China’s Communist Party, which has undergone a transformation back to its Maoist roots under Xi Jinping, has been caught off guard by the widespread anti-COVID protests that have swept the country, many of which have denounced the Party and have demanded that Xi immediately step down.
From the outset, it appears that Xi and the Communist leadership grossly miscalculated the discontent among China’s population as people’s livelihoods and quality of life have plummeted as a direct result of Xi’s “Zero COVID Policy” – measures that include full no movement lockdowns and freezing the economies of entire cities if a single individual tests positive for COVID.
Though most of the demonstrations were small in number when considering the relative size of Chinese cities, the fact that major urban metropolis, such as Shanghai, which are tightly controlled by the Ministry of State Security (MSS) – the Communist Party’s feared secret police – were the scenes of anti-government/anti-Xi protests is a remarkable turn of events that few around the world could have predicted.
What’s far more remarkable about the timing of the protests is that they came less than two months after Xi secured a third term as the Communist Party’s General Secretary, the only Chinese leader to do other than Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic China who was responsible for the deaths of roughly 80 million people during his 1949-1976 iron-fisted rule.
Xi’s attempt to impose a draconian COVID policy is fully in line with his attempt to replicate the type of full control over Chinese society that Mao once had. In the decade since he rose to power, Xi has consolidated his power base to levels not seen in China since the early 1970s, when the country of 1.5 billion people was essentially sealed off from the outside world.
In addition to the oppressive lockdowns that have been imposed since COVID first appeared in late 2019, Xi has expanded the country’s internal security and intelligence apparatus to unprecedented levels, including developing the world’s most high-tech social surveillance system, which has since been adopted and emulated by other totalitarian dictatorships like Russia, Iran and China’s closest ally, North Korea.
“It’s hard to believe that such a strong totalitarian Communist regime would not use any opportunity to control people … There are a lot of activities being done to establish greater control of the population,” Slovak MEP Miriam Lexmann told NE Global.
The Chinese authorities are reportedly showing up at protesters’ homes in the middle of the night and detaining people for more than 24 hours, randomly stopping residents and searching their phones for Telegram and other apps.
Widespread anger over Zero-Covid policy
Admittedly, Xi’s Zero-Covid policy has kept China’s official death toll low, and its effectiveness in the early stages of the pandemic was generally positive. But Xi’s obsession with imposing the Communist Party’s rigid official doctrine on how to battle has left China ill-prepared for living in a world that has fundamentally moved on from the dark lockdown days of 2020 and early 2021.
Xi’s hardline refusal to launch a campaign that would help innoculate many Chinese with the numerous foreign-produced COVID vaccines that have emerged in the last three years has had a major negative impact on China’s recovery. Chinese doctors did in fact develop a vaccine of its own in 2021, Sinopharm, but a shockingly low number of the Chinese population has actually received the full number of doses needed to be considered fully vaccinated. Furthermore, Sinopharm has the lowest efficacy rate of the main vaccines that are available to the general public.
Since COVID vaccines first became available, Xi has rejected the use and distribution of any of the more effective Western-produced Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. He has instead opted to confine millions of Chinese to their homes for months on end – subjugating them to what is essentially a “COVID prison”. This has crippled the world’s second-largest economy, cratered the once-sky-high oil prices and boosted the value of the dollar.
Demand for immediate closure of the Chinese police stations in the world
Beijing has set up more than 100 so-called overseas police stations across the globe to monitor, harass and in some cases repatriate Chinese citizens living in exile, using bilateral security arrangements struck with countries in Europe and Africa to gain a widespread presence internationally
This unprecedented expansion of influence by the Chinese Communist Party in Western countries seriously threatens the security of the democratic world. According to the latest available evidence, Chinese intelligence operates at least 102 overseas police centers in 53 countries around the world; including 16 in Europe, 11 of which are in Italy alone.
Their primary purpose is to force Chinese citizens to return to their homeland.
Investigations have been launched by law enforcement agencies in at least twelve countries, and the issue has been raised at the highest level, including at bilateral meetings between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Xi during the Bali G20 Summit that was held in November.
On December 8, Safeguard Defenders testified at a public hearing before the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference. Lexmann noted that China should not be allowed to extend its own justice system to a third country.
China will soon enforce a new law on fighting telecom and online fraud that was passed in September. The new legislation will allow police departments to work with government departments and businesses to crack down on online crimes.
Xi’s peculiar brand of Chinese Communism is the greatest threat to freedom and democracy in the world. Through Intellectual Property theft, China is increasing its extraterritorial pressure on the West and is actively interfering in free market competition, while also trying to increase its positioning in the Third World.
“This is obviously a security issue, and we need to work on a strategy for how to work with developing countries, and in our immediate neighborhood, to challenge this threat or defend our position against China,” Lexmann said.
Reducing new dependencies
Xi and the Chinese Communists should never be allowed to use economic pressure to undermine Europe’s resilience, Lexmann said before adding, “The fact that we were deepening our dependency on Russia for energy meant that we were putting our security at risk. Now we have woken up since the war in Ukraine started. But I’m afraid the same scenario can be applied with regard to China. They will exploit their own interests by exerting economic pressure on Europe through our dependencies. We must do everything to make sure this never happens by diversifying our resources and our economic cooperation with other democratic countries.”
Europe must do more to stand up to China
If Xi opts to invade Taiwan, the whole of Europe must work very closely with the United States and other members of the democratic world quickly coordinate an economic and military response, measures that should have been taken once Beijing opted to crush Hong Kong’s special status within China.
The EU’s Global Gateway program has thus far proven to be ineffective as it lacks a clear strategy and needs to focus on important issues rather than create a gateway that is trying to address too many challenges at the same time. As stated by the Brussels Eurocrates, the program is meant to be a flagship connectivity strategy that creates sustainable and secure links with countries around the world.
In reality, the program has missed the mark when it comes to fostering a space for improving relations between nations. Instead, it’s given despotic countries like China and Russia a platform to exploit the European Union’s many weaknesses.