Aside from the thousands of Chinese protestors – possibly 10,000 – murdered by the CCP in the Tiananmen Massacre, I long admired post-Deng Xiaoping China and its pragmatic approach to economic growth that lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty. And 28 years ago, I married an amazing woman from China and began seriously studying Mandarin.
As I was completing my economics Ph.D., I had a fellowship to study advanced Chinese the following year and was excited to be choosing between The Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies (IUP) at Tsinghua University (China’s MIT) and the Hopkins-Nanjing Center when the U.S. bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia on May 7, 1999. On TV, I watched Chinese hurl Molotov cocktails at the US Embassy, where I had recently helped a fellow Stanford economics Ph.D. student from China skip the line. Instead of pursuing my dream of becoming a professor of Chinese political economy, I drifted into tech but have remained fascinated by China.
Though the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long held a political strangehold over China, its various internal factions tended to balance one another out and generally move the nation in wise directions. China was opening up to and slowly integrating with the world. And the CCP had developed a George Washington-like tradition – enshrined in its constitution – under which leaders served no more than two five-year terms before yielding power to the next generation.
I was quite optimistic in November 2012 when Xi Jinping took power. He seemed another reasonable, bland, moderate leader who would continue China’s growth and integration with the rest of the world.
Instead, he has thrown it all away:
- Xi has alienated and driven away foreign businesses, many of which have moved their operations elsewhere, with catastrophic consequences for China’s economy that have caused China to beg foreign companies to return
- Xi has kicked out almost all foreign journalists
- Xi has driven most foreigners to flee China, including those who lived and worked in China for many years and had Chinese spouses and children
- Xi has purged all internal voices who might question (and improve) his decisions. (Purges are nominally to fight corruption, but corruption is so rampant that those who avoid corruption are distrusted, so everyone in positions of power is always – by systemic design – vulnerable to corruption charges.)
- Xi even had former Chinese leader Hu Jintao forcefully dragged out of a televised National Congress meeting
- Xi forces all students to study “Xi Jinping Thought” and has recently further ramped up China’s already overwhelming pro-CCP brainwashing efforts
- Xi has destroyed China’s economy by scaring off foreign investors by his terrible economic choices and his total control
- Xi locked down China for years to prevent COVID and tighten his controls and surveillance powers
- Once Chinese took to the streets and demanded an end to COVID lockdowns, Xi rapidly opened up but hadn’t prepared with quality vaccines, etc., killing perhaps a million Chinese
- Xi has allowed corruption to thrive, such that even newly built Chinese roads, buildings, trains, etc. are extremely dangerous
- Xi has built the world’s most intrusive electronic surveillance state
- China’s media under Xi is less free than any other nation’s except North Korea and constantly praises him like he’s a god
- Xi’s China is one of the least free nations on Earth
- Xi has made disastrous decisions regarding market rules, like the absurd housing market rules that are now causing the entire Chinese real estate market to implode
- Xi shut down entire thriving industries, like private tutoring
- Xi locked up Jack Ma, China’s Steve Jobs
- Xi has stolen Hong Kong’s political freedoms, which it had promised Hong Kong till 2047
- Xi has led a years-long genocide of millions of Uighurs
- Xi called Vladimir Putin his “best friend” and forged a “no limits” partnership with Russia, which is the most sanctioned nation on Earth. And Xi’s China is trying desperately to help Russia, even as Russia continues perpetrating war crimes and inflicting atrocities on the civilians of Ukraine after illegally invading the sovereign nation. (See “Decoding Putin and Xi’s blueprint for a new world order” by Deutsche Welle News (German government news) for more on Xi & Putin’s close friendship and limitless partnership.)
