means of social surveillance and control, which allows economic development to legitimize Xi’s autocracy.
9.China ideological vision is exercised both within the international institutions and with the political members of high level of the target Countries, acting on different target audiences: a) within the international institutions China contributes with huge economic funds to various agencies, to carve out spaces within the international institutions (the United Nations and its various agencies) in order to paints itself as a responsible international player, meanwhile carrying out a Legal Warfare, building an international legal-legal framework that legitimizes its ideological vision and the actions that derive from it; b) in the context of the high political representation of the target Countries, China tries to intentionally influence and conquer the complacency of the political representatives, introducing diplomatic, cooperative and negotiation modalities. These tools are all marked by the peculiarity to be approach ‘with Chinese characteristics’, with the aim to contaminate the target countries with a mix of coercive economic measures and repressive ideology, factors that China considers the foundation of its final goal of ‘new global order with Chinese characteristics‘.
10.There are no indicators of democratic graft in the current Chinese regime, but rather an acceleration of the economic and market processes, privileged channels for the regime to keep alive internally and exercise its ‘Three warfare’, or the three conflict dimensions during peacetime, thus attempting to open the way towards the realization of own geopolitical ambitions.
11.The indoctrination and organic patriotism practices are consistent with the far left ideological turn of Xi , oriented towards Marxism-Leninism, and defined as ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics‘. It’s highly likely that the use of this phrase may allow the undetected ideological transmission even outside China, appearing at first sight as little more than a suggestion and a cultural emphasis instead of the denomination of a real ideology, ‘the Xi Thought’, now included in the Chinese Constitution.
12.The indicators highlight the contradiction between the reality of Chinese politics and the narrative of President Xi devoted to ‘peaceful cooperation and coexistence with Chinese characteristics’. It is likely that Xi concept of ‘peaceful coexistence with Chinese characteristics’ in a global view, stands for adherence to his thought and his totalitarian vision.
13.The Uyghur repression through indoctrination camps and forced labor is a consistent indicator of totalitarian face of Xi’s ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, and show how far his autocracy goes beyond the common living norms internationally shared, adopting the arbitrary use of cyber control over people’s lives to suppress the freedom of thinking. The regime fear of spreading knowledge of this specific matter is an additional indicator which, if confirmed, corroborates its truthfulness.
14.The critical reactions of the Chinese population which tried to break the China censorship especially after the death of Dr. Li Wengliang, the doctor detected a case of SARS-CoV-2 and hit by the censorship, could likely indicate that the spread facts and knowledge relating to the Uyghur, could open up spaces for possible critical reaction of the Chinese population against of Xi. This could potentially destabilize his autocracy, although this scenario is not conclusive; it’s possible that the Chinese regime waged a psychological warfare on own population in order to decrease the tolerance towards the Uyghurs, and as result make acceptable the regime repression over this group.
15.Xi’s crackdown on the China’s internal patronage network and potential rivals is likely to have spawned a large group of enemies and rivals within China. It is possible that this is the reason of the Xi’s investment into colossal structural projects outside China. In fact these are fundamental for the maintenance and strengthening of his personal ascent. Indeed, by guaranteeing China’s economic development, Xi can leverage the popular nationalist sentiment, adequately indoctrinated, in order to counter the greatest threat that likely could come to him from within the Chinese elite, more than from the Chinese population. It is also possible that Xi’s frantic search to build networks of international support is aimed at weakening the internal criticisms of his absolutism and dictatorial rise.
The recent event that led to today’s pandemic shows clearly that autocratic regimes, the Chinese one in this case, should not and cannot be considered simply “other than us”, distant and in fact harmless. The ax of the Chinese regime’s censorship of information of the Chinese doctor who first identified the SARS-like coronavirus, now SARS-CoV-2, among his patients, is the evidence of the damage that autocracy generates for its population, and the potentially global damage generated by each Country based on autocratic regimes.
The calls that we are witnessing in recent days by international bodies responsible for health protection (one of all the World Health Organization – WHO) to the ‘non-politicization of SARS-CoV-2’ are missing in not taking into consideration that it is not desire for conflict pushing to shed light on the events, but rather the need to understand what elements determined the appearance and magnitude of virus diffusion. These are necessary and it is necessary analyze them, also to avoid that the present can be repeated, and that other lives are lost, due to other pandemics and / or due to a brief underestimation of autocratic ideologies that can manifest themselves in many and diversified ways, as ancient and recent history has repeatedly shown.
It is undeniable that the days lost due to the censorship of the Chinese totalitarian Xi regime would have been days that the whole planet would have gained, avoiding or at least, being able to contain, the number of lives lost due to what has instead become a pandemic. The indicators are all converging in bringing out, with clarity, how each autocracy, as the Chinese one, is opposed, by its intrinsic nature, not only with the adoption of internal and international standards for the protection of human beings and their health and physical and psychological safety, but also with the adoption of adequate measures to prevent and cope with threats that put at risk the physical and mental safety of every human being in the Globe.
To underestimate or silence the analysis of the political-ideological framework of China’s Xi, focus of this contribution, would be not only a theoretical error but a serious human and historical responsibility: silence and omission would end, inadvertently and / or deliberately, to make institutional decision-makers collusive and therefore complicit in the damage that autocratic regimes always create for entire populations and for Country systems.
