Chinese President Rewrites History, Moves Towards complete Control
Chinese President Xi Jinping succeeded in rewriting his nation’s history last week when he issued a communiqué declaring the Communist Party’s century-long history of glory and magnificence.
As described by LA Times contributor Alice Su, Xi’s vision of the CCP is something along the lines of: “The party is great, glorious, and always correct. As long as people follow the party, China will rise to inevitable greatness. It stands on the cusp of greatness now, and one leader will soon make that greatness a reality: him.”
Though comparisons to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 are becoming trite, I can’t help but make a connection between Xi’s actions and the Ministry of Truth – a government agency in 1984 that is responsible for the falsification off historical events. Rewriting history, as Xi is doing now, is probably the most dangerous thing for a society as it is the key to totalitarian control.
“The party’s establishment of Comrade Xi Jinping’s position as the core of the entire party and party center reflects the common wishes of the entire party, military, state, and peoples of all ethnicities,” reads the communiqué. “It has decisive meaning for the development of party and state affairs in the era and the historical progress of the Chinese nation’s great rejuvenation.”
Xi’s declaration marks the third time a Chinese leader has rewritten history for the benefit of China’s reputation (and for increased control over its citizens). Both Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping issued statements rewriting the nation’s history, though Xi is the first Chinese leader to do so during the Information Age.
Similar to past resolutions, Xi’s announcement consolidates power to himself and highlights his frequent comments regarding the “new era” China has entered under his leadership. It ignores any contradictions or inconvenient details related to past party leaders and portrays the CCP as having always been correct and perfect.
Nowhere does his announcement mention the growing tension between China and the Western World, its economic and energy crises, its persecution of Uighur Muslims, its efforts to annex Hong Kong and Taiwan, its Belt & Road debt diplomacy, its aggression in the South China Sea, or its release of COVID-19 into the world.
Compare this to Mao’s communiqué in 1945, when he lauded China’s “great leap” towards socialism despite tens of millions of people having died from starvation and violence.
Deng’s 1981 resolution was a bit different, celebrating the success of the Communist Party while also acknowledging the mistakes that occurred under Mao’s rule.
“The big focus in 1981 was to try to make a clear statement about why the party was on the right track now, even though it had made major mistakes,” explains Jeff Wasserstrom, a professor of Chinese history at UC Irvine. “This is much more, ‘Let’s focus on how well China’s doing right now.’…It’s using history in a celebratory tone.”
Xi’s declaration also makes clear that the only “bad guys” are foreign powers like Japan and the US. There are no villains in the CCP; there never were any and there never will be any.
“[Xi is] basically saying the Deng Xiaoping phase has ended,” adds Orville Schell, director of the Center on US-China relations at the Asia Society. “Our eagerness to reform, our willingness to accommodate foreigners, our more collaborationist attitude toward being in the world – all of that has ended. China is strong enough, and it can act the way great powers of old acted. It can bully other countries and throw its weight around, and it’s either our way or the highway.”
Xi is expected to be handed a third term as president in 2022 after having abolished presidential term limits in 2018. Keep in mind he also leads the nation’s military.