Xi’s China: Smothering dissent

Xi’s China: Smothering dissent, by Tom Mitchell.

The chill that has descended across Chinese civil society, especially over the past 12 months, has become one of the defining aspects of Xi Jinping’s presidency, alongside his own rapid consolidation of power over the party, government and military. As China’s most powerful party and state leader since Deng Xiaoping, Mr Xi has presided over a crackdown without precedent since the repression that followed the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Even academics and businessmen who thought themselves immune to politics provided they did not wade into sensitive areas are having to reassess their vulnerability.

“Since Xi came to power, China’s situation has become more and more worrisome,” says Murong Xuecun, a prominent author and commentator. “Things that we could openly discuss before, such as the Cultural revolution, are now considered sensitive or even forbidden. In the past there was some room for non-governmental organisations and rights lawyers. Now all of them have been suppressed.” …

“The biggest threats to state security, in the party’s view, are those seen as posing a direct challenge to its narrative and concept of what China is,” says Samantha Hoffman, who researches Chinese social controls at the UK’s University of Nottingham. “Groups and individuals that have the potential to offer alternative visions of China are seen as a threat to the party state.

“That puts NGOs, journalists, activists, researchers at a much higher risk.”

Not good. Together with their diplomatic aggression and growing military muscle, this does not bode well for anyone outside the  Chinese Communist Party.