China Grows More Repressive
By Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Chris Smith
Oct. 9, 2018
Wall Street Journal
U.S. policy toward China has assumed for decades that trade, investment and other engagement would eventually persuade Beijing to accept and embrace the international order. This optimism was misplaced. The Chinese Communist Party proved resistant to change. As documented in the new 2018 annual report of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, or CECC, the party unflinchingly continues to preserve its monopoly on domestic political power through state-sponsored repression, surveillance, indoctrination and brutality.
China’s government and Communist Party have become more repressive in domestic politics, more mercantilist in trade and economic policy, increasingly dismissive of international norms, and more assertive in spreading their model of authoritarian governance globally. These developments pose real challenges to the U.S. and its allies—more so now after President Xi Jinping, who also serves as the Communist Party’s general secretary, demonstrated his near-absolute policy-making authority by achieving the removal of the two-term presidential limit from the Chinese Constitution.
Some experts have drawn comparisons between Mr. Xi and Mao Zedong, given the personalization and consolidation of power that each achieved. But whereas Mao mobilized the population through mass rallies, an intrusive dossier system and other forms of state control, he did not have the security resources or technologies that are available to Mr. Xi. As detailed in the CECC report, China’s government under Mr. Xi continues to expand social control through a pervasive video-surveillance system and an ambitious “social credit” system.
Technology plays a central role in China’s gross human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where a digital surveillance state is working to transform the religious and ethnic identities of local Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities. Data-driven surveillance is facilitated by iris and body scanners, voice-pattern analyzers, DNA sequencers and facial-recognition cameras in neighborhoods, on roads and in train stations. In an alarming development that may constitute a crime against humanity, China has placed as many as one million or more Xinjiang residents in “political re-education” camps.
China has also empowered the United Front Work Department—which Mr. Xi, echoing Mao, calls the “magic weapon” of the Communist Party—to influence and neutralize possible domestic and international challenges to the party’s ideological agenda. The department’s role in overseeing religious affairs was expanded this year, underscoring the party’s enduring fear that the growth of religious belief is a threat to its power.
The continuing crackdown on China’s Christian community—including the burning of Bibles, closing of churches and demolition of crosses—is further evidence that whatever space previously existed for Chinese citizens to worship and live out their faith peacefully has all but disappeared. The United Front Work Department has also assumed management of ethnic affairs, with ominous implications for Xinjiang and Tibet. All of this is consistent with Mr. Xi’s emphasis on “sinicizing” ethnic minorities and religious groups in China.