By Elizabeth Kendal
The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – wherein the CCP’s top leaders for the next five years will be appointed – will commence on Sunday 16 October.The Congress comes as the CCP is in the grip of a ‘civil war’ between Xi Jinping’s ‘ultra-Maoist’ faction and the CCP’s two original factions: the Shanghai Faction led by Jiang Zemin (president 1993-2003), and the Chinese Communist Youth League (CCYL) led by Hu Jintao (president 2003-2013).
The 20th Congress will essentially mark the start of a new phase of that ‘civil war’ as Xi Jinping (president since 2013) is appointed to a status-quo-busting, Deng-era-ending third term as President.
As the International Strategic Studies Association’s Defense and Foreign Affairs (D&FA) Strategic Policy magazine notes (8,2022): ‘It cannot be stressed enough how precarious and important this current “civil war” for dominance of the CPC is to both Xi Jinping and the Chinese population, and to the long-term strategic posture of mainland China…’
After the death of Chairman Mao Zedong – a mercy which brought the horrendous Cultural Revolution to an end – paramount leader Deng Xiaoping moved decisively to secure the position of the CCP.
Just as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had done in 1956 when he blamed all the Soviet Union’s failings, excesses, and horrors on the late Joseph Stalin (died 1953), Deng blamed the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and all the CCP’s failings, excesses, and horrors on the late Chairman Mao (died 1976). Consequently, in China as in the Soviet Union, the Communist Party literally got away with mass murder.
To prevent the rise of a new personality cult, Deng introduce presidential term limits – limiting Presidents to two five-year terms. He also introduced collective leadership – ensuring power was shared and rotated between the CCP’s two factions: the Shanghai Faction/Gang (which represents China’s wealthy coastal cities) and the Chinese Communist Youth League (CCYL, which represents China’s poor rural hinterland).
Deng insisted that the CCP should get its legitimacy not from ideology but from its ability to deliver prosperity. Famously declaring, ‘To get rich is glorious!’ Deng put China on path to openness and free market reform in pursuit of development and prosperity.
However, just as occurred in Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union, openness and restructuring generated neither approval nor gratitude. To the contrary, openness and reform enabled awareness, which generated anger, facilitated demands, and culminated in protests.
After the Tiananmen Square protests and 4 June 1989 military crackdown, the CCP realised it needed a new narrative. A new school curriculum was written in which Marxist ideology was replaced with Chinese nationalism. According to the new narrative, China was long the greatest nation on earth. However, from 1839, China endured 100 years of national humiliation at the hands of hostile foreign powers. Since taking power in 1949, the CCP has been leading China on a 100-year marathon to national rejuvenation which will see China regain global supremacy by 2049.
The generation raised on this narrative (i.e. virtually all mainland Chinese under the age of 30) tends to view the CCP as China’s saviour and defender, much to the horror of the older generation, particularly those aged over 70yrs who lived through the terrors of the CCP’s Cultural Revolution.
Originally a member of Jiang Zemin’s Shanghai Faction, Xi Jinping has diverged from Jiang in assessing that China’s growth is unsustainable. The country is running out of foreign exchange reserves and crises loom over food and water. Consequently, the CCP will not always be able to deliver prosperity.
As Xi sees it, if the CCP is to complete the 100-year marathon to national rejuvenation and global supremacy then the CCP will need to sacrifice growth and return to Mao-style total control of both the economy and the masses.
The main obstacle on Xi’s path has been the commitment of CCP elites – specifically those of the Shanghai Faction – to continue to promote pursuit of prosperity. As geopolitical-economic analyst David Goldman [author of, ‘You Will Be Assimilated: China’s Plan to Sino-form the World’ (July 2020)] notes in a September 2022 address: ‘China is Marxist the same way the Mafia is Catholic’. This is not about ideology. To the contrary, it is all about retaining power and wealth, and what should be the means to that end.
THE ERA OF XI JINPING
becoming president in 2013, Xi Jinping moved quickly to establish his
own faction and shore up his own power. In March 2018, the CCP’s purged,
submissive legislature approved an amendment to
the constitution, removing presidential term limits, paving the way for
Xi Jinping to be re-appointed for a third (and fourth and possibly
fifth) five-year term. Xi (69) has already surpassed the recommended
(but not mandated) retirement age for CCP leadership, that being 68 years.
