Hidden Truths of China’s Triumph
In the midst of the world’s battle against COVID-19, China is fighting a different battle — to conceal its fragmentations and to reveal its nonexistent triumphs. The rhetoric and narratives that the Chinese regime has vocalized seem to reflect an almost “perfect” country that seems like nothing will stop its growth. President Xi triumphed, “The East is rising and the West is declining.” Other Chinese officials have advanced this statement, accentuating the inherent social flaws of western countries all whilst criticizing its capitalist neighbors like South Korea and Japan.“The rise of China is a major variable [in the world today]…; changes of the international landscape are in our[China’s] favor,” they say. But these statements are simply non-threatening; China is in a race against time before they trip on their own feet, because behind these triumphant narratives lies a fractured and shattered society. Throughout the past few years, China has primarily employed triumphant narratives to conceal three broken sectors of China’s society: COVID-19 response, economic development, and structural oppression.
Covid-19 Response and Identification
Response to COVID-19 has been the primary grounds for the Chinese regime to bolster their triumphant narrative; whilst the world was engulfed by the virus, China reported unbelievable case numbers, boasting less than 100 cases a day since March 2020. This has led to President Xi alleging, “The epic fight against COVID-19 once again proves that the strong leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is the most reliable backbone for the Chinese people during challenges.” These numbers and narratives would have been respectable if they were legitimate. Behind this triumphant rhetoric hides illegitimacy and a society in pieces. Contrary to this victorious rhetoric from the Chinese regime, intelligence and investigations point in the opposite direction. For instance, the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine and Ohio State University reports that as of February 2, 2020, case numbers in China had to fall between 305,000 to 1,272,000 after compiling reports from both public and private institutions in China. The issue is that the official report, as of February 2, 2020, reports only 13,600 cases which is 20 times less than the mathematically lowest possible case number. Hence, based on statistical models, China’s society would’ve been submerged with COVID-19 cases, contrary to the official reports from the state, indicating China’s rhetoric is concealing the harsh realities of its society.
China’s triumphant rhetoric regarding Covid-19 has started long before this — since the origins of COVID-19. As soon as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) realized that the origins of COVID-19 can seriously taint the image of the party and its propaganda both domestically and internationally, the party started to manipulate the narrative regarding the pandemic to drive pointing fingers away from the regime. A key testament to this is the case of Dr. Li Wenliang, who unfortunately passed as a result of COVID-19. Based on intelligence reports from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives, Dr. Li exposed and warned his colleagues and the public of cases that he had treated that resembled a past pandemic known as SARS. Immediately following this event, Dr. Li was censored by the CCP and was later publicly rebuked for “disturbing the social order.” However, the CCP soon backtracked their initial criminalization of Dr. Li because months later when the pandemic had grown to an uncontrollable magnitude. The CCP realized that painting Dr. Li as a hero would make them the “protagonist” or the “good guys” of the story. This case is a vivid testament to the CCP exploiting its citizens and its society as a means to generate a triumphant narrative of the party. Furthermore, the commitment of the CCP in controlling and producing its triumphant tone in its narrative is displayed even if it means backtracking its own statements.
Economic Growth and Development
Another portion of the CCP’s triumphant narrative revolves around its clout and dominance in the international market. To their credit, however, it is no question that China’s economy has grown exponentially in a short period of time. Since opening up its economy to foreign investments and trade in 1979, China’s economy has been the fastest-growing economy, as reported by the World Bank. As exerted by the CCP themselves, “China’s development will become unstoppable.” Yet, history shows that rapid growth is usually prompted by artificial means; the legitimacy and the substance of China’s exponential growth comes under question. This concern arises from the logic of what is coined as “Two China.”
