On Thursday, the Chinese Communist Party released a white paper, or policy guidance document, on a rather interesting topic.
Yes, you read that right. The regime waging a genocide against millions of Uyghur Muslims, conducting a jackbooted crackdown on Hong Kong democracy, and repressing each and every one of its 1.4 billion citizens is talking about human rights.
Unfortunately, this is not some Glasnost-style moment portending China's political opening. Instead, this white paper is simply an excuse for more propaganda drivel from a regime that revels in it. Released by the State Council Information Office (the Communist Party's bureaucratic-information headquarters), the white paper is titled "The Great Practice of the Chinese Communist Party in Respecting and Protecting Human Rights." The Orwellian language gives a flavor for the nearly 16,300 words (I Google-translated) to come.
What do we learn?
For a start, the white paper is rather devoid of introspection. The Communist Party "ensures that the Chinese people are the masters of the country." It declares that "the 100 years of the Chinese Communist Party have created a great miracle of respecting and protecting human rights and have written a new chapter in human rights civilization." This "miracle" is not surprising, we're told, in that "serving the people wholeheartedly is the fundamental purpose of the Communist Party of China."
Indeed. We should observe, however, that one element of the "miracle" does not find much attention. Mao Zedong's "great leap" forward is mentioned only once and only in a positive turn of phrase. Left out are the at least 30 million people who starved under the truer miracle of Mao's malevolent disinterest for human suffering.
Other standout elements include the assertion that "the state has also formulated a series of safeguard systems and measures for the protection of civil and political rights, especially the protection of citizens' personal rights, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religious belief." Beijing also claims that "China actively responds to the international community's initiative." Beijing "does not interfere in the internal affairs of religions."
That's a lot to unpack. It's rather at odds with "the state's" deployment of more than 2 million Uyghurs into concentration, rape, sterilization, and forced labor camps. It would also appear to be at odds with China's mass incarceration of scholars, journalists, and satirists. The assertion that China listens to global opinion? That would seem to be at odds with Beijing's "wolf warrior" diplomacy. You know, that diplomatic strategy that sees Chinese diplomats resort to unrestrained screeching when confronted with even the most mild criticism of their less humane activities.
We learn that Xi Jinping actually presides over a democracy.
After all, "in addition to the ruling Communist Party of China, there are eight democratic parties. The democratic parties are [not opposition parties]. They are close friends' parties that accept the leadership of the Communist Party of China and cooperate fully with the Communist Party of China."
Still, the white paper's inversion of reality doesn't end with human rights. It also claims that "China actively participates in the process of international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, opposes an arms race, and maintains global strategic balance and stability."
This will be news to anyone who has any insight into what Beijing has been up to in recent years. Because it has massively increased its deployment of nuclear weapons, satellite weapons, cyberweapons, hypersonic weapons, and anti-ship ballistic missiles. Oh, and it has steadfastly refused to join U.S.-Russian talks on new nonproliferation treaties.
But the true measure of the Chinese Communist Party's gall is that it actually asserts its governance model as one the rest of the world should follow. "The system has historical inevitability," it says, "great originality and great superiority."
I would suggest that in fusing ideological fanaticism to violent political intimidation, China's governance model is neither "original" nor evincing of "superiority." Instead, it is more accurately identified as a 21st-century heir to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. But on that note, the paper does at least show one area of vulnerability. We are told how the "human rights cause in China must be judged by the Chinese people, and the satisfaction of the Chinese people's sense of gain, happiness, and security must be used as a measure."
The historic relationship between authoritarian governments and the judgment of their people is not one that should sit kindly for the Chinese Communist Party.