XI’s Ten Steps Back: Is it a ‘North Korean’ Future for China?

Today once again I am woken up by those muffled murmurs – once again I hear whispered worries and distressed voices – I can’t pinpoint when I first noticed it, but it’s definite now – there is a bittersweet fragrance of Revolution in the air … and it reminds me of ’89, all over again.

“The greatest and most powerful revolutions often start very quietly, hidden in the shadows. Remember that.”

Repression. Coercion. All throughout history, dictators, no matter who they are or where they are from or what language they speak – they have always displayed a common trait:-

A paranoia of losing the throne and an intolerance to dissent

I remember the June of 1989; the desperate cries for democracy, freedom of speech and press echoing within this square; the student-led demonstrations, sit-in and hunger strikes; raising poignant questions, for the first time, this movement made me think – Do we prefer to live free or be enslaved? Today, years later, as Chairman Xi vigorously clamps down dissent – harassing and threatening critiques, hunting down their family members, making them disappear, detaining them unlawfully – my thoughts once again go back to the events that led to the democracy movement of 1989. This great purge has once again raised that same old question – It is better to die on your feet or to live on your knees?

As I will away such thoughts and rudely nudge the murmurers, I can’t help but fear, have the lessons and losses from past been forgotten? Is it true that our leader has become blinded by power and ambition?

“The best prophet of the future is the past.”   

My nation and my brothers, together we have faced it all – the aftereffects of the great leap, the cultural revolution, the democracy movement of ‘89 and so much more…In fact the thoughts of the brutal attack on the thousands of peaceful demonstrators, by assault tanks and armed troops, still breaks my heart. And in spite of all this, our great nation was able to overcome these human-made disasters – which by then we had realized was all due a few misguided at the top. Slowly, with an ultimate aim of reviving our nation’s lost glory – we put away differences, assessed our faults, strengthened our socialist values and vowed to work hard. With communist spirit we vowed that never again would a single leader hold unparalleled political power. And with renewed vigour, we once again set off on the path of economic growth and development.

Today, however, my heart feels burdened with a lot of questions… In 2012, as Chairman Xi began his anti-corruption movement, we deemed it imperative; But, as I reflect on this anti-corruption movement and the excessive crackdown on any differing opinion these days, I can’t help but wonder – most of these voices – Senior party members like Cai Xia, Academicians like Xu Zhangrun and Sun Wenguang, real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang, actors and artists like Anastasia Lia and Ai Weiwei – weren’t these people overwhelmingly criticized? They were punished and accused of “making rash comments about the party line”… But were they really so wrong? And if they were, shouldn’t we have just discussed and resolved these differences..were brutalities, detentions, coercion really necessary?

It saddens me when foreigners judge my great nation based on a sudden and rash decisions of one person who now seems akin to a mediocre dictator – The truth is, our nation has, since time immemorial, encouraged common people to put their thoughts/wishes/opinions into art and poetry; Right from the Zhou dynasty, the public anger against the government was regarded as a reasonable thing. Unlike any other civilization, our ancestors encouraged intelligentsia to play the role of critics of the emperor so that only the best policies were enacted. Political debate was a tradition of our nation.. But today, under the current General Secretary of CPC, it seems, the tradition of civil, informed and intelligent discussions has been long forgotten.

“The hearts of the people are good, but it’s the hearts of the dictators that are small.”

Historically speaking, dictatorship does not have a good track record, all we need to do is take a good look at our north-eastern neighbour, North Korea – a country frequently described as “isolated” and a “pariah”, a country whose citizens are looked at with curious and untrustworthy eyes, a country not respected or valued by the World…. A country known for curbing dissent with torture and unjustifiable means… And most importantly, a country that I don’t wish my China to turn into…

But unfortunately, today, all these murmurs tell me,

Chairman Xi no longer looks any different from Kim Jong-un

And just like in ‘89, the winds today carry a bittersweet message – a warning for what’s to come if we aren’t able to right our wrongs: –

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

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