The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) last week celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding. As expected, little was said about the millions upon millions of Chinese who died, either directly when the CCP seized power or indirectly later on as collateral damage of its many failed policies. Also glossed over was the way the CCP has foundered from a fractured Marxist/Leninist idea into being a capitalistic totalitarian one-party state, “with Chinese characteristics” of course.
Instead, what was heard was Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) taking some victory laps for the final results of what the party built — a laudable matter if one can ignore all of the massive collateral damage. What also followed were the expected railings against the presumed enemies of its one-party state, along with a heavy dose of CCP doublespeak in rewriting history.
Amid the designated enemies and doublespeak were traditional old saws, not missing was the “horrendous” 19th-century humiliation brought on by outside powers in the Opium Wars. Xi also expressed determination to reunite that which was never united in the first place; he seems to miss the fact that for Taiwanese, Taiwan is their motherland.
Xi’s rhetoric reminded one of the methods that Hitler often used to gain support for his Nazi party: namely, grievances over past humiliations and setting up an imagined enemy.
The Jews provided the easy target for Hitler’s enemy, even though many of them had fought in the trenches for Germany in World War I. Hitler would claim that they were just not Aryan enough. That they had wealth to be seized was certainly an added asset. As for humiliation, the German defeat in World War I and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles fit the bill.
Returning to China, in the matter of the humiliating bullying, Xi failed to explain the CCP’s love/hate relationship with the Manchu, aka the Qing Dynasty.
From their homeland of Manchuria, the Manchus conquered and controlled a part of Taiwan, Mongolia, Tibet, Xinjiang and China. They ruled these lands for more than 250 years, while the Han hated wearing the Manchu queue. Yet in the CCP doublespeak, the Manchu empire was really China and, thus, when foreigners forced the Manchus to open trade ports, it became an insult to all Chinese, not Manchus.
Included in this “doublespeak” was the CCP’s need to forget how past “Chinas” traditionally bullied neighboring nations whenever they had the upper hand. The bullied lands were euphemistically described as “vassal or tributary states” granted the privilege of “trading with China.”
There is a much simpler metaphor to describe the CCP’s attitude regarding China over the party’s 100 years: To settle a dispute between the Catholic ruler of the Holy Roman Empire and his Lutheran princes, the 1550 Peace of Augsburg stated that the religion of the ruling prince would be the religion of his subjects.
Joachim Stephani, a former law professor, summarized the results with this phrase: Cuius regio, eius religio, or “whose realm, their religion.”
If the subjects did not like it, they could move to another part of the empire. It was a way for the Catholics and Lutherans to coexist, and to avoid social rebellion. Of course, other denominations were left out.
Xi put a different twist on this as he told China that he is the ruler and the only religion allowed is the CCP. Having defined orthodoxy, the party names the true believers, saints, sinners, heretics and agnostics. The CCP can proclaim that anyone who died as collateral damage is a martyr of the “motherland.”
While the “CCP as religion” is an apt metaphor with multiple applications, it also explains why the party must control all other religions. The CCP needs to appoint Catholic bishops, and pick and groom the Panchen Lama, and even the Dalai Lama when he dies.
The Turkic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, including Uighurs, are considered dangerous and must become malleable citizens, while strange agnostics who practice Falun Gong must be eliminated. Citizens need only worship the golden calf of the CCP.
The CCP runs China as a one-party state, by which it is saying that its brand of communism is the “religion” of China. Unbelievers must suffer the consequences, with democracy advocates in Hong Kong serving as the latest “heretics” to suffer the wrath of the CCP’s religio.
Even the media fit within the metaphor. There is no free press in China, as there is in Taiwan. In China, the media exist to propagate the faith and trample out heresy.
The “CPP as religion” highlights other differences between Taiwan and China: The two nations are on opposite paths, they think differently, they rule differently and they interact with the world differently.
Taiwan and China are driven by a different set of principles and beliefs: Taiwan is a democracy, where church and state are separate, and many faiths and churches are allowed. China is a one-party state, where the party is the only “church.”
In contrast with China, Taiwan does not interfere in the affairs of any church or religion, including the Falun Gong.
The “spiritual side” of this metaphor even allows Xi to tell how the CCP grew from a small band of true believers to its present membership of about 95 million. All others can trust that the CCP has their best intentions at heart.
This allows Xi to avoid the more crass pragmatic reasons of why China covets Taiwan, such as that Taiwan stands as a tremendous economic asset and a strategic plum.
What nation would not want to control Taiwan? Taiwan ranks in the upper 80th percentile when its GDP is compared with other nations’. What nation would not want to control its location, and dominate Asia’s shipping routes?
If that were not enough, Taiwan leads the world in semiconductor production. Hands down, Taiwan is an economic and strategic Asian plum.
If that can be phrased in nationalistic or even religious terms, so much the better.
Taiwanese should be disturbed by what Xi said about the “1992 consensus” in his address — that it is part of the CCP’s belief system — even though everybody knows that former KMT legislator Su Chi (蘇起) in February 2006 admitted that he made up the term in 2000 — when he was head of the Mainland Affairs Council — to break the cross-strait deadlock and alleviate tension.
This should be disturbing to Taiwan, as well as the personal letters of congratulations that several prominent Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members sent to their former enemy, the CCP, on its centennial. They did this even though the CCP regularly threatens to attack Taiwan.
Whose side is the KMT on? What democratic principles, if any, does it live by?
The CCP celebrated its 100th anniversary. While no one denies that, there should be little celebration in Taiwan. Taiwanese can accept the historical reality of the CCP, but they cannot accept Xi’s message.
While the CCP’s centennial celebration stands as a reminder to Taiwan to cherish its own values and reason for existence, it is also a warning that the CCP’s intends to steal those away.
Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei.
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