China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, is enforcing the strict autocratic controls on which the survival of the ruling (CCP) Chinese Communist Party depends.
China’s open economy has resulted in the proliferation of democratic ideals in an increasingly unequal society. The CCP has overly reacted to this struggle between classes and history and has sought to nip dissent in the bud, and if necessary, with force. However, times have changed and China has emerged as Russia’s successor in a world that needed to balance American power, which makes recent events very surprising.
The much vaunted Anti-Corruption Drive can be said to be successful. The conviction of Zhou Yongkang, ex-member of the highest body of the CCP, the Politburo Standing Committee, for abuse of power is undoubtedly a step forward for the party. Ironically, however, the campaign can be expected to lead to only more corruption as it places power in the hands of an internal party committee to carry out investigations against fellow party members, a situation further exacerbated by the lack of an independent judiciary, or the existence of political opposition. Therefore, at some later date, an anti-corruption drive for the excesses committed by the Anti-Corruption Drive might occur.
Despite this, the point has been clearly made by Mr. Jinping. At whatever cost, real or imaginary, the Anti-Corruption Drive will continue, if only to win over public opinion and cleanse the image of the CCP. The Chinese President is doggedly pursuing this campaign.
Of course, what won’t win over opinion public opinion is the unnecessary recent repression of human rights lawyers. The Beijing based Fengrui law firm has been at the centre of this repression, and human rights lawyers have just “disappeared.” The aim of the investigative agency has been to “smash a major criminal gang that had used the Beijing Fengrui law firm as a platform since July 2012 to draw attention to sensitive cases, seriously disturbing social order” according to the People’s Daily.
Whether or not there exists a “major criminal gang” that disturbs social order, by drawing attention to sensitive cases is something that is to be adjudicated. The truth remains, however, that there can never be criminality in bringing attention to sensitive cases. Investigations are being carried out in camera and the lawyers detained remain at risk of torture, abuse and forced confessions and any proof of guilt of “disturbing social order” obtained by the authorities would be tainted by the closed nature of the investigations and the lack of an independent judiciary.
Even the multinational giant, Xiaomi, thought it advantageous to set up an internal Communist Party Committee. Chairman Mao sloganeering has been brought back into fashion and NGOs have been targeted along with human rights lawyers, activists and dissidents.
All of this is a projection of power by the CCP at a very difficult time when it has various issues plaguing it, from the economy to its territorial concerns, corruption and ever increasing irrelevancy of autocracies across the world. The CCP is faced with the irrelevance of its own ideologies and is suffering for it.
The toleration of dissent and the development of a healthy political culture remain key to solving the issues and the CCP remains in need of reform and not further solidification.