It’s not really about Winnie the Pooh and there’s finally someone in the West who reads the CCP correctly. Former Australian PM Kevin Rudd (who speaks Mandarin) laments that China under Xi, has deviated from the path of reforms and “Red China is back”. Dutch history professor Frank Dikotter replies that Red China never really went away. It’s people like Kevin Rudd (myself included until about 5 years ago) who had been sleeping through the “new China” era.
Kissinger’s secret trip to China in 1971 in response to the Sino-Soviet conflict in 1969 gave America the impression that the PRC could become an ally. Later that year, ROC (Taiwan) was kicked out of the United Nations. With the death of Mao in 1976 and Deng Xiaoping ushered in what was ostensibly a new China. Mao’s 苦肉计 (self-inflicted by invading the USSR) would fool Americans for the next 50 years. You can read the details in my book 36 Dirty Tricks From Ancient China. When China was roped into the WTO in 2001, George Bush, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, John Howard were all convinced that China would democratise as it modernised and its economy grew. How naive.
The fact is, China never really gave up its party dictatorship and never planned to do so. Deng gave the Chinese people a lot more freedom than they had in the past, but once they overstepped the line and threatened party dictatorship, Deng’s government came down on protesters with a sledgehammer. When Fa Lun Gong founder Li Hong Zhi claimed that his movement had more members than the CCP, that was the last straw and Jiang Zemin’s government came down on Fa Lun Gong with a sledgehammer. When Jack Ma became better known and had more books written about him than Xi Jinping, Xi’s government had him in the crosshairs. The last straw came when social media was abuzz with the joke that if there were elections in China, Jack Ma would be president.
Not just Xi himself but the entire party realised that technocrats had grown too influential and were taking over. Thus the crackdown on various businesses, popular artists and the big push for 国进民退 and 内循环. Deng’s maxim of working hard and keeping a low profile 韬光养晦 could have been referring to private businesses which were the main engines that brought China to where it is today – not communist ideology. Allowing private businesses to flourish was merely a temporary measure to grow the economic pie. Communist doctrine dictates that anything and everything in China ultimately belong to the “country” and the “people”. The party decides who gets what when and for how long. Throughout the good years, the pigs have been fattened. It’s time for the communist dictatorship to show its true colours and harvest. They never changed. They had just been waiting for an opportune time to strike. Even if Jiang Zemin or Deng Xiaoping were in power today, they would be doing the same thing. They didn’t do it back then because the China was not ready yet.
Economic miracles seem to be unique to Asia, but there is really no such thing as an economic miracle. The problem with developed countries is that they have the habit of throwing all sorts of obstacles in the form of rules and regulations in the path of unbridled “wealth generation”. If Elizabeth Holmes were Chinese, she would be frolicking around like Meng Wanzhou instead of sitting in jail. Theranos would likewise be successfully listed and simply suspended when fraud is uncovered. Bad for investors, good for the economy. Behind every phenomenon that appears to be an economic miracle, is pile of skeletons in the closet.