Several recent events seem to indicate that China’s President Xi Jinping is taking a softer approach when handling international affairs. Media and political observers have become aware of several instances and discussed them, but there has not been much analysis of the underlying reasons.
[Editor:The following is a speech that Yongfeng Peng gave on October 1, 2015, at a presentation titled, “The Future of Human Rights in China.” Peng is a lawyer who practiced in China before coming to the United States. He currently works for the Human Rights Law Foundation in Washington, D.C.]
With China’s President Xi Jinping’s visit to the U.S., many Americans have been discussing whether China poses a threat to the world. They have the right to be concerned. China’s recent acts include island-building activities in the South China Sea and an Admiral’s declaration that the South China Sea “belongs to China,” widespread, non-stop cyber intrusions, a recent military parade that showcased missiles with English writing on them such as “carrier killer” and “Guam killer,” warships sailing into U.S. waters, and the arrest of over 200 human rights lawyers and activists inside China. In addition, China’s slow economy has impacted the world’s stock market, China devalued its currency, and many U.S. critics have commented on China’s stock market intervention.
The New York Times reported on July 31 that the U.S. has decided to retaliate against China for the theft of 20 million American’s personal data from the Office of Personnel Management. One option under consideration is breaching China’s Great Firewall, the government imposed network of Internet censorship designed to control the information available to people inside China.
On July 1, 2015, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) marked its 94th anniversary with celebrations extolling the “glorious history” of the Party. People in a dyeing and weaving factory in Xiangtan City, Hunan Province chose a different approach. All 1,000 Party members in the factory renounced their membership in the CCP together.
From June 8 through June 19, 2015, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) sent out notifications to 4 million current and former Federal employees informing them that their personal information may have been stolen. By the time FBI Director James Comey met Senators in a closed door briefing, he estimated the number of those affected to be 18 million.
Jiang Zemin, who came to power after the June 4th event, used the enticement of corruption to solve the problem of maintaining the loyalty of Chinese officials. He also faced another major problem. After the Tiananmen Massacre, how could the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regain the legitimacy of its rule before the Chinese people?
Twenty-six years ago on the night of June 4, 1989, on Tiananmen Square, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) answered student’s hope for democracy with tanks and guns. That night, the Tiananmen appeal became the Tiananmen Massacre. Not only have many people’s memories of that night faded; any discussion of what really happened has become taboo in China. To those who live in China, but were born later, it never happened.