The events of the past few months have shown that the Chinese Communist Party’s rule is far more brittle than many believed, bolstering the case for a strategy of sustained pressure to induce political change, says a leading analyst.
Beijing has sought to use the Covid-19 pandemic to deflect blame and even to suggest that the virus did not originate in Wuhan, an attempted cover-up which even failed within China’s highly-censored society.
But the brief window during which Chinese social media and even the official press erupted in outrage revealed just how tenuous the CCP’s control over information has become and highlighted the latent power of Chinese civil society, notes Minxin Pei, Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College.
Criticism of the government reached a peak when Li Wenliang—a doctor who in late December was among the first to warn Chinese authorities about the danger of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and who was subsequently interrogated and silenced by local police—died of the illness on February 7, showing that the CCP could lose public support quickly in a crisis situation, he writes for Foreign Affairs:
The crisis has also revealed the fragility of Xi’s strongman rule. One likely reason that Beijing failed to take aggressive action to contain the outbreak early on was that few crucial decisions can be made without Xi’s direct approval, and he faces heavy demands on his limited time and attention. A strongman who monopolizes decision-making can also be politically vulnerable during such a crisis. RTWT