The major countries of the world increasingly seem to gravitate towards cults of personality. Some leaders’ cults are more successful than others, of course. Vladimir Putin enjoys an approval rating of greater than 80% — aided by the fact that if you vociferously disapprove of him in public, you may go to jail or worse. Donald Trump, hampered by the annoying free-speech features of our republic, must slog on through with a decidedly less impressive 38% approval rating, forcing him to depend on a hardcore set of rabid partisans to carry the torch.
China’s Xi Jinping is more authoritarian and more successful. Judging from the results of the Communist Party’s 19th National Congress so far, Xi is well on his way to becoming the next Chairman Mao. The Guardian reports:
China’s communist leader, Xi Jinping, looks to have further strengthened his rule over the world’s second largest economy with the apparent confirmation that a new body of political theory bearing his name will be written into the party’s constitution.
On day two of a week-long political summit in Beijing marking the end of Xi’s first term, state media announced the creation of what it called Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.
“The Thought is … a historic contribution to the party’s development,” Zhang Dejiang, one of the seven members of China’s top ruling council, the politburo standing committee, told delegates at the 19th party congress, according to Beijing’s official news agency, Xinhua.
Liu Yunshan, another standing committee member, said the elevation of Xi’s Thought into the party’s list of “guiding principles” was of “great political, theoretical and practical significance”. “All members of the party should study hard Xi’s ‘new era’ thought,” he was quoted as saying.
Xi has made it quite clear that, despite the expansion of free market activity in China, there will be no concomitant expansion of political freedom. Xi has consolidated power by jailing his political opponents under the guise of an anti-corruption campaign. Now, with this Maoist establishment of a school of thought in his name, Xi will effectively be an emperor.
In unrelated news, Xi and Trump are reported to get along well.
I recently read Red Scarf Girl, a book recommended to me by Mark Hemingway. The book is Ji-li Jiang’s memoir of experiencing Mao’s Cultural Revolution as a young girl of 12. The book is incredible for its description of the wave of utter insanity that washed over China in those years. The country had already experienced the Great Leap Forward, Mao’s Orwellian name for the economic program that killed over 50 million people. But of course nobody talked about that — and while the threat of going to jail and being tortured loomed over everyone’s heads, one should not minimize the genuine love that many people seemed to feel for Mao. You either loved him or pretended to love him, and Mao didn’t much care which. Even if you loved him, a neighbor who didn’t like you might make up a story about you — and if that happened, you were done. You would be made to confess thoughtcrimes you had not committed. You would be tortured until you fabricated stories about the guilt of friends and neighbors who had never helped you do anything.
I highly recommend the book. After I read it, my daughter chose it as a book to read and report on for school. Children need to learn about such cults as they begin to form their opinions about the world.
Cults of personality are real things, and you don’t just read about them in history books. They are going on in the world right now, as we speak. If I seem to worry about even a hint that one could be developing here, it is only because I have read Red Scarf Girl, or Bukovsky, or Solzhenitsyn.
Xi rules over a population of 1.4 billion people. That’s over four times the population of the United States. Information is tightly controlled. By contrast, some of the things we rail about here in the U.S. — a biased news media, leftist protests, and the like — are imperfect signs of the strength of our republic. As bad as our #FAKENEWS!! media often can be, Chinese dissidents can only dream of having a media as free and independent as ours. As annoying as it can be to see people “take a knee” to convey disrespect for our country, in China conveying that same disrespect will get you tossed in jail.
Public opinion polls show that a plurality of Republicans would give the federal government the power to shut down news organizations that the government determines are fabricating stories. One of our states is poised to elect a man to the U.S. Senate who believes it is illegal for football players to kneel during the national anthem.
This is insanity. It is not Cultural Revolution level insanity. But it’s inching along that path.
If you love liberty, now is the time to let your voice be heard. Don’t be a cultist. Join the group that believes in freedom.
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