Xi has secured enormous power, firstly by way of political purges executed under the cover of ‘anti-corruption’, and secondly through escalating levels of social control. Xi’s extraordinary measures of social control range from the establishment of a People’s Armed Police (PAP) force tasked with ‘stability maintenance’; lawfare under the cover of new ‘Administrative Measures’ and repressive legislation; the use of blanket surveillance using camera loaded with world-leading facial recognition software and Artificial Intelligence to drive the CCP’s punitive Social Credit System; to extraordinarily cruel Zero-COVID measures through which the CCP has demonstrated it can turn an apartment block or even a city into a lethal prison literally overnight.
In April 2022, Defense and Foreign Affairs (D&FA) Strategic Policy magazine (4,2022) assessed that the lockdowns are designed to ‘bring the locals to heel, ending the expectation of free movement and economic prosperity, ensuring that the Xi faction would not be challenged’. The authors noted that ‘tens of thousands’ had already died from ‘deliberately induced widespread starvation in Xi’an, Shanghai and elsewhere in mainland China.’
According to the D&FA report, ‘Three weeks into the Shanghai lockdown, which began in late March 2022, the Party under Xi, had begun replacing or supplementing the omnipresent police and white-clad COVID medical enforcers with elements of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) brought in from outside Shanghai. PLA Air Force Xi’an Y-20 heavy transports airlifted the troops into Shanghai in a mass operation during the second week of April 2022.’
|Dabai in Shanghai, RFA, 29 May 2022|
pattern continues to be replicated across the country. At the detection
of just a few COVID cases, whole cities are forced into snap lockdowns –
not for days but for weeks – with little to no food, water, medicines,
or assistance. Apartment blocks are sealed, barricaded and fenced in
overnight. Those not home when a COVID case is detected are rounded up
by ‘Dabai’ (meaning ‘Big White’ on account of their white hazmat
suits) – and herded off to quarantine facilities / concentration camps.
By day, people succumb to starvation, lack of medical care, and suicide.
Anything but silent, the nights are marked by eerie wailing as despair
and desperation take hold. [See China Insights, ‘New wave of strict lockdowns across China’, 16 Sept 2022.]
Using Zero-COVID measures, Xi has managed to rein in the private sector, stifle unsustainable growth, punish the Shanghai Faction, and return the masses to a state of fearful submission and dependency. In an article entitled, ‘China’s Growth Sacrifice’ (23 Aug 2022) Stephen S. Roach expresses concern that the process ‘has only just begun’.
Some analysts believe Xi might relax the Zero-COVID measures after the Congress, once his position is secure. Others are not so sure; indeed, some believe Xi should never feel secure again! Whatever the case, the CCP has acquired the ability to control the masses to levels unimaginable just a few years ago.
Persecution will escalate
This nightmarish environment forms the context of the escalating persecution of the Church in China. In pursuing its goal of a global supremacy, the CCP demands and requires a ‘united front’. Dissenting voices will be silenced. The persecution ahead will be just as severe as that in Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) – albeit more high-tech. CCP policy is less about ideology and more about a determination to keep the CCP in power, no matter the human cost.
The human cost
It is increasingly clear that the atheistic CCP has no regard for human life. And why should it? The atheist does not believe that human beings are created by God in the image of God; or that life is a gift from God; or that they will have to give an account to God. To the atheistic CCP, Chinese citizens are expendable cogs in the CCP’s machine. For the Chinese, the human cost of that ideology is increasingly becoming clear.
‘LYING FLAT’: In March-April 2021 a new trend emerged among Chinese youths: that of tang ping or ‘lying flat’ [see: China Insights, 9 June 2021]. The chatter around lying flat became so ubiquitous on social media that by October 2021, President Xi felt obliged to condemn it.
‘Lying flat’ does not mean stopping work, because most youths simply
cannot afford to stop work. ‘Lying flat’ is a negative mindset or a
viral sentiment wherein youths are opting to stop striving and instead
do only that which is essential for survival. They have pursued Xi’s
‘Chinese dream’, working ‘996’ (from 9am to 9pm, six days a week), only
to find themselves unable to afford a home or maintain relationships or
enjoy recreation. By 2021 these disillusioned youths were increasingly
struggling to afford food amidst record inflation soaring youth
unemployment [19.9 percent].
