Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership constantly harken back to imperial China — that same feudal system the party condemned for decades — when they talk about returning the nation to its rightful place in the world order, yet their increasingly myopic vision carries with it the same seeds of self-destructiveness that left the imperial state humiliated by Western nations and a resurgent Japan in the 1800s.
While few details have been released about this week’s four-day plenum of the party’s Central Committee, the hints in the official communique released by Xinhua news agency on Thursday, like reading the lines on the oracle bones of old, indicate that Xi and his cohorts’ cataracts are hardening, along with their positions on Taiwan, Hong Kong and more.
According to the communique, the “peaceful reunification of the motherland” was one key theme, which should be promoted by greater cross-strait integrated development, safeguarding the well-being of “Taiwan compatriots” and uniting them in “opposition of independence and promotion of reunification.”
It is hard to reconcile the desire to “safeguard” Taiwanese with the callous disregard Beijing has shown to them in recent years, from the SARS epidemic to hindering international aid after earthquakes to blocking Taipei’s access to vital information on the African swine fever epidemic.
Unification might be a dream of Xi and the CCP, but with every passing year the idea becomes more of a nightmare for a majority of Taiwanese, except those as deluded — or as morally corrupt — as Beijing’s leadership.
The plenum proposed upholding and improving “one country, two systems” and promised to protect the stability of Hong Kong — even though Beijing has ignored the commitments it made in its treaty with Britain on the future of the territory.
It also said it would “build and improve a legal system and enforcement mechanism to defend national security in the special administrative regions.”
Yet not only are the greatest threats to Hong Kong’s stability Xi and the CCP, a crucial issue for the territory — as well as for the rest of the nation — is that the judicial system the CCP has already built is barely legal: It flouts the very national constitution that it in theory is to uphold and defend.
In addition, the plenum vowed stronger centralized leadership and improved decisionmaking, which anyone with even a passing interest in post-1949 Chinese history could tell you is not only an oxymoron when it comes to the CCP, but has been a disaster in reality.
Like the emperors isolated in the Forbidden City and removed from the common people, who were not even allowed to look at them, those who now live in Zhongnanhai cling to an outdated dogma to stay in power, perceiving even the most moderate of alternatives as a threat.
The vow of the plenum to extend the CCP leadership’s authority even further is akin to those who would prop up an earthquake-damaged building by plastering over its cracks without checking if the foundation is even strong enough to support it.
Party plenum communiques have traditionally been vague to the point of opaqueness, with details and additional policies announced later. While some analysts have seen the limited scope of Thursday’s announcement as a sign that there might be division within the ranks or challenges to the way Xi has handled certain issues, that might be just wishful thinking.
Taiwanese, like Hong Kongers and the rest of the world, will have to wait to see what comes next — but it is unlikely to be anything they would be happy with.
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