Editorial: Birthday bumps
Centenary birth celebrations of a behemoth have begun. The Chinese Communist Party — its gargantuan reach affects the lives of 92 million people — has turned 100 and remains, by all accounts, quite sprightly on its feet. The energy of the CCP — India’s communist outfits appear decidedly somnolent in contrast — needs to be understood in terms of a context that weaves in the national and the international. The CCP remains the undisputed political force in China with the president, Xi Jinping, an ambitious and authoritarian leader, setting the agenda for party and nation. There can be no doubting the ground that China has covered under the party’s watch. It is now the second largest economy with a blistering pace of growth. China managed to grow, albeit slowly, even as other economies were being battered by the pandemic. Beijing’s political heft, augured by its economic muscle, is now considerable; so much so that the position of the world leader, long held by the United States of America, is up for grabs. The CCP has also served as a torch-bearer of progressive change, ushering in literacy, public healthcare, championing women’s rights, even though the upper echelons of the party resemble an old boys’ club.
The irony, however, is that the CCP also remains the architect of monumental tragedies. Mao Zedong, Mr Xi’s mentor presumably, watched as millions died in the course of the Great Leap Forward: the Cultural Revolution and, later, the Tiananmen Square killings demonstrated that the Party does not think twice before turning the gun — real and metaphorical — on the people. These transgressions are an embodiment of the antithesis that informs the relationship between totalitarian societies and the ideals of freedom, rights, dissent and democracy, and attempts to purge China of ‘historical nihilism’ by the party apparatus are unlikely to bear fruit. Worryingly, China’s belligerence is no longer an internal affair. In a telling speech to mark the CCP’s centenary, Mr Xi thundered that China’s competitors would get their ‘heads bashed’ if they were to intimidate Beijing. Words have, for a while, been followed by action with China raising the global temperature with unprecedented acts of aggression in different corners of the world, from Tibet to Taiwan, the South China Sea to Ladakh to Hong Kong. The world order is also being realigned in the process with the West and the East meeting to contain the dragon in the room. Several blocs, military and economic — be they Quad or the B3W — have emerged as a result of the lines being redrawn. An age of aggression will dawn as Beijing pursues a global order with Chinese characteristics.