‘LET IT ROT’: By March 2022, a new trend had emerged and tang ping or ‘lying flat’ was overtaken by bai lan or ‘let it rot’. [See: China Insights, 7 June 2022.] ‘Let it rot’ is ‘an evolution of 2021’s “lying flat” trend, but with more nihilist overtones.’ No longing opting to do the bear minimum, Chinese youths are ‘voluntarily giving up the pursuit of life goals because they realise that they are simply unattainable’. As Mara Leighton explains, ‘Bailan refers to when a losing team stops trying to win in order to more rapidly bring a game to its end’ [Insider, 6 Oct 2022]. To ‘let it rot’ is to accept that the situation is hopeless, and that the future is both ‘unchangeable and unsatisfactory’. If ‘lying flat’ is a statement of frustration and disillusionment, then ‘let it rot’ is a lament of hopelessness and despair.
‘RUNOLOGY’: The latest term or sentiment to go viral in China is runxue or runology [see: China Insights, 24 July 2022]. Made from the English word ‘run’ and the Chinese word xue or study, it refers to the study of running away. The term went viral in April 2022, at the beginning of the punishing Shanghai lockdown. As China’s largest city and financial hub, Shanghai’s diverse population includes many highly educated and entrepreneurial Chinese who have gained advance degrees and experience overseas, along with many foreigners. As news leaked out of locked-down/incarcerated residents starving to death, or dying for want of basic medical care and medicines, or being driven to suicide; or of Dabai (‘Big White’) zero-COVID policy enforcers abusing traumatised residents, assaulting the elderly, sealing apartments, and beating pets to death, it grabbed the world’s attention (at least for a moment). As the Xi-led CCP works to crush the private sector and redistribute wealth by force, many wealthy Chinese – everything from greedy crooks and corrupt elites to highly educated successful and entrepreneurial Christians – are desperately seeking a way of escape. Meanwhile the government is desperately implementing measures to keep them, and their money, trapped in the country. China is fast becoming a prison.
CHRIST THE REDEEMER
By 1953, the Mao-led CCP had expelled all foreign missionaries. By the late 1960s it had sent most of China’s Christian leaders to forced labour in coal mines and prison labour camps. Yet in the absence of foreigners and pastors, Christ the Redeemer raised up an army of unassuming evangelists – mostly mature Chinese women – who spread the Gospel throughout China’s rural heartlands. Over the decades, Chinese Christianity grew phenomenally; it remained, however, an overwhelmingly rural phenomenon. In the wake of the horror of the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, multitudes of China’s educated urban elites started to question their ideology. Amidst the grief, Christ the Redeemer opened the door to spread his saving Gospel through China’s burgeoning cities.
all the countries where Christians are persecuted, China is unique
precisely because God has worked all things together so that Christians
exist everywhere (geographically) and at every level of society. Clearly, God is preparing the Chinese Church for a time yet to come.
The day is surely coming when the LORD will judge the CCP: he will ‘cut it down’ and ‘cast it out’ (Ezekiel 31). But that will only happen in God’s perfect time, according to God’s perfect plan, when everything is in
place. When that day comes, the Chinese Church will be free to change the world.
Meanwhile, as China's Church perseveres through faith-testing times, we must uphold China’s Church in prayer. Though Satan will fight to the bitter end, his fight will be in vain – especially as we pray! May Christ the Redeemer yet again work all things together in fulfilment of the Father's good and perfect plan (Romans 8:28).
|Christians in China |
Asia Harvest 2020
(includes a table of stats for each province)
Recommended freely available resources:
YouTube: China Insights (this is but one of several excellent YouTube channels providing analysis on China. Others include China Uncensored, with Chris Chappell; and Spotlight on China).
Analysis: ‘The Rise of the Xi Gang: Factional Politics in the Chinese Communist Party,’ by Srijan Shukla. Observer Research Foundation, Occasional Papers, 12 Feb 2021.
For a chronology of the repressive measures introduced since Xi Jinping came to power see: www.ElizabethKendal.com / Global Persecution / North East Asia / China
-------------------------------------------------------Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate for the persecuted Church. To support this ministry visit www.ElizabethKendal.com.
Elizabeth has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016). She is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
For more information visit: www.ElizabethKendal.com