The Chinese Community Party (CCP) today (1 July) is celebrating 100 years of its existence. The party leads the world’s longest surviving and most powerful existing authoritarian country — China — a one-party state. CCP is arguably the most successful communist party in history.
The Chinese government plans to mark the day with showcasing various achievements of the country. The communist nation can surely flaunt being world’s second-largest economy with second-largest military, world’s largest manufacturer with the largest foreign reserves, and other achievements in the field of science and technology.
However, the world in general, and its neighbours in particular, are wary of China’s rise.
Even as China celebrates the CCP foundation day, the world is fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic that has cost lives of around 40 lakh people in less than two years. There are serious allegations not just of China hiding the information about the virus after it was first detected in Wuhan, but also of the virus being engineered in a lab at Wuhan Institute of Virology.
To its credit, China has not played down its expansionist ambitions. Whether it is Ladakh, Hong Kong, Tibet, South China Sea or Xinjiang, Chinese leadership is aggressive and obdurate.
China today houses the largest network of concentration camps in the world, incarcerating an estimated 17 per cent of the Muslim adults in the Xinjiang region at one point or another. It probably took a leaf out of communist USSR’s Gulag system, but didn’t stop there. China today runs far more technologically advanced and comprehensive “re-education hospitals” targeted at the community.
Ironically, while China justifies its Xinjiang policy in the name of countering Islamist terrorism, it lends support to Pakistan’s state-sponsored Islamist terrorism against India.
In Hong Kong, after pro-democracy protests broke out, the Chinese government quickly enacted new national security laws. Just a few days ago, Apple Daily, a newspaper in Hong Kong critical of the Chinese government was shut down. Hundreds of police officers raided the paper’s headquarters on 17 June, detained its chief editor and four other executives, and froze company accounts. Last year, its outspoken founder Jimmy Lai was arrested and jailed.
The 100th anniversary of CCP also coincides with 70th anniversary of Tibet occupation. As part of the celebration, Baihetan Dam, located on the Jinsha River, on the southeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, is supposed to start operating today.
China is the dam capital of the world and prides itself over its construction prowess. The country went on a dam building spree after the occupation of the Tibetan plateau — the source of several of the major rivers of south and southeast Asia.
The occupation gave China a unique advantage over its neighbours, the lower riparian countries like India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The country now plans to build the world’s first super-dam on the Brahmaputra river near Tibet’s border with India. This will severely impact the plains irrigated by the river in India.
It is also noteworthy that China, despite being the upper riparian state for a large number of transboundary rivers, hasn’t signed a single water-sharing agreement in its history.
The dams so built not only displace large number of people, especially the ethnic minorities in the border areas, but also wreak havoc on the environment, submerging vast tracks of biodiversity-rich lands.
There is little doubt that China doesn’t give two hoots about the international law.
In 2016, China out rightly rejected the ruling of Permanent Court of Arbitration based in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on South China Sea. The tribunal had ruled against Chinese claims on territory within the nine-dash line, encompassing practically the whole of South China Sea. The judgement also indicted Beijing for harming marine environment by building and militarising artificial islands.
China is now using the same tactic in Ladakh, establishing heavily militarised villages in the name of development.
Since China was allowed to join WTO in 2001 (India supported its bid), opening the path for it to become world’s factory, serious allegations have been raised against the country ranging from currency manipulation, to stealing intellectual property and trade secrets.
India recently opposed China’s demand for a “market economy” status. “If 80 per cent of your companies are directly or indirectly controlled by the state and the banks are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, then how can China claim that its trade partners should give it market economy status,” Jayant Dasgupta, former Indian ambassador to the WTO, said.
At its border with India, China’s strategy is to stealthily occupy and quickly militarise strategic vantage points like mountaintops, passes etc. leading to skirmishes between the troops.
China’s aggressive foreign policy posture derives from the violent, militaristic culture of the CCP. Founded in Shanghai in 1921 when China was engulfed by warlordism and foreign occupation, the party had to violently subjugate different armed political groups for survival.
China’s DNA incorporates the ruthlessness of its founder Mao Zedong — “power flows through the barrel of a gun” — that made CCP victorious over other political groups, including the nationalist Kuomintang, with whom CCP had partnered at one point to resist a Japanese attack.
Soon after establishment of People’s Republic of China, Mao set out to purge all enemies. Millions of Chinese perished in Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) and Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) engineered by Mao.
The CCP, while never letting go of repression as a tactic to hold on to power, still incorporated flexibility in its approach to the same end.
Unlike Soviet Russia, it never tried too hard to export communism as an ideology or China’s communist model. It instead focused on national interest. In 1980s, Deng Xiaoping ushered in an era of state-led capitalism, opening the country to investment from the West. It had already allied with the US in the early 1970s against the communist Soviet Union.
On the domestic front, China continued brutal crackdown on critics and dissidents. For example, the repression of the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989, and its campaigns against ethnic minorities in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.
Today, China is promoting ancient Confucian values and imperial traditions in a bid to build soft power — a domain where it is seriously lacking — even as the communist ideology remains but a modern mask over the good old traditional authoritarianism.
In the words of Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research and Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin:
“The CPC views its centenary as cause for celebration. But the rest of the world should see the party for what it is: repressive, genocidal, and environmentally rapacious. And it should prepare for what the CPC’s second century may bring.”