China Reform Monitor - No. 1330

Modeling Marx;
Deepening repression in Xinjiang


June 7, 2018


May 7:

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx's birth, CPC Chairman Xi Jinping has launched a high-profile propaganda campaign,
the Wall Street Journal reports. The campaign started last month, when Xi led the Politburo in a study session on "The Communist Manifesto." Marx "lived honestly and simply, and valued affection and comradeship," Xi said in a speech at the Great Hall of the People, and he instructed party members to read Marxist classics as a "way of life" and "spiritual pursuit." Party newspapers hailed "Das Kapital," Marx's critique of capitalism, as "holy scripture” and hailed him as the "greatest thinker of modern times." Peking University hosted a "World Congress on Marxism," gathering more than 120 scholars from some 30 countries to discuss "Marxism and the Human Community of Shared Destiny" – a reference to Xi's signature diplomatic slogan. To reach younger Chinese, propaganda officials produced videos and comics focused on Marx's personality and appearance. The party's flagship theoretical journal, "Seeking Truth," published a short video titled "10 Little-Known Facts About Marx," which highlighted his Jewish background and "fashionable” beard. State television aired a two-part documentary, titled "Immortal Marx," and "Marx Was Right," a five-episode show featuring academics and students exchanging views on Marx’s life and ideas. "The posthumous cult of Marx these days serves to legitimize the present leadership and whatever it claims Marxism to be. And only Xi Jinping is said to be capable of synthesizing classical doctrine with present realities," said Daniel Leese at University of Freiburg.

May 8:

Sun Zhengcai, once the potential successor to President Xi Jinping, has received a life sentence for corruption. At his trial at the Tianjin No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, Sun confessed that over a 15-year period he accepted more than 170 million yuan ($26.7 million) in bribes in exchange for promotions, government tenders and project approvals. Sun was the youngest member of the Politburo and was in charge of Chongqing when he became the highest-ranking serving official to be removed in Xi's anticorruption campaign. "As a high-level leader, Sun should have set a good example,"
Xinhua said. Instead, his corruption "damaged the normal working of government organs, corrupted the work of national government workers and undermine the reputation of Chinese civil servants." Chen Min'er, a Xi protégé, replaced Sun as Chongqing party chief, the Wall Street Journal reports.

May 12:

China's Ministry of Public Security had been fighting paid online commenters, also known as "water armies," since last May. "Internet water armies produce false information, make slanderous attacks, and engage in illegal promotions,"
Xinhua reported in February. Water armies provide a variety of semi-legal services including clicks (about $15 per 100,000 clicks), mass-produced positive comments and product ratings, or negative ones for a competitor. If a negative comment is posted online, the water army can repeatedly reply with illegal content, such as gambling ads, that force the moderator to delete the entire thread. The police claim to have closed more than 40 cases, the largest involving about $630,000, the Los Angeles Times reports.

March 15:

A Gap brand T-shirt showing a map of China that omitted Taiwan, parts of Tibet and islands in the South China Sea has prompted an apology from the company. Within hours of Chinese social media users posted photos of the shirt the San Francisco-based firm released a statement saying it was "extremely sorry" for the shirt's "erroneous" design, which it called an "unintentional mistake" and said that it "respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China." The capitulation is the latest in a string of mea culpas from foreign businesses wary of offending Beijing,
the New York Times reports. "These companies are finding themselves in a position where they're being asked to weigh in on political conversations that they really haven’t had to in the past. You’re involving the regulatory and political activism arm of these companies in what is essentially a consumer merchandising decision," said Greg Portell at the consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

May 17:

Since last spring, authorities in Xinjiang have detained "at the very least tens of thousands" if not hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese and some foreign citizens in mass internment camps,
the Associated Press reports
. The camps now constitute "the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today," according to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. In 2016, authorities escalated their "People’s War on Terror" to root out "religious extremism and separatism" in Xinjiang. The region, which is home to around 12 million mostly ethnic Uighurs and Kazakh Muslims, has deployed an all-encompassing, data-driven surveillance to track residents. Viewing a foreign website, talking with relatives abroad, praying regularly or growing a beard ae cause for internment in a political reeducation camp. The camps rewire detainees' political thinking, erase their Islamic beliefs, and, ultimately, reshape their identities. Detainees who criticize the people and traditions they love are rewarded, while those who refuse receive solitary confinement, beatings and food deprivation. Hundreds of ethnic Kazakhs Chinese have been disappeared over the past year, including 10 Kazakh citizens who were released late last month after the Kazakh deputy foreign minister's visit.

This month, China's top prosecutor, Zhang Jun, urged Xinjiang's authorities to extensively expand the "transformation through education" drive. Last June, a researcher from Xinjiang's Central Party School found that by the time they were released 98.8 percent of Muslims had learned their mistakes; transformation through education "is a permanent cure," he concluded. Asked to comment on the camps, China’s Foreign Ministry said it "had not heard" of the situation.

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