China’s new dictator?

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The recent repealing of China’s two-term presidential policy has concerning implications. U.S. President Donald Trump commented how he thinks America should also allow this option. These actions and statements are disquieting because they echo past totalitarian regimes. The rise of these kinds of governments has worrying historical precedents.

Chinese President, Xi Jinping, has moved to become a dictator for life. The current government has essentially allowed him to do just that.

In an attempt to increase the party’spower, Chinese censors have banned many words and phrases. The title of George Orwell’s book Animal Farm, the word “disagree”, and the phrase “ I oppose” are example of newly censored items. This highlights the level of control the government is seeking to have over its people.

An inability to criticise or question the country’s leader seems more like fascism than true communism. Much of the opposition to this new move has been met with interrogation or punishment. The claim that this shows “Chinese Democracy” is unequivocally false. There is clearly no room for a democratic process in this setting.

The banning of a book like Animal Farm speaks volumes to the intentions of the country. The plot of this book shows the rise of a group of pigs to what is essentially a fascist or authoritarian position of power. A book like this allows for critical thinking about these types of government. Banning the book signals that there is resistance to this kind of criticism.

It is not clear whether the current Chinese government can truly be called fascist. However, there exists a historical precedent of this kind of movement in the country. In an article titled “Blue Shirts, Nationalists and Nationalism: Fascism in 1930s China,” Jan Hong explores the rise of a fascist movement in China that mimic similar movements in Germany and Italy in the period. He notes how this brand of fascism was unique to China because it added elements of Confucianism in order to appeal to the Chinese people. This was also a period when those considered to be too liberal or radical were punished.

Hong notes that the movement of the Blue Shirts exemplified many fascist ideals. Similar to in Italy and Germany, there was a cult of personality surrounding the leader, Chiang Kai-Shek. He focused on the militarization of society and promoted movements that mirrored the Hitler Youth in Germany. Even when fascism fell out of favour, he was able to stay in power by cultivating a different image of himself as a Christian leader.

Another, more recent, example of problematic Chinese leadership is the period under the leadership of Mao Zedong. He was one of China’s many “bad emperors.” This term refers to the issue of dictatorial power in China. Mao too developed a cult of personality, allowing him to remain in power for a significant stretch of time. China is still recovering from the problems created by his time in power.

Jinping is currently trying to promote a similar cult of personality. He has changed the existing system in order to make himself more powerful. He is also seeking to have his political ideology ratified in the constitution. Doing so would mean that it would be mandatory for schoolchildren to study his way of thinking. Along with the new forms of censorship and state control, this is another way to try and control the thoughts and actions of Chinese citizens.

Based on these historical precedents, the current situation in China is one that warrants close observation. I see worrying echoes of the past in the movements of the current government. I do not think that China quite deserves the description of fascist in its current state of being. However, I do see the potential for the country to head further in this direction. There are people who live in China that have stated in the past few years that they too see the potential for their country to head in this direction.

This situation will continue to develop. The continued censorship will be an issue for those that live in China, as they will not be as able to express dissent. China claims to be communist, but their current trajectory makes me think that they are more like the power structure described in the banned Animal Farm. I think that now it is very appropriate to reflect on Orwell’s quotation, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

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