How Xi Jinping plans to ‘make China great again’


Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” combines prosperity and power — equal parts Theodore Roosevelt’s muscular vision of an American century and Franklin Roosevelt’s dynamic New Deal, writes Graham Allison, the director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for policy and plans. It captures the intense yearning of a billion Chinese: to be rich, to be powerful, and to be respected.

How will Xi “make China great again”? Allison asks in The Atlantic. “After studying the man, listening to his words, and speaking to those who understand him best, I believe for Xi this means”:

  • Returning China to the predominance it enjoyed in Asia before the West intruded;
  • Reestablishing control over the territories the Communist Party considers to be “greater China,” including not just Xinjiang and Tibet on the mainland, but Hong Kong and Taiwan;
  • Recovering its historic sphere of influence along its borders and in the adjacent seas so that others give it the deference great nations have always demanded;
  • Commanding the respect of other great powers in the councils of the world.

“As the primary driver of the entire venture, Xi’s first imperative in realizing the China Dream is to re-legitimize a strong Chinese Communist Party to serve as the vanguard and guardian of the Chinese state,” he adds. “And in contrast to Gorbachev’s glasnost—openness to ideas—Xi has demanded ideological conformity, tightening control over political discourse.”

By demonstrating that advanced modernization can be combined with authoritarian rule, the Chinese regime has given new hope to authoritarian rulers elsewhere in the world, said Andrew Nathan, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.

As former Singapore premier Lee Kuan Yew, put it pointedly, “If you believe that there is going to be a revolution of some sort in China for democracy, you are wrong. Where are the students of Tiananmen now?” He answered bluntly: “They are irrelevant. The Chinese people want a revived China.”

In which case, why is the CCP so sensitive about Tiananmen’s legacy?

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) urged Xi to lift restrictions on public discussion of the Tiananmen protests and their violent suppression and to release individuals detained for commemorating the June 4 anniversary and human rights lawyers detained in the “709” crackdown.

The Chinese government should acknowledge its role in the massacre of untold numbers of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators around June 4, 1989, and hold perpetrators to account, said Human Rights Watch. Authorities should allow commemorations of the occasion, and release those imprisoned for having done so in the past.

“While President Xi Jinping preaches openness on the world stage, his government buries the truth about the Tiananmen Massacre through silence, denial and persecution of those who mark the occasion,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Until Beijing reverses course and owns up to its past atrocities, Xi’s calls have little credibility.”

Human Rights in China (HRIC) is issuing an essay by the Tiananmen Mothers to commemorate the victims of June Fourth on its 28th anniversary.

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