Some Americans are tempted, in light of China’s economic progress, its cooperation on matters such as Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the new face of its leadership under President Xi Jinping, to see China as a modern society that differs from ours but espouses democratic values.
China’s government is participatory, to a degree. But the country is not a democracy, and its government continues to crush any expression of an alternative political view.
The Chinese Communist Party and its “red nobility” — the children and other relatives of key figures in power — not only dominate politics, but also occupy a prosperous sliver of society similar to America’s wealthiest “1 percent.”
The ugly truth about China’s divisions emerges in displays of differences between urban and rural people, the coast and the interior, the north and the south, and the majority and groups such as the Muslim Uighurs, the Falun Gong religious minority, and Tibetans.
China’s communist government devotes much time and attention to keeping information out of the country and to throttling news media. News gatherers in the rest of the world can only honor Chinese journalists in their endless struggle to bring the truth to their people.
The most glaring expression of the Chinese government’s intolerance is its treatment of dissidents. Its typical approach is to harass them, put them on trial — or not — and lock them up for long periods.
Activist Xu Zhiyong is on trial in Beijing, accused of organizing public opposition to the government. No one knows how many political prisoners are held in China, or the names of many of them.
The real loser is China itself. It is deprived not only of the potentially valid content of opponents’ words, but also of the ferment and creativity that different views bring to political dialogue.
The process of dialectical materialism, once considered the core of Marxism, used to require such dialogue. Its absence in China, if not corrected, could be a seed of the nation’s destruction.