Anyone who thinks Marxism-Leninism is an incidental factor in the governance of Communist China should read the address of Chinese President Xi Jinping marking the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In a text of some 5,000 words (why do all communist dictators suffer from logorrhea?), Xi asserted the Communist Party and its socialist ideology are primarily responsible for every one of China’s major accomplishments — including its national rejuvenation, ”dauntless spirit,” modernization, and “great unity.” Although the Chinese people are accorded a significant role in China’s emergence as a world power, they operate under the leadership of the party. “Only socialism could save China,” Xi declared, “and only socialism with Chinese characteristics could develop China.”
Xi’s address is a masterpiece of political cynicism and calculated misinformation. Lenin, the ultimate Machiavellian — who used every means, including the secret police and forced labor camps, in the pursuit of power — would have approved. So would Mao Zedong, the founder of the CCP, who summed up his philosophy succinctly: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
Missing from Xi’s list of Communist China’s “accomplishments” was Mao’s so-called Great Leap Forward, his heedless experiment in backyard furnaces and agricultural collectivism that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 50 million Chinese. The massive toll of dead did not matter to Mao, the unrepentant communist ideologue, nor to Xi, who lavishly lauded Mao Zedong Thought.
Xi also did not mention the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 1989, when tanks and troops of the People’s Liberation Army killed hundreds and quite possibly thousands of pro-democracy students who had occupied the square to call for more political freedom. To this day, most Chinese are ignorant of what happened in Tiananmen Square.
Genocide against the Uyghurs
Absent from Xi’s address was any reference to his government’s calculated persecution of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province in Western China. Both the Trump and Biden administrations’ secretaries of state accused Communist China of practicing “genocide” against the Uyghurs.
No more serious charge can be made against a regime than that it is engaged, to quote Webster’s, in “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.” Genocide conjures up the darkest and most disturbing images of places like Nazi Germany.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in January 2021 that China, under the direction and control of the CCP, continues to commit genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. In his Senate confirmation hearings, then-Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken seconded Pompeo.
In its annual human rights report, the State Department listed these acts:
Arbitrary imprisonment in reeducation camps of 1 million Uyghur civilians, (2) forced sterilizations, (3) coerced abortions, (4) rape and torture of those imprisoned, (5) forced labor such as the picking of cotton by hand, (6) “draconian” restrictions on religious freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.
In addition to the mass detention of more than one million Uyghurs, an estimated two million Muslims are subjected to daytime ‘re-education’ training.
Chinese Communist authorities justify their genocidal actions by referring to three occasions in 2014 when Uyghur militants bombed a market and train stations, one during Xi’s visit to the region, and killed more than 100 people. In retaliation, Xi launched the “People’s War on Terror” in Xinjiang province, where Uyghurs constitute almost 90 percent of the population.
He delivered a series of hardline speeches, declaring that “We must be as harsh as them and show absolutely no mercy.” He called on the Communist Party to unleash the tools of “dictatorship” to eradicate radical Islam in Xinjiang.
Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party boss in Xinjiang, got the message. Chen instructed police officers and troops to prepare for a “smashing, obliterating offensive” and issued an open-ended directive: “Round up everyone who should be rounded up.”
Eradicating the Uyghurs’ Religion and Culture
Since then, the government, under the direction of the CCP, has carried out a deliberate policy of eradication of the Uyghurs’ Muslim religion and culture. Han Chinese cadres are placed in Uyghur homes as monitors. Uyghurs who engage in “extremist” behavior such as praying, owning religious books, or abstaining from alcohol or tobacco are placed in “re-education camps.”
Uyghurs in rural areas are required to obtain special cards for travel between towns. Traditional festivals and pilgrimage sites have been closed. Private education in Uyghur language and religion has been criminalized. Police have raided homes in search of forbidden books. Children’s names such as Fatima and Muhammad are banned as too Islamic. More than 100 Uyghur cemeteries have been destroyed. Biometric data is collected of all Xinjiang residents between 12 and 65 years of age.
Selected Uyghur prisoners are placed in the liuzhi detention system, which operates outside the normal judicial system and is used by the government and the CCP to investigate what they call corruption. Treatment includes prolonged solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, beatings, forced standing or sitting for hours and sometimes days, and sexual harassment.
The evidence of deliberate genocide is so compelling that even left-wing journals like The New Republic have condemned Communist China’s treatment of the Uyghurs. The journal described the 2 million Uyghurs forced into scattered “gulags” across the region as “the largest imprisonment — based not on crimes, but on ethnicity and religion alone — since the Holocaust.”
The magazine estimated that Xinjiang has a higher percentage of police density than East Germany, which had more police informants per capita than Nazi Germany. Nowhere in the world, wrote the German weekly Der Spiegel, “is the population monitored as strictly as it is in” Xinjiang.
