Joe Biden Is Right
The above is a headline that I am surprised to write, but it’s true. Here’s what the president said about the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (only one of his 12 titles), Xi Jinping:
“The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset … when I shot that balloon down with two box cars full of spy equipment is he didn’t know it was there. That was the great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn’t know what happened.”
The Chinese are not happy. Calling Xi a dictator goes “totally against facts and seriously violate[s] diplomatic protocol, and severely infringe[s] on China’s political dignity. It is a blatant political provocation. China expresses strong dissatisfaction and opposition,” according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ningao.
His steam not completely blown off, Mao continued, “The U.S. remarks are extremely absurd and irresponsible.” Poor Mao; his well of adjectives was running dry but he just had to keep protesting. A rhetorically pathetic situation, indeed.
If anything is absurd, it is the notion that Xi is not a dictator. A dictator is, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “a single person who possesses absolute political power within a country or territory or a member of a small group that exercises such power.” Does Xi fit this description?
Susan Shirk, who heads the 21st Century China Center at the University of California-San Diego, wrote in 2018 that “Xi Jinping is taking China back to a personalistic dictatorship after decades of institutionalized collective leadership.” Events over the past five years have vindicated her analysis.
Brookings Institution scholar Patricia Kim writes that at last October’s 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, “Xi’s status as what they call the core leader” was upheld and his “thought as the guiding vision for the party. And the lineup of the Standing Committee of the Politburo … was notable in that all of the members chosen were close confidantes of Xi.”
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, now his country’s ambassador to the U.S., wrote recently that Xi “has developed a new form of Marxist nationalism that now shapes the presentation and substance of China’s politics, economy, and foreign policy. ... Xi has pushed politics to the Leninist left, economics to the Marxist left. … He has reasserted the influence and control the Chinese Communist Party exerts over all domains of public policy and private life, reinvigorated state-owned enterprises, and placed new restrictions on the private sector” and is “pursuing an increasingly assertive foreign policy, turbocharged by a Marxist-inspired belief that history is irreversibly on China’s side.”
A dictator? Yep, that’s Xi.
But the proof of his dictatorship transcends his roles and intrigues. His actions are those of a person whose comprehensive political power is absolute. Here are three examples:
First, under Xi, there are 400 million cameras on the streets of Chinese cities, and the Chinese government has access to them and also to “about a billion smartphones that the Chinese citizens use.” According to Liza Lin, one of the co-authors of “Surveillance State: Inside China’s Quest to Launch a New Era of Social Control,” the Chinese government “has the ability to figure out what its citizens are searching online, what they’re saying online, what they’re buying online and where they’re traveling.”
Second, the U.S. State Department states that “the Chinese Communist Party (which is under Xi’s control) is waging a targeted campaign against Uyghur women, men, and children, and members of other Turkic Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, China.” More than “one million Uyghurs have been imprisoned in ‘re-education centers’ and subjected to forced labor, torture, rape, and sterilization.”
Third, China Aid, founded by FRC’s Bob Fu, reported earlier this year that “Throughout 2022, the Chinese government mobilized to persecute Christians in a variety of ways while expanding religious Sinicization to include allegiance to Xi Jinping. Authorities utilized the infamous zero-COVID policy in tandem with new regulations on religious content online to eliminate physical and virtual Christian spaces. When unregistered churches met outside of Sunday services, CCP officers and officials found ways to interrupt or prevent the event.” Chinese authorities have also “made concerted efforts to cripple congregations financially with ‘fraud’ charges and additional fines to prison sentences.”
Xi is a dictator, a man who has accumulated a measure of personal power unsurpassed in human history.
Even a blind polar bear can sometimes find a penguin in a snowstorm. And even Joe Biden can be correct when calling out a brute in a tailor-made suit. Good for him.
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.