The logic of “Two China” was generated when Premier Li Keqiang admitted that 40% of China’s population lives on $140 a month or less. Hence, two Chinas exist — one rich and one poor. In fact, the top 1% of China’s society possesses more wealth than the bottom 50% of China’s population, and China’s socioeconomic inequality is one of the worst in the world. Whatever the CCP claims regarding its economic development, it has failed to close this gap in the status quo, revealing the nature of China’s divided society. The notion that the second greatest economy in the world also has one of the highest levels of socioeconomic inequality is both alarming and irregular. This implies that China’s economic growth isn’t really an “economic growth”; it's simply the top 1% accumulating wealth that makes up the vast majority of China’s GDP. It's implicit that most of China’s population is living under extreme poverty despite their country being ranked as the second greatest economy in the world and their leaders boasting their “great” economy.
China’s levels of socioeconomic inequality also signals the existence of exploitation of labor. The reality that the top 1% is amongst the richest in the world all whilst their neighbors are living under $140 a month is suspect. To no surprise, the CCP is known to leverage forced labor to implement its most profitable economic projects, one of which is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China’s BRI is simply an infrastructure investment project that seeks to connect Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The issue is that workers for these projects are victims of human trafficking and forced labor, according to a report by the China Labor Watch. Exploiting workers decreases supply costs which means that the margin of capital between the profit and supply costs expands for China's rich to capture, inherently explaining the current levels of socioeconomic inequality in China. Furthermore, leveraging forced labor in China’s BRI takes the risk element out of the investment, given that forced labor is virtually free. This signifies that a vast portion of China’s economic growth comes from unjust and illegal means. This explicitly exemplifies that the CCP exploits its own constituents if it means economic clout. Moreover, the CCP’s triumphant narrative seeks to conceal its own brokenness whilst seeking to advance its presence in the international market.
Perhaps the CCP’s latest propaganda strategy is to label America as a racist country to convince its constituents and the world that it possesses the moral high ground as opposed to the United States. In a series of tweets, Lijian Zhao of the CCP tweeted, “Systematic racial discrimination has long existed in U.S. Ethnic minorities faced restrictions in exercising their voting rights. U.S. made little progress in reducing racial discrimination.” While the CCP has been vocal regarding the United States for racial issues and political polarization, the CCP has been silent on their literal oppression of ethnic and gender minorities. This comes as the CCP themselves are spending $216 billion of public funding annually to strip certain groups of their religious autonomy while also enforcing heavy levels of surveillance and policing to preserve the CCP’s political power and dominance. In addition to this, the U.S. State Department finds that the CCP is committing crimes against Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province where Uyghurs are exploited for labor, along with being tortured, brainwashed, sexually abused, and forcefully sterilized. The U.S. and the United Kingdom jointly characterize this ongoing atrocity as genocide. This comes in contradiction to the CCP’s statements, “The current situation in Xinjiang is at its best in history with stability, rapid economic development and harmonious coexistence among people of all ethnic groups.” Whatever the CCP decides to say, they have failed their constituents and have exploited them for political stability and power.
Another area where the CCP’s rhetoric contradicts reality is on the issue of women’s rights. The CCP’s recent rhetoric was geared towards creating the image of commitment to gender equality. For instance, the CCP advertises itself as “the leader in promoting gender equality.” Despite their touting, reports have indicated that the current regime with President Xi is bringing back traditional roles and pushing women back into the home. As Professor Wang Zheng of the University of Michigan laments, “When the state policymakers needed women’s hands, they sent them to do labor. Now they want to push women into marriage and have a bunch of babies.” The CCP manipulates the “roles” of certain constituencies based on its needs. Unlike the traditional role of government that exists for the people, it seems like people exist for the government under the CCP’s rule.
The long-term implications of the CCP’s behavior and illegitimate rhetoric may be a nightmare for President Xi and the CCP. In fact, this nightmare is starting to gloom over Xi and his CCP teammates; 60% of Hong Kong’s youth wish to emigrate if possible, and in 2019 alone, more than 50,000 left Hong Kong due to political concerns. China’s economic lifeline — exporting goods to foreign countries and controlling the supply chain — is continuously being threatened as human rights abuses force foreign firms and countries to look elsewhere for trade partnerships. With current trends and diplomatic climate, it is a matter of time before Xi and his fellow CCP members trip on their own feet.