In addition to its genocide against the Uyghurs, the PRC routinely violates the human rights of the 1.4 billion Chinese who are not Muslim.
Dozens of pro-democracy protestors and activists, such as famed publisher Jimmy Lai, have been routinely arrested and jailed. Hundreds of human rights lawyers have been put in jail; many have been arrested and are still unaccounted for. In 2017, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who long spoke forcefully on behalf of freedom and democracy, died in a hospital while under close surveillance by the CCP.
Thousands of political prisoners, including writers, scholars, activists, pastors, Falun Gong practitioners, Catholic priests, rights lawyers, and bloggers, remain incarcerated. Numerous former political prisoners have reported they were beaten, raped, subjected to electric shock, hung by the wrists, forced to take medication against their will, and subjected to physical and psychological abuse.
The Ministry of Public Security directly administers 23 psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane. There have been reports of political activists being subjected to psychiatric treatment.
Qelbinur Sedik, a former teacher at a women’s internment camp, reported that some 10,000 women had their heads shaved and were forced to live in cramped, unsanitary conditions. Women were raped and sexually abused daily by camp guards. A torture room in the camp basement was reserved for those who resisted.
There is no freedom of expression in Communist China. For example, students taking online classes at American universities were imprisoned for criticizing the government, as were university professors critical of Beijing.
Just how important is control of this freedom was underscored by Xi Jinping’s personal involvement. Xi has visited Chinese media outlets and demanded they pledge their loyalty to him. When blogger Ren Zhiqiang, who had 35 million followers, criticized Xi’s editorial demands, he was shut down.
Surveillance and the Social Credit System
Advances in surveillance technology, including artificial intelligence and intrusive surveillance aps, along with police access to user data, have helped facilitate Communist China’s prosecution of dissident leaders, according to Freedom House. The Ministry of Public Security uses tens of millions of surveillance cameras to monitor public events and identify individuals in crowds. The government even installed surveillance cameras in monasteries in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
The Chinese government continues to use two kinds of social credit systems. The corporate social credit system tracks corporate wrongdoing. The personal social credit system collects information from a wide variety of sources, including academic records, traffic violations, social media presence, friendships, acceptance of birth-control regulations, employment performance, and consumption habits.
Freedom of religion is another major concern of the Chinese Communist Party. Xi has expressed a desire to “Sinicize” all religions. Accordingly, crosses have been removed from churches, the Bible is being retranslated to find commonalities with Socialism, the Ten Commandments have been replaced with quotes from Xi Jinping, Christian churches have been burned down, and the CCP was caught spying on the Vatican’s computer networks.
Promoting “Chinese Christianity” is the end goal. The Ten Commandments have been replaced with quotes from Xi.
Communist China continues to take all necessary steps to suppress any sign of true Tibetan autonomy and culture, announcing, for example, that it plans to choose the Dalai Lama’s successor. Two million Tibetans have been forcibly “rehoused” to “New Socialist Villages.” Thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns have been expelled from their monasteries, and Buddhist customs such as meditation have been criminalized. More than 2,000 CCP officials have been sent to Tibetan villages to monitor their behavior.
The primary instrument of the government’s campaign to suppress human rights is the Communist Party. In his address commemorating the 100th anniversary of the CCP, Xi said that any attempt to separate the party from the Chinese people, or to set the people against the party, “is bound to fail.”
He said the more than 95 million party members and the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people “will never allow such a scenario to come to pass.” The ideology that unites the party and the people, he said, is Marxism. “Marxism … is the very soul of our Party and the banner under which it strives.”
How the West Must Respond
What, then, should be the response of the United States and its Western allies to Communist China’s flagrant violation of the most basic human rights of its people? Below are recommendations in a paper by my Heritage colleagues Dean Cheng, Walter Lohman, James Carafano, and Riley Walters.
The United States should organize and host a summit for democracy and countries commit to defending against authoritarianism and advancing human rights at home and abroad. It should also create a Ministerial on Religious Freedom, modeled after the ministerial pioneered by former Ambassador Sam Brownback, to advance religious freedom in China and around the globe.
The United States should forge closer relationships with Taiwan and India. It should negotiate Free Trade Agreements with Taiwan, Japan, and other key partners in the Indo-Pacific.
In addition, the United States should apply sanctions to those who have violated U.S. intellectual property rights by cyber means.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media should strengthen its messaging in countering Beijing’s public opinion warfare.
Finally, the United States should request the International Olympic Committee to review Communist China’s suitability to host the 2022 Olympics. Given the deadly plight of the Uyghurs, now is not the time for the international community to kowtow to those who would benefit the most from hosting the Olympics: Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party.