Persistent rumors of a coup in China might herald a distant future free from one-party rule.
Try as the Chinese Communist Party might to quash and debunk them, rumors of a military coup in China persist across social media and in the international press this week.
Speculation, ranging from the truly wild to the merely implausible, has been buzzing since last week when the rumors of a coup in China first began circulating.
“A military coup has overthrown the Chinese government,” went some of the whispers.
“Xi Jinping has been taken into custody,” went others. “People’s Liberation Army general Li Qiaoming has secretly replaced him.”
Of course, those aren’t the only rumors floating around about the Chinese Communist Party.
Its vast police surveillance state, imperialistic intentions towards Taiwan, treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, suppression of the pro-Democracy movement in Hong Kong, and a suspiciously short wait time on organ transplants, have given other world powers plenty of subjects about which to speculate nervously.
The world is witnessing, “peak China,” according to the authors of a new book, Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China.
“If China stands at the Zenith of its power, and if Chinese Communist Party magnates know it, then they might reason that now is their best opportunity to use military might to settle longstanding grudges,” wrote James Holmes last week in “China Could Decide Now is the Time for War with America”.
“A weaker contender is in conflict with a much more powerful one and expects its position to grow weaker every year,” says Carl von Clausewitz, who is quoted in the article. “If war is unavoidable, should it not make the most of its opportunities before its position gets still worse? In short, it should attack.”
At times, Chinese officials have done very little to dispel these particular rumors.
“Only when China is fully reunified can there be true peace across the Taiwan Strait,” said China’s foreign minister Wang Yi at the annual General Assembly meeting in New York City on Wednesday.
Alluding to self-governing islands being, “crushed by the wheels of history,” he threatened that Beijing would, “take the most forceful steps to oppose external interference.”
Xi Jinping was notable in his absence from the General Assembly meeting, which he would usually have attended. No reason has been given.
World leaders have been nervous about Taiwan’s future prospects as a sovereign nation since long before Russian soldiers marched into Ukraine in February. The general consensus among foreign policy experts is that the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army have been watching carefully Putin’s struggles in Ukraine.
The massive protests currently happening in Iran, sparked by the killing of a young woman by Iran’s notorious “morality police”, might be giving the CCP pause as well.
The fierce, totalitarian grip maintained by the rulers of Iran has often seemed unshakable over the years, especially given the growing tendency of repressive regimes to use technology to control the populace. Iran’s morality police recently started using facial recognition software to spot noncompliance with the country’s dress code. They are also starting to track the populace with biometric markers.
If Iran’s iron-fisted rulers can lose control like this, perhaps any government ruling without the consent of the governed could suffer the same fate.
Even with all its power, the Chinese Communist Party was mightily inconvenienced by the protests in Hong Kong. Lest we forget, the Hong Kong democracy protests were millions of people strong, utterly peaceful, impossible to undermine.
Once Covid19 entered the picture, however, the CCP used the auspices of public safety to do all sorts of things to consolidate its power within China and cow all who would threaten it. What tanks couldn’t have accomplished in Hong Kong- without a great deal of conflict with other global powers- Covid19 safety measures did.
The pro-democracy movement is now dead in Hong Kong, one of the first casualties of Covid19.
It is illegal today to even run as a pro-democracy candidate in Hong Kong. Only for reasons of the common good and social harmony, of course. Not because any legitimate political party might someday grow to challenge the one-party rule of China’s current government, or anything.
Without the consent of the governed, governments must rule by force. Like Iran’s rulers, the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t have the consent of the governed.
If they did, there would be no Great Firewall of China and Chinese people wouldn’t be strictly separated from the rest of the world, confined to an intranet. China wouldn’t be a surveillance state. A pro-tennis player making accusations of sexual harassment against a party official wouldn’t need to be disappeared; or reappeared in a hostage video disavowing her previous statements and recanting. The wealthiest man in China could criticize the current government without suffering almost the same fate.
The Chinese Communist Party may have done a poor job managing China; but they have done an excellent job ensuring a one-party rule with no political dissenters alive or free to challenge them.
Criminalizing political dissent and persecuting political opponents are often the last desperate acts of a failing government.
Xi Jinping and his ruling party may believe they have made the best of all possible opportunities afforded them by more open trade. They may believe themselves all-powerful, untouchable, invulnerable.
The ruling classes of many nations have thought exactly the same thing; right before being toppled from the throne by ordinary people tired of poverty, empty promises and tyranny.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)