No more Mr. Nice Guy
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More than 200 Hong Kong police raided and shut down one of Hong Kong’s last remaining pro-democracy news sites on Wednesday, the latest sign that the Beijing regime will no longer tolerate dissent of any kind. It was totally over the top – a few cops with a court order would have done – but they were “messaging” other “disgruntled” people.
Chief Administration Secretary John Lee defended the police operation (which also arrested editors and former editors and board members at their homes) by speaking fluent Orwellian : “Anyone who tries to use media work as a tool to pursue their political goal is breaking the law. These are the perverse elements that undermine the freedom of the press.
It’s not just Hong Kong: all of China is shutting down. The limited free speech and tolerance for dissent that prevailed for twenty years under President Xi Jinping’s predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao have been systematically eroded, and Xi is now effectively president for life.
It even encourages a cult of personality, something the Party had managed to avoid since the disaster of Chairman Mao Zedong. And there is no longer a velvet glove on the iron fist: wealthy ethnic groups like Tibetans and Uyghurs are simply overwhelmed by imported Han Chinese majorities, and those who complain are sent to concentration camps. .
It is the same abroad. The “wolf warrior” diplomats reprimand the foreign countries in which they are stationed for any criticism of China, and the crushing of freedoms of Hong Kong signals the abandonment of any idea of seduction of Taiwan towards the unification under the banner ” one country, two systems ”. When the time comes, it will be annexed by force.
But the question is: why now? Xi’s personality is authoritarian, of course, but that’s pretty standard among the “princels” who grew up as part of the second and third generation Communist aristocracy. Yet for decades they supported limiting the tenure of rulers because it protected them from being victimized by another figure of Mao.
If they now accept Xi’s rise to supreme and perpetual power, it cannot be simply because they are afraid of him. He’s just a man. There must also be some feeling among others in the Party leadership that he will need a tough autocrat to weather the storms ahead and preserve his power. So what can these storms be?
It has been evident for years that Beijing was preparing the books and overestimating China’s economic growth rate.
It was evident from previous examples where industrialized countries enjoyed high growth rates by tapping into the cheap labor force flowing into cities from the countryside that this was a one-time bonus. The 10 percent growth never lasts more than a generation; then it falls back to 2 to 3% “normal”. Recent examples are Japan (1955-85) and South Korea (1960-90).
Like it or not, China has enjoyed its 30 years of high-speed growth (1985-2015), and behind a facade of lies, its real growth rate has already been declining for at least half a decade. In recent quarters, in fact, China’s gross domestic product has grown by half of that of US GDP.
The Chinese birth rate has collapsed: each new age cohort entering the labor market will be much smaller than the previous one, which will hit demand very hard. In addition, the debt incurred by reckless overinvestment in housing, roads and other infrastructure, just to maintain employment and growth statistics, is already a major burden on the economy.
Two implications of this are long-term threats against the Communist regime in China. The Party’s promise to overtake the US economy and make China the dominant power in the world will probably never come true, nor will its promise to raise the standard of living of the Chinese to the level of the developed world. (The current GDP per capita is only $ 9,000.)
If the Communist Party cannot keep these two promises, what gives it the right to monopolize political power in China? He is certainly not keeping his old promise of equality either.
No wonder Xi Jinping is closing the hatches politically, and no wonder the nomenklatura (to use the old Soviet word) accompanies him. Stagnation awaits you.