China seeks "rejuvenation" through control over tycoons and society

The Chinese Communist Party's sweeping changes have jolted everyone, from tech billionaires to school children.

China seeks "rejuvenation" through control over tycoons and society

They are all backed by President Xi Jinping's vision to make China a stronger, more prosperous country through the revival of revolutionary ideals. This includes more economic equality, tighter control over society, and more party control.

Since taking power in 2012, Xi has called for the party to return to its "original mission" as China's economic, social and cultural leader and carry out the " rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation."

Since then, the party has been stifling dissent and tightening its political control. After 40 years of rapid growth, China has become the world's largest factory, but there is still a gap between the wealthy and the majority. The party now promises to spread wealth more evenly, and is urging private companies to help pay for social welfare.

Xi's government supports its plans by trying to make a more wholesome world. It has reduced access for children to online games, and banned "sissy guys" from television.

Chinese leaders want "to direct the constructive energies all people in one laser focused direction selected by the party," Andrew Nathan (a Columbia University Chinese politics specialist) said in an email.

Beijing launched anti-monopoly, data security crackdowns in an effort to tighten its grip on internet giants like Alibaba Group, games and Tencent Holdings Ltd., which appeared too large and potentially independent.

Their billionaire founders responded by promising to share their wealth under Xi’s vaguely defined “common prosperity” initiative to reduce the income gap in a country that has more billionaires than the United States.

Xi is yet to provide details but, in a society that examines every political term for its significance, the name recalls a 1950s slogan by Mao Zedong who was the founder of the communist government.

Willy Lam of Chinese University of Hong Kong said that Xi is reviving "the utopian ideal" of communist leaders in the early days. "But, of course, there are huge questions because this will harm the most creative, and lucrative, parts of the economy."

Tencent, Alibaba and other companies have committed tens to billions of dollars to job creation and social welfare initiatives. They pledged to invest in processor chips and other technologies that Beijing cited as their top priorities.

The anti-monopoly enforcement by the party and crackdown on companies handling customer information are very similar to Western regulation. The abrupt and draconian changes made by Beijing are causing concern that Beijing could threaten innovation and economic growth. Foreign investors who are nimble and opportunistic have wiped out more than $300 billion from Tencent's stock exchange value, as well as billions of dollars from other companies.

"I anticipate that over the next one or two years we will see a very rocky relationship develop between the business elite and the political elite," Michael Pettis (a finance professor at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Business) stated in a report.

Chinese officials claim that the public, consumers, and entrepreneurs will all benefit from increased incomes and greater regulation of corporations. Last month's curbs, which limit online gaming to 3 hours per week for children younger than 18, were welcomed by parents. It is only allowed on Friday nights and weekends.

Li Zhanguo, father to a boy aged 8 and a girl aged 4, said that this was a good rule. "Games still have addictive mechanisms. It's impossible to count on children's self control.

These crackdowns are part of party efforts to control an evolving society of 1.4 million people.

Around 1 million people from predominantly Muslim ethnic groups were forced into northwest detention centers. Officials refute allegations of forced abortions, and claim that the camps are used for job training and fighting extremism.

Social Credit, a surveillance program that tracks every Chinese person and company, aims to punish any violations. These violations can range from dealing with business partners who violate environmental rules to littering.

"Our responsibility is uniting and leading the entire party and people from all ethnic groups, taking the baton history and working hard to achieve great revitalizion of China's nation," Xi stated when he and six other members of his new party Standing Committee first appeared in public in November 2012.

In late 2020, the party's economic focus changed from efficiency to fairness, according to a Beijing researcher who wrote August in Caixin (China's most influential business magazine).

Luo Zhiheng, Yuekai Securities Research Institute, wrote that the party went from "early success for some" to "common prosperity" and "from labor to capital." He stated that leaders place more emphasis on science, technology, and manufacturing than finance and real property.

Famous economists tried to reassure entrepreneurs.

Zhang Jun, the dean at Shanghai's Fudan University's school of economics, stated to The Paper that it was impossible for common prosperity by 'robbing rich and helping the needy'.

China's 1979 launch of market-style economic revolution under Deng Xiaoping prompted international predictions that it would become more open and democratic.

The Communist Party permitted greater freedom of movement and encouraged internet use for education and business. Leaders reject any changes to a one party dictatorship, which copied its political structure and closely monitor entrepreneurs. Beijing has control over all media and attempts to limit the information that China's citizens see online.

June Teufel Dreyer is a University of Miami specialist in Chinese politics.

According to Edward Friedman, a University of Wisconsin political scientist, party members concerned about reforms weakening political control seem to have decided that China's rise will be permanent and that liberalization is not necessary.

Friedman stated in an email that this means that "anti-totalitarian components of the reform agenda may be rolled back." "That is what Xi does, as he attacks purportedly gay and girlie cultures as a threat to a so called virile militarism."

Li Guangman, an obscure writer, wrote Aug. 29 that "common prosperity" was a "profound revolution." He said that financial markets "would no longer be a paradise where capitalists can get rich overnight" and suggested the party's next targets could include high housing costs and health care.

This commentary was republished on several state media websites, including People's Daily, the ruling party newspaper. This raised questions about whether Beijing could engage in an ideological campaign echoing the brutal 1966-76 Cultural Revolution when 5 million people were killed.

Hu Xijin was the editor of Global Times, a newspaper published under People's Daily and known for its nationalist tone. He responded by criticizing Li's comments. Hu posted a blog warning against radicalism.

Nathan stated that the Cultural Revolution was a time of chaos. Mao deliberately unleashed it because he liked chaos.

He said, "This is almost exactly the opposite." It is an attempt to establish a tightly-structured orderliness.

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