- Xi’s government enriches itself through prison labor
- Xi has imprisoned many political prisoners
- Xi’s China even locks up foreigners for years for taking innocent-looking photos of public events in public places
- Xi has fanned the flames of nationalism and racism. China monitors its Internet closely and immediately shuts down even veiled dissent but largely allows netizens to rage about Japan, South Korea, the United States, etc., and China’s government and media constantly attack other nations
- Xi has ignored global norms and international law by seizing almost the entire “South China Sea” – including islands and sea much closer to other nations than to China – and building and militarizing islands China had sworn it would not and attacking other nations’ vessels in non-Chinese waters
- Xi’s soldiers have killed Indian soldiers along their shared border
- Xi is blocking many Chinese and even foreigners from leaving China
- Xi’s air force has taken increasingly aggressive maneuvers around US reconnaissance planes flying in international waters
- Xi’s navy made an aggressive move and nearly collided with a US ship in international waters
- Xi’s military flew a spy balloon over the United States and many other “spy balloons over military sites worldwide”
- Xi removed the Constitution’s two-term restriction and is now in his third term
- [Xi’s China – according to the US State Department – “spends billions of dollars annually on foreign information manipulation efforts. Beijing uses false or biased information to promote positive views of the PRC and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At the same time, the PRC suppresses critical information that contradicts its desired narratives on issues such as Taiwan, its human rights practices, the South China Sea, its domestic economy, and international economic engagement. More broadly, the PRC seeks to cultivate and uphold a global incentive structure that encourages foreign governments, elites, journalists, and civil society to accept its preferred narratives and avoid criticizing its conduct. The PRC’s approach to information manipulation includes leveraging propaganda and censorship, promoting digital authoritarianism, exploiting international organizations and bilateral partnerships, pairing cooptation and pressure, and exercising control of Chinese-language media.”
Even worse, many fear Xi’s recent purges are just one of many signs Xi is seriously preparing to seize Taiwan by military force.
The Chinese people cannot watch foreign media. All domestic media is either government media or government-approved-and-censored media. And Internet posts the CCP dislikes are quickly censored. People can get imprisoned for posting opinions and even facts the CCP finds inconvenient.
To evade ever-present censorship, Chinese netizens couch their language in analogies, obscure historical references, and words sounding similar to the banned words they want to share, like “May 35th” after references to “June 4th” were banned (though references to “May 35th” were similarly banned soon thereafter, as netizens and censors play a constant cat-and-mouse game).
References to Xi Jinping are especially sensitive, as you might infer from China’s banning Winnie the Pooh after some noted that Xi looks like the famous chubby-cheeked bear:
[C]ontent moderators discovered 546 nicknames, or “typos,” for Xi Jinping over a two-month period….
“The Driving-in-Reverse Emperor” (倒车帝): Xi’s critics have tagged him the accelerator-in-chief, an accusation that his attempt to drag China back into its totalitarian past is hastening the Communist Party’s demise. This name plays on the perception that China is going backwards. As put by one Shanghai resident during the city’s long lockdown: “We’ve put the car in reverse and we’re giving it gas.”
“Xissolini” (习索里尼): comparison to the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini…
“Tsinghua Graduate” (清华毕业): A snide reference to Xi’s [honorary] academic credentials. [James note: Xi reportedly has only an elementary school education]
“The Devil Mao Incarnate” (毛魔转世): As with the Mussolini-inspired one above, this nickname imagines Xi as the reincarnation of one of the 20th century’s greatest dictators, in this case Mao Zedong.
Since Xi expelled foreign journalists for doing their jobs, I’ve been struggling to find quality, unbiased coverage of China, since much English-language coverage of China comes directly from the Chinese government, its paid Western shills (“white monkeys”) who are some of the few foreigners remaining in China, or Falun Gong-owned media.
I recently discovered a pair of westerners (one American; one South African) who each lived in China for over a decade, motorcycled all across the country, and married Chinese women. They loved pre-Xi China but eventually fled with their families and are now sharing their honest perspectives on and footage of Xi Jinping’s China. I’ve watched a ton of their videos (albeit skipping the annoying ads) and have learned a lot from their Youtube channels:
- China Fact Chasers (@chinafactchasers)
- Winston Sterzel (@serpenza)
- Matthew Tye (@laowhy86)
- The China Show
- ADV China
I have posted a few samples below and encourage you to watch if you’re interested in better understanding modern China and why so many fear China’s rabid and rising racism, xenophobia, nationalism, militarism, and expansionist fervor pose a grave threat to the region, the world, and the Chinese people themselves (not to mention the countless non-Han ethnic minorities who have long been oppressed by the Han majority):
I hope the growing signs of a militaristic China prove wrong. I fear Xi’s mounting problems – for which he deserves great blame, given that the whole nation basically does whatever he demands – will only strengthen his resolve to pursue his dream of capturing Taiwan by force.