With particular regard to Xi’s autocratic China, it is essential to take into consideration the ideological vision that supports its regime, and with which China aims to achieve a new global order, a vision certainly suggestive both for countries based on autocratic regimes, carriers of its own specific ideology, but which still stand on a political model similar to the Chinese one, both for developing countries, which show a certain intolerance and / or dissatisfaction with the West and the United States, and finally also for developed countries, democratic in nature, but which tend to self-perceive themselves not sufficiently valued in the international context, and therefore try to position themselves as China’s commercial partners in the illusory attempt to carve out some important space in global decisions. The evidence show that the target countries that have shown themselves more willing to partner with China in recent years can substantially be divided into these three categories just above mentioned, and thanks to which the Chinese predatory autocracy has succeeded in some of its objectives over the recent years, effectively ‘hooking up’ these Countries.
Unfortunately, the pro-China Italian choices seem to have positioned Italy in one of these three categories. But the process is not in itself irreversible. The dramatic experience that we all are experiencing today in the Globe must be seized as an opportunity to open up new spaces for reflection and evaluation and indicate the beginning of new routes to follow. Institutional, political, economic, financial decision-makers are required to change their direction, which certainly depends on their ability and decision-making will to orient, or re-orient in a healthy and constructive way for their Country, incorrect directions that have put the strategic interests of own Country at risk.
How? The ‘must’ is first of all to know, in the most thorough, most intellectually honest, and most responsible way possible, the facets and nuances that ideological visions bring with them, to recognize and escape the predatory maneuvers that ideologies always put in place. It is a question of moving towards a paradigm shift, that no longer identifies the economic partner deemed most advantageous, depending on the historical moment and the financial flows, regardless of its ideological vision.
China not only is, but sees itself as a significant ideological rival of today’s system and its liberal democracies, proposing its own alternative, totalitarian and autocratic system, acting in typically manipulative ways.This is a reality and will be suitably explained in future contributions already in elaboration.
What course of action, therefore, not to get caught in the mesh of this net? Just a few hints. As in all interactions characterized by manipulative patterns, the real challenge is not fought by maintaining a relationship, albeit conflicting, with the predatory actor.
China, intentionally because this is its ideological vision, always poses itself in a coercive way, having as its objective and root the realization of a clear asymmetry of positions and power.The real challenge and the real victory against this China’s attempt to realize asymmetric dynamics sees the light in other areas: in the field of knowledge of the Chinese autocracy and ideology that supports it, in the field of the choice of the protection of the values underlying own democracy, in the field of the political choice that avoids blind alliances, often motivated by economic purposes, but guided by personalistic and / or party ambitions, or by the frustration for not feeling recognized internationally, in the field of the intellectual integrity. This means to know that , conducting a dialogue with counterpart so different in terms of values, need a very high level of awareness; at the contrary, just putting in place generic negotiation ability or skills, highly likley could have the effect to nurture the ideological autocracy of own counterpart, that should instead be weakened.
It is therefore a matter of acting with a view to weakening the autocracies and their ideologies, also making itself a bulwark of the current system of global order which, although not immune from errors and distortions, and although it sees sectors that require massive interventions to facilitate their implementation and their improvement, is certainly based on values that serve both as a foundation and as self-safeguard mechanisms, and which are conquests of civilization and democracy, including the mandatory value of the rule of law, individual freedom, pluralism, the rights of all to participate in public life. These are all values that autocracies, even the Chinese one, consider ‘subversive’, and which instead are our identity, it is what allows us to be fully ourselves, to express ourselves freely, to live, to evolve, to grow, to make mistakes without being executed, to have a divergent thought without being silenced. The institutional decision – makers cannot ignore all this.
The real challenge and the true victory that allow to not empower an autocratic ideology is therefore, also and above all, the choice to maintain own fundamental values, and to make them live in choices, actions, decisions, alliances, enhancing and not accusing the critical voices within own Country in the name of anachronistic anti-historical visions and narratives, because all this is democracy. It’s necessary attract and collaborate with all the Countries systems that resonate in their essence with democratic and liberal values, with the freedom of thought, aiming to improve current problems, creating together more authentic, inclusive and dynamic economies, revitalizing politics and pluralism, and restoring the sometimes fragile balance between national and global, democratic and technocratic which is essential for the health of more sophisticated and more advanced democracies.
The autocracy has no place in the current pandemic Covid 19 world, where we all have indiscriminately found ourselves sailing in the same waters and where we have all rediscovered together with the human vulnerability that exists regardless of role, status, position, profession, the immense and unparalleled value of freedom, of the exercise of personal and collective responsibility, and the power in its purest sense of the term, that derives from the recognition of our identity and cultural and value wealth. These are the bright lands that cultivated can help to weaken any autocracy, which is always based on the mortification of human beings on which it would like to exercise power.
Autocracy has no place in the post-pandemic Covid – 19 world.
It depends on everyone’s choices today, for this to happen in the next near future.
Author: Michela Ravarini ©Copyright reserved Italy, 12 Apr.2020