China’s curtailment of the use of video gaming has attracted some attention, especially given the official pronouncements condemning the promotion of “sissy boys” and so on as role models for the youth. The gaming restrictions only add another layer to a vast state censorship that encompasses every aspect of human life and expression.
It is significant, however, in that it represents a decision on the part of the Communist Party leadership to tackle what up to recently was regarded as a pretty harmless way of occupying and softening the brains of people who might otherwise have devoted some of their cerebral capacity to more important things. This is, indeed, how such pablum operates throughout the rest of the world where such technological fodder is available.
Recently, there has been a distinct tightening of the ideological apparatus of the Party state. Evidence would suggest that it is based on the perennial fear that capitalist consumerism might eventually lead to questioning of the official socialist ideology which actually bears little resemblance to the economic and social basis and stratification of Chinese society.
No totalitarian regime is going to tolerate any threat to its existence. Where Xi differs, perhaps, from his post Mao predecessors is that he and his faction of the CCP are not content with brainless conformity, but believe that there is a need to re-invigorate the Communist myth. That is also important given that China is for the first time in its history seriously competing not just for economic power in the “developing world” but also for the hearts and minds of the vast populations of the southern hemisphere.
The Party elite will often promote, almost out of the blue, a change of tack that sets out a new ideological direction. Mao was a master of this when seemingly innocuous decrees led to the utter horrors and devastation that cost tens of millions of lives between the Communist Party takeover, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution that ended in the mid 1970s.
The latest of these was a ponderously titled essay by Li Guangman, heretofore best known as the editor of a newspaper about the electrical sector. Everyone Can Sense That A Great Transformation is Underway appeared on Li’s WeChat account but was republished by the Party newspaper People’s Daily and the state press agency Xinhua.
The essay calls for a reinvigoration of China’s culture in order to combat the alleged onslaught on China by the United States, including through alleged biological warfare which ties in with the claims within China that Covid-19 was deliberately created and released by the American military. Ominously, Li referred to the danger of an internal “fifth column” based on the sort of digital culture now being cracked down on. He wrote:
China is not the sort of place where one would wish to find oneself on a list of the targets enumerated above, especially given that the language is eerily similar to that which preceded the savagery of the earlier periods. Of course, in true totalitarian fashion, it not only threatens repression but also implies that it is up to those in the sectors named to prove themselves to be untainted. The best way to do that of course is to denounce others. Which is already taking place.
The primary targets have been well known personalities such as Zheng Shuang who was the star of a hugely successful TV series A Chinese Ghost Story. Zheng’s behaviour in relation to a surrogacy which she attempted to end in a later term abortion would suggest she is not a particularly pleasant person. She earned something close to $30 million from entertainment but is now being accused of evading millions in tax. Incidentally the large sums involved indicate that any notion of “equality of outcomes” under the Chinese version of socialism is absurd. Xi and his faction are also vastly wealthy.
However, the lip service paid to the putative egalitarian origins of the Communist state mean that corruption and ostentatious wealth is always a handy weapon in attacking opponents. It is also noteworthy that Li refers to the consequences of continuing on the current path which would mean that “we will have brought destruction upon ourselves, much like the Soviet Union back in the day.” It was the threat to party rule in the Soviet Union that always frightened the Chinese Communists who opposed “revisionism” from Khrushchev to Gorbachev.
The criticism of Zheng Shuang and others is conveniently lumped in with claims that some celebrities are tainted by “Japanese right wingers,” Taiwanese nationalism, or suspect religious affiliation. Interestingly the English translation of Li’s text uses the Woke term “deplatformed” in reference to the banning of those now the subject of censure.
All of that, however, is just the optics of what the text makes clear is a much more thorough-going campaign that obviously has the support of the Xi faction given that it has not only been published in the Party press, and abroad, but that its recommendations on tackling the cultural sector are already being put into place. The past few days have witnessed an escalation of that.
Li Guangman places all of this in the context of the “grand commemoration” of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 – something that the Irish media seemed happy to pay homage to. Far from being just a celebration of the “great achievement of General Secretary Xi” (as a leading member of the capitalist China Ireland Institute describes it) and his successors, the event is regarded as part of another and ongoing “monumental change.”
This one is allegedly centred once more on a turn away from the “capitalist cliques to the people, a shift from “capital-centered to people-centered.” Capitalist cliques was the terms used to describe and to target Mao’s rivals within the CCP. Another echo of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is the demand for “a return to the original intent of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Whether conscious of the resonance or not – and one would assume that the strategists of CCP international policy are well aware of this – Li’s essay alludes to the need to fight monopolies, stop the manipulation of financial markets, tackle income disparities and curb house prices. Exactly the sort of language that dominates the narrative of the western left – but ironic given the unhealthy role of Chinese capital in the housing sector in many of those countries.
For anyone in the west who might be attracted by the current Chinese attack on the virtual world, they ought to recall that not only has it nothing to do with restoring a healthy culture based on older Chinese traditions that have been under continuous assault for 70 years, but that today the People’s Daily has a big story supporting the opponents of the Texas restrictions on abortion.
These people are not our friends. Those who are friends of the CCP, which like most key issues, encompasses the Irish political elite from Simon Coveney to Sinn Féin, have of course been noticeably quiet about the whole “sissy boy” thing. He who pays the piper and so on.