Economic and political stability are Beijing’s priorities in the lead-up to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 20th National Congress on Oct. 16, a report commissioned by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said.
The CCP would be focusing on touting the “significant advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” and major economic and social development achievements, the report said, adding that all official propaganda apparatuses and social media platforms, as well as music, television and film productions, would therefore be “telling good stories about China,” “spreading positive energy” and doing service to “the Chinese dream that reinvigorates the Zhonghua minzu (中華民族, Chinese ethnic group).”
The CCP’s other major goal prior to the congress is “stability,” and anything that is incompatible with the government’s positive image would be “ruthlessly repressed,” the MAC report said.
Disease control measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic were the biggest source of instability this year, as the Chinese government imposed strict lockdowns that affected businesses and damaged economic growth, it said.
The CCP imposed tough “zero COVID” measures in cities including Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing, which made reaching this year’s GDP growth target of about 5.5 percent very difficult, the report said, adding that before the pandemic, private companies were already suffering due to a US-China trade dispute.
Beijing reserving the most popular positions in government agencies and state-run enterprises for CCP and Communist Youth League members only made the issue worse, it added.
Photo: Chung Li-hua, Taipei Times
As a result, a trend of “lying flat” — a concept involving inaction — emerged among young people born after 1990, it said.
These young people would rather “lie flat” than challenge social institutions, and many become “little pinks” — a term used to describe young, jingoistic Chinese nationalists on the Web — celebrating China’s achievements, attacking international businesses that support Taiwan’s independence and boycotting works or people who are suspected of insulting China, the report said.
Meanwhile, the MAC cited a report published in July by Citigroup Inc that revealed that many presold houses in China were left unfinished, prompting buyers to stop paying their mortgages and leading to a debt crisis in banks.
The problem pressured Beijing to restore stability by suppressing online discussions related to enterprises going bankrupt, bank capital issues and local governments’ debts, the MAC report said.
Moreover, two incidents in Henan Province’s capital, Zhengzhou, highlighted the flaws in China’s pursuit of stability, it said.
When Zhengzhou residents protested in the streets after four local banks froze cash withdrawals in April, their “health codes,” which are used to access public spaces as a disease prevention tool, turned red, flagging them as infection risks and banning them from going out.
Although Beijing punished five officials after the crackdown sparked a public outcry, the public realized how easily the government can deprive them of their basic needs, the report said.
Another incident happened around the first anniversary of a devastating flood in Henan, it said.
In the aftermath of the flood, a provincial official was removed from office for mishandling the incident and deliberately underreporting the deaths, it said.
Beijing banned all commemorative events this year and removed all images and videos related to the incident online, the report said.
Despite the ban, some people tried to send sunflowers to the scene and protested in creative ways, it said.
The economic slowdown, problems of unemployment and incidents in Zhengzhou might not pose threats to Beijing’s political stability in the short term, but in the long run might shake the confidence of CCP supporters regarding the party’s ability to govern, the report said.
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