Amidst the suspicion of Chinese involvement in the ongoing Snowden affair and his ‘escape’ from Hong Kong, cheering on the country for its role in protecting a whistleblower and standing up for the freedom of speech and expression, ignores its past and its future. If Tiananmen Square is symbolic for its repression of public opinion in the past, then ‘Document Number Nine’ is that of its future.
Steeped in deep secrecy, the document has been circulated within the Communist Party over the last few months. The contents, however, have gradually spilt out onto the web as some insiders decided to take a stand and speak out against it openly.
Otherwise known as “A briefing on the current situation in the ideological realm”, it mirrors the assertions of many governments – be they dictatorial or democratic – under pressure by their people demanding their fundamental rights. Namely, the assertion that disturbances are being caused by Western influence.
Although the majority of disturbances in China are perfectly natural and can be summarised as the collection of petitions, blogging and collective signing statements, the new Chinese President Xi Jinping has revealed his intolerance towards any such expressions of discontent.
The fear of dissent is particularly surprising as the actual threat is simmering at a low level. In this light, the only explanation for Xi Jinping to take such an ideological conservative stance at a relatively early stage in his presidency (compared to the time taken by his predecessor), is to stamp his creed on the shape his government will take towards public activism: treat it as “extremely malicious”.
It is simple. Because the government is nervous about the public and the lack of conviction in the political system. This is underlined by the frequent repetition of the need to be confident in the system, the party policy and the theory behind it in officials’ speeches.
What the party fails to see is that blaming the West for its troubles is not going to make it go away in the long-term. Xi Jinping is too conservative to understand or acknowledge, probably even in private, that the peoples’ demands are those inherent in every human being – the need to be able to express oneself and speak one’s mind.
Until this point is understood, no reform of the economy will be able to contain the so-called ‘Western influence’ and the boiling point of discontent will eventually be reached.