32 years ago the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) showed us its true nature.
When faced with democracy protesters, it slaughtered them in the streets.
We still do not know how many were murdered because they dared to think differently, to dissent from the party’s totalitarian line, to expose its tyranny.
On modern social media platforms, the Chinese people are unable to share messages regarding Tiananmen Square.
The Party neither wants its people to know that there were opponents to its rule, nor what it did to them.
It has airbrushed the history out of students’ textbooks.
Hong Kongers are prevented from mourning the dead on pretext of Chinese coronavirus grounds; a vigil organizer has been arrested for “promoting unauthorised assembly,” according to the BBC.
De facto party operatives at mercifully dwindling Confucius Institutes self-censor regarding Tiananmen on American soil.
The massacre of 1989 proved not even a speed bump on China’s path to economic and political integration with the West.
Within a decade, the U.S. de-linked human rights considerations from trade with China, and the rest is history.
That integration has enriched and empowered the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), to the point where it threatens to become the dominant world power.
The embrace of China corrupted the West. In exchange for cheap goods and promises of massive markets for our goods and services, we sold out our national interest, and our national soul.
Those who transact with China kowtow to the CCP, thinking it will protect their business, out of cowardice, or legitimate fear for their safety and security.
They implicitly recognize they are doing business with the same regime that massacred its own people for demanding their most basic rights.
We see this in measures large and small, from entertainer John Cena’s pathetic groveling to the CCP after receiving swift blowback for daring to call Taiwan a country, to an email I received from LinkedIn just this week indicating that “due to legal requirements impacting the accessibility within China of some publishing organizations, your profile and your activity, such as items you share with your network, are not visible to those accessing LinkedIn from within China at this time.”
The lesson China took away from Tiananmen—and which has only been reinforced over the last 18 months as our political class, science community, and media apparently covered up for the CCP in myriad ways, from refusing to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, to severing the coronavirus from the CCP by arguing that to call it by its place of origin was racist—is that it could get away with murder.
The free world would look the other way if its perceived self-interest, or political calculations dictated it. In fact, CCP officials recognized this in real-time during the democracy protests, with one such party veteran stating, of the “fear that foreigners will stop investing, I’m not afraid.” “Foreign capitalists are out to make money, and they’ll never abandon a big market for the world like China.”
China knew America better than we knew China.
The lesson America should have taken away was this: The CCP is a Communist regime, and like all Communist regimes it is a horrific, brutal, lying, cheating, deceiving, and coercive one that will stop at nothing to retain and expand its power. And like all Communist regimes, it is deathly afraid of anyone who would dare question it.
It has to roll tanks into the streets when presented with protesting college students.
It has to throw the Uighurs in gulags, persecute Christians, savage the Falun Gong, suppress Mongolians and Tibetans, swallow Hong Kong, threaten the invasion of Taiwan, and menace those in the diaspora to ensure they toe the Party line, for the good of their families back home.
It also must ensure that the outside world see the CCP as it wants to be seen by flooding it with regime propaganda. Even better, from the perspective of the regime, is when the West adopts and propagates the CCP’s narrative itself. As General Secretary Xi Jinping has put it, it is critical to “make the foreign serve China.” At the same time, it prevents the West from reporting the truth about China, and disseminating that truth to its people.
Xi’s regime takes the same view as that of Deng Xiaoping, the purported liberalizer who called the figurative and literal shots at Tiananmen, when it comes to dissent.
As the notorious Document 9, a 2013 directive to all Party organs from China’s Central Committee, made clear, maintaining an ideological monopoly is a strategic imperative of vital importance to the Party.
According to the “Communiqué on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere,” in the eyes of the CCP’s senior leaders, among the biggest problems the Party faces are the promotion of Western constitutional democracy, Western universal values, the sanctity and primacy of civil society, economic liberalization, a free and independent press, “historical nihilism” in “[r]ejecting the [Communist] revolution [of 1949], and the questioning of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
To combat these problems domestically, Document 9 suggests that Party leaders take to heart the notion of perpetual struggle in the War of Ideas. They are to “make work in the ideological sphere a high priority in…[their] daily agenda[s], routinely analyze and study new developments in the ideological sphere, react swiftly and effectively, and preemptively resolve all problems in the ideological sphere.” The document stresses that none be permitted to disseminate “opinions that oppose the Party’s theory or political line;” that the media “must be of one heart and mind with the Party;” and that there be “absolutely no opportunity or outlets for incorrect thinking or viewpoints to spread.”
Document 9 makes clear that the CCP views ideas at odds with its own as an existential threat to its rule.
It suggests that words are as powerful if not more powerful than bombs or dollar bills.
This sentiment has ancient roots. As former journalist and senior policy advisor to the Australian government on China John Garnaut explains it:
In classical Chinese statecraft there are two tools for gaining and maintaining control over “the mountains and the rivers”: The first is wu (weapons, violence – 武) and the second is wen (language, culture – 文).
Chinese leaders have always believed that power derives from controlling both the physical battlefield and the cultural domain. You can’t sustain physical power without discursive power. Wu and wen go hand-in-hand.
Per Document 9, the CCP must counter conflicting worldviews. It must censor them at home, and challenge them abroad through information warfare, subversion, corruption, and coercion. That the CCP views Western ideals and institutions as hostile to its own necessarily then puts the United States, the primary exponent of said ideals and institutions, squarely in China’s crosshairs. More broadly, the CCP’s view would seem to underlie its effort to restructure the international order to accommodate it.
Our response, in this hundredth year since the founding of the murderous CCP, must be to extricate ourselves from the bearhug in which this regime has us, which starts with recognizing its true nature.
We must appreciate, acknowledge the implications of, and speak openly, honestly, and audaciously about the evil nature of the Communist Party, its hegemonic ambitions, and its ruthless pursuit of them.
We must stand proudly and confidently for our values and principles of liberty and justice—rejecting the importation of anything like an American social credit system, and turning back the rolling anti-cultural revolution.
We must penetrate the Great Firewall and expose the truth to China’s citizens about the Party under which they languish, and about the vastly superior alternatives to its Marxism-Leninism.
The truth, which would sow the seeds of dissent, is the greatest weapon that can be employed against the CCP.
That is why it must silence truth-speakers and dissenters.
And that is why we must devote ourselves ever more doggedly in the ideological sphere—the sphere the CCP fears most.
In this way we will honor the lives of those lost at Tiananmen Square, and defend America in the face of the greatest threat to it of the 21st century.