Sunday, June 23, 2024

Protests in China: A Warning Bell for Xi Jinping? 

Washington, DC – Hardly a month ago, during the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping achieved a formidable and secure position that even many China watchers could not predict. By removing all the factional opposition within the party, Xi has taken unprecedented control over the party and the country. However, within a month, protests have broken out in China for the first time in decades, with thousands of people gathering on the streets and university campuses of major cities, demanding an end to the harsh, strict “zero COVID” policy. It’s a rare show of dissent against Xi and, more importantly, against the CCP’s tightening hold on the ordinary person’s life.

“We want freedom” and “give me liberty or give me death!” are the rallying cries of the protestors, who are mostly the young generation of China. Strict COVID policies have affected the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people in China. Now, the demands are not just to ease the restrictions but also to demand free speech, the rule of law, democracy, human rights, and other political demands. It is crucial to note that this sentiment is dominant across the country, from Shanghai to Beijing and Guangzhou to Chengdu. 

Shanghai, on November 27, witnessed hundreds of protestors clashing with the police authorities for the third consecutive day. The next day, two groups of demonstrators totaling almost 1000 people came together at the 3rd Ring Road in Beijing and refused to call off their demonstrations. In the south-western metropolis of Chengdu, a large crowd of citizens chanted, “We don’t want lifelong rulers. We don’t want emperors,” hinting at their dissent against Xi, who is instrumental in the harsh zero Covid policy and lockdowns in China. Wuhan, the Chinese city from where the pandemic started three years ago, observed hundreds of locals coming onto the streets and wrecking the barricades to overturn the Covid testing facilities.

Widespread public protests are not usual in China since the scope for opposition is nonexistent. However, the frustration and unrest crossed all levels last week when a fire broke out in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi killing ten people in a residential building. Locals believe the heavy COVID restrictions compromised the rescue operation. These sentiments went over on social media, and a wave of civil disobedience spread across the country. 

As expected, the authorities have moved in quickly to suppress the demonstrations by deploying heavy police presence across the country. Beijing is also keeping a close watch on social media platforms which are already tightly controlled. Many reports have noted that Twitter searches for the protests in China are returning a flood of spam, pornography, and other useless content, which appears to be a deliberate attempt by the Chinese government-linked elements to drown out images of the demonstrations.

Several arrests have been made in Shanghai after the brawl between law enforcement and citizens. Some videos have shown police forces brutally targeting the protests by pushing, dragging, and beating the demonstrators. Shortly after getting viral, the videos were censored by the authorities. The crackdown is not just limited to citizens but has also embroiled journalists. On November 28, news broadcaster BBC reported that its journalist Edward Lawrence was briefly arrested and beaten by the police for the coverage of the tussle between the Chinese government and the citizens. Another journalist Michael Peuker, working for the Swiss-based RTS, was approached by the police while reporting live. He later informed on Twitter that he and his cameraman were arrested by the Chinese authorities, who detained their camera and other equipment.

Realizing this, the CCP has resorted to facile measures like relaxing COVID-19 restrictions, expanding the vaccination drive, etc. But more than that will be needed to satisfy the protestors who may have set their sights on something much more substantial. 

All these developments do not portend well for Xi’s reputation. At a time when he and the CCP are keen to project China’s advances under Xi’s leadership, these protests are taking the sheen off that propaganda. While China has successfully quashed peaceful demonstrations in the past, a crackdown on current protests will quickly revive the memories of the Tiananmen Square protests crackdown of 1989. Therefore, the impact of these protests, in the long run, will be much more substantial. Ordinary Chinese citizens are well aware of CCP’s might. Yet, they have come out to protest on the streets, which speaks a lot about the extent of discontent among the people. The attention of the whole world will be on how China responds. While everyone knows there won’t be a regime change soon in China, these protests have undermined the authority of the CCP. 

If the Chinese government refuses to mend fences, it could face a severe legitimacy crisis. Xi’s power is already being questioned as never before, and these protests have underlined his diminishing appeal and popularity. This may galvanize his rivals in the CCP to stake claims for an alternate leadership by someone who can unite China and not cause polarization. 

- Advertisement -spot_img
- Advertisement -spot_img
- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest news

Ambassador Garcetti, Focus on Diplomacy, not on US Domestic Battles

WASHINGTON, DC: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory, it is a propitious time to review the health of Indo-American relations....

Domestic Political Stability and Foreign Policy in Modi 3.0: Chinese Submarine Base at Pekua in Bangladesh

Washington, DC - To perpetuate Narendra Modi's rule and the rule of his party, BJP, Hindu supremacist rhetoric was...

Amid Scorching Heat, 900 People Died this Week in Saudi Arabia. Climate change has Made the Hajj Pilgrimage More Risky

Each year, millions of Muslims from across the world embark on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia....

Global Nuclear Arsenals Expand Amid Rising Geopolitical Tensions

Washington, DC - The global landscape of nuclear armament saw significant developments in 2023, with the nine nuclear-armed states—United...
- Advertisement -spot_img
- Advertisement -spot_img

What is a Heat Dome? A Meteorologist Explains the Weather Phenomenon Baking the Eastern US

Heat domes, like the one sending temperatures soaring from the Midwest to New England and across the eastern U.S....

Impact of CPEC 2.0 on Gilgit Baltistan (POJK)

Washington, DC - Despite financial and security concerns, Pakistan and China have launched CPEC 2.0 with a renewed emphasis...

Must read

Echoes of Cochin: The Enduring Legacy of Kerala’s Jewish Community

The Cochin Jews: A Historical Overview The Cochin